An ordinary sociopath would have known to pretend shock and sorrow after the terrible mass murders in Orlando. Shielded from ordinary human interaction by his arrogance and wealth, however, presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump had no clue how to act. So he sent out an instinctive, self-serving reaction on Twitter:
“Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”
Meghan McCain, Arizona Sen. John McCain’s daughter, reacted incredulously: You’re congratulating yourself because 50 people are dead this morning in a horrific tragedy?”
Even more pointed was GOP consultant and TV talking-head Ana Navarro: “Translating Trump: ‘20 people [sic] are dead. 42 people are injured. But of course, 1st, it’s all about Me. Me. Me.’ Ugh.”
Both women spoke for millions. Is there no tragedy so grave, no sorrow so profound, that it can penetrate the hardened carapace of Donald Trump’s ego?
Clearly not. Unless polls showing a steep drop in Trump’s chances to win the presidency are all wrong, many Americans are just now awakening to that reality. Unless they find some way to save themselves, Republicans are on the verge of nominating a psychological cripple: an ego-driven, self-obsessed narcissist preoccupied with fantasies of power, and incapable of empathy.
Too harsh? Overnight, Trump doubled-down. In an interview on Fox News, he allowed as how President Obama had not only failed to prevent ISIS-inspired homophobe Omar Mateen from massacring fifty innocent souls in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, but that he’s probably a traitor.
“Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind. And the something else in mind — you know, people can’t believe it,” he said. “People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on… [Obama] doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands — it’s one or the other and either one is unacceptable.”
In his withering fashion, the president dismissed Trump’s “yapping” while pronouncing the supposedly forbidden words “radical Islamists.”
“It’s a political talking point,” he said. “It’s not a strategy…”Not once has an adviser of mine said, ‘Man, if we really use that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around.’ Not once.”
Obama’s mockery makes Trump crazy precisely because it diminishes his shaky self-esteem. People who are genuinely self-confident don’t feel the need for constant boasting. The clinical term for what ails the candidate is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”
Improperly—shrinks aren’t supposed to diagnose public figures they haven’t met—but no doubt accurately, a growing number of clinicians have used the phrase to explain Trump’s disturbing personality traits.
“He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics,” psychologist George Simon, who conducts seminars on manipulative behavior, told Vanity Fair.
“He’s like a dream come true.”
And that was back last fall during GOP debates, when Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush and Megyn Kelly were Trump’s targets of choice. Having bluffed and bulldozed his way into the Republican nomination, the candidate now finds himself in a new world where different rules apply. He appears incapable of adjusting.
“Success emboldens malignant narcissists to become even more grandiose, reckless and aggressive,” writes psychologist John D. Gartner. “Sure enough, after winning the nomination, there has been no ‘pivot’ towards more reasonable behavior and ideas, just the opposite. He has become more shrill, combative and openly racist.”
Trump’s unprovoked attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ethnicity appear to have repulsed even voters resentful of liberal cant about racism, but who do think of themselves as fair. In consequence, fully 56 percent in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll had a “strongly unfavorable” view of Trump—the kind of judgement that may be irreversible.
Josh Marshall sums things up from a political perspective: “Almost every day since he clinched the nomination almost six weeks ago has been a surreal tour through Trump’s damaged psyche – the insecurities, silly feuds, the mix of self-serving lies and attacks on people he’s supposed to be courting…The daily particulars are so mesmerizing that you have to step back to see that Trump isn’t even running a campaign.”
So now we learn that the Trump campaign is flat broke. How can that be? This is a guy claims who he’s worth $10 billion and who was supposed to be self-financing his campaign. Except now he’s not.
Ten billion is 10,000 million. If Trump were anywhere near that rich, the $42 million in Hillary Clinton’s campaign coffers would be chump change.
Can he sustain this act until November? Can Trump’s fragile psyche risk losing to a girl?
I’m starting to have my doubts.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 22, 2016
There are obviously a lot of Republicans who are publicly and privately upset with how Donald Trump is handling the transition from primary to general-election candidate. Most of them are unhappy with his aggressive support for religious and ethnic profiling and his modeling of prejudice in the Gonzalo Curiel incident.
Leave it to Karl Rove to get mad at Trump for how he’s running his campaign, not what he’s saying.
Specifically, Rove is furious that Trump has disrespected the importance of paid media in presidential campaigns. As someone who has devoted his career to raising and spending megabucks for mostly negative political ads from the day he left the White House, Rove probably regarded Trump’s contempt for this part of politics as blasphemy. So, the Boy Genius repaired to the L’Osservatore Romano of the devotees of the green god of political money, The Wall Street Journal, asking Trump to repent.
Mr. Trump believes that fundraising and TV advertising are overrated. “I just don’t think I need nearly as much money as other people,” he told Bloomberg. “I get so many invitations to be on television.” But consider a hypothetical: Say Hillary Clinton runs a week of TV spots in Tampa/St. Petersburg, a key media market in Florida, and Mr. Trump counters by appearing on cable shows.
Counting only adults, 314,000 viewers might see a Clinton ad during “60 Minutes” on Sunday, according to Nielsen data. Nearly 190,000 would see one during “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday; 248,000 during “NCIS” on Tuesday; and 120,000 during “Hawaii Five-0” on Friday.
Mr. Trump’s appearances on Fox News would reach only a fraction of those numbers: 82,000 adults for a segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” and 61,000 for one on “The Kelly File.” An appearance on CNN’s best-viewed evening program would reach 33,000.
So the moral is clear: Raise the money, run the ads, amen.
But Rove has more heresy to root out. He’s also upset that Trump is offloading the “ground game” to the RNC. Team Clinton, he warns, is prepared to outgun anything the national party can do unless the nominee raises some serious jack to help pay to keep up with the donkeys.
Mr. Trump’s decisions — to forgo ads, abandon his self-funding pledge and accept a big financial deficit, and turn the ground game over to the RNC — are unprecedented challenges to conventional wisdom. In 21 weeks, we will know if they were smart bets.
It should be noted that Trump’s belief that paid media and money generally are overrated in presidential (as opposed to down-ballot) general elections (as opposed to primaries) is shared by many political scientists, thanks to the massive earned media presidential candidates receive. Because nobody’s ever been better at the earned media game than Trump, it’s hardly surprising he figures that might be his best asset.
But if he’s right, there’s not much of a role in national politics for people like Karl Rove, is there? And that would be blasphemy for sure.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 17, 2016
Oh, the irony.
After calling Judge Gonzalo Curiel a “Trump hater” and casting aspersions on his objectivity because of his “Mexican” heritage, Donald Trump is now asking Curiel to help him out by not releasing video footage of his depositions in the Trump University wealth seminar lawsuits over which Curiel is presiding.
As reported by Politico, the presumptive Republican nominee’s lawyers are doing everything they can to stop the public from seeing the tapes, arguing that the videos should be kept hidden because of Trump’s status as a presidential candidate. “Undoubtedly, these videos…will be used by the media and others in connection with the presidential campaign,” read a motion filed on Wednesday night with Judge Curiel. From Politico:
“‘[V]ideotapes are subject to a higher degree of potential abuse than transcripts. They can be cut and spliced and used as “soundbites” on the evening news or sports shows….’ And unlike in other cases where it was unclear that ‘out of context snippets’ would be broadcast because the ‘media frenzy’ around the case had died down…the ‘media frenzy’ surrounding this case is certain to continue through the election,” Trump’s legal team added, quoting cases from federal trial courts in Indiana and New York.
To support their point, Trump lawyers cited several federal appeals court rulings rejecting the release of videotaped depositions by Bill Clinton when he was a sitting president.
“These same cautions and concerns apply with full force here to a presidential candidate whose every move is being covered by the media. Mr. Trump may be a sitting President by the time [one of the Trump University’s suits] goes to trial, in which case these principles apply with even greater force,” wrote Trump’s lawyers, lawyers referring the November 28th trial date that Judge Curiel has set.
The Trump camp’s move comes after a coalition of major media organizations, including The New York Times and Chicago Tribune, filed a motion for the footage’s release on June 11. Even Fox News joined their effort on June 16.
By: Germania Rodriguez, The National Memo, June 17, 2016
Faced with the tragic killing of 49 people in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, notable conservatives seem to be running out of excuses for why we need less gun control.
Bill O’Reilly surprised many on Tuesday when he said that new laws were “definitely needed” as a response to the Orlando shooting. After going after Democrats for not being tough enough of terrorism, O’Reilly conceded that gun crime is a problem in the U.S., and that guns are too easy to get.
“That’s the fact. So let’s deal with it. We all have the right to bear arms, but we don’t have the right to buy and maintain mortars. Even if you feel threatened by gangsters or a New World Order. No bazookas, no Sherman tanks, no hand grenades.”
“The FBI and other federal agencies need the power to stop suspected terrorists or other evildoers from buying weapons,” he said. “That law needs to be very precise.”
O’Reilly had a much different opinion last January, when President Obama announced a gun control executive action after the San Bernardino attack. “The truth is, terrorists are not going to submit themselves to background checks — neither are dangerous felons or insane people,” he said in his January 6 program. “They are not going to sign any paper when they buy a gun. Do we all get that? They will buy their guns on the black market. And no registration law will prevent that.”
Also on Tuesday, O’Reilly’s fellow Fox News host Gretchen Carlson had a change of heart about gun control in the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy.
“Do we need AR-15s to hunt and kill deer?” Carlson asked. “Do we need them to protect our families? Yes, I’m in favor of people being able to carry. I think some of these mass shootings would have been less deadly if that were the case. But I’m also with the majority today taking a stand. Can’t we hold true the sanctity of the Second Amendment while still having common sense?”
Perhaps most shocking, the National Rifle Association put out a statement on Wednesday saying the organization agrees that terrorists should not be allowed to buy firearms, and that they are “happy” to meet with the Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump to discuss the issue.
Oh yeah: Donald Trump announced he was meeting with the NRA, the strongest gun lobby in the world, to discuss keeping suspected militants away from guns.
I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2016
“Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing. If an investigation uncovers evidence of terrorist activity or involvement, the government should be allowed to immediately go to court, block the sale, and arrest the terrorist,” the NRA’s statement read.
The NRA tweeted that this statement did not represent a change in their position, and that “due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed.”
By: Germania Rodriguez, The National Memo, June 15, 2016
“A Monumental Headache”: Conservative Media Struggles To Defend Trump And His Widening University Scam Scandal
What good is having a right-wing echo chamber if it’s not cranked up and blaring out a disciplined message during the presidential campaign? The conservative movement continues to grapple with that propaganda question in the wake of Donald Trump clinching the nomination, which has created deep fissures within the right-wing media and its historically united front.
For decades, conservatives have taken pride in their media bubble that not only keeps Republican fans selectively informed about breaking news, but also bashes away at all political foes. In full-fledged campaign mode, the right-wing media can effectively serve as a battering ram that Republicans use to attack their enemies or fend off in-coming volleys.
But Trump has scrambled that long-held equation. Embracing positions that often fall outside the orthodoxy of modern-day conservatism, while simultaneously rolling out non-stop insults, Trump has presented conservative pundits with a monumental headache: How do you defend a creation like Trump? Or as one National Review Trump headline lamented last month, “What’s a Conservative to Do?”
That riddle is especially tricky when Trump puts would-be allies in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the truly indefensible, like the widening scandal surrounding Trump University, the presumptive nominee’s former real estate seminar business. Over the years the dubious venture has been the subject of several ongoing fraud investigations and lawsuits, including one by the state of New York on behalf of 5,000 alleged victims.
“It’s fraud. … straight-up fraud,” the state’s Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reiterated during an MSNBC interview last week after a judge unsealed court documents from one of the Trump U. lawsuits and allowed for a more detailed look into the allegations of deceit.
The strange part? Some key conservative voices agree with the Democrat’s legal assessment. That’s why back in February, a National Review writer denounced the Trump seminars as “a massive scam.” And last month, The Weekly Standard warned that Trump U. represented a “political time bomb” that could doom the candidate’s November chances: “Democrats will see to that.” (Both magazines have opposed Trump for months and have pointed to Trump U. as a reason for their opposition.)
That’s what’s so startling about watching the conservative media this campaign season: It’s been completely knocked off its game. Known for its regimented messaging and willingness to almost robotically defend any Republican front-runner and nominee, Trump is finding only a smattering of defenders when it comes to damning allegations about his scam seminars.
And when Trump recently escalated the Trump U. story by attacking Judge Gonzalo Curiel and insisted he couldn’t be impartial because of his “Mexican heritage,” the presumptive nominee found himself even further isolated within the conservative movement. (The Wall Street Journal editorial page called Trump’s judiciary attack “offensive” and “truly odious”; Bill O’Reilly did defend Trump last night.)
As for the scamming allegations, even for members of the conservative media who are willing to try to assist Trump, there’s very little to grab on to in terms of defending the scandal-plagued Trump U. Based on mountains of allegations and complaints from angry students — students with no partisan political ax to grind — all indications point to a widespread fraud operating under Trump’s name and one that bilked victims out of millions of dollars.
As The Atlantic noted after reviewing previously secret training materials for Trump U., “the playbook focuses on the seminars’ real purpose: to browbeat attendees into purchasing expensive Trump University course packages.” According to an affidavit from former student Richard Hewson, he and his wife “concluded that we had paid over $20,000 for nothing, based on our belief in Donald Trump and the promises made at the free seminar and three-day workshop.”
The con appeared to touch every aspect of the real estate selling events. Instead of getting an implied, in-person meeting with Trump at one three-day seminar, some attendees were allowed to take their picture with a cardboard cutout of him. That’s one reason Schneiderman dubbed the whole program an “elaborate bait-and-switch” scheme. (Trump’s personal, immersed involvement was a key selling point.)
Still, some loyal conservative have tried to explain away the allegations. Last week on Fox, Tucker Carlson tried to downplay the damage by wondering if Trump U. was a “scam” the same way Princeton is a “scam.” Over at Outnumbered, co-host Jedediah Bila asked if Trump U.’s allegedly fraudulent practices weren’t just good “aggressive sales tactics.” She added, “I mean when the public hears this story, I’m wondering do they just see this as non-story?”
Bila’s co-host Melissa Francis also didn’t see what the big deal was: “You know, it goes to the story of him as an aggressive businessperson who wanted to sort of profit at all costs which is kind of what business is all about.”
And former Republican candidate Ben Carson assured Sean Hannity that, “I recently talked to a physician who went to Trump University, and this man is very wealthy, but he’s not wealthy from being a physician. He’s wealthy from what he learned at Trump University and learning how to do investments.”
Note that many of Trump’s other friends at Fox have been a bit more suspect on the matter. “Trump has a simple assignment, find five people who are graduates who are willing to go on TV and say, you know, my life was improved, my income went up, it was a good experience,” announced Newt Gingrich on Sean Hannity’s show, rather than categorically defending the dubious seminars. (To date, Trump has struggled to produce a multitude of satisfied graduates.)
Conservative talk show host Larry Elder also appeared on Hannity’s show last week to discuss Trump U. and insisted that while it was a “minor issue,” nonetheless “Trump should have settled this a long time ago.”
Even Trump’s fiercest media defender, Breitbart.com, has taken a timid approach to the Trump U. fraud story, with the site refusing to offer up a full-throated defense of the alleged scam.
The ferocious conservative echo chamber isn’t built for nuance and it’s not designed for internal debate. But by sparking so much general dissention and by putting conservatives in the position of having to defend something as noxious as Trump U., the nominee is helping to mute the right-wing media voice this campaign season.
By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, June 7, 2016