Opinion | Knopf: Portraits of a narcissist
January 3, 2019
So often we talk about caring for our environment, caring for each other and our community efforts to create a better world. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Narcissist in Chief. I'm not the first to apply the term. I think we can use the lens, looking at the self interest of the president and see others we recognize closer to home.
We can see the president's narcissism in today's headlines. Have you seen any mention of the president's concern about his federal employees furloughed without pay, trying to make rent or a car payment? Nope. He is only concerned his base supporters will think him weak if he makes a deal with the Democrats. For the Narcissist in Chief I have a turn of phrase I think he'll like.
We're going to create a secure border. We're building the wall recommended by the great guys who work the border. According to 2017 internal Customs and Border Protection documents, cited in a 2018 Senate Homeland Security Report, less than half of 1 percent of agents recommend a physical wall to protect the border. Trump's publicity stunt yesterday parading a handful of representatives of the National Border Patrol Council (border agents' union) claiming agents would rather have a wall than get paid doesn't square with facts! Border agents surveyed by their own department say they want more technology and personnel. They say electronic surveillance will provide the fantastic digital wall they need and better enforcement than any physical wall that can be vandalized, surmounted or tunneled under.
Now let's turn to our real issue: folks who are more concerned about their optics than what's really happening. William Safire in his last "On Language Column" reportedly stated, "'Optics' is hot, rivaling content. When politicians fret about the public perception of a decision more than the substance of the decision itself, we're living in a world of optics."
President Trump, the guy who chanted "drain the swamp," is now the Swamp Master in Chief. Instead of running a clean government that serves the people, he is only concerned with how the government looks, more importantly how it makes him look. It looks like he and his cronies are crooks. Rampant ethics violations are just what you'd expect from an administration run by narcissists. They aren't concerned about the quality of their work. They only serve their own interests.
More than 164 former lobbyists work for the Trump administration, according to OpenSecrets.org, The Center for Responsive Politics. Reportedly nine former administration employees are now lobbyists. This is despite Trump's January 2017 executive order banning former lobbyists from working on matters for which they previously lobbied for two years. The order also banned former administration employees from lobbying the government for five years. Again, Trump and his cronies were interested in the optics of the executive order, not enforcing an order that would protect the public good. Our president is setting the bar at a new low, making narcissism chic.
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Five Trump advisers have been convicted and more than a dozen advisers have been indicted, are under investigation or have engaged in obvious self dealing. Amway heiress, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos eased regulation and investigation of corrupt for-profit schools. No surprise, she is personally invested in for-profit education, which she regulates. Scott Pruitt, former EPA chief resigned after a long list of ethics violations were made public. The current acting head of the EPA, Andrew Wheeler is a former coal industry lobbyist. Tom Price served just seven months as Secretary of Health and Human Services until his spending of nearly a million dollars on military and charter flights was deemed too much for the taxpayers to pay. Brenda Fitzgerald, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention purchased shares in food, drug and tobacco companies after taking charge of an agency that regulates them.
Trump's son, Don Trump Jr., and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are engaged in trading government favors for sweetheart deals directly benefiting their businesses. Propublica reports Don Jr. suddenly has a major stake in a hydroponic lettuce company. The company's founder, a college buddy of the president and godfather to Trump's son, is seeking federal assistance for projects in Asia, the Caribbean and South America. According to multiple reports, Kushner has been shopping Chinese and then Qatari investors to bail him out of his troubled New York skyscraper, which has a mortgage due next month, reportedly for more than the building is worth. The list goes on and on.
Is there enough air freshener to quell the stench? Bottom line is these folks don't let questions on ethics get in the way of deals that benefit them. They are not the only ones. We all work with people or have family members who seem to be Teflon. They work to keep their images looking good and they don't care who they screw, as long as their interests are served. I like to call it two crabs in a bucket.
When I lived in Charleston, South Carolina, I learned when you catch a crab and put it in a bucket, you need a lid and rock. The crab can scale the sides of a bucket and push off the lid, so you need a rock to hold the lid down. But once you have two crabs, you don't need the lid. When one crab starts to scale the side of the bucket, the other crab will grab a leg and try to get a free ride. The weight of the second crab pulls both crabs down into the bucket. As each tries to escape, the other looks for the free ride, until each crab is exhausted. Self interest actually destroys the chances for all.
My favorite line of the Rotary International's Four Way Test asks, "Is it beneficial for all concerned?" If more of us look for the win-win scenario, maybe we can make the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" fashionable and we can drive narcissism back onto the pages of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, American Psychiatric Association). Of course psychologists will tell you little can be done to change a real narcissist, like the Narcissist in Chief. But, perhaps we can make the trend unfashionable again.
Susan Knopf is a Summit County resident and a regular contributor to the Summit Daily. Susan has won awards from the Associated Press and United Press International for her news reporting.
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