It’s Not Kompromat: His Ego Really is Just That Big

There is an episode of the police sitcom Brooklyn Nine Nine where a psychiatrist meets a narcissistic character with no filter at a party, and describes her in awe: “Complete overlap of ego and id. It’s been theorized, but I never thought I’d see it.”

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

When it comes to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, I actually don’t agree with Nancy Pelosi or Rachel Maddow. While it wouldn’t shock me, given the failed developer’s corrupt finances, I’m not so sure that Russia actually has compromising information on Trump. I think he really is just that incompetent and narcissistic: A complete overlap of ego and id.

Yesterday, when a Reuters reporter asked Putin why Americans should believe Russia didn’t interfere, Trump jumped in first to defend his 2016 victory: “We won the Electoral College by a lot. 306 to 223, I believe. And that was a well fought, that was a well fought battle. We did a great job… There was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion.” The reporter didn’t ask Trump about collusion; he asked Putin about Russian sabotage. But whenever Trump hears the words “2016” and “Russia,” he grows extremely defensive, feeling that his accomplishment is being questioned and that he is personally being attacked. To Donald Trump, it doesn’t matter that Russia could interfere in the U.S. without actually working with one campaign or the other. In the end, it always has to be about collusion, because in Trump’s world, everything is always about Trump.

Donald Trump’s body is a thin layer of white skin stretched over the world’s biggest ego, and that drives everything he says or does. This is a much better fit than kompromat for both Hanlon’s Razor (“never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”) and Occam’s Razor (“the simplest solution is almost always the best”). It would also explain many of Trump’s non-Russia political and business behaviors: His obsession with crowd size. His angry misuse of the phrase “fake news” whenever he’s caught in a lie. His name in massive letters on all his properties. That RNC speech, “I alone can fix it.” Calling them “my generals” and “my intelligence people” instead of “the,” “our,” or “America’s.” His lack of loyalty to the very same staff and business associates that he demands complete loyalty from. If Trump is guided by narcissism in those areas, why would we suddenly expect to see his ego disappear as a guiding force on Russian issues? “America First” is a lie, but it’s not “Russia First” either: It’s always “Trump First, and Trump Only.”

Having said all of that, ultimately, it may not actually matter what Trump’s motives are. Whether he’s ego-driven or a Russian asset, the end result is the same. Just like Adolf Hitler before the Holocaust, Trump is eroding public trust in the judiciary, labeling the free press an enemy of the state, capitalizing on existing social biases to scapegoat large swaths of the population, equating support for him with support for the country, and destroying all public trust in any civic institution that could ever hold him accountable for anything.

So if it doesn’t really make a difference to the outcome whether Trump is truly a Manchurian candidate or just a dangerously explosive gasbag, why am I going on about it? Because I believe that, unless and until Robert Mueller or Senators Mark Warner and Richard Burr can prove the conspiracy theories, Trump’s opponents and critics can retain far more credibility, and thus offer a far more effective resistance, by sticking to what we know.

Conspiracy theories are tempting. We all tend to want to believe the best about the people we admire, and the worst about our opponents. That means it can be tempting progressives to believe a peepee tape must surely exist — just like it was tempting for Trump’s base to believe that proof exists Barack Obama was born in Kenya, that the Clintons killed Vince Foster and Seth Rich, and that Comet Ping Pong hid child trafficking.

On a deeper level, conspiracy theories can be comforting. It’s a scary thought: Could we really elect someone that awful without something deeper and nefarious going on? What would that say about us as a country? There must be an alternate explanation! Moreover, can any human really be as bad as the Pussy Grabber appears? If someone with his wealth and privilege can be that awful, can’t anyone? Is someone that bad even a man — isn’t “monster” a more apt description, and would we really elect a monster? Is there any hope left?

Most of the answers aren’t the ones we want. Yes, anyone can be that awful, even if they’re an American, and even if foreign bad guys have no compromising intelligence on them. Yes, that really is a human; as soon as we dismiss them as a “monster,” as an aberration rather than the natural result of certain contexts, we make it too easy to develop more just like them. We have to pay attention to the darkness within us as well as the light, or we will lose control of it. Life isn’t easy: Being good is hard work. Our country made an enormous mistake in 2016, and that’s on us.

But there is hope. Germany didn’t stand up to its strongman during the 1930s. We still can. Setting aside the conspiracy theories doesn’t mean setting aside the Resistance. Show up at the next rally in your area (and the one after that and the one after that); pay for journalism; make monthly donations to electoral or advocacy campaigns that share your values; and don’t be afraid to talk to family and acquaintances about this stuff. Above all, listen to marginalized voices and show love in your daily life, and first of all, call Congress today, especially if you have Republican representatives. Demand that they denounce Trump’s aiding and abetting of Putin, and that they pass pending legislation protecting the Special Counsel investigation at once.

The Capitol Switchboard is (202) 224–3121.