What does Trump fear? What does Trump want?
We have an answer: He hates and fears humiliation, and what he wants is revenge.
The Guest Post below cites the PBS Frontline story that reported that Trump was humiliated at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and that this pushed him from exploring the presidency into seeking it. Trump hates humiliation, Thad Guyer says.
Humiliation is a Trump tool. This blog has described the extraordinarily powerful way that Trump has used branding to weaken his opponents. Trump does not simply “oppose” them, he crushes them. Consider that this is is a window into Trump’s motivation. He does to others what he would most dislike. He takes the vulnerabilities of others and makes it a point of humiliation for them.
Humiliate Carson Example: Early in the campaign Ben Carson’s poll numbers were equal to his. Trump accused him of having a perverted pathological temper. “You don’t cure that,” Trump said.
He said Carly Fiorina was ugly.
He labeled Lindsey Graham as a zero, Ted Cruz as a liar with an ugly wife and assassin father, scoffed at Marco Rubio as little, and Jeb Bush as weak. He did it with taunts. It was school yard bully behavior.
This is Trump’s own tweet. Trump is showing off his trophy wife.
Voters responded positively. Republican voters — and in the general election all voters — rewarded the behavior. They found his domination and certitude attractive. He projected a can-do attitude that countered a feeling that America had become weak and over-polite, too concerned with political correctness, too agreeable to the interests of other nations. It fit the America First idea. Trump says, “Other countries are eating our lunch.” That made sense to a lot of people. If the world is full of bullies then America better have a bully at the top itself, and Trump was the bully we need.
This blog has noted that there is an alpha male sexual element to Trumps brand. His defense of “big hands” was not a silly inconsequential comment. It was important to him. He could not leave the charge un-countered. As the “top dog” and king of the hill his sexual dominance confirmed his ability to bend others to his will. He had a young, beautiful wife and she was a trophy and proof of virility, not a “third wife” to explain away or minimize. She did not represent marital failure. She represented can-do power.
Humiliation by Obama. Women were laughing.
Barrack Obama humiliated Trump at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and he did it in front of peers, both men and women. He did it by diminishing the value of the decisions Trump had to make, choosing one B-list celebrity over another and he did it in a mocking tone of he kind we would see Trump employ against his opponents.
Guyer speculates that Trump would prefer nuclear war than to endure that kind of humiliation from Putin. This blog has described the relationship with Putin as dangerous for Trump because Trump detractors might describe a rapprochement with Russia as a sign of Trump weakness. Putin has dramatically positioned himself the same way as Trump, as a virile and brutal top dog, a master at marshall arts, at fishing, at hunting, at riding horses bare chested. This was not simply a conflict of countries. It was a conflict of two alpha males.
Guyer says there is room for two top dogs because Putin is skilled enough to fashion the optics of the relationship so that Trump can look strong to the people Trump needs to look strong with: Americans. Trump can posture and get what he wants, respect; meanwhile, Putin can get what he wants, influence in the Middle East, a reliable warm water port to the Indian Ocean, neutral or nonaligned nations in Eastern Europe, and the “Finlandization” of the Baltic states and central Asia. Americans don’t really want to fight about those, both Trump and Putin understand. It would be an equilibrium that would work. (Lindsey Graham, John McCain, the intelligence community, NATO, and the foreign policy experts in think tanks and academia would hate it — but Trump’s election was a repudiation of those people.)
What would stop this from working would be Americans on the left who want Trump to fail or Americans on the right who want Russia to fail. Trump is lucky because the two courses of action do not complement each other. The left would promote the Trump the-weak-lapdog idea, attacking the Trump alpha male brand. The right would use the hundred year old animosity to Russian communism and now Russian empire revivalism as their cudgel.
Thad Guyer guest comment
“Trump: Death is Preferable to Humiliation”
Initially I disagreed with Upclose on Putin being a threat to Trump’s power male brand. After reflection, I got the point that if Trump is as weak as Obama in dealing with Putin, then it certainly would destroy Trump’s brand. In the end, however, I’ve decided Trump would never let Putin humiliate him as he did Obama. Trump literally would prefer nuclear war to that, and thus will be willing to go as scorched earth as necessary to reestablish parity and equilibrium, if not hegemony, in the power balance. But Trump just needs parity not dominance over Putin.
A failure of disciplined thinking about Trump’s psychology is at the root of widespread media misunderstanding of “how” Trump ticks. That “how” is an essential follow-up to the easy understanding of “what” makes Trump tick — personal insecurity and fear of humiliation. To understand the lengths Trump will go to in avoiding humiliation and defeat, I strongly recommend the new PBS Frontline “President Trump” (Jan. 3, 2017, https://goo.gl/87Guxk), and “The Making of Donald Trump” (Amazon, 2016, https://goo.gl/rb19Gs), the biography by Pulitzer Prize journalist David Cay Johnston. That biography details Trump’s past with organized crime bosses and vicious lawyers and agents to squash attempts to humiliate him, indeed, to criminally indict him. When it comes to thuggery, coercion, retribution and getting away with criminality, Putin will find his match in Trump. Frontline argues that Trump is president now for a single cause — Obama’s humiliating roast of him at the National Press Club dinner in 2011; and for a primary purpose — revenge by way of obliterating Obama’s legacy.
Trump’s history of destroying or punishing adversaries (if they can’t be bought off), is why Trump will not take “no” from Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan on repealing Obamacare, building the wall, nullifying Obama’s 11th hour regulations and executive orders, destroying his immigration policies, and getting all of his cabinet appointments confirmed — with or without all the paperwork.
Guyer disagrees. Big changes are the wrecking ball.
Trump will not hesitate to make war on the GOP if it tries to defy his first 100 days agenda. No one is going to deny Trump his revenge on Obama without risking career destruction. Putin will get the same punishments if he crosses Trump, and Putin knows it. Trump may well be new to the job as president, full of impolitic impulses, but he is an old hand at the skill sets needed by political strongmen. Putin learned in 2012 from Hillary Clinton that even a Secretary of State could threaten his electoral longevity. President and commander-in-chief Trump could do far more damage to Putin’s domestic standing and international ambitions.
I think Trump is right in distrusting our Intelligence bureaucracy as overtly political and unreliable. The flood of intelligence leaks last week from the CIA and NSA targeting Trump, and from the FBI last year in targeting Clinton, show an intelligence community nearly as out of control as was J. Edgar Hoover. This is true even assuming the intelligence assessment about Putin is correct. If you’re mostly influenced by the New York Times your views on this “intelligence brawl” are different from those of us more persuaded by the Wall Street Journal. (WSJ Podcast, “The Intelligence Brawl”, Jan. 6, 2017, https://goo.gl/vj88jM).Predictions of Trump’s imminent humiliation or demise are counter to the biographical evidence. Starting with his high powered cabinet appointments this week, and the near-term dismantling of Obamacare along with whatever is left of Obama’s legacy, I think we’re about to see a highly successful first year presidency — measured not by morality or justice, but by how much of Trump’s agenda gets implemented.
Furthermore, I am persuaded that Trump’s Russia doctrine, and his joint venture with Putin against ISIS, will be the centerpiece an enduring Trump legacy in reshaping the global political order.
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