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Trump’s Choice: Demons or Redemption

By  |  May 17, 2017, 06:35pm  |  @stevengberman

President Trump has a choice to make: either its the demons, or redemption.

If you’re a Trumpkin, you probably won’t believe this. Trump isn’t what you think he is, he’s a whole lot less. That’s the central theme put forward Tony Schwartz, Trump’s co-author of “The Art of the Deal” ($9.45 for paperback at Amazon).

Writing in the Washington Post, Schwartz expressed no surprise at all at everything President Trump has done in the last 116 days. He wrote that even Trump’s disclosure of sensitive information to the Russian foreign minister is “entirely predictable.”

Trump’s pitch

Whether you support what Trump is doing, or you are opposed, it’s really not–and never has been–about what Trump does. It’s about the man himself. Trump sells himself, promotes himself, never blames himself, and always protects himself.

If you’re a Trump supporter, it doesn’t matter what Trump does, because he’s already sold you on himself. Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it for you. He’s looking out for you. He’s got your back. He’s telling you the truth while everyone else is lying. He’s only in this political garbage thing for you. Trump is your voice.

He speaks to his supporters, in language they understand. He doesn’t use “weasel words.” It doesn’t matter if he lies, because everyone is lying. He’s making “them” crazy and exposing “their lies” with his. This is what Trump has sold his supporters. He wants total loyalty, and many have given it to him.

Septuagenarian Trump hasn’t changed since he was a pre-teen. Schwartz relates, after hundreds of conversations with Trump in the 1980s.

To survive, I concluded from our conversations, Trump felt compelled to go to war with the world. It was a binary, zero-sum choice for him: You either dominated or you submitted. You either created and exploited fear or you succumbed to it — as he thought his older brother had. This narrow, defensive worldview took hold at a very early age, and it never evolved. “When I look at myself today and I look at myself in the first grade,” he told a recent biographer, “I’m basically the same.” His development essentially ended in early childhood.

Trump told Playboy Magazine in 1992 about his late brother Fred, who succumbed to alcohol.

I saw people really taking advantage of Fred and the lesson I learned was always to keep up my guard one hundred percent, whereas he didn’t. He didn’t feel that there was really reason for that, which is a fatal mistake in life. People are too trusting. I’m a very untrusting guy. I study people all the time, automatically; it’s my way of life, for better or worse.

About other people:

I am very skeptical about people; that’s self-preservation at work. I believe that, unfortunately, people are out for themselves. At this point, it’s to many people’s advantage to like me. Would the phone stop ringing, would these people kissing ass disappear if things were not going well? I enjoy testing friendship …. Everything in life to me is a psychological game, a series of challenges you either meet or don’t. I am always testing people who work for me.

About what he’s selling:

The show is “Trump” and it has sold out performances everywhere. I’ve had fun doing it and will continue to have fun, and I think most people enjoy it.

Comey’s “disloyalty”

Schwartz added this regarding Comey, who he believes Trump fired for the exact reasons the president himself appears to have admitted.

What Trump craves most deeply is the adulation he has found so ephemeral. This goes a long way toward explaining his need for control and why he simply couldn’t abide Comey, who reportedly refused to accede to Trump’s demand for loyalty and whose continuing investigation into Russian interference in the election campaign last year threatened to bring down his presidency. Trump’s need for unquestioning praise and flattery also helps to explain his hostility to democracy and to a free press — both of which thrive on open dissent.

This is why there are so few within the White House who can please Trump. He’s not mercurial, he’s totally demanding of all attention, all adulation, all loyalty, and perfect obedience in defense of himself and his personal brand–the “Trump show.”

The “Trump show” is what Trump believes in, and it doesn’t matter how many people positively despise him, as long as there are people who unquestioningly love and adore him. This is why Trump recharges himself at rallies filled with self-selected fans. He feeds on that, and on having his name in the press.

America elected a man whose highest aspiration–an addiction really–is to be the most reported on and ubiquitous figure in the world, to an office that makes its occupant the most reported on and ubiquitous figure in the world. Having that platform simply isn’t enough to fill the black hole of Trump’s addiction.

Schwartz wrote that Trump was “a hurt, incredibly vulnerable little boy who just wanted to be loved.”

Any addiction has a predictable pattern — the addict keeps chasing the high by upping the ante in an increasingly futile attempt to recreate the desired state. From the very first time I interviewed him in his office in Trump Tower in 1985, the image I had of Trump was that of a black hole. Whatever goes in quickly disappears without a trace. Nothing sustains. It’s forever uncertain when someone or something will throw Trump off his precarious perch — when his sense of equilibrium will be threatened and he’ll feel an overwhelming compulsion to restore it. Beneath his bluff exterior, I always sensed a hurt, incredibly vulnerable little boy who just wanted to be loved.

Is Schwartz right? That all depends on what you believe. If you are a Trump supporter, it’s all disloyal, partisan, malicious lies. If you are one of those Resistance types, then it explains why Trump is wholly unfit for office, and stole an election that should require the first “do over” in American history. (That’s a fantasy, by the way, that will never happen. The best anti-Trumpers can get is Pence.)

What’s next?

The truth is somewhere in the middle. Trump’s temperament, personality, reflexes, and braggadocio do not serve him, or the office of president, well. But Trump is not totally without ideals. If he were, his message could not possibly resonate with so many Americans. What Trump does lack is a filter, and a brake. He cannot hold himself back, and he cannot stop himself from responding to whatever is in his immediate reach.

Twitter, with its immediacy, wide reach, and tiny expression aperture, is Trump’s perfect muse. I daresay that without Twitter, Trump would not be president. But without Twitter, President Trump would not be in nearly the hot water in which he finds himself.

What’s next?

Either Trump will learn to constrain himself, or I cannot see how he can finish his term. There’s a certain level of resistance, especially in the GOP, that even the president cannot withstand. If he continues to react defiantly and without regard to consequences, Congress will find a way to remove him.

Redemption

But if Trump does reform, at least in his use of Twitter and his unabridged comments about things on which he has no knowledge or concept of consequences, then redemption awaits him. So many people want Trump to succeed–myself included. It’s simply not good for the country to go through an impeachment or (more unlikely) a 25th Amendment removal for incapacity.

Trump can succeed and overcome his demons, if he agrees to let others help him. The “intervention” Erick wrote of might simply be his staff, and his children, approaching him together, setting aside their squabbles,  and saying “if you won’t let us help you, we’re all quitting.” It might be the first time Trump has ever had a large number of people under him disagree with him.

Schwartz wrote:

In the hundreds of Trump’s phone calls I listened in on with his consent, and the dozens of meetings I attended with him, I can never remember anyone disagreeing with him about anything. The same climate of fearand paranoia appears to have taken root in his White House.

The fear and paranoia emanate from the Oval Office and its occupant. If Trump would agree that his own legacy, and the adulation of people who have placed their unqualified trust in him, depends on him relaxing his grip, then he could become a decent president–at least from my conservative perch.

If, however, Trump chooses the demons, it won’t matter how many Trumpkins adore him.

But if you’re one of the Trumpkins and you have read this far, you’re probably already tweeting how none of this is true.