Christie and Putin: Trump’s Narcissistic Suppliers

As Steve M. reminds us, Gov. Chris Christie has a 26% approval rating in New Jersey, and that means that he’d actively harm Trump’s chances of winning the Garden State if he were to join his ticket. It’s possible that Trump doesn’t know this, but it’s as close to an iron-clad fact as you can find in politics. The people of New Jersey are totally over Chris Christie and have far less than zero interest in pushing him onto the national stage for the next four to eight years.

Yet, Chistie is still the state’s governor, which is the problem, and which also creates a conflict with the other duties he’s taken on for the real estate bankruptcy expert.

Already, Mr. Christie has begun the task of designing a government on Mr. Trump’s behalf. Tapped to lead Mr. Trump’s transition efforts, Mr. Christie has taken a role that some of his allies liken to that of a White House chief of staff, soliciting views on what a potential Trump administration should look like.

Mr. Christie has taken the transition process firmly in hand, according to people familiar with his activities….

In addition to serving as a kind of head of transition for a prospective Trump administration and as a de facto chief of staff, Christie is also trying to schmooze big money Republican donors. So far, at least, he seems to be having little success. But, regardless, it’s impossible not to imagine that New Jersey is currently operating with an absentee governor.

Now, Trump seems to suffer from every single subtype of narcissistic personality disorder (I’m not kidding), so he simply doesn’t think like a normal person with good mental health. Steve M. speculates that Trump has taken a shine to Christie because people like to have “a funny fat guy” around, but I personally think he was won over to Christie by watching him dice Marco Rubio like a whitefish.

And it didn’t hurt that Christie endorsed Trump despite the predictable reaction from mainstream Republican elites:

In a clinical sense, Christie thereby provided Trump with narcissistic supply.

The narcissistic manager will have two main sources of narcissistic supply: inanimate (status symbols like cars, gadgets or office views); and animate (flattery and attention from colleagues and subordinates). Teammates may find everyday offers of support swiftly turn them into enabling sources of permanent supply, unless they are very careful to maintain proper boundaries. The narcissistic manager’s need to protect such supply networks will prevent objective decision-making. Such a manager will evaluate long-term strategies according to their potential for gaining personal attention.

It was evident at the first Trump-Christie joint press conference in Mar-a-Lago that proper boundaries would not be maintained. It was so obvious, actually, that Christie had to hold another press conference back in his home state to assure people that he had not been taken hostage by Donald Trump.

cristiehostagesituation

“I want people to know who were concerned I was not being held hostage. I was not thinking ‘oh my God, what I have done.’ I was standing up there supporting the person I believe is the best person to beat Hillary Clinton among the remaining Republican candidates. It’s why I endorsed him.” -Chris Christie, New Jersey press conference on March 2, 2016.

Some people think Trump says nice things about Vladimir Putin because he admires him as a strong man, or because he’s long been interested in making real estate deals in Moscow and Azerbaijan. And those could be important factors, but probably the most significant cause of Trump’s pro-Putin behavior is that Putin gave him an injection of narcissistic supply.

“He is a bright and talented person without any doubt,” Putin said, adding that Trump is “an outstanding and talented personality.”

And in remarks closely mirroring Trump’s assessment of the campaign, the Russian leader called Trump “the absolute leader of the presidential race,” according to the Russian TASS news agency.

And you know what happens when you say something just a little nice about a narcissist?

“People with narcissistic personality disorder tend to exaggerate their skills and accomplishments as well as their level of intimacy with people they consider to be high-status.”

“I think he [Russian President Vladimir Putin] said some really nice things. He called me a genius. He said Trump’s a genius. Okay. So, you know, that’s nice.” —Donald Trump, interview with Bill O’Reilly, April 28, 2016

Actually, Putin didn’t call him a genius. In fact, Putin went out of his way to clarify that he only called him “bright” and not “brilliant.”

But that doesn’t matter to Trump because the most important thing is that someone with high status praised him, and he makes sure to cultivate that kind of person.

It’s a variant on the old saw, “Keep your allies close and keep your ego-strokers closer.”

“Psychologist Heinz Kohut saw those with narcissistic personality disorder as disintegrating mentally when cut off from a regular source of narcissistic supply.”

This is the sense in which Chris Christie makes sense as a running mate for Trump. Even if Christie won’t help him win New Jersey or the Electoral College and therefore the election, he feeds something that Trump requires like the rest of us require oxygen.

And, while Indiana Gov. Mike Pence might have had a warm meeting with Trump “Saturday morning at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.,” I am just not seeing how Pence can fill that same role.

I’m pretty firmly convinced at this point that the best predictor of what Trump will do is to look at what classic narcissists do. As we’ve seen with Trump’s business practices, he is “fraudulent, deceptive, arrogant, and exploitive” in his dealings and routinely engages in “pathological lying and swindling.”

He perfectly fits the definition of an Elitist Narcissist:

Elitist narcissist: Feels privileged and empowered by virtue of special childhood status and pseudo achievements; entitled façade bears little relation to reality; seeks favored and good life; is upwardly mobile; cultivates special status and advantages by association.

In his dealings with competitors, both business and political, he’s often “callous, brutal, rancorous, aggressive, biting, merciless, vicious, cruel, spiteful; hateful and jealous,” which are all descriptors of a Malignant Narcissist.

He hits all the marks of a Compensatory Narcissist: “Seeks to counteract or cancel out deep feelings of inferiority and lack of self-esteem; offsets deficits by creating illusions of being superior, exceptional, admirable, noteworthy; self-worth results from self-enhancement.” We can see this in how he lies about his Wharton Business degree and constantly assures us that he has one of the highest I.Q. scores.

Even his personal relationships appear narcissistic.

Amorous narcissist: Sexually seductive, enticing, beguiling, tantalizing; glib and clever; disinclines real intimacy; indulges hedonistic desires; bewitches and inveigles others; pathological lying and swindling.

What Trump does, he does to feed his own demons. Trying to discern some greater strategy (he’s a Democratic plant!) is always going to be fruitless.

It’s possible that he’ll listen to some key advisors and make a veep pick that makes a modicum of sense, but I doubt it. Everything about him suggests that his running mate must fill the role that Christie is already filling quite well.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.