Trump’s Narcissism Sets Him Up to Be Manipulated

Jennifer Rubin isn’t the only person who has suggested that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is playing Donald Trump.

Because Trump is the master of believing what he wants to believe and trying to win favor with whomever is sitting in the room with him the real danger is that Trump impulsively accepts frothy promises in exchange for concrete concessions. The North Koreans are practiced at conning U.S. administrations into believing they have found the key to peace on the Korean Peninsula. Meanwhile, Pyongyang retains a nuclear arsenal that Kim, like his father, believes is essential to the regime’s survival and to reunification of the peninsula on its terms.

Other foreign leaders have caught on to the game of playing Trump and have given him the royal treatment, as we saw when the president visited Saudi Arabia and China. What everyone is learning is that the way to get what you want from the president of the United States has almost nothing to do with addressing the issues that are in the interest of this country, but in flattering Trump’s ego.

This extends beyond foreign leaders and explains the chaos we’re witnessing from this administration. Remember how Trump hounded former FBI Director James Comey for a statement of loyalty? Apparently that is the ultimate test for getting and keeping a job with this White House.

Credentialed candidates have had to prove loyalty to the president, with many still being blocked for previous anti-Trump statements. Hundreds of national security officials, for example, were nixed from consideration because they spoke out against Trump during the campaign. But for longtime Trump loyalists, their fidelity to the president is often sufficient, obscuring what in a more traditional administration would be red flags.

If you want to know why ethics-challenged Scott Pruitt still has a job and H.R. McMaster is out, there you have it.

Finally, as I noted last week, Trump’s test for whether or not to endorse Republican candidates in the upcoming primaries is focused on whether or not they’ve been loyal to his agenda.

This is all a classic symptom of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Things that don’t matter to Trump are competence, morality, national security or the interests of the American people. All that counts is the care and feeding of his ego. As Richard Greene wrote a while ago:

There are only two ways to deal with someone with NPD, and they are both dangerous. There is no healthy way of interacting with someone with this affliction. If you criticize them they will lash out at you and if they have a great deal of power, that can be consequential. If you compliment them it only acts to increase the delusional and grandiose reality the sufferer has created, causing him to be even more reliant on constant and endless compliments and unwavering support.

People who have to deal with Trump—be they foreign leaders, cabinet members or congressional Republicans—have all pretty much decided that feeding the president’s ego is the best of those two options. In doing so, they are manipulating his narcissism in order to get what they want. When the only other choice is to wind up on the receiving end of his attacks, that might be the more pragmatic, if not cowardly, choice.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.