A Demonstration of the Catch-22 When Dealing With Trump

Over the course of the last three years, there have been a few things that have consistently grounded me in an understanding of Trump’s behavior. I recently wrote that one of those is the way he handled himself during the hysteria about the Central Park Five, which told us almost everything we needed to know about him.

Another item that pops up pretty regularly is something psychiatrists told Richard Greene about the catch-22 of trying to communicate with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

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.

On Thursday, we witnessed both sides of that catch-22 from Trump. In the context of his losing battle in the courts to stonewall congress from crossing the red line of investigating his finances, Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that perhaps the president lacked the confidence he needs to negotiate an infrastructure deal, referred to his Rose Garden stunt on Wednesday as a “temper tantrum,” and said that she wished “his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.”

Both Trump and his enablers lashed out with a vengeance. The president said that Pelosi “is a mess. She’s lost it.” Someone created a video of the speaker that was doctored in order to make it appear as if she was drunkenly slurring her words. The president himself tweeted a video that was edited to make Pelosi sound inarticulate, along with Fox News commentary suggesting that she is deteriorating both mentally and physically.

On the other side of the catch-22, Trump spent seven minutes of a press event asking his staff enablers to give testimony to his own “stable genius.”

As we witnessed all of that unfold, I thought of something else that has grounded my understanding of this president for the last three years: he will never get better and will only get worse. As Jay Bookman suggested, “every time someone has said that we’ve finally hit bottom, I’ve cautioned that no, there is still worse to come.” Trump just explored a new bottom and there is still worse to come.

There are those who enable the president in the way both his staff and Fox News did in the examples above. But in reporting on the events of Thursday, the New York Times demonstrated the more subtle enabling of bothsidersim.

The war of words between President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi escalated in dramatic fashion on Thursday, with each leader questioning the other’s temperament and mental fitness in an extraordinary exchange of personal insults.

The authors of that piece should take a lesson from Eugene Robinson, who accurately summarized what happened.

Once again, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is large and in charge. Once again, President Trump is frantic and rattled. Once again, a tough and powerful woman is driving an insecure man out of his mind…

She looks like a responsible public servant trying her best to serve the public interest. He looks panicked, desperate, out of control and concerned only — as usual — with self-interest…

Whatever the reason, it was Pelosi who looked and sounded presidential this week — and Trump who looked and sounded like a man who fears he’s being cornered.

As the psychiatrists told Greene, there is no effective way to communicate with someone like Trump. Pelosi set off a firestorm by criticizing him. But coddling the president or normalizing his behavior via bothsiderism only serves to feed “the delusional and grandiose reality the sufferer has created.” At least with Pelosi’s approach, someone is telling the truth.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.