What can we learn from the fact that our new President spent the first day after his inauguration complaining that the national press were trying to delegitimize him by reporting that his claim that his was the most widely attended and viewed inauguration ever was simply not true? There was ample photographic evidence that the Obama inauguration in 2009 attracted hundreds of thousands of attendees more than Trump’s. There was also evidence from Washington DC Metro on how many people it had transported on both occasions, and again the Obama celebration was massively higher in number. And Nielsen, the television rating company, reported that many more millions of viewers had tuned into the 2009 inauguration than for 2017.
Trump and his staff denied all the evidence. Their proof: Trump’s statement that he had seen one to one and half million people in front of him – and false claims that the National Park Service has been using metal detectors to screen people and that this had caused hundreds of thousands to be late in arriving. There was no such screening.
Once again we are witnessing how desperately the President needs to always, always be the best, the strongest, the most admired, without peer. Once again we are witnessing a narcissistic personality disorder in full display.
The Mayo Clinic defines the disorder thus:
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism…If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care….At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior.
It is no secret that the President shows many of these behavioral traits. It gnaws on him that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Beaten, by a woman! And he cannot accept that President Obama’s inauguration had much higher attendance. So he vents his anger on the press, and his staff makes up “alternative facts” to support his narcissistic need.
But his behavior this weekend also reveals other disquieting tendencies. He is impetuous, and cannot resist the temptation to lash out at criticism. He is vindictive: he is now threatening to restructure the White House Press Room to give access only to journalists acceptable (read, amenable) to him and exclude those who are out of favor. He has an insatiable need for approval and to brag about his accomplishments. He spent his first speech to CIA employees boasting about the large crowds who came to his election campaign events.
Many of the good people who voted for him did so because they viewed him as strong, as someone who would speak the truth. What we are getting is a man who is petty and resentful, and one who tries to manipulate facts and evidence to present a fictional reality. Like Narcissus, we have a man who can see no further than his own reflection, who is in love with himself.