Saturday, March 5, 2016

Trump: Psychopath, or Just Trapped in Trump?

So, Is Trump a Psychopath?

What lies within?
No. Once every military officer in the country told him that murdering the families of terrorists with federal hitmen operating under illegal orders (i.e. U.S. Army soldiers) was against the law, and the desks and chairs in Nuremberg were getting the sheets pulled off in clouds of dust, he reversed himself.

The Bear was once consulted by a very conscientious married high school teacher. He had only one question. There was a 17-year-old student he wanted to have sex with. Could he do so without running afoul of the law?

The Bear informed him that while the normal age of consent was 17 in this jurisdiction, where it was between a teacher and student it was 18. (There being some 18-year-olds yet in high school and needing protection against predation.) He looked very sad, stood, and shook his head, but thanked the Bear (who never so much as opened both eyelids without being paid first) and said he would leave her alone. What is your opinion of this teacher? A moral paragon? Or someone foregoing an immoral act solely because it was against the law?

(The Bear ended up defending him on the offense anyway, plus another at a previous school. Of course the Bear won. This his is ephemeris, after all, and he can tell the story any way he wants.)

The law keeps good men honest, and, sometimes, bad men law-abiding. The law does not make a man either good or bad, safe or dangerous. There is something very wrong with your neighbor telling you he would shoot your dog in your yard, except for that being illegal. What practical judgment would you make of such a neighbor? Would you laugh it off because your neighbor was a "blow hard?" Would you count him a capital fellow because he might not shoot your dog, even though he wanted to?

Have Other People Floated the Psychopathy Theory?

Ted Bundy -- charming psychopath
The Bear's article used psychopathy as a semi-plausible hook for a discussion of Trump's questioned policies. (The "Black Raven" picture is directed at the policies, not psychopathy.) Others, some with letters behind their names, some not (Glen Beck) have gone further and actually diagnosed Trump with one mental illness or another. The Bear believes that is rather silly. 

The most obvious objection is that we do not diagnose people by seeing them on television. Canadian Dr. Robert Hare's gold standard test for psychopathy, the PCL-R, relies on an interview in which 20 traits and behaviors are evaluated. 

The second objection is that true psychopaths are slippery and hard to spot. In fact, concluding someone is a psychopath from a meeting is probably a good indication that that person is not a psychopath. They have a lifetime of experience in selling themselves to people they manipulate into being sympathetic. Think charming Ted Bundy. They are not to be confused with a wild-eyed, raving psychotic in the grips of a delusion that the CIA is sending him messages through the fillings in his teeth. Psychopaths are characteristically suave.

Is the Bear a Psychopath?

The final objection involves a confession.

Many people in the law, or business, or, the Bear imagines, many other pursuits, grow a larger-than-life persona around them. A criminal defense lawyer, eating his lunch while thumbing through crime scene photographs of people missing important things like faces can hardly be called a normal person. 

Whatever he feels inside, whether doubts or fear, when he ties that Windsor knot and and cinches it up to his throat, he must become a perfect, remorseless predator in an adversary system. The premise is that two sides fighting it out will reveal the truth to the combined wisdom of twelve ordinary strangers. It is a curious institution borrowed from our sporting English predecessors: a trial by combat without the blood.

In a trial, everybody and everything is just an object to be employed or neutralized. A murder victim is an exhibit. People on the stand are just bundles of testimony that must be discredited, if their personal credibility itself cannot be delicately shredded. Opposing counsel is an opponent to be vexed and defeated, albeit one with whom you might share a discrete lunch. The judge is a target of persuasion, source of bitter disappointment, and a vehicle to preserve the record on appeal, whether he likes it or not. It is a small stage with few characters playing big parts.

The jury... ah, the jury. Is there any better feeling in the world than delivering an opening statement to twelve good and true? The Bear has always loved a part in the big show. He misses it: the adrenaline, the drug of it. The Bear suspects Trump is like that. The Bear was never so alive as in trial. So focused, all senses quivering, ready to spring to his hind legs for an objection. So artful in cross-examination that the nervous prey on the stand never knew they were being politely led down the primrose path into a trap. Neutralized.

Getting back to the the jury, it is the target of manipulation (but never lies) through a thousand subtle means, as well as the object of careful and honest instruction in the evidence and plausible inferences to be derived therefrom.

It is the oldest, and most self-centered game on the planet. Can it eat me, or can I eat it?

All that, it must be admitted, sounds pretty psychopathic. Indeed, a good trial lawyer must be able to assume many traits of a psychopath. Whether this is dangerous, or merely curious, the Bear does not know.

Any empathy is reserved for one's client, no matter what the charge. He is the only human being in the courtroom. Perhaps it is that empathy that is the saving grace, for psychopaths are incapable of any empathy at all.

On that side of the bar, the predatory bear mask may never slip. However, for some poor souls, it eventually never comes off at all.

Trump is Trapped in Trump

What you see is what you get
Many lawyers could fairly be suspected of psychopathy. He suspects the same of many real estate tycoons. But what we are seeing is probably just Trump trapped in Trump, unexpectedly leading in a race for a position for which he has neither the background nor the temperament to fill. His abject ignorance of all matters military, yet air of absolute, even belligerent certainty is just one example. His oblivious evocation of the F├╝hrerprinzip in the last debate was chilling: his soldiers would follow his illegal orders no matter what, because Trump is Trump.

Whatever Trump was originally, it has long been sealed deep inside the Trump brand: the persona he needed to get to where he is. The bear mask served its purpose, but one day he found it would not come off. This is what the Bear suspects, anyway.

The real question isn't whether Donald Trump is a psychopath, for we'll never know, and he probably isn't. It is whether the policies he announces make sense and fit with our moral values, whether his history and current performance impress us as presidential, and whether he is the candidate to prevent the disaster of another Democrat administration.

The Bear admits to an attraction to Trump, and has not ruled out voting for him this early in the game. That he could reverse himself on a position is promising, even though the fact that he held it in the first place is still disturbing. But the Bear knows that a Trump presidency would be the greatest show on earth. And how could an old circus Bear resist that?

21 comments:

  1. Well, and the...uh...gazelle in the living room, which I haven't seen mentioned anywhere yet but which will be mentioned EVERYWHERE if Mr. Trump secures the nomination, is that he has a beautiful and glamorous wife who would restore the Jackie factor to the White House, with interest. That is actually no small thing. Particularly in our image-obsessed culture, it is a very large thing. I believe that people instinctively respond much more favorably to men in public life who have beautiful wives, than to those who do not. It isn't fair, but it's life.

    Although I'm fuzzy on the particulars, I remember the case of Lawrencia "Bambi" Bembenek, a very attractive young fugitive from the law who managed to elude capture for, I think, at least a couple of years back in the '80s. The public and the media, particularly in the upper Midwest, were fascinated by her. There were "Run, Bambi, Run!" T-shirts. She practically had a cult following -- and it takes one's breath away to think of the massive indifference the public would have had toward a female fugitive who was nothing to write home about in the looks department. I'm guessing that this quirk of human nature is well known to lawyers who deal with juries.

    Anyway -- I'm sure Mr. Trump is already grateful to have married Mrs. Trump, but if he ends up in the White House, the whole magazine-reading, tv-watching world (apart from a few impossible-to-please soreheads, of course :-) will be grateful as well. People who hate Mr. Trump will take grudging pleasure in the media focusing more on his wife than on him, and people who like Trump will just enjoy his success that much more.

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    1. Your insight is refreshing and one that would have never occurred to me.

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    3. She could do that, utubeo, and that would doubtless gladden the hearts of people who despise Mr. Trump -- but I doubt that she will. It may also gladden the hearts of Trump-haters to characterize his marriage as a "business deal" and to speak of him as "due for a trade-in", but absent the hatred factor I see no reason to hold either of those views. I guess we will just have to wait and see :-)

      As to why Melania Trump hasn't had a higher profile on the campaign trail, it may have to do with her wanting to keep some stability in their young son's life until the future becomes clearer; it may have to do with a lack of self-confidence wrt her command of English, which is not her first language. If she becomes First Lady, SNL comics undoubtedly will enjoy her heavy accent, but in general the public won't care and the mockers will find it heavy going after a while. She has said that she knows there will be those who will try to rattle her, but that she has a thick skin and can take it.

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    5. I'll just observe that there is nothing unusual about prenups where large assets are at stake.

      (Grover Cleveland fathered a child out of wedlock, and had to listen to chants of "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa?" during the campaign. But for a Democrat preacher trying to help him out by pleading with the Mugwumps not to defect to the party of "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion," thus mobilizing Catholics to vote Democrat, the election would have been different.)

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    6. Utubeo, to quote you, That is one way of looking at it.

      And my goodness, the subject certainly changed rapidly: I was talking about the advantage that having a beautiful wife provides to a man in the public eye; you responded by imagining various ways that the Trumps could be awful to one another. Interesting.

      As I said, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. :-)

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    8. Trump has certainly bitterly divided Catholic ephemera comment boxes. I am surprised, and don't know quite what to say. There is some speculation here based on taking the worst possible view of people. He's a candidate. Like him or not. Debate his policies. But I've seen too many references to "Trump Cultists" for my taste. If he has traction, it is because of circumstances he did not create, including the disappointing performance of establishment GOP candidates and elected officials. He is the "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it any more" candidate. I tend to think that is a legitimate sentiment. Whether Trump would make a good president or not is a separate question.

      And the original post did not invite the invective that followed, in my humble opinion. People should be able to make gentle observations from a different perspective without be jumped on with a change of topic.

      Just my two cents.

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    9. You hit the nail squarely on the head Bear. We have a Country full of 'I'm mad as h _ _ _ and I'm not going to take it anymore' people that are from both sides of the isle. The reason you see the earthquake that has been ignited. It's a revolt that we haven't seen in decades.

      I guess my ultimate question is: Can you trust a 'Trump' over a 'Rubio' or a 'Cruz' or a 'Kasich'? Any candidate running is going to tell the American people what they 'think' they want to hear. But the campaign promises of ALL OF THEM are a far cry from what they actually do when they finally sit in the Oval Office.

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    10. Bear, I’ve been reflecting on your comment. I disagree with your assessment of my comments, but in deferring to your judgment that they broke protocol, I have elected to delete them. Perhaps I failed to make my position clear, and I am going to offer a few clarifications. My delay has been over deciding how much to say.

      I was not going after Jane. I agree that she may be accurately predicting Melania’s future role. I was using that as a jumping off point to further reflection.

      When I used the term “Cult of Personality”, I was not referring to Trump voters, but rather to what Jane was describing. Perhaps it would have been clearer as “Cult of the Beautiful Woman”. Rather than Jackie, I had more in mind Evita—who coincidentally you have mentioned recently.

      I think you are correct in seeing Trump as “just trapped in Trump” rather than being a psychopath.

      You call Trump the “mad as hell candidate” and that he did not create the circumstances. I concur, but see him as an opportunist. You said the voter anger is a “legitimate sentiment”. There I vehemently disagree. I don’t believe American voters have a right to be angry with their leaders since it was the voters themselves that put them in office decade after decade after decade. The principle problem is not the corruption of the leaders, but the corruption of the people. It is well within Catholic tradition that God punishes his people by permitting bad shepherds, both spiritual and civil. The solution is the repentance and reparation by the people, not the electing of new leaders. No repentance, no solutions—only judgment. In my review of human history, I can only discern two times the people repented prior to Divine Judgment; thus while possible, it’s not likely.

      I don’t have a dog in the fight over candidates—other than suffering with who’s selected. I decided years ago that I could not vote DNC or RNC, except perhaps on a very local level, and vote otherwise. I am confident I can demolish the “wasted vote” argument.

      I see the same phenomenon in the Church where (arguably) the “mad as hell candidate” is the SSPX or maybe the Orthodox. I’ve seen exits to both. But again, I don’t think the laity can justify anger toward the hierarchy when the laity is corrupted. I see the hierarchy as a punishment, and the response should not be anger, but sorrow and reparation. Did Our Lady react with anger at the condemnation and crucifixion of Our Lord, or with complete abandonment to the will of God?

      While some might object that they are not personally responsible (eg “I didn’t vote for them”) and thus entitled to anger, I’d reply that we are all corporately responsible for both our nation and the Church. All our personal sins contribute. What I see in angry Americans and Catholics is a (natural) desire for everything to be fixed so that all will be well. Those *leaders* must fix it. What I see is an unwillingness to accept the (supernatural) Way of the Cross. I offer this as a reflection: http://www.loretopubs.org/why-must-i-suffer.html On the website is an excerpt on “Expiation of Public and National Sins”.

      I could add quite a bit more in support, but will leave it at that.

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    11. Jane is like the first person, besides Pete, who ever followed this ephemeris, so please understand if I interpreted your comment as harsher than she apparently did.

      Voters are only able to vote for the candidates they're given. The best we have been able to hope for is spineless mediocrities, if not arsonists. I still think voters have the right to be angry given the disconnect between the masses and the "system." Trump represents the first real chance at breaking out of that system in, like, forever, and people are jumping at the chance to have their own man, not some party hack, to vote for.

      Then again, it is entirely possible we are plagued with bad leaders in every sphere of our lives. But dumb and gimme have their part to play.

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    12. "Voters are only able to vote for the candidates they're given."

      Well, not entirely. They could form new parties, but you have to be willing to take the long view and give up a couple of short term elections.

      On one hand, voter turnout is low. Take 2000 with about 50%. If the disaffected showed up and just voted for themselves as write-ins, Bush wins not with 47%, but 23.5% and Gore finishes not with 48% but 24%. It would scare the hell out of the 2 parties if voters made the statement that they were willing to come to the polls even to register protest, and that they could no longer be counted on to stay home.

      OTH, what I'd like to see is the Pro-lifers abandon the RNC to form their own party. They are the largest single block of voters and have a grassroots organization that both parties would kill for. This is an ideal year with Bernie who's really an Independent anyway capturing the Far Left of the DNC. Waltz over to his camp and lay it out. The RNC is split in half; the DNC is split in half; the election is up for grabs.

      But unfortunately, the pro-lifers are terrified of leaving the RNC. Despite long evidence to the contrary, they think they're still mitigating the evil of abortion by voting RNC.

      In Dune, Paul Muad-dib said, "He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing." The pro-lifers can destroy the RNC by pulling their support. But they won't wield their power. The RNC could lose every election across the board. They should be controlling the RNC, not begging for empty promises.

      Or you could just bloody their nose with, say, Paul Ryan. A Catholic who gave up "no exceptions" to shill for Romney's exceptions--a betrayal of the pro-lifers and the Faith. Waltz down to his Janesville office and tell him "Your political career is over. If a democrat gets elected, so be it. But you're done." The RNC loses their hard fought for Speaker.
      Quite frankly, it'd be the best thing they could do for his soul.

      But, because the pro-lifers have been unwilling to discipline the RNC themselves, they're likely to get stuck with Trump who has, to say the least, very questionable positions on abortion.

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  2. Ever had the gumption to motion for a directed verdict, Bear?

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    1. Why sure, after the close of the prosecution's case every time. Never got one granted.

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    2. I was a liberal in those days, Bear.

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  3. Very good Bear. Trump is a guy who discovers opportunities and takes advantage of them. In his foray into politics he has discovered that great political hay can be made the fact that Republicans, Democrats, Big Finance, Big Business and Big Government, Big Media are all in bed together for the purpose of controlling the population, achieving power and enriching themselves at the expense of the working people who are effectively serfs. Donald Trump is really a Blue Dog Democrat, the party of working class folks and the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II.

    Being the showman that he is he now has a significant following but the question remains: Is Trump the right guy to lead his own movement?

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  4. IMO, Trump is just a modern incarnation of Archie Bunker. There's a reason why Archie Bunker was so lovable for over a decade as was his polar opposite, the "Meathead". Neither expressed anything that wasn't also believed by the man on the street or by popular political commentators. The key thing that distiguishes Archie and the Meathead (and Trump), is that they gather together all the most extreme messages of each side and place them in one person. So it would be a mistake to underestimate Trump, because he is the (extreme) voice of the people who for too long have been shamed into silence.

    Someone like Donald Trump is what you get when the establishment GOP is more concerned with political correctness than reflecting the will of the people. Had the GOP, provided an outlet for this frustration, a more sane politican would have been chosen (someone like Rick Santorum last election).

    IMO, either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio could easily sow up the nomination end presidency if they acknowledged that Trump and Sanders both tapped into the frustration of of the average voter and that when he becomes president, he would appoint both Trump and Sanders the task of ensuring the Republican establishment reflects the will of the people.

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