Opinion

Michael A. Cohen

Trump is an extreme narcissist, and it only gets worse from here

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press/File

IN THE 100 HOURS since Donald Trump took the oath of office, the worst predictions about his presidency are already coming true. In a series of bizarre, self-aggrandizing actions, we’ve been reminded anew of the impairments that make him so unqualified to be president.

In his dishonest and self-serving efforts to dispute photographic evidence of the less than stellar turnout for his inauguration, we saw, again, his crippling need for validation and admiration. In seeking to re-litigate the crowd size issue while standing in front of a wall at the CIA commemorating those killed in the line of duty, we were witness, again, to his astounding insensitivity and self-directed narrative. In his initial mocking of Saturday’s women’s march, which dramatically overshadowed his inauguration, we’ve seen, again, his extreme over-sensitivity to criticism. In his continuing efforts to falsely claim that he would have won the popular vote if not for the millions of people who illegally voted for Hillary Clinton, we’ve been reminded, again, of how thin-skinned he is and how easily and without shame he lies.

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All of this has provided further insight into Donald Trump’s ego. Indeed, a disturbing report this morning in the Washington Post recounting Trump’s first few days in office vividly detail his disquieting personal obsessions.

Seeing images of the massive demonstrations against him juxtaposed with the smaller crowd that turned out for his inauguration, Trump exploded. He “grew increasingly and visibly enraged,” wrote the Post. “Over the objections of his aides and advisers — who urged him to focus on policy and the broader goals of his presidency — the new president issued a decree: He wanted a fiery public response, and he wanted it to come from his press secretary.”

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This led to Sean Spicer’s now infamous and humiliating turn before the White House cameras in which he blatantly lied, calling the turnout for the inauguration the biggest in history during his first-ever press briefing . Yet amazingly, Trump believes it didn’t go far enough.

Every day of his presidency so far provides yet more evidence of Trump’s acute narcissism; of his inability to control his impulses, husband his anger, or feel genuine empathy for others. After a campaign full of lies, exaggeration, and boastful proclamations, he is acting the same as president. Even after reaching the pinnacle of political power, Trump seemingly cannot tolerate any person who questions his achievements. His response to criticism or to any statement that dents his ego and self-conception of himself is the same as it was during the more than 18 months he ran for president: rage, anger, and a scorched-earth response.

While Trump’s initial temper tantrums have been over the pettiest and most trivial imaginable stories, imagine what his response will be when the stakes really matter.

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There are seemingly still those who believe that Trump’s behavior can be moderated and that he will, as some have suggested, rise to the job. But Trump’s narcissism makes this virtually impossible. Not only is he incapable of change, he’s incapable of understanding why change is necessary. Indeed, Trump’s presidential victory is merely confirmation and validation of his previous actions. Quite simply, he is immune to introspection and there is no one who can whisper in his ear that “enough is enough.”

For too long, we in the media have been afraid to address the reality of Trump’s impairments. Those around him — and his fellow Republicans in Congress — have enabled his behavior, perhaps unable to understand or indifferent to why he does the strange things that he does. But the last four days — coming on the heels of similar behavior during this transition — should disabuse us of any reason for optimism about Trump.

This is the new normal and it’s only downhill from here.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.
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