Trump in Lousiana, pretending to look presidential. Max Becherer / AP photo
Much excitement is being had in the media and whereabouts about the New Trump who has allegedly showed signs of humanity by reading from the teleprompter an inane and nebulous statement of “regret” for who knows what exactly. One thing sure is that he, incapable of empathy and especially guilt, does not know or understand it himself, nor does he want to. He’s also shown up for a photo-op in the flooded Louisiana, pretending to care. A shtick as convincing as a serial killer’s finding God in prison (which, according to expert on manipulative characters, George Simon, is a classic psychopathic move). Not to mention — although one will — that his presence there creates a distraction and headache for the security and rescue personnel.
These brazenly manipulative PR moves are greeted with relief and taken as a sign of the long-awaited “pivoting” (which has to be the word of the year in 2016, mark my prediction) toward a humane and presidential Donny.
But this foolish hope is just that, foolish, and one reason, among many, why people with a conscience cannot understand and spot those without it. Naivete and denial, like hope, their close cousin, spring eternal from the same source: our inability / unwillingness to face the truth.
Kellyanne Conway, the new Trump handler who is most definitely responsible for the “human” Donny, is a seasoned GOP operative, thus she has plenty of experience with both lipstick and pigs. But even she won’t be able to accomplish this impossible feat of a make-up-based makeover. There simply isn’t enough lipstick in the world.
To wit, a fragment from my earlier piece, re-posted in the generous spirit of aiding our Republican friends and foes in understanding all things Trump:
Your candidate, dear GOPers, is not going to change. Not because he does not want to — and he surely does not want to — but because he cannot. In order to change in any meaningful fashion, a person must have a functioning conscience. There is no way around it, no matter how hard we may try to find it. There’s just not enough lipstick in the world.
A functioning conscience, much better than reason itself, tells us when and where we erred and how, and what we must do to correct our errors. A functioning conscience with its empathy, guilt, and humility — the three capacities distinctly missing from a narcissist’s inner milieu — is what makes it possible for us to notice and admit that we are at fault, want to rectify our mistakes and change our behavior. No functioning conscience, no change; not even a possibility of acknowledging a wrongdoing. And, if you are a grandiosely narcissistic “winner” (triple redundancy warning!), the best in all you do and also in things you have never done, you would see no need whatsoever to learn anything. Why, perfection means no need to ever say you’re sorry — it is one of its undeniable benefits, for gods and narcissistic humans alike.
This also means your candidate is not going to surround himself with reasonable, or — god forbid — wise people, because, again, he does not believe he could be wrong and he does not need anyone’s advice. And, as he’s someone with the best brain, whose advice could even come close to his own? Besides, he has no tolerance for competition.
The impairment of conscience characteristic for narcissism severely limits a person’s cognitive capacities, as it makes him (or her) incapable of, among so many things, understanding points of view other than his own. This itself makes objective — or at least non-egocentric — reasoning impossible. The result is dangerous solipsism where one’s desires become a substitute for reality, and facts (and people), particularly those that are unpleasant for the narcissist to acknowledge, cease to exist. What he wants, must happen, regardless of consequences for the world — the consequences he is unable to envision in the first place, but even if he did so, he would disregard them.
Unable and unwilling to learn — a distinction without a difference in a narcissist’s case — the best your candidate can be expected to do is to stick to a teleprompter and read the scripts written for him by his children and handlers. Those scripts are not going to be free of their own pathology, however, one which they share with your candidate; but they will be more subdued and polished, as such things go. So they may fool more people, maybe even enough to have your candidate elected, if that’s what you’re after. They will not help your candidate grow a conscience, though. He probably does not understand a lot of what he reads in those prepared speeches; and if he does, he likely does not care to notice how it may differ from what he is about and what it could possibly mean. No conscience, no values, no problem.
Once he’s off the teleprompter, he will remain his usual “winning” self, looking for any opportunity to make a “deal” that would personally elevate him and humiliate someone else, because this is his lifelong modus operandi.
Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” You have been shown time and again, and also explained, one hopes clearly enough; so don’t say you have not been warned.
And a nice takedown of the “new Trump” by John Cassidy in The New Yorker.