Donald Trump is a malignant narcissist with attention deficit disorder. The list of problematic personality traits is as long as Trump’s combover, but none explain why he has mishandled Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation so badly.
Trump lies to convince his supporters to disregard any damning revelations and legal developments. He works with Congressional allies, select members of the media, and his staff to undermine Mueller’s work. Yet, the investigation is like a runaway freight train. Even if Mueller is fired and pardons are issued, other prosecutorial offices will pick up the legal baton. In other words, Trump has waited too long to impact the steady march to his demise.
Trump’s predicament can party be traced to the teachings of Norman Vincent Peale, who served as the pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York. Trump and his family attended the church during his formative years, which is also where his first wedding was held. Peale also wrote the book The Power of Positive Thinking, which is about creating a mindset for personal success and weathering hardships. Considering many considered Trump’s run for President fanciful, and he has rebounded from six bankruptcies, it is clear those lessons were internalized. NPR’s Tamara Keith wrote an article about this that included these nuggets:
• “Any fact facing us, however difficult, even seemingly hopeless, is not so important as our attitude toward that fact…A confident and optimistic thought pattern can modify or overcome the fact altogether,” said Peale.
• “I still remember his sermons,” Trump said in July 2015 at the Iowa Family Leadership Summit, talking about where he got his religious grounding. “It was unbelievable. And what he would do is he would bring real-life situations, modern day situations into the sermon. And you could listen to him all day long.”
• Peale took a nontraditional approach to Christianity, catering to businessmen like Trump and his real estate developer father with what today would be called a prosperity gospel.
Trump’s situation is hopeless, but he acts like it is not. That is why he would invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House after the disastrous Helsinki Summit. He believes the Kremlin autocrat will seem less scary with more exposure to the American public. That is why he utters the phrase “no collusion” like a human parakeet. Good marketing is founded on repetition. The President is following Peale’s philosophy of willing your way to your desired outcome.
You don’t fight Donald Trump by calling him crazy. You don’t fight on his terms. In fact, you don’t focus on Trump at all. You concentrate on the Republican Congress, who are just as culpable as their party leader for the mess we are in. You fight by setting a vision for a future with robust government accountability, where fair-minded policy proposals get a hearing in Congress, and moderate judges are considered. And you do all that in relentless fashion. In other words, you beat Trump at his own Peale-like game.
J.H. Norton is a communications professional, life-long Democrat, and married father of two boys living in Washington, D.C.