The idea that many of our perceptions of other people are shaped by our own biases and expectations is not new. What is quite extraordinary is how extreme this divergence is when it comes to Donald Trump. Where his critics see ignorance, his supporters see a big picture person who leaves the details to others. Where his critics see someone who cheats and stiffs other people and finagles his taxes, his supporters see a brilliant business mind. Where his critics see a petty, narcissistic, insecure person who lacks self-awareness and cannot acknowledge even the smallest mistake or fault, his supporters see a dominant and inerrant man, who is so sure of himself that he never needs to back down. Where his critics see a racist, misogynist, xenophobe, his supporters see someone who is not afraid of being ‘politically incorrect’. Where his critics see arrogance, his supporters see self-confidence. Where his critics see a lack of empathy, his supporters see a hardheaded realist.
Josh Marshall looked at an instance last week where Trump went on Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News and continued to talk about Alicia Machado, five days after her name was mentioned at the debate, and what his comments there reveal about him.
The words amount to what we might term ‘stand-up narcissism’, a demonstration of a personality defect so profound and total that it becomes comedic in a way that makes a decent run at transcending its own awfulness. His self-regard and conscienceless-ness is so total that it is beyond him to realize that his “a good deed never goes unpunished” lament doesn’t make him look like a chauvinist asshole so much as a clownish version of a chauvinist asshole. It so perfectly mirrors Trump’s self-immolation with the Khans that it’s hard to believe the Clinton staffers who planned this could have imagined it would work so well.
Any halfway competent campaign would realize the ‘talking points’ on this issue are quite simple: Don’t talk about it! The ‘charges’ against Trump are nothing more than things he said on video. There are no charges. Just quotes. There is nothing in dispute. It’s just showing people what he said.
But ‘not talking about it’ assumes, actually requires you can get Trump to stop talking about it – especially, stop talking about how overweight she was or what a stand up guy he was for trying to get her to lose weight.
But he can’t. Why? Because he can’t be wrong. Not just ‘can’t be wrong’ but ‘has to be right’. Sounds like the same thing but it’s not. The latter quality forces him to keep talking and keep litigating a case he can’t possibility win.
Now he’s angry at campaign allies and evens staff for saying he didn’t do well in the debate. None of us like criticism. Some of us ‘can’t take criticism’. But Trump can’t take criticism at an entirely different level.
One wonders how the insecure Trump will react to the reports of media commentators who say that, despite his many outright lies (because who cares about the truth anymore?), Mike Pence’s performance in his debate was better than Trump’s in his.
The cartoon strip Doonesbury has been caricaturing Trump on and off for nearly three decades and creator Garry Trudeau has now compiled a retrospective collection of all of them. It is clear that Trudeau saw right through Trump a long time ago as we see in this cartoon from 1999 that seems to implicitly reference the Dunning-Kruger effect that afflicts Trump and that I have written about before here.
John Cleese succinctly explains the Dunning-Kruger effect in less than one minute, though he unfortunately conflates the ignorance and lack of self-awareness that lie at the heart of the effect with stupidity.