As the days press on, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to rationalize Donald Trump’s behavior. On the surface, the way he’s handled everything surrounding the Russia investigation has shown a spectacular level of incompetence. While inexperience and general ineptitude have certainly played a role in forming this cloud of calamity that sits above the white house, growing larger and darker as the term progresses, there’s more to all of this than stupidity or brazen incompetence. Trump is a conflict addict. Whenever things seem to be settling down, he does something to aggressively spin himself back into the spotlight.
This is not a new tactic for him.
Donald Trump has been a troll for decades—whether it be the Central Park Five, or Rosie O’Donnell, or Cher, or Bette Midler, or Barack Obama, or John McCain, or any number of others, or his days serving as his own publicist John Miller. He’s become well-known for his self-serving nature, his offensive, off-the-cuff comments and his flair for controversy. Trump’s persona is framed by garish displays of wealth but defined by pompous, filter-less, linguistic flailing. It’s become clear over the years, that Mr.Trump adores the spotlight, and he’s realized that hot takes generate coverage. News outlets salivate over tendentious and slanderous quotes, and Trump is primed to deliver the goods at a moment’s notice.
He may not always be operating consciously in this realm, but there is certainly a part of Donald Trump that enjoys standing in the center of swirling chaos. Controversies bring ratings, and ratings are the only thing Trump cares about; he mentions them up on a weekly basis. He wants to be the center of news coverage, he craves attention like an adolescent. Negative attention is better than no attention. Thus, when he can’t get attention through legislating or governing, or diplomatic actions, he implodes and carelessly lets some words fly. He reverts back to old habits.
It’s a time-tested practice for him, and it’s generated on impulse.
There’s no strategy here, there is simply a man compulsively addicted to the feeling he gets when haphazardly spewing word vomit on the general public.
But things are different now; there are consequences.
Before he was president, Trump’s statements didn’t weigh him down too much. He was still able to live his full life, safe within his golden bubble. He could pop in now and again, say some crazy stuff, get his buzz on and retreat back to his penthouse. Not anymore. As leader of the free world, what he says matters—a lot. There is nowhere to run anymore. He and his press team said he fired Comey due to Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email investigation. Trump surrogates rushed to defend the president saying that Comey’s dismissal had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. Then, less than 24 hours later, Trump told Lester Holt that the dismissal did have to do with the investigation.
By ever so ungracefully stomping into the melee, Trump only confirmed suspicions that the Comey firing was likely done to cover something up. His statements push the “he was getting too close” narrative; they open the gate for an influx of new conspiracy theories while strengthening old ones. Through a lens of rationality, his approach seems entirely senseless—but Trump has never been a man who lets himself be constrained by the logical impediments of rational thinking.
He’s just feeding the beast; he’s satiating his desire like a stunted, linguistic voyeur.
The man is incapable of damage control. There’s a level humility needed to effectively tamp the flames surrounding a crisis—and no one ever mistook Donald Trump for humble.
Some may say that Trump simply doesn’t understand the way government and the media work, and the relationship therein. Or that he doesn’t even seem to even understand the nature of human beings on a very basic level. When one treats people poorly, when one demeans large groups of people under one’s employ and glorifies ending careers, those people will grow angry, they will rebel. Yelling, attacking, tweeting and firing people will not stop leaks, it will turn the entire structure into a sieve. One only needs an elementary understanding of how human beings operate to realize that this type of behavior will not yield the desired results.
But we are dealing with an addict here. He seeks immediate gratification—he’s helplessly myopic, always searching for a fix. He doesn’t think of the consequences of his actions only the feeling it will grant him.
The wilder the statement, the bigger the rush.
If Trump makes it through a full term or more, things will not change. His default setting is tornadic; this is how he exists, forever trolling.
He’s like that cousin who always makes a scene at a party, the one that drama just seems to follow.
Only, instead of insulting grandma’s pie, he’s firing FBI agents and threatening North Korea.
by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.