Monday, December 4, 2023

Donald Trump takes psychological projection to absurd levels, as he tries to "turn the tables" and paint President Joe Biden as a threat to democracy in U.S.

Donald Trump addresses the faithful in Iowa (AP News)

Those who have been paying attention to American politics in 2023 know that Donald Trump has a "tortured relationship with the truth" -- and that is a polite way of saying Trump lies, a lot. In fact, The Washington Post's fact-checking team went back through its files to determine the number of false and misleading statements Trump had made during his first (and hopefully only) term as president. The Post came up with a figure of 30,573 such claims in a four-year period. The Post even noted trends in Trump's deluge of lies: In short, The Post found, Trump's habit of lying is getting worse, not better. From the report:

What is especially striking is how the tsunami of untruths kept rising the longer he served as president and became increasingly unmoored from the truth.

Trump averaged about six claims a day in his first year as president, 16 claims day in his second year, 22 claims day in this third year — and 39 claims a day in his final year. Put another way, it took him 27 months to reach 10,000 claims and an additional 14 months to reach 20,000. He then exceeded the 30,000 mark less than five months later.

The Post provided more evidence that Trump's lies are getting both greater in number and "increasingly unmoored from the truth" with its coverage of a campaign stop over the weekend. The headline on the report is revealing and troubling, especially when you consider this guy is seeking to lead our country for four more chaotic years "Trump attempts to spin anti-democracy, authoritarian criticism against Biden; The former president declared his 2024 campaign as a ‘righteous crusade’ against ‘tyrants and villains’"

Those words suggest the wreckage in Trump's psyche is getting more pronounced with time, indicating that he is wildly unfit to serve in any public office, much less at the White House. We have examined the mounds of evidence that Trump is mentally unwell (see here, here, here, and here), and we came away, like former Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham, "terrified" at the idea of him even running, much less winning, in 2024. Grisham went from a loyal Trump foot soldier to a staunch critic after watching him repeatedly make inappropriate sexual advances toward female staff members who worked in and around the oval office.

What about specifics regarding Trump's Saturday speech in Iowa? Post reporters Isaac Arnsdorf and Marianne LeVine write:

Republican polling leader Donald Trump moved to deflect from criminal charges that he tried to overturn the 2020 election and from his own pledges to take revenge on his opponents if he returns to the White House, seeking to parry warnings that he presents a danger to democracy.

His speech on Saturday was an effort to turn the tables on rising alarms from Democrats and some Republicans that Trump’s return to power would imperil free elections and civil liberties. As candidates ramp up appearances in Iowa ahead of the caucuses on Jan. 15, the former president, who refused to accept his 2020 election loss and inspired his supporters to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, responded by comparing President Biden to a fascist tyrant, and the campaign distributed signs reading ‘BIDEN ATTACKS DEMOCRACY.’

“Biden and his radical left allies like to pose as defenders of democracy,” Trump told a raucous crowd of a couple thousand supporters here. “But Joe Biden is not the defender of American democracy. Joe Biden is the destroyer of American democracy. … This campaign is a righteous crusade to liberate our republic from Biden and the criminals and the Biden administration.”

It sounds like something has touched a nerve in the Trump camp. From The Post:

The speech showed that Biden’s framing of the 2024 election as democracy versus authoritarianism is resonating with voters, according to Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of American political rhetoric at Texas A&M University. Trump’s strategy to “accuse the accuser” could confuse voters about the real threat and help reassure his own supporters, she said.

“Trump’s Iowa speech continues his use of fascist rhetoric: it’s us versus them, he tells his supporters, and ‘they’ are enemies who cheat,” she said. “Authoritarians have a lot of rhetorical tricks for explaining away anti-democratic actions as actually ‘democratic.’”

Trump's words are  classic examples of "psychological projection." That can be a sign of a damaged mind in any number of people, but it is particularly alarming with Trump, given evidence that he is both a "malignant narcissist" and a "sociopath"

Here is an entry from Psychology Today about projection:

Projection is the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal, or object. The term is most commonly used to describe defensive projection—attributing one’s own unacceptable urges to another. For example, if someone continuously bullies and ridicules a peer about his insecurities, the bully might be projecting his own struggle with self-esteem onto the other person.

The concept emerged from Sigmund Freud’s work on defense mechanisms and was further refined by his daughter, Anna Freud, and other prominent figures in psychology.

The Joe Biden campaign's response was right on target, drawing on Trump's blatant use of projection as a defense mechanism:

The Biden campaign called the speech an attempt to distract from Trump’s own promises to punish his political opponents, and a renewed push in recent weeks to repeal the 2010 health care law commonly known as Obamacare.

“Donald Trump’s America in 2025 is one where the government is his personal weapon to lock up his political enemies,” campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa said. “After spending a week defending his plan to rip health care away from millions of Americans, this is his latest desperate attempt at distraction — the American people see right through it and it won’t work.”

The Post's coverage provides more examples of Trump projecting his own inadequacies onto Biden. Reporters Arnsdorf and LeVine do not appear to be fooled by it:

The speech marked a striking rhetorical escalation of themes that Trump has consistently hammered as he racked up 91 criminal charges in four separate cases over the course of this year. Two of the cases involving his efforts to overturn the 2020 election are poised to go to trial during next year’s campaign, in Washington and Atlanta.

Throughout Trump's political career, he has often responded to attacks by accusing his opponents of the same behavior. In 2016, Trump brought women who accused former president Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to a debate against Hillary Clinton to deflect from the release of a years-old recording showing Trump bragging about sexual battery. In that same debate, Trump responded to Clinton’s calling him a “puppet” of Russian President Vladimir Putin by saying, “No puppet! You’re the puppet.”

Trump has increasingly centered his campaign on defending himself from his criminal indictments, portraying them as politicized and repeatedly warning that he takes them as license to retaliate by using government power to investigate Democrats if he returns to the White House.

In Saturday’s speech, Trump claimed the investigations into his presidency, such as the special counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and his first impeachment for pressuring Ukraine to disparage Biden, amounted to an effort to “overthrow the duly elected president.

He also accused Biden “and his band of Marxists, Communists and Fascists” of trying “to crush free speech, censor their critics,” and “criminalize dissent.” Trump routinely demonizes the press as the “enemy of the people,” banned reporters from covering his 2016 campaign, and last week renewed a threat to punish NBC for its coverage by revoking its broadcast license.

“They’ve been waging an all-out war on American democracy,” Trump said. “And becoming more and more extreme and repressive.”

He added: “If you put me back in the White House, that reign will be over and America will be a free nation once again.”

 Is anyone, even the most rabid MAGA supporter, stupid enough to believe that bilge -- especially from a guy who was the ringleader of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. I would like to think that Americans could not possibly be that dumb, but Trump's poll numbers suggest quite a few among us, especially of a conservative bent, are dangerously off the rails.

We are left with the words of a Trump spokesperson, who was asked about the contents of the speech. The individual did not have much of substance to say. Reports The Post:

“President Trump is turning the tables,” said a senior Trump adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. “We are not going to allow Joe Biden and the Democrats to gaslight the American public.” 

We certainly can understand why this adviser did not want his or her name attached to such a vapid comment.

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