Trump's compulsive narcissism prevents competent leadership

Never have President Donald Trump’s narcissistic tendencies been on such full display than in his response to Myeshia Johnson’s account of his phone call to her after her husband La David Johnson was killed in Niger. After the account of the phone call was publicized, Johnson expressed anger at the tone he used and some of the things he said during the call, mentioning that Trump initially could not remember her husband’s name. She claimed that was the part that hurt her the most, saying, “If my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risks his life for our country, why can't you remember his name? And that’s what made me upset and cry even more because my husband was an awesome soldier.”

Now any normal person with a shred of human decency or compassion would have apologized immediately and profusely, and done what they could to make amends. But compassion doesn’t matter to Donald Trump, all that matters is winning and winning to him means never admitting you’re wrong, never taking the blame for your mistakes. Instead of apologizing, Trump took to Twitter to state, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”

Reacting in this manner is quite simply unfathomable to me. To directly contradict the words of a woman whose husband was just killed in action (something Trump blamed his generals for of course) because her statement cast him in a bad light is sickening. When you are that obsessed with your own image, when being right all the time takes precedence over the most basic decency, you do not have the moral qualifications to be the leader of the United States.

Trump’s narcissistic tendencies have clearly overrun any other considerations in this situation. Not only does his incessant need to never be wrong prevent him from displaying compassion or empathy, it also prevents him from making a rational decision in regards to his political and public standing. Any rational person would understand that feuding with the widow of a soldier who was just killed would reflect poorly on one’s approval rating. Trump is either not intelligent enough to realize this, or is so prone to narcissism that it didn’t matter. If a person can’t control their impulses in a situation as clear cut and simple as this, they absolutely should not be trusted in regards to nuclear weapons, diplomacy, or literally anything that the president has control over.

Trump has displayed this narcissism on a number of other occasions. Remember the time Trump bragged about his penis size as a candidate during the Republican primaries? Or the time he lied about the crowd size at his inauguration because he couldn’t handle the fact that more people went to Obama’s? Or every time he’s blamed the stalling of his agenda on anyone and anything but himself? The list goes on and on, but the point is that if he will lie about something as trivial as crowd size to sate his ego there is nothing he won’t lie about. There are no lengths he won’t go to in order to make himself seem like a winner.

Does Trump have a mental disorder? It’s a possibility that has been argued by an organization of psychiatrists and a former Republican senator who is a doctor, among others. I am not qualified to judge either way, but nonetheless I don’t believe it particularly matters because Trump has clearly demonstrated he is unable to display competent leadership whether there is a mental disorder present or not. His inability to display compassion even to the most deserving people, failure to control destructive impulses, and lack of ability to acknowledge even his slightest failures are a dangerous combination. But until his supporters commit to holding him accountable for his shortcomings there is no reason for him not to continue displaying this behavior. Today it was an army widow, but tomorrow it could be something with dire consequences for everyone.


Jacob Kowalski is opinion editor for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at jacob.kowalski@uconn.edu.