Thursday, March 2, 2017

Donald Trump’s Obsession With Applause

NY Times   It’s no secret that President Trump is obsessed with his own popularity, as measured by polls, ratings and Time magazine covers. But last night, the president revealed that this obsession goes even deeper than his constant tweets about poll numbers would suggest.

During his address to Congress on Tuesday night, Mr. Trump paid tribute to Chief Petty Officer William (Ryan) Owens, a Navy SEAL who was killed during a raid in Yemen in January. “Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country and for our freedom,” he said. “We will never forget him.”

When the audience gave Carryn Owens, Chief Owens’s widow, a standing ovation, Mr. Trump added, “Ryan is looking down right now, you know that, and he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record.” He was referring, presumably, to the length of the applause.

Mr. Trump has been praised in some quarters for Tuesday’s address, during which he took a more conciliatory tone than he has in recent public appearances. But his comment about Chief Owens showed that even if his language changes slightly, his fundamental outlook stays the same.

In fact, the comment offered a useful peek into the president’s psyche: When he imagines a deceased veteran gazing down from heaven at his widow, the president and the assembled Congress, he sees that veteran measuring the length of his own ovation, and patting himself on the back for breaking a record. In other words, when asked to take the perspective of someone who has “laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom,” Mr. Trump assumes that what would gratify such a person is the same thing that gratifies him: adulation.

The fact that Mr. Trump engaged in this little reverie, a rare unscripted moment during Tuesday’s address, is revealing.[...]

But when he goes off-script, when he speaks from the heart, as it were, he reverts to what he knows: the language of popularity, ratings and records. His use of that language with respect to Chief Owens shows it to be not merely an obsession, but an entire worldview. Not only is Mr. Trump motivated by popularity in the barest, most numerical sense — he believes everyone is. [...]

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