Do Narcissists Leave Legacies

Author: Gary Hart

A theory making the rounds is that Donald Trump’s vulgar and anti-presidential behavior is intentional not accidental, that he intends to shock, that he is completely unconcerned about critical comments from press and public alike.  His greatest fear is not condemnation.  It is fear of losing the spotlight and he will do anything, however shocking, to maintain center stage.

As bizarre as this sounds for anyone, let alone the President of the United States, it does account for his ugly behavior as the worst boy in the class.  And, thus, there are those of us who try not to reward that behavior by joining the growing chorus of outrage and providing him what he wants.

But it is necessary to assume he will be around for another three years, that is unless boredom genuinely sets in and he decides to wander off, and questions arise which deserve thought and attention: is his effort to vulgarize presidential behavior permanent or idiosyncratic; will serious nations of the world assume the era of American leadership is over and reorganize themselves accordingly; will America’s critics use the stick he is giving them to beat us over the head; in short, is he the destroyer of anything worthwhile in American culture.

Many of us who consider ourselves genuine patriots deplore his behavior like a child in a glass factory with a hammer and have beliefs in our nation’s core strengths and principles that will survive even a series of Trumps.  If otherwise, that one narcissistic and deeply troubled man can make our country less than it was, then we were never as strong as we were taught to believe.

At the very least he is an embarrassment and those with foreign friends find ourselves repeatedly saying, This is not us.  We are who you have always known us to be, flawed but well intentioned, basically decent folk.  Regardless of repeated reassurances, however, there will for a long time be the thought, If it can happen once, it can happen again.  Other nations also have had twisted performers dancing loopily and vulgarly around the stage.  But they are not the America of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Statue of Liberty.

Up to now we have held ourselves to higher standards of principle, belief, and character.  Everyone of our leaders has had a flaw or two, but, with one or two exceptions, none has behaved in a way to bring discredit to the United States or make us look ridiculous in the eyes of the world.

Richard Nixon employed what he called the “madman” theory of foreign policy which may or may not have caused the leaders of North Vietnam to pause.  But it was not so bizarre as to cause them to laugh.

We are confronted, at this moment in history, with a president who has little or no respect for the office he holds.  His daily behavior is an affront to virtually all those who preceded him.  He refuses to accept that he has any duty of respect for the nation or its history.

It remains to be said, yet again, our country is strong, stronger than an infantile, madcap poseur of the day.  Most Americans are and will remain decent, thoughtful, respectful people.  We are not racists.  We are not hateful.  We realize, one way or the other, we are all God’s creations and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  We have high principles and we aspire to live up to them.  We will occasionally err out of ignorance or misinformation.  But we will almost always find the right path back to who we truly are.

Leaders come and go.  But thank God, they do not stay long.  Another mark of our Founders’ genius.  Once again, William Faulkner said it right: We will not only survive.  We will prevail.

12 Responses to “Do Narcissists Leave Legacies”

  1. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    It could be that what accounts for his ugly behavior is that he grew into being an essentially bad person – the ugliest American, as it has been aptly put – who happens to be as ignorant and apathetic as he is insecure.

    I think it is more than possible to counter this ugliness without providing him any further attention and without rewarding his bad behavior by speaking to what actually makes America great and advocating for the kinds of policies – domestically and internationally – that most Americans can support and be proud of while also addressing their legitimate grievances. One does not even have to mention his name or the ugliness he spews.

    It’s hard to imagine that this president is setting a, well, precedent. He is an aberration if ever there was one. As someone who resides out in the world and who has for decades believed in the promise of America and the importance of America’s global leadership role (for as long as I’ve been a Joe Biden fan, in fact) it’s also hard to imagine that the rest of the world isn’t just tolerating this president for as long as necessary or that most of us aren’t looking forward to the day when we can welcome the re-emergence of an America ready to lead again.

    And, I couldn’t agree more with William Faulkner! Though, I’m not sure how or if America can survive a, God forbid, ‘series of Trumps’ …

  2. Neil McCarthy Says:

    Trump is more than a vulgar narcissist, embarassment and infantile poseur, though he is all of these.

    He is also a wannabe fascist/totalitarian exquisitely engaged in Orwellian double speak — “conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, . . . hold[ing]simultaneously two opinions which cancel[] out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them,. . . using logic against logic, . . . repudiat[ing] morality while laying claim to it, . . forget[ting] what [is] necessary to forget, then . . . draw[ing] it back into memory again at the moment when it [is] needed, and then promptly . . . forget[ting] it again: and above all, . . . apply[ing] the same process to the process itself.”

    The trpiartite structure of our government, and Sen. Hart’s multiple Jeffersonian republics at the state and local level,make it difficult for wannabe fascists/totalitarians to ever gain total control. But were that to happen, it would happen as a consequence of the duplcity of other actors (in this case, GOP Senators and Congress people, party leaders, state and local office holders and leaders, and echo-chamber “news” feeds like Fox) who enable, and therefore render credible at some level among the people as a whole, Trump’s doublespeak by refusing to call it out. That, it seems to me, is our greatest risk going forward.

    Ammerica may be able to survive “a series of Trumps.” What it will not survive is any wholesale endorsement of doublespeak that would (i) make the possibility of their being a “series” (rather than just one) more likely and (ii) eventually kill the structural antibodies in both the Constitution and our federal architecture that have thusfar rendered that result neither likely nor ultimately effective.

  3. Neil McCarthy Says:

    Corrections to my comment — second paragraph: the quote is from Orwell’s “1984” and was taken from M. Gessen, “The Future is History”, page 64; third paragraph: “trpiartite” should be “tripartite”; fourth paragraph, first line: “Ammerica” should be “America”; and fourth paragraph, second line: “their” should be “there”.

  4. JJ Kinnick Says:

    I don’t appreciate President Trump’s vulgar comments any more than I appreciated President Obama’s demeaning comments toward law enforcement, people of faith, and gun owners.

    John 3:16

  5. Chris R. Says:

    While I was pondering the Senator’s latest post, I had the good fortune to listen to former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young’s comments on a similar discussion of President Trump with Chuck Todd on Meet The Press while remembering Dr. King:
    To summarize his comments:
    People fail to grasp the complexity of the present time. We try to simplify it and personalize it, which doesn’t work. “You don’t help somebody who has an alcohol problem by constantly calling him a drunk. You have to deal with the sickness.” Thus, it is not helpful to label people “racist”, “narcissist”, “infantile”, etc. The politics is more complicated than that.

    I submit that complexity of the present time that some fail to grasp is a president who has forged an unusual coalition of the working class, small business owners, and his ultra-rich peers. That has occurred due to the penultimate president and the Democratic party abandoning labor and the working class to neoliberal economics, and the bait-and-switch of promising a single payer health care system, and then delivering the Gingrich-Romney insurance companies dream. The Democrats can either learn from why they lost the election, or continue to obsess about foreign influence in politics, and the president’s personality quirks. Many who felt left out by the economic policies and omissions of the previous administration find President Trump refreshing. Ultimately people usually vote their pocketbooks, and the President and his party just delivered more take home pay to many Americans. The present president may well be less profane than Harry Truman, and less crude than Lyndon Johnson. It is for the historians to finally decide these things, but voters may not care.

    Lastly, the concept of constitutional government, a Bill of Rights, judicial review of laws, and a Supreme Court came from Britain. The ideas expressed in The Declaration of Independence were influenced by the Frenchman, Rousseau, and the Englishman, John Locke. In my opinion, the European Court of Human Rights guarantees more fundamental freedoms and rights at present than the U.S. Supreme Court. The Statue of Liberty was designed, made, and assembled in France. Maudlin expressions of patriotism camouflage a nation resting on its laurels.

  6. Eric Jacobson Says:

    Because conservatives have the (inverting and distorting) “power of money” behind them ( ), the Republican Party will survive what will be remembered as “the dirty-trick of the century”: Running Donald Trump for president in 2016 on a platform of conservative “populism” that was and is diametrically opposite of their real staunchly plutocratic policy intentions and agenda.

    The Ruse (with a capital R) fooled enough independent and Democratic wage-earning voters in enough swing states for Trump to win the 2016 general election against a centrist establishment Democratic nominee — but (it must always be remembered) almost certainly wouldn’t have been enough to defeat Bernie Sanders, an enlightened populist from whom Hillary Clinton-and-the-DNC-she-controlled outright stole the 2016 Democratic nomination. See Don Caron’s ingeniously embittered tour d’ force “parody” here: .

    The Trump-GOP Ruse (with a capital R) lasted the calendar year of 2017, albeit with diminishing returns as it became evident that Trump and the Republicans were flouting ALL the populist promises they made during the campaign (and make no mistake: Trump and the Republicans were all in it TOGETHER). But at the end of 2017 Trump and the GOP dropped the facade entirely and shattered their credibility as “populist” champions for America’s wage-earners by passing a regressive tax cut bill that (in blunt sum) windfall-benefits the rich and screws everyone else. So much for “populist” Donald Trump. To tweak The Who’s famous line: “Meet the new GOP boss, same as the old GOP boss.”

    Because the tax bill personally greatly enriched both the president and several members of his “swamp Cabinet” (as Chuck Schumer correctly dubbed it at the outset), the political hoax Trump and the Republicans perpetrated in 2016 is a scandal that makes Teapot Dome pale by comparison! They are the actions of political criminals and merit Trump’s ejection from office without more. Indeed, as I argued in an op-ed that I was honored to have published in Friday’s Counterpunch, I believe “all the president’s men [and women]” fed derogatory material to Michael Wolff as part of a Trump exit strategy that will enable the president to voluntarily resign citing deteriorating health (that is: to “take the money and run.”) See . Time will tell.

    Trump’s legacy? It depends. The Democrats have been utterly remiss and ineffectual as political opponents of conservatives since the advent of Reaganism, with the sole exception of the host’s 1980s presidential campaigns — the first of which succeeded while narrowly failing to secure the Democratic nomination and the second of which was sabotaged by a (preventable) complex conspiracy of media and political elites that has been successfully covered-up ever since. (A subject I predict is about to be obfuscated even further by a forthcoming Hollywood movie in which Hugh Jackman plays Sen. Hart, titled The Frontrunner, which is based on source material that doesn’t include any reference to Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign that made him a shoo-in for not just the Democratic nomination in 1988 but the presidency in Jan. 1989).

    If the Democrats were to find their game as loyal opponents they could and would (easily) discredit Trump and the Republicans by EXPOSING them as the fake-populists they are. Yet nothing of the sort is happening. Indeed it’s now been over 3 weeks since Trump signed it and the Democrats and their big-foot media allies have said NOTHING about the GOP “elephant in the room” (so to speak) — the manner in which the regressive tax bill jettisoned the “populism” Trump and the Republicans ran on and won! Go figure! (Could it BE that mainstream Democrats too work for the 1% albeit in a “kinder and gentler” way, in George HW Bush’s old phrase? Ya think?)

    And even if the Democrats were to unmask Trump and the GOP’s real intentions — which is plainly to make America and the world feudal again (MAWFA) — even this will go nowhere unless and until the Democrats become real populists themselves. Ahh there’s the rub!

    PS. For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I link to the UPI’s fairly detailed account of a speech by Sen. Hart to students at Talladega College in Alabama on May 19, 1985, ~20 years after the federal civil rights laws abolished Jim Crow (on paper) and ~120 years after the Confederacy’s surrender at Appomattox: . The words Sen. Hart penned and spoke almost 33 years ago describe precisely the conditions and moral imperatives of today. Those ~21 year old African-American graduates Sen. Hart spoke to are now in their mid-50s. Many doubtless have children graduating college this year! And it is as if time has stood still! What must they think?

    Like so much else about our Not-Great society, the plight of African-Americans as a whole and American race-relations in general would NOT have deteriorated to its deplorable present state had the host been elected in 1988 and served two terms as a public interest president. America is not an indispensable nation (no nation is). But she does produce indispensable leaders from time-to-time. And their absence reverberates through the decades. In the poet John Greenleaf Whittier’s phrase, which applies to the slain-in-their-prime Abraham, Martin, John, Robert and Malcolm, as well as to Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Gary Hart who were politically martyred but thankfully enjoyed longevity:
    “Of all sad words of tongue and pen,
    the saddest are these: It might have been.”

  7. Brian C McCarthy Says:


    With almost any disaster, there comes a point where one can say, OK, this is what we have to deal with. With this situation, every time I start to think that, something worse happens. It just keeps getting worse, and worse, and worse.

    I never thought a day would come that I would be ashamed to be an American. But I am now.


  8. Gary Hart Says:

    Your host has been called many things in a long life, a few of which are accurate. “Maudlin” is not one of them. My expressions of patriotism are not about a nation resting on its laurels. It is about a nation, and its current leader, adrift from its historic principles. And few if any of us on this site require lessons in the derivation of those principles. GH


    A fine piece from our favourite American in politics.

    From the perspective across the Atlantic, nobody seems to think this ludicrous figure is typical of anything other than the man, who is Trump. He Trumps all, as fa as ludicrousness !

    I would say that the difficulty for America and Britain and the international arena, is winning the mainstream for a new settlement , it is his policies as dreadful as is he, and those of others promoting alt right or me first dogma.

  10. Eric Jacobson Says:

    PS. to my comment above re “the host’s 1980s presidential campaigns — the first of which succeeded while narrowly failing to secure the Democratic nomination and the second of which was sabotaged by a (preventable) complex conspiracy of media and political elites that has been successfully covered-up ever since”. I just ran across a passage of an email I sent Terrence McNally, a volunteer in George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, following an August 2015 public speaking event in Los Angeles during which McNally interviewed Sen. Hart. It is also relevant to the host’s recent post titled “I Aspire to Be a Christian” and to president Trump’s takeover of the leadership of the Republican Party establishment’s “vast right-wing conspiracy” begun in the 1950s that Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush put into overdrive in the fall of 1980, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney became the reckless drivers of in the fall of 2000, and Donald Trump and Mike Pence became the stealthy adolescent joy-riders of in the fall of 2016:
    … If time permits please watch Gary Hart’s speech to the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco… . It starts at the 5 hr. 36 minute mark here: It’s a “blast from the past” I guess, but it shows how close the Democrats came to having a nominee (not unlike Bernie) who really knew how to confront the right-wing. One thing Bernie could learn from it is the way Gary looked right into the camera (about mid-way through) and said: “Mr. Reagan, the American flag does not belong to you or the right wing of the Republican Party. It belongs to all the people!”

    I believe Gary’s 1984 campaign broke the fever of Reaganism, but that normalcy was never restored due to the determination of Hart’s inferiors, and the Clintons in particular, to ensure that Gary was deprived of his presidency, along with all the public interest types he would have attracted into politics and government on his coattails (myself among them). The DLC [Democratic Leadership Council] wanted NONE of that. Their pro-1% “unbearable Republican-lightness of being” plans were already in place. Basically the oligarchs realized that Gary was a really headstrong pious progressive type (from humble religious working class Kansas roots) and would refuse, unlike say, Bill Clinton, to be putty in their hands. And something I noticed for the first time when watching the video: Hart wore a tie that appeared to have a Christian cross insignia on it. Alas, I believe this may have animated the neo-conservatives and their journalistic agents, including those at the Miami Herald (Tom Fiedler) and the Washington Post (Paul Taylor), to do Hart in 3 years later. I watched Hart’s speech from the back of the floor in Moscone Center and didn’t notice the tie.

  11. Gary Hart Says:

    Never owned a tie with any religious symbols, including Christian ones. Of my three neckties, all had eagles. GH

  12. Chris R. Says:

    Like Eric, I too remember the early days of the Reagan presidency and the events leading up to the election in 1984. The Reagan Recession in November and December 1982 saw the national unemployment rate at 10.8%. It was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depressionof the 1930s. Reagan was not a popular man at that time. Former V.P. Mondale gave speech about that time stating that he would simply fire everyone that Reagan had hired, and hire everyone whom Reagan had fired. Now, someone else in the Democratic Party had realized that the country wanted and needed something different than a return to the Carter Administration. Unlike V. P Mondale he was able to lead Reagan in the polls. Mondale never could, but his chief rival utterly failed to appeal to labor and lost the nomination.

    Unfortunately, we again see the leaders of the Democratic Party thinking that some dissatisfaction with President Trump early in his term will enable them to return to power. Yet, they are unable or unwilling to understand why they lost to Trump and the Republicans in the last elections. The Democratic Party’s embrace of the neoliberal economics of Wall Street that exports jobs while importing workers has led to the 1% enriching itself at the expense of what once was a prosperous middle class. They might need to get a copy of Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency by Corey R. Lewandowski and David N. Bossie to educate themselves why they lost and Trump won the last election, which was decided by the Rust Belt.

    I never cared for anyone wrapping themselves in the flag as a way to avoid debate and discussion of serious topics. I detested the Bushes rallying the nation to invade Iraq and unleash war and destruction by playing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA”. As anyone in marketing knows, appeals to emotion and selling an image produce better results than intelligent factual presentation. So it is with the elites who live in their gated estates and communities who insist that Statue of Liberty compels us to ignore the laws of the land so they can have more cheap labor, rather than guaranteeing a minimum standard of living to their fellow citizens.

    The Statue of Liberty is a piece of imported French art on permanent display in New York harbor. It was intended to commemorate the friendship and shared values of the U.S. and France. Not visible from the ground, Lady Liberty stands on the broken chains of slavery, symbolizing the empowerment of labor, and in her arm she clutched a tableau symbolizing law. Nothing about the Statute of Liberty was intended by its French creator to symbolize illegal immigration. While its true that lawful immigrants to New York remember the colossus in the harbor welcoming their arrival to America, it is also true that those who were rejected at Ellis Island, or were deported for crimes, also saw the same sight when they were deported. Human traffickers, drug dealers, criminal fugitives, and others sneaking across the Southern U.S. border illegally never saw the Statue of Liberty. When the protesters in Tiananmen Square paraded their Goddess of Liberty statue that bore a striking resemblance to the French made Lady Liberty, they were not demanding that the Chinese government allow North Korean refugees into the country to grant them citizenship. Emotional appeals to a past that never was are fairly characterized as “maudlin”.

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