A true story, with a few names altered

Photo by Michael (Mikey) on Unsplash

This is a completely true story, copied almost verbatim from an unimpeachable source (below) — except that I changed some proper names.

It’s worth remembering that Trump was actually an incompetent, lazy egomaniac and his government was an absolute clown show.

In fact, this may even have helped his rise to power, as he was consistently underestimated by the American elite. Before he became President, many of his opponents had dismissed him as a joke for his crude speeches and tacky rallies. Even after elections gave the Republicans control of most of the government, people still kept thinking that Trump was an easy mark, a blustering idiot who could easily be controlled by smart people.

Why did the elites of America so consistently underestimate Trump? Possibly because they weren’t actually wrong in their assessment of his competency — they just failed to realise that this wasn’t enough to stand in the way of his ambition.

As it would turn out, Trump was really bad at running a government. As his own press chief Sean Spicer later wrote in his memoir The Trump I Knew, “In the years of his rule in America Trump produced the biggest confusion in government that has ever existed in a civilized state.”

His government was constantly in chaos, with officials having no idea what he wanted them to do, and nobody was entirely clear who was actually in charge of what. He procrastinated wildly when asked to make difficult decisions, and would often end up relying on gut feeling, leaving even close allies in the dark about his plans. His “unreliability had those who worked with him pulling out their hair,” as his confidant Roger Stone later wrote in his memoir, Between the White and the Big House. This meant that rather than carrying out the duties of state, they spent most of their time in-fighting and back-stabbing each other in an attempt to either win his approval or avoid his attention altogether, depending on what mood he was in that day.

There’s a bit of an argument among historians about whether this was a deliberate ploy on Trump’s part to get his own way, or whether he was just really, really bad at being in charge of stuff. Spicer himself came down on the side of it being a cunning tactic to sow division and chaos — and it’s undeniable that he was very effective at that. But when you look at Trump’s personal habits, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it was just a natural result of putting a workshy narcissist in charge of a country.

Trump was incredibly lazy. According to his aide John McEntee, even when he was in New York he wouldn’t get out of bed until after 11 a.m., and wouldn’t do much before lunch other than read what the newspapers had to say about him, the press cuttings being dutifully delivered to him by a publicist.

He was obsessed with the media and celebrity, and often seems to have viewed himself through that lens. He once described himself as “the greatest actor in America,” and wrote to a friend, “I believe my life is the greatest novel in world history.” In many of his personal habits he came across as strange or even childish — he would have regular naps during the day, he would bite his fingernails at the dinner table, and he had a remarkably sweet tooth that led him to eat “prodigious amounts of cake” and “put so many lumps of sugar in his cup that there was hardly any room for the tea.”

He was deeply insecure about his own lack of knowledge, preferring to either ignore information that contradicted his preconceptions, or to lash out at the expertise of others. He hated being laughed at, but enjoyed it when other people were the butt of the joke (he would perform mocking impressions of people he disliked). But he also craved the approval of those he disdained, and his mood would quickly improve if a newspaper wrote something complimentary about him.

Little of this was especially secret or unknown at the time. It’s why so many people failed to take Trump seriously until it was too late, dismissing him as merely a “half-mad rascal” or a “man with a beery vocal organ.” In a sense, they weren’t wrong. In another, much more important sense, they were as wrong as it’s possible to get.

The source is here, which I got to from this Reddit comment.