Among the long list of tragedies of the Trump presidency, surely we can add Sigmund Freud being dead to it.
After all, who wouldn’t want to know what the father of psychoanalysis would think of this CNN report on the lengths President Trump goes through to bond with murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un:
“President Donald Trump was looking to flatter his new friend in Singapore when he struck upon an unusual compliment.
He had known plenty of people who had grown up wealthy and whose families were powerful, Trump told Kim Jong Un, the despotic North Korean dictator whose father and grandfather held the same role.
Many of them emerged messed up, Trump said. But, he added, Kim wasn’t one of them.”
This makes sense if your conception of a messed-up child is one who develops a drug habit, or spends a couple of years as a ski bum in Aspen after college as Donald Trump Jr. did. When you are talking about a dictator who reportedly has executed officials of his regime with anti-aircraft guns, you have moved to a stage beyond a simple descriptor like “troubled.”
The rest of the story lays out just how much mileage Kim has gotten out of flattering Trump as much as, if not more than, Trump has flattered him. He has accomplished this by sending Trump flowery and “effusive” letters that so impress the president, he carries them around with him so he can pull them out at random moments to brag about them:
During heated talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer during this year’s government shutdown, Trump whipped out the letter and threw it on the table.
“Read this,” he instructed Schumer, before flinging the document over the table in the senator’s direction.
This was apparently an effort to prove to Schumer and Pelosi that if a North Korean dictator can grow to like him that much, surely they can too.
Kim is not the first person to recognize that flattery gets him what he wants from Trump. Pretty much every other leader in the world, to say nothing of political leaders in Congress and the rest of the United States, have learned that the way to get a deal with Trump is to flatter him as a great leader. From Vladimir Putin to Emmanuel Macron of France to the royal family of Saudi Arabia to members of the Republican Party, the same shtick has worked over and over again.
Trump might be the only person alive who is unaware that he can be seduced by effusive praise from a yes-man. Which is why his advisors are reportedly worried that, despite his saying he is in no rush to make a deal with Kim on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, he will negotiate something very favorable to the North Korean dictator.
Perhaps this obtuseness from Trump is what makes one’s teeth grind so hard. In North Korea, which is built around the cult of personality surrounding Kim and his father and grandfather who ruled before him, the people may not know any better about the dangers of being yes-men for a narcissistic dictator. But they know better in America, and it is galling to have to do it anyway.