“He Still Doesn’t Get It” — What lies beneath?
That was the general reaction to President Trump’s recent meeting with the pandemic task force.
To be honest, that was a polite way of saying what nobody wanted to say out loud, which was: “He’s just not into it.”
Evidence for that was his, “It is what it is” response in another interview, that just made a bad situation worse when it comes to having a President to lead us through the pandemic.
Oh, of course he’s been using that pronouncement regularly as well.
What could possibly explain the way his mind works?
Hear what I’m about to say.
President Trump is not resistant to change nor is he resistant to learning.
What he is instead is engaged in non-rational, non-functional self-preservation.
Non-rational because he ignores evidence, data, science and facts.
Non-functional because his doing so is impairing his ability to do as a leader what we need most from one, which is to instill trust, confidence and realistic hope. Arguably he is doing the very opposite, not to mention making the pandemic worse by not articulating a consistent or even coherent national plan or strategy.
But what about the self-preservation piece?
Let’s for a moment think of the self as a combination of our thoughts, feelings and actions rowing in the same direction, unified in pursuing a goal and then think of our self metaphorically as a psychological silo with competence sitting atop and hard-wired to confidence and confidence sitting atop and hard-wired to control.
As soon as someone is pulled out of their area of competence, it causes them to lose confidence which can then overflow to feeling out of control. Feeling out of control for a personality such as President Trump’s is tantamount to losing self-preservation.
To counter this, President Trump in order to preserve his self attempts to see everything through the eyes of what he is competent in. You know the saying, “when you’re a hammer the world is a nail.” When you’re President Trump the world is simply “I’m right and anything or anyone who disagrees with me is wrong and furthermore is out to get me and I am therefore justified in eliminating.”
You know, something like the “hammer” metaphor would have been easier, but of course there is nothing easy about President Trump.
Anything that threatens to cause him to feel incompetent and thereby lose confidence and control he vehemently pushes back against. And the more areas that he finds himself incompetent, the more he needs to avoid even listening to any evidence that would only reinforce that.
Pushing against and denying anything that reveals his incompetence, not just to the world where it is already in full display, but to himself is what we see daily in President Trump’s behavior so that he can delude himself into believing he is competent, confident and in control.
You may be thinking, “Okay, case made. We got it! Now what do we do about it?”
The way a true leader deals with being out of his or her area of competence and expertise is to have a set of advisors who are bright, proven and competent in all the areas he or she lacks. And then that leader simply, humbly and graciously asks for their help.
Unfortunately, in Trump we have a President who has assembled advisors who are first not that competent in what they do, second who defer to the him rather than incite his wrath and finally people he will never ask for help (he may demand they do things, but “ask?” Nah, fuggedaboutit! Not going to happen). The latter is because he is incapable of asking for help because in his primitive unevolved mind, he equates asking for help as being helpless. Fred Trump, you trained him well.
The only answer we have is what we as a country will do on November 3.