The danger­ous in­se­cu­rity of Don­ald Trump

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - Eu­gene Robin­son

— Don­ald Trump’s op­po­nents in the pri­maries were right to call him a con artist, a nar­cis­sist and a patho­log­i­cal liar. Just ask “John Miller.”

That’s one of the names Trump used with jour­nal­ists to bur­nish his sta­tus as a bold-faced Man­hat­tan celebrity; he also called him­self “John Bar­ron.” Both per­sonae were sup­pos­edly pub­li­cists who just wanted to ex­plain what a won­der­ful guy Mr. Trump was and how beau­ti­ful women seemed un­able to re­sist his charms.

Last week, The Washington Post ran a story about the “Miller” and “Bar­ron” ruses, which took place years ago, and posted a 1991 record­ing of “Miller” ex­plain­ing why Trump was dump­ing Marla Maples. “He’s com­ing out of a mar­riage, and he’s start­ing to do tremen­dously well fi­nan­cially,” the imag­i­nary pub­li­cist says to a re­porter from Peo­ple mag­a­zine. “Ac­tresses just call to see if they can go out with him and things.” Madonna is os­ten­ta­tiously name-dropped as some­one who “wanted to go out with him.”

The voice is Trump’s. He de­nies it, for some rea­son — “I don’t think it was me,” he said Fri­day, “it doesn’t sound like me” — but the tim­bre, ca­dence and word choice on the record­ing are pure Trump. It could only be him or his evil twin (as if he needed one).

The Post re­ported that “some re­porters found the calls from Miller or Bar­ron dis­turb­ing or even creepy; oth­ers thought they were just ex­am­ples of Trump be­ing play­ful.” Put me firmly in the “creepy” camp.

I don’t go so far as to think Trump could have be­lieved these imag­i­nary friends were real. But I do be­lieve that Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial con­tenders Marco Ru­bio (who called Trump a con artist), Bobby Jin­dal (who called him a nar­cis­sist) and Ted Cruz (who called him a patho­log­i­cal liar) should feel vin­di­cated. And I be­lieve the na­tion should be deeply wor­ried about what sort of per­son the GOP is about to nom­i­nate for pres­i­dent.

Does it re­ally mat­ter if Trump had a bit of fun at the ex­pense of some re­porters two or three decades ago? It wouldn’t if he were merely ask­ing for another sea­son of “The Ap­pren­tice.” He wants us to make him the most pow­er­ful man in the world, and the “Miller” and “Bar­ron” episodes — along with the trans­par­ently un­true de­nials


that they ever took place — be­tray a level of am­bi­tion and in­se­cu­rity that vot­ers should find deeply alarm­ing.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence, most suc­cess­ful peo­ple could be de­scribed as needy in some sense. Trump, how­ever, takes need­i­ness to a bizarre and fright­en­ing ex­treme.

He’s the son of a wealthy de­vel­oper who ex­panded his fa­ther’s em­pire. In his younger days, he was a rich and well-con­nected man about town. It is no sur­prise that he en­joyed the com­pany of beau­ti­ful women. But that, ap­par­ently, wasn’t nearly enough for Trump. He had to be widely seen with such women on his arm, and he had to be both en­vied and ad­mired.

When he de­cided to trade a woman in for a newer model — I know that sounds crude, but this was his modus operandi — he used fake names to call re­porters with his side of the story. Was he too cheap to hire a real pub­li­cist? Did he be­lieve he was so much more clever than the jour­nal­ists that they wouldn’t know it was re­ally him? (They knew.) Was he ob­sessed with be­ing por­trayed in the gos­sip col­umns as “a good guy,” which is what “John Miller” calls him in the record­ing?

And why deny it now, given the clear ev­i­dence of the tape? Why not just laugh it off as a youth­ful or per­haps mid­dle- aged in­dis­cre­tion? Why not just say he was hav­ing a lit­tle fun at the me­dia’s ex­pense? “It wasn’t me” is only an ef­fec­tive de­fense ab­sent proof beyond a rea­son­able doubt that, you know, it was.

I’m tak­ing this se­ri­ously be­cause Trump is ask­ing to be taken se­ri­ously — which means he wishes to be taken at his word. Some­one should ex­plain to him how this works.

He has built a re­mark­able ca­reer on blus­ter, brand­ing and re­lent­less self- pro­mo­tion. Self- re­gard bor­der­ing on self- wor­ship and a will­ing­ness to bend the truth may have been as­sets that helped his rise. In­se­cu­rity and a need to be loved could have given him mo­ti­va­tion. For a vain­glo­ri­ous mogul who lives to plas­ter his name across the New York sky­line — and whose most con­se­quen­tial de­ci­sion is whether to use traver­tine mar­ble or Car­rara — these are use­ful traits.

Eu­gene Robin­son is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at eu­gen­er­obin­son@ wash­post. com.

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