Do we want a mid­dle-schooler in the Oval Of­fice?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Ruth Mar­cus Colum­nist Ruth Mar­cus’ email ad­dress is ruth­mar­cus@wash­post.com.

Per­haps the best way to un­der­stand Don­ald Trump is as a case of ar­rested de­vel­op­ment.

In terms of per­son­al­ity and world­view, Trump is stuck in mid­dle school. Early mid­dle school.

And that’s be­ing char­i­ta­ble.

Part of grow­ing up is de­vel­op­ing self-con­trol. Trump never has. Lis­ten to him in the pres­i­den­tial de­bate, in­ter­ject­ing com­pul­sively, and flash back to sev­enth grade and the boy in the back of the class who kept in­ter­rupt­ing the teacher with wise­cracks. It was amus­ing, the first time or two. Then it be­came an­noy­ing.

We grew so in­ured to Trump’s an­tics dur­ing the pri­mary cam­paign that there is a risk of for­get­ting how great a de­par­ture his mug­ging for the cam­era and in­ter­rupt­ing op­po­nents was from the rather staid norm, es­pe­cially dur­ing gen­eral elec­tion de­bates. Trump interrupted Hil­lary Clin­ton and mod­er­a­tor Lester Holt a whop­ping 55 times. “Not,” Trump said. “Wrong.” “Facts.” “Take a look at mine.”

But Trump the in­ter­rupter is not the only man­i­fes­ta­tion of School­boy Trump. Part of grow­ing up is learn­ing to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for your mis­takes, and to ac­cept crit­i­cism. Trump never has. Noth­ing that goes wrong is ever his fault. It’s al­ways the mal­func­tion­ing mi­cro­phone (and who was be­hind that?) or the hos­tile mod­er­a­tor (who did a good job, Trump pro­nounced, be­fore his own bad re­views came in).

Part of grow­ing up is learn­ing to man­age your tem­per. Trump never has. He can be baited, as Clin­ton says, with a tweet. If crit­i­cized -- in Trump’s per­cep­tion, if at­tacked, be­cause all crit­i­cism is hos­tile and nasty and in­tol­er­a­ble -- he has to fight back. There is no al­ter­na­tive. If crit­ics go low, he goes lower. See Fri­day’s tweet­storm on for­mer Miss Uni­verse Ali­cia Machado.

And part of grow­ing up is learn­ing to treat oth­ers de­cently, even if you have the power to do oth­er­wise. Trump never has. Dur­ing the 2012 cam­paign, re­porters un­earthed the in­ci­dent of high school Mitt Rom­ney and a gang of fol­low­ers as­sault­ing and clip­ping the hair of a stu­dent whose long locks (and ap­par­ent ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity) of­fended their sen­si­bil­i­ties. The story rat­tled but didn’t stick -- be­cause grown-up Rom­ney evolved into a bet­ter ver­sion of his prep school self.

Trump hasn’t. Neigh­bors re­call him at 5 or 6, hurl­ing rocks across the fence at a playpen -with an in­fant in­side. Slightly older Trump pulled pig­tails; punched, by his own de­scrip­tion, a sec­ond-grade teacher; led his crew in beat­ing up a neigh­bor­hood boy.

The child­hood bully is fa­ther of the man. The adult rock­thrower hurls in­sults -- “Miss Piggy,” “Miss House­keep­ing” -and hu­mil­i­ates with public dis­plays of power over sub­or­di­nates. “The tem­per­a­ment is not that dif­fer­ent,” Trump once told a bi­og­ra­pher, in a rare mo­ment of self-knowl­edge.

And then there is Trump’s “Mad Men”-era vi­sion of male­fe­male roles. In Trump world, real men don’t change di­a­pers. “There’s a lot of women out there that de­mand that the hus­band act like the wife and you know there’s a lot of hus­bands that lis­ten to that,” Trump said on ra­dio’s “Opie and Anthony Show” in 2005. “I’m re­ally like a great fa­ther, but cer­tain things you do and cer­tain things you don’t.” Like push strollers. “I’ll sup­ply funds and she’ll take care of the kids. It’s not like I’m gonna be walk­ing the kids down Cen­tral Park,” he told Howard Stern that same year.

And women, of course, mat­ter pri­mar­ily for their looks. “Look at that face! Would any­one vote for that?” Trump said of pri­mary ri­val Carly Fio­r­ina. His sub­se­quent backpedal­ing re­in­forced the retro point: Fio­r­ina, Trump ac­knowl­edged, was “a beau­ti­ful woman” af­ter all.

Many peo­ple re­call mid­dle school as a mis­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence. Even more mis­er­able: a mid­dle-schooler in the Oval Of­fice.

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