Coming up roses

Marc Fisher at the Washington Post ponders how Trump deals with his failures.

When Donald Trump loses, he lashes out, assigns blame and does whatever it takes to make a defeat look like a win. When that isn’t plausible, he pronounces the system rigged — victory wasn’t possible because someone put in the fix.

It’s what makes him great. I mean terrible. It’s what makes him terrible. I mean it’s one of the many things that make him terrible.

Trump calls defeats “blips.” Losing the race for the most powerful job on the planet is no one’s idea of a blip, and if that happens, Trump is highly unlikely to slip away and accept life as a historical footnote, as Michael Dukakis did; to live out his golden years as a respected elder statesman, as Bob Dole has done; or to consider some other form of government service, as John Kerry did.

Well that’s because he’s terrible. Huge ego, huge vanity, no humility, no respect for people who aren’t Donald Trump.

In the final month of the campaign — even as he has contended that he will win — Trump has repeatedly said that a loss would be the fault of leaders of his party, the news media, pollsters, career politicians and federal investigators. At his final debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump refused to say he would accept the result of the election as legitimate. For more than a week after that, he added almost daily to the list of institutions he said were rigged against him: special interests, Clinton donors, big media companies, “global financial powers.” (That line of rhetoric grew less heated this past week, after FBI Director James B. Comey focused the nation’s attention back on Clinton’s emails, and Trump even suggested that things might not be as rigged as he’d said.)

It’s almost as if the whole thing is a colossal vanity project and nothing else.

Losing politicians rarely distance themselves from defeat this way. Traditionally, if they want to maintain their credibility so they can try again in another election, they eat crow, accept the wisdom of the voters and show a modicum of grace toward their victorious opponents. Trump’s approach is one psychologists say they see more often in sports, where defeated athletes sometimes immediately guarantee that they will demolish whomever just beat them, or in business, where executives with an unusually inflated sense of self-worth tend to blame failures on others.

It’s also something you see more in terrible people.

Trump’s classmates, neighbors, teachers and friends from New York in the 1950s are united in their recollections of a kid who had a powerful aversion to defeat — and a tendency to blast others when he lost. In sixth grade in Queens, his neighbor Jeff Bier said, he loaned young Donald his favorite bat during a baseball game at school, but when Trump failed to get a hit, he smashed Bier’s bat on the pavement, cracking the wood. Trump did not apologize, Bier said.

Terrible even at age 12.

In 1990, Bruce Nobles, president of the short-lived Trump Shuttle, told his boss that women were avoiding the airline because of the owner’s behavior toward women. “They don’t like what they’re reading about you in the paper,” Nobles told Trump. According to Nobles, the owner laughed and replied, “Yeah, but the guys love it.” (Bankers forced the sale of the airline in 1992; Trump blamed a weak economy.)

And not the fact that he’s terrible.

Over and over, moments that looked like defeat have become something else in Trump’s telling. In 1975, after the federal government sued Trump and his father, alleging that their real estate company systematically mistreated blacks and other minorities who wanted to rent apartments from them, the Trumps settled the case, signing a consent order that barred them from discriminating. Trump contended in an interview years later that the Justice Department suit “wasn’t a case against us. There were many, many landlords that were sued under that case.” The suit was filed solely against the Trumps and their company.

He’s a terrible liar.

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