One way in which he truly is authentic

David Frum on Trump’s official Memorial Day statement:

It is the responsibility and honor of the president to speak for the nation on the solemn occasions of collective remembrance. Some presidents are endowed with greater natural eloquence than others, but that does not matter. What the country listens for is the generous and authentic message underneath the rhetoric, whether that rhetoric is graceful or clumsy. The last general to win the presidency said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” The country heard those words, believed them, and trusted him.

That was of course Eisenhower, who was in charge of sending thousands of soldiers to the beaches of Normandy.

The 45th president is often described—and sometimes praised—as “authentic.” That compliment, if it is a compliment, is not truly deserved. In many ways, President Trump is not the man he seems. He was not a great builder, not a great dealmaker, not a billionaire, not a man of strength and decisiveness.

But there is one way in which he truly is authentic: He is never able to play-act the generous feelings that he so absolutely lacks. “To show an unfelt sorrow is an office which the false man does easy.” In that one sense, Donald Trump is not false. He does not feel sorrow for others, and he does not try to pretend otherwise.

Yes. I was talking about much the same thing earlier today when I said

If you had to come up with one word to sum up Donald Trump, on pain of being forced to spend time in his company, “shameless” would be a strong candidate. He’s psychopath-level shameless. He does not care; nothing will ever make him care; he is sealed off in a greasy tube of self-adoration, beyond the reach of shame or remorse.

It’s the most striking thing about him. He has no generous feelings, no sorrow for the sorrows of others, no compassion, no shame that he has no compassion, no ability to care, no ability to care that he doesn’t care. He couldn’t fake it if he tried because he doesn’t even know what it is.

Trump’s perfect emptiness of empathy has revealed itself again and again through his presidency, but never as completely and conspicuously as in his self-flattering 2018 Memorial Day tweets. They exceed even the heartless comment in a speech to Congress—in the presence of a grieving widow—that a fallen Navy Seal would be happy that his ovation from Congress had lasted longer than anybody else’s.

It’s not news that there is something missing from Trump where normal human feelings should go. His devouring need for admiration from others is joined to an extreme, even pathological, inability to return any care or concern for those others.

It’s the most degrading aspect of this degrading tragedy: the fact that that didn’t make him unelectable. The fact that on the contrary it’s probably why he was elected – the scorching shame of that is what we will never live down.

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