A Basic Observation on Trump (as Candidate and Potential President)

If you think that once elected Trump will be corralled by cooler heads and experts, I would submit to you that this week underscores this will not be the case.

Donald Trump VictoryThe last several days have underscored something that should have been obvious to everyone paying attention for some time:  Donald J. Trump is not an especially serious or thoughtful individual and, moreover, he is not controllable.  By this I mean:  he is not going to take instruction from experts about his campaign and he is not going to become more sober and serious as we approach Election Day.  This means that he will not magically become amendable to advice if he is sworn in as president.

If you want some evidence, just look at this list.  That is a list of problematic behaviors in roughly 48 hours.  It is a truly stunning list when you look at it all at once even if one was aware of the constituent elements thereof.

Two segments of the Republican electorate need to pay attention to these facts.  These two groups are 1) the people who think once in office Trump can be handled, controlled, or taught, and 2) those who have only being paying half attention and assume that all politicians are a bit kooky and Trump will calm down once in office.

The first group are people who have been paying attention but who don’t like Hillary Clinton and who are willing to roll the dice that a President Trump will listen to advisers once in office and govern in a relatively reasonable manner.  These folks typically point to SCOTUS appointments as the reason to vote Trump.  They argue that they know what they are getting with Clinton so are willing to believe that Trump will appoint Scalia clones.  Can anyone watch Trump this week and think that they can have any confidence whatsoever that he is going to make sober, informed decisions about court appointments?  Or that he will listen to advice?

The second groups is probably just now starting to pay attention (and probably won’t fully do so for another month).  But if one thinks that Trump is a normal politician in any way, and will therefore govern within normal parameters, one needs to wake up.  It will be interesting to see what his poll numbers look like as this group becomes more and more engaged.

I point all of this out not as any kind of partisan observation. I am noting this because he is clearly demonstrating that he lacks the temperament to be a presidential candidate, let alone president.  This is a very serious situation.  As a piece in Newsweek calls him:  Donald Trump, Party of 1 and notes the following:

It is Trump, after all, who obsessively monitors his media coverage and then lashes out at his critics without reservation or calculation. It is Trump who directs which reporters are thrown out of the press pen or banned from venues entirely. It is Trump who picks fights with his own party out of ego and vengeance, rather than keeping himself trained on Clinton. And it is Trump who declines to give the obligatory tip of the hat to a fallen soldier before taking on his parents’ political critiques.

“Empathy is not one of his best qualities,” laments the informal adviser, who characterized Trump’s public spat with Khizr and Ghazala Khan as “not his finest hour, to say the least.”

And as Greg Sargent wrote yesterday:

Trump’s pathologically abusive tendencies, his hair-trigger overreaction to criticism and slights both real and imagined, and his mental habit of sorting the world into the strong and the weak — the dominant and the submissive — render him temperamentally unfit for the presidency. He lacks basic knowledge of the world and doesn’t appear burdened by any curiosity about the complexities of foreign affairs or domestic policy. He is at worst a genuine bigot and at best a charlatan who has actively sought to stoke reactionary hostility to culturally and demographically evolving America. He is indifferent to the inner workings of the American system and instead promises authoritarian glory..

This is all well and good, I suppose, for a game show host and media figure.  It is not smart for a major party candidate and it is potentially disastrous for a president.

This is not someone who will be taught.  This is not someone who will learn.  This is not someone who will be guided or advised.  So if you think that once elected he will be corralled by cooler heads and experts, I would submit to you that this week underscores this will not be the case.


FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, The Presidency, US Politics, , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. An Interested Party says:

    This is all well and good, I suppose, for a game show host and media figure.

    You give him too much credit…at this point, he isn’t even disciplined enough to be a game show host…

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Donald J. Trump is not an especially serious or thoughtful individual and, moreover, he is not controllable.

    And the prize for droll understatement goes to. . . Steven Taylor!

  3. Tony W says:

    This is just more 4D chess. Notice how he’s completely dominated the news cycles? All of us low-energy losers are talking about Trump incessantly, and he’s thrilled!

  4. Pch101 says:

    Being difficult to control would be the least of it. I would imagine that a President Trump would compile an enemies list that includes Republicans in office who don’t kowtow to him, and he would do whatever he could to destroy them. The next Joe McCarthy.

  5. CSK says:


    I think he said that once, didn’t he? That he would use the office of the presidency to destroy his enemies?

  6. @michael reynolds: I humbly accept.

  7. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101: @CSK: He also said just this week that there would be violence if Hillary is elected in a “rigged” election. He said something similar a few months ago at the prospect of being denied the nomination at the convention.

    The preemptive threat of violence is in my view one of the most disturbing things about him.

  8. al-Alameda says:

    And as Greg Sargent wrote yesterday:

    Trump’s pathologically abusive tendencies, his hair-trigger overreaction to criticism and slights both real and imagined, and his mental habit of sorting the world into the strong and the weak — the dominant and the submissive — render him temperamentally unfit for the presidency.

    My favorite news clip last night was footage of Trump stating that he was “viciously attacked” at the Democratic National Convention by Mr. Khan, and all he did was respond to it.

    I believe that Donald Trump considers ANY remarks that are critical of him to be a vicious attack.

    He has no filter, there is no quality control to his responses: It’s always a strong attack regardless of the level of the negative remark made toward him or his opinions.

    He’s proved to be a decidedly unappealing person, which is surprising when you consider how long he’s been a media celebrity.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pch101: And he could do it with nukes.

  10. J-Dub says:

    I just hope he continued to campaign in areas where he already has support and can draw large crowds. He seems to think they represent some larger social movement. He even said as much yesterday, asking how can he be down in the polls when his crowds are so much bigger than Hillary’s? As long as he continues to preach to the choir he will get the same 15 million people that voted for him in the primaries and lose in an epic landslide.

  11. Scott says:

    The question that has to be asked at this time is: What is wrong with this guy? There does seem to be an actual mental health issue.

  12. gVOR08 says:


    I know that in the early days of the Republic they’d throw anything at their political opponents, but in the last hundred years has there been a serious question as to the mental competence of a Prez candidate?

    Eagleton’s electroshock therapy raised concerns, but did anyone claim he wasn’t competent at the time of the campaign? Also Veep. Reagan’s Alzheimer’s didn’t become a concern ’til late in his last term.

  13. michael reynolds says:


    Well, there’s quite a debate going on. Some say it’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Some say he’s a psychopath. I’m leaning toward all of the above plus Alzheimers.

    I also think he’s dyslexic which is a whole different matter, but if true he likely cheated his way through Wharton – much as he has his business life.

    The Official Candidate of the GOP, the KKK, Vladimir Putin, ISIS, and our good friend Guarneri.

  14. Hal_10000 says:

    I’ve been saying this for months: expecting Trump to go mainstream once he wins the nomination or wins the election or is inaugurated is like expecting your abusive drunken boyfriend to shape up once he gets married or the kids come along. If anything, Trump’s behavior has gotten worse since winning the nomination because it’s stoking his conviction that he’s doing things right and can ignore all those “experts”.

  15. Neil Hudelson says:

    @michael reynolds:

    and our good friend Guarneri.

    One World’s Greatest Business Man has to support another World’s Greatest Business Man. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, games gotta recognize game.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: Another possibility is (undiagnosed) tertiary syphilis. Given the report Donald’s doctor burbled out on Donald’s supposed “best healthiest President candidate EVAH!” I wouldn’t trust that quack to diagnose a hangnail.

  17. charon says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Narcissistic Personality Disorder comes in several subtypes.

    Trump appears to match all of the subtypes.

  18. CSK says:


    It might well be stoking his conviction he’s doing everything right–I wouldn’t argue with that–but it also might be putting him under tremendous pressure, and he’s cracking under that. Both would be possible simultaneously.

  19. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: Easily as reasonable as what would be a fairly early-onset Alzheimer’s–and I speak from the experience of having the diagnosis come up for both of my parents, my uncle, and one grandfather.

  20. Joe says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I also think he’s dyslexic

    I have seen this theory before (maybe from you) and it squares with my experience of business men trying to bluff their way past dyslexia. But how is he so focused on his phone, which is presumably narrative heavy, or capable of generating constant tweets? Is there a phone secretary standing next to him? All day and all night?

  21. CSK says:


    He talks word salad and Tweets like an eighth grader, at least for someone who claims to be super-smart and a top student at Wharton.

    He may not be dyslexic. If he were my graduate student, I would consider him not very well-read and not very literate.

    But then you have to understand that to a Trumpkin, the word salad, the lack of ability to write a simple declarative sentence, and the refusal to read are features, not bugs. They prove he’s not a globalist elitist.

  22. Moderate Mom says:

    @grumpy realist: Well, he did tell Howard Stern that his own personal Viet Nam was avoiding STDs. Maybe he didn’t avoid one at all.

  23. Gustopher says:

    I’m sure there are lots of people with a worse temperament to be president. I would put Trump above 10-20% of the country, in that regard.

    Above the guy who exposes himself on the bus, but below someone with 30 cats.

    Right around the person who gets angry enough in traffic to cut someone off, get out of his car and start screaming at them.

  24. charon says:

    According to David Brooks, Trump is a maniac:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/05/opinion/trumps-enablers-will-finally-have-to-take-a-stand.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region .

    And no, he cannot be changed.

    He cannot be contained because he is psychologically off the chain. With each passing week he displays the classic symptoms of medium-grade mania in more disturbing forms: inflated self-esteem, sleeplessness, impulsivity, aggression and a compulsion to offer advice on subjects he knows nothing about.

    His speech patterns are like something straight out of a psychiatric textbook. Manics display something called “flight of ideas.” It’s a formal thought disorder in which ideas tumble forth through a disordered chain of associations. One word sparks another, which sparks another, and they’re off to the races. As one trained psychiatrist said to me, compare Donald Trump’s speaking patterns to a Robin Williams monologue, but with insults instead of jokes.

    Trump insults Paul Ryan, undermines NATO and raises the specter of nuclear war. Advisers can’t control Trump’s brain because Trump can’t control it himself.

  25. grumpy realist says:

    @Moderate Mom: Exact-a-mundo. It’s possible to have asymptomatic syphilis for years until it ends up attacking the brain. So unless Trump was checking himself for STDs throughout his playboy years, he may have picked up something and not realized it.

  26. appleannie says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Well, there’s quite a debate going on. Some say it’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Some say he’s a psychopath. I’m leaning toward all of the above plus Alzheimers.

    My dad has dementia and I’ve been thinking for weeks that Trump reminds me of him. No filters, doesn’t “do” nuance at all anymore and sees and hears things he doesn’t understand and creates a whole new, uh, reality based on his misunderstanding. No point in arguing with him, of course but then nobody thinks he should be president either.

  27. Dazedandconfused says:

    Alternatively, he may be trying to lose. He may not have ever wanted to actually have the job, he ran for attention, a practical joke gotten waayyy out of hand. IOW, he may be deliberately sabotaging his own campaign. This may be in full awareness, partially, or even wholly subliminal. “I could shoot somebody” is, however, an indication of a self-awareness of the absurdity of his current status.

    If I had to bet he’s rationalized it as either he loses or he wins with a sort of prima facial powers of a dictator, which is how he has been behaving, right down to his remarkably very close approximation of Mussolini’s mannerisms. I’d guess he’s intelligent enough to know losing the election is the safer course, and by a damn sight.

  28. @Dazedandconfused:

    Alternatively, he may be trying to lose.

    I know this is a theory that I have seen a number of people proffer, but I simply don’t buy it.

    This is too much effort for a practical joke, PR stunt, or performance art.

    And, really, history has enough egotistical loons of this type who have sought power to suggest that we are simply seeing the latest edition.

  29. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am not convinced myself, but there are a lot of indications he isn’t serious about winning this. Again, much of it may be subliminal. Most people are mysteries to themselves…to some degree.

    As a counter argument I would mention his whole life is “too much work” (i.e., his ridiculous hair), per usual for impulsive, vindictive narcissists. They weave illogical webs and tangle themselves up in them quite typically. Unless they are the purist of sociopaths, a toxic pool of suppressed self-loathing can brew under a con man’s own internal radar, and it can bubble to the surface in any number of odd ways.

    But I don’t particularly care to make that argument. Heart isn’t in it. Trump sickens me to the point I don’t care how he goes, overmuch, and to me he is but a symptom, not the disease.

    The disease in my opinion is the circus elections have become. The direct result of that is we can’t get but a few of our best and brightest interested in the game. Our media has become so obsessed with ratings and themselves there is very little useful information in the “news”. They relentlessly pander to their audience, which has led to an infantilizition of the collective voting public mind, a small percentage of the population, who obtain the lion’s share of their information from them, and many other questionable at best sources. We now have a voting population which is largely convinced that government is evil or business is evil, if not both, and whatever what may be rattling around within their own head is the font of all wisdom. What “the American people think…” has become unquestionable. The same process is happening in the UK and Australia, and probably some other places.

    As Congress becomes less and less effective and we become poorer and poorer we turn to other branches more and more. Unless the greater public becomes both well informed and deeply engaged, we will eventually call for a dictator of some kind…although we won’t admit it…if we ever become poor enough to demand effective government.