When faced with a formidable adversary, often the best path to victory is to get your enemy to defeat himself. That seems to be the strategy, for example, that Islamic radicals like al Qaeda and ISIS have taken in their ongoing jihad against the West. Radical Islamists know they cannot defeat the United States, but they can stoke fear and hatred in simple-minded, easily-manipulated Americans, and by doing so they get the United States to turn inward against itself.
It has proved to be a devastatingly effective approach, largely because Americans are too blinded by our own delusions of exceptionalism and preoccupations with reality TV to see what’s happening. What, you’re asking, does this have to do with Donald Trump? We knew you’d get around to that. Turns out that this strategy can be just as effective on the micro-level – against a single person or a small group – as it is on the macro-level, against large groups or nation states. That’s where Dear Leader, Kim Jung Don, comes in.
Allow the Chimps to tell you a story.* We’ll call it ‘Election 2016: Climbing Mount Daddy, or, Donald Trump’s Personal Journey to Destroy Himself and the Country.’ Donald Trump of course plays himself, the malignantly narcissistic, pulsating id with sociopathic tendencies, because no one else wants to. Vladimir Putin plays the role of Fred Trump, Donald’s late (and, as Donald’s super ego indirectly reminds him, far more accomplished and successful) father. Last but not least, the C.I.A., the F.B.I., and the rest of our national intelligence apparatus play the role of Donald Trump’s super ego, here to remind him that no, he really didn’t do it on his own. He had outside help.
At this point, everyone knows that the outside help of which we speak came from the likes of James Comey, Julian Assange, and Vladimir Putin. This subject is a particularly sore spot for Trump. He’s had a testy relationship with the national intelligence community since the stories emerged, but things erupted into open warfare last month when the C.I.A. went public with its findings about Putin’s motive for interfering in the election.
Why, you might be wondering, has Trump chosen this battle? The answer is: because he has no choice. He’s compelled to fight it, by egotistical forces over which he has no control.
You see, of all the things that addle the adolescent brain of Donald Trump, nothing pushes his buttons like the suggestion that he might owe his electoral success, at least in part, to outside help. That theme – never being good enough to succeed on his own, and needing outside help – has been a constant throughout Trump’s business life. When Trump found himself or his businesses in need of outside help, and those times have been many, his father Fred Trump often bailed him out. This history, needless to say, is inconsistent with Trump’s own life narrative. It is a history that cannot be allowed to co-exist with Trump’s version of himself as a winner and a huge success.
Trump’s rather obvious insecurities, likely fueled by a deep-seated need to please and prove his worth to his late father, make it impossible for him to admit what the rest of the world knows: that Putin hacked the election to install Trump as his stooge in the White House. The Chimps speculate that the looming presence of Vlad the Hacker must seem like zombie Fred Trump, risen, reanimated and pulling little Donny’s strings all over again. It is, we imagine, a horror that haunts the darkest, moldy recesses of Trump’s putrid, rotting psyche, and that won’t allow him even a moment of genuine peace.
The intelligence agencies, and especially the C.I.A., have been the purveyors of the ‘Trump won with outside help from Putin’ story. But Trump can’t attack Putin – the one who provided him with help – any more than he could attack his father. After all, who knows when he might need
Daddy’s Putin’s help again? So he’s forced to lash out at the obvious and easy targets, the ones saying mean things about him: the national intelligence agencies.
This morning, he took another ill-advised swipe in their direction:
President-elect Donald Trump stepped up his criticism of the U.S. intelligence community, suggesting the agencies he’ll count on for briefings on everything from terrorist operations to foreign military maneuvers don’t have enough evidence to back up their conclusion that Russia hacked the U.S. election campaign.
In a series of tweets starting late Tuesday evening, Trump called an alleged delay in his intelligence briefing on the hacks “very strange” and went on to quote an interview with fugitive WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who said on a Fox News opinion show that “a 14-year-old” could be responsible for breaches of Democratic Party offices last year.
Poor little Donny just can’t seem to help himself, but it hardly takes a political savant to see that this battle is one Trump cannot win. Speaking of people who aren’t political savants, here’s Senate Minority Leader Chuck Shumer’s take:
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer cautioned Trump against mocking the nation’s top spy agencies during an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow:
“Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer said. “So even for a practical supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this,” Schumer said.
As is so often the case when we do battle with ourselves, Trump is destined to lose. Trump is a world-class manipulator, a skill that has served him well when it comes to persons and groups who are willing to be manipulated, like the media and his supporters. But manipulation will do him no good in a contest against the national intelligence community. Trump might think, for instance, that he has a friend in James Comey. But the Chimps are reminded that the position of F.B.I. Director seems to lend itself to – how might we put this charitably? – considerable influence in D.C. political circles. We strongly suspect that similar privileges extend to, say, senior C.I.A. officers and operatives, along with others who enjoy special access to the sordid affairs and dealings of America’s rich and morally bankrupt.
The real danger for Trump, though, is that his enemy isn’t the intelligence community. It’s Trump himself. The C.I.A., the F.B.I., and others are just stand-ins for parts of Trump’s mind he’s been running from for all of his adult life.
The worst part, for Trump, is that he can’t stop fighting. But no matter how much he fights, he can’t win. Every time Trump strikes at the intelligence agencies that have tainted his nascent administration with a stain of outside help that Trump cannot remove, he’s really attacking himself. Trump knows no other way. He will continue to lash out and to fight, until he has crushed his enemy or it has crushed him.
*The Chimps note that we lack any training or competence in psychiatry or in pathologies of the mind, and so are uniquely unqualified to opine upon the life or existence of Donald Trump. Having never let our own incompetence stop us before, we press onward.