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December 03rd 2016 print

Peter Smith

Trump in a Lighter Vain

Yes, the president-elect has a more than robust ego, but the same vanity that inspired intemperate assaults on his opponents in the primaries is the least bad and most pardonable kind. It is a fault, true, but a humble one: he values others enough to want their attention

trump smug III was reading C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and came across a passage which helped me put Donald Trump’s vanity into perspective. I thought it might help if you have trouble with this aspect of his personality. For this purpose, I will put aside his quite extraordinary and expansive policy agenda, which will take America to a much better place if he succeeds in even getting half of it done. I will also put aside the empowerment and inspiration that Trump’s win gives to those opposing the shroud of political correctness the progressive elites are foisting on the entire Western world.

A first thing to say is that unless you meet someone and spend considerable time with them you can never know them. That’s a caveat. A second caveat is that no one feature defines someone’s personality. Finally, a third caveat, I am not a shrink.

Trump has come under fire for making demeaning remarks about his critics including, God forbid!, women, and his opponents in the Republican primary contest. My observation is that he is a counterpuncher. In other words, he doesn’t initiate the exchange but sets out to finish it. Sometimes this takes him too far. Tweeting an unflattering picture of Cruz’s wife juxtaposed with a picture of Melania, in reaction to the release of a picture of his wife in her modelling days, is the prime example. Though, to be fair, he did express regret over this.

Trump is overly sensitive to criticism. As a counterpuncher, to mix my metaphors, he lets little or nothing go through to the keeper — as he showed with Mr Kahn. Coming as part of the same territory, he is susceptible to flattery. Being overly impressed with Putin’s compliment that he was “brilliant” is symptomatic of his vanity.

Not surprisingly — in view of my support for Trump and his polices — I do not think this flaw is fatal. Great leaders have flaws, as do we all. This is the way Lewis put it into perspective for me when discussing pride and vanity.

Pride… has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. As long as you are proud you cannot know God….The more you delight in yourself and the less you delight in the praise [of others], the worse you are becoming. When you delight wholly in yourself and do not care for the praise at all you have reached rock bottom.

That is why vanity, though it is the sort of pride which shows most on the surface, is really the least bad and most pardonable kind. The vain person wants praise, applause, admiration, too much and is always angling for it. It is a fault, but a childlike and even (in an odd way) a humble fault…You value other people enough that you want them to look at you.

So there it is. Trump may be vain but this is not a mortal sin. I am prepared to live with Trump’s vanity. You should too. It will help drive him to make America great again.

Need any convincing? Imagine a nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue. Hillary is victorious. More of the debilitating same is in store: more regulation; more wind farms; more taxation; more illegal immigration; more Muslim refugees; more political correctness; more welfare dependency; more abortions. Now awaken. Bountiful possibilities are in sight. Sure, life has a way of bringing disappointments. But still, right now, the pall has lifted and promise has replaced “fearful fatalistic apathy” (to purloin Churchill on Islam). Oh, for it to happen in Australia! Are there any vain leaders out there?

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

Comments [22]

  1. Jody says:

    Trump’s defensiveness when criticized and his tendency to engage with the Twittersphere, when utter rubbish is being spruiked, will be his undoing.

  2. Don A. Veitch says:

    Hmmm!
    Disingenuous, but nice try.
    It is a strange logic to argue that DJT has one of the seven deadly sins (pride), yet this is good and makes him whole.
    The 7 deadly sins are: avarice; envy; wrath; sloth; gluttony; lust; pride.
    The 7 cardinal virtues to combat the sins are: humility (against pride); kindness; abstinence; chastity; patience; liberality; diligence.
    On my count DJT has one of the cardinal virtues (diligence), and four of the sins.
    But no ones perfect!

  3. Don A. Veitch says:

    Oh, and one more point: the good book says ‘love thy neighbour AS THYSELF.
    So maybe its just a short step forward for the lad?
    Who does Trump love?

    • ianl says:

      Such delicate ad homs, Don. Surely you can lift up higher than these ? Jody’s comment was a good example.

      • Don A. Veitch says:

        When Trump runs up against the wrecker republicans in the Republican dominated Congress then I will back Trump, he will defeat his opponents, and his sins could become virtues for America.
        (is that better ianl?)

  4. Bill Martin says:

    A pretty logical set of thoughts, Peter, but you failed to mention something that overrides everything you did say. With Trump, what you see is what you get, warts and all. There is no private Trump and public Trump, as with crooked Hillary. Surely, he must be aware of the less than endearing aspects of his personality, but he is secure enough in himself to say loud and clear: “This is me, whether you like it or not, take it or leave it.” That speaks of supreme confidence in his own good intentions.

    • Homer Sapien says:

      Sorry Bill, I mainly find your comments immensely clever and wise but I would say Trump is a VERY different person in private. Dr Ben Carson does not agree with you, he finds him very much cerebral and a good listener, open to different ideas on a one on one basis. Dr Carson doesn’t lie, he would rather die. By researching Carson you get a glimpse behind the curtains.

  5. Jody says:

    Peter, I presume you were deliberately punning with “in a lighter VAIN” in your headline.

    • Peter says:

      Jody, My headlines are seldom mine. I am not clever enough and my valiant but amateurish efforts are discarded. Roger Franklin brings to bear his immense journalistic experience, honed in the hardbitten newspaper world, for which I would like to take the credit to sate my vanity but honesty gets in the damn way.

      I will take the opportunity to record that that great detective Hercule Poirot was notoriously vain. Chastised by Captain Hastings for this fault in the TV series he determined to become the most modest man in the whole world. A nice ironic touch I thought. But it also underscored the view of C S Lewis that vanity is not a serious or debilitating fault. As Hercule rightly proclaimed he was the best detective in the world. Trump I think will become a great president. I know, of course, that you don’t agree. We shall see.

      • Jody says:

        Don’t misunderstand me; I’m willing him to succeed, but hedging my bets just in case. Several things have caused me great concern.

        Did you watch “The Outsiders” this morning on Skynews? Dean, Cameron and Latham – absolutely brilliant, very funny and vitally necessary!! Today’s program was just a ‘teaser’ but they’ll be back again when “Insiders” returns, facing off against the so-called progressive Left and its horrific ideologies.

  6. Bushranger71 says:

    I ponder why arrogance was not embraced in the deadly sins! I find Scott Morrison’s attitude toward the populace at large reprehensible and intolerable.

    • Patrick McCauley says:

      Arrogance, vanity, pride .. (let he who is without sin cast) .. what are these minor indiscretions in the face of a leftist morality infusing our children with gender confusion and promoting racism as a lifestyle choice. Infusing our society with dangerous criminals and assassins – killing our children with human rights. Paul Keating at least had the wherewithal to temper his arrogance with a little poetry. How can any leader not be proud … some people have large strangely dressed Mardi Gras to celebrate pride …. Aboriginal leaders beat their chests with it. How would a humble man or woman lead the western world back to its mojo ? Ghandi was proud.

      • Bill Martin says:

        Excellent contribution, Patrick!

      • Bushranger71 says:

        I was not referring to Trump as being arrogant Patrick. This forum disappoints me much at times as it gets too lost in what is happening offshore instead of holding our own to account. Lots and lots of wasted words. Paul Keating had the fortitude recently to publicly question continuation of a tired US Alliance, yet that very important issue soon faded. And we suffer the continued insistence by the Treasurer that the 50 percent capital gains tax discount and negative gearing are not causal to housing affordability. He argues it is a supply issue, when massive sustained immigration and infill development allowing small footprint dwellings is now choking all of Australia’s urban areas with motor vehicles for which there is no parking space. I joined up as a Quadrant contributor out of respect for Keith Windschuttle; but am beginning to feel that the forum is not making an adequate impact on governance shortcomings in our land. Somehow; we have to put the politicians under more pressure!

    • Jody says:

      It might surprise you to learn that he’s a thoroughly decent, warm and likeable human being.

  7. Dallas Beaufort says:

    Donald Trump gives better than he gets while the attacking mobs scream, foul and want nanny state to throw the match. Wimps…

  8. Homer Sapien says:

    There is a joke in which Trump walks on water. Next days head line in the media: “Trump can’t swim!”

    • Jody says:

      He’s increasingly worrying with his endless puerile Tweeting. Now he’s breaching diplomatic protocols. It may not last too long at all, this Donald thing. Please Donald, don’t give us a reason for the bien pensant to say “I told you so”!!!

      • Peter says:

        Since when Jody did the West get so supine that our leaders can’t talk with the Dalai Lama or take a call from the President of Taiwan for fear of offending a communist dictatorship and breaching so-called diplomatic protocols. Yet again Trump is a breath of fresh air. PS, I also thought his tweets on the subject were bang on. I don’t tweet myself but it is a way that Trump bypasses the biased press and gets his message out. For example, most of the headlines were constructed to the effect that Trump had called Tsai Ing-wen when in fact it was the other way around. Mind you he agreed to the call apparently and knew what he was doing. Good on him.

        • Jody says:

          A President should at least wait until he’s inaugurated rather than breaking established protocols expected of a President-elect.

          No; he shouldn’t be commenting on Saturday Night Live’s satires of him, especially when he’s wrong because they are actually funny impersonations. The folks will be wondering why he doesn’t have better things to do. This can only end badly if he doesn’t maintain his dignity and fall silent when lampooned.