• Michael McGowan

A Narcissist's Prayer

Updated: Oct 2, 2019

Whenever we think of "Passing the Buck" we think of Harry Truman sitting at his desk famously pointing to a sign that says, "THE BUCK STOPS HERE". For the game of poker the dealer usually has a marker called a buck that indicates they are the responsible one handing out the cards. If a person doesn't want to be the dealer they would pass the buck, hence passing on responsibility to the next person. Truman always had the "buck" thus the responsibility of the Office of the Presidency stayed with him.

And Trump agreed with a 2013 tweet: "Whatever happens, you're responsible. If it doesn't happen, you're responsible." At least 2013 Trump agreed with him.

January 10, 2019 Trump wanted to share the blame: “The buck stops with everybody" in reference to the government shutdown. That's after he said he would take responsibility for it. To be fair I agree with Trump on this front; in regards to a government shutdown everyone deserves blame.

Trump got the headache from a hostile House of Representatives because the Republican Party lost that half of Congress. Shall we take a page from President Obama in 2014? "The buck stops right here at my desk," Obama said in regards to the Democratic Party losing the midterm elections. Before the 2018 midterm elections Trump had his own thoughts on a potential loss: “No, I think I’m helping people...I don’t believe anybody’s ever had this kind of an impact.” What he meant by that is the people that win only win because I supported them. If a person loses they only lost because they didn't embrace me enough.

The one thing you can't blame anyone on is the weather, but what about the response to disastrous weather events? President Bush is the famous example and his response to Hurricane Katrina was terrible even after he said, "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job." Yet after the revelations that things were going from bad to worse Bush said, "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility." Even one year later he said, "I take full responsibility for the federal government's response."

Trump had his own hurricane event in Puerto Rico: “I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico" and he hasn't reanalyzed that thought since. I'll never get over the image of him tossing rolls of paper towels into the audience.

So far we've seen that Trump can't take responsibility for the government shutdown (after he found out it was bad press that he took responsibility), he can't take responsibility for losing the House, he can't acknowledge the government could have done much better in Puerto Rico, maybe, as the Commander-in-chief he will take responsibility. Syria is a geopolitical disaster, but Trump passes that on to Obama. Especially since Obama said in 2016, "I always feel responsible" in reference to the Syrian Crisis.

President Reagan, in view of the Iran-Contra affair said, "Now, what should happen when you make a mistake is this: You take your knocks, you learn your lessons, and then you move on. That's the healthiest way to deal with a problem. ... You know, by the time you reach my age, you've made plenty of mistakes. And if you've lived your life properly — so, you learn. You put things in perspective. You pull your energies together. You change. You go forward." I'd say that's a little bit more deflection and defense than taking responsibility.

Reagan is not alone in his company of deflection and defense. But when it came to Yemen action "Well this was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something that was, you know, just, they [the generals] wanted to do," Trump said..."And they lost Ryan [Owens]”. Someone knew how to take responsibility. Army Gen. Joseph Votel spoke bluntly: "I accept the responsibility for this. We lost a lot on this operation. We lost a valued operator, we had people wounded, we caused civilian casualties, we lost an expensive aircraft..." Trump must have forgotten about "Whatever happens, you're responsible. If it doesn't happen, you're responsible." Granted, Trump was new into office, but he gave the go ahead. Now I'd say it was the right decision to make. The United States gained much more than it lost. If any time to take responsibility it was this one. I don't expect President Trump, himself, to rush into Yemen to save Chief Petty Officer Owens as Trump asserted that he would have rushed in to save the students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School from a gunman with an assault weapon, even if he was unarmed at the time of the massacre. Loss of life in a war zone happens. As Trump says, "[they] know what they signed up for."

Even Trump can’t muster enough to have a semblance of President Bill Clinton like the b/s Clinton spewed regarding the Lewinsky scandal: "I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that."

To be fair Hillary Clinton blames her loss of the election on then FBI Director James Comey. But at least with Benghazi  Secretary Clinton to the committee investigating the failure of the State Department, "I take responsibility for what happened in Benghazi."

Many people like to equate Trump with President Nixon, mostly for the negative. I try to give credit where credit is due. Trump is trying to normalize relations with North Korea. There are many reasons to be both supportive and critical of this move. At least Nixon opened relations with China and this is Trump's chance to normalize relations with North Korea. Unfortunately, the recent Vietnam Summit failed. Trump initially blamed the North Koreans, but then he turned his attention elsewhere. “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk’.” It could have contributed to the North Korean demands because maybe they viewed Trump as losing political capital at home and was desperate for a win so they wanted to play hardball. Then why not mention that first instead, misleading the public, with North Korea demanded ALL sanctions be lifted? North Korea says they wanted only partial sanctions lifted. Whose word should I take? If Donald Trump can take Kim Jung-un's word on his unknowing Otto Warmbier's treatment then I should take the dictator's word on the summit as well, right?

I hope Trump will one day take another page from President Nixon's playbook. A few years after leaving office Nixon said, "I'm sorry. I just hope I haven't let you down...I had: I let down my friends, I let down the country, I let down our system of government and the dreams of all those young people that ought to get into government but will think it is all too corrupt and the rest. Most of all I let down an opportunity I would have had for two and a half more years to proceed on great projects and programs for building a lasting peace."

Will trump ever take responsibility for failures because he certainly enjoys taking responsibility for success? He'll just read from the Narcissist Prayer Book:

That didn’t happen.

And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.

And if it was, that’s not a big deal.

And if it is, that’s not my fault.

And if it was, I didn’t mean it.

And if I did…

You deserved it.

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