We think of Donald Trump as borderline deranged, out of control, rabidly narcissistic. And of course he is. We see him as a creation of — an escapee from — a reality television show. That too.
But it's too little noticed that when Trump presided over the Apprentice and the Celebrity Apprentice he was most humane when taking pity on guests, like Andrew Dice Clay, for example, whose careers had tanked, in Clay's case because his trademark misogyny had become too predictably ugly to amuse. Trump could pity guests like Clay, spare a few kind words. The kindness, though, was predicated on his power being absolute.
Some day, someone will ask Mark Burnett, eminence grise of reality television, creator of Survivor, the foundational show of that genre, why, when the decision was his, he picked Donald Trump to host the Apprentice series. Burnett has plenty reason not to reply candidly; he wants to keep the channel open to now President Trump, as also a channel to Hollywood, where he has irons in the fire and Trump is less than fully adulated. But if Burnett could set all that aside, he'd say he knew no one who fit the profile of tyrant better than Trump, and a tyrant was just what was needed on the show.
He might add that that Trump has nothing less than a full-blown Tsar Complex — as when the Tsar visited the cells of prisoners to commune, extend pity, so long as they kissed the scepter. I don't know that the Tsar Complex is considered a diagnosable category in any of the current psychiatric manuals but perhaps it should be.
So, no mystery that Trump is drawn to Putin, who has his own deep Tsar Complex, as channeled of course, through Lenin and Stalin. Absolute authority has fans. Always will. Maybe it's the constant, democracy the weird aberration.
How is Trump doing with his translation of Tsar Complex from Apprentice to Presidency?
I get some cheer from George Packer opining in recent New Yorker:
If Trump were more rational and more competent, he might have a chance of destroying our democracy.