Someone who worked at a company for a few years in the early days and then left (often because they were pushed out or couldn’t scale) has zero moral authority to weigh-in on complex policy issues facing that company. Don’t trade on your good fortune.
— Dan Rose (@drose007) June 3, 2020
The ways he dealt with crises in his business, real estate and even his personal life prove jarring as he leads the government’s response to a pandemic.
WASHINGTON — During his campaign for the White House in 2016, President Trump’s advisers briefly tried to run through with him how he would address a large-scale disaster if he won. What, for instance, would he have done during Hurricane Katrina?
“I would have fixed that,” Mr. Trump replied with certitude, referring to the government’s bungled rescue and recovery efforts, according to a campaign official who was present for the exchange. “I would have come up with a much better response.” How? He did not say. He just asserted it would have been better and advisers did not press him to elaborate.
Mr. Trump is no stranger to crisis. He has spent a lifetime grappling with bankruptcy, fending off creditors, evading tax collectors, defending lawsuits, deflecting regulators, spinning reporters and dueling with estranged wives, usually coming out ahead, at least as he defines it. But these were crises of his own creation involving human adversaries he knew how to confront. Nothing in his background in business, entertainment or multiple marriages prepared him for the coronavirus pandemic now threatening America’s health and wealth.
Mr. Trump’s performance on the national stage in recent weeks has put on display the traits that Democrats and some Republicans consider so jarring — the profound
- need for personal praise, the
- propensity to blame others, the
- lack of human empathy, the
- penchant for rewriting history, the
- disregard for expertise, the
- distortion of facts, the
- impatience with scrutiny or criticism.
For years, skeptics expressed concern about how he would handle a genuine crisis threatening the nation, and now they know.
“When he’s faced a problem, he has sought to somehow cheat or fix the outcome ahead of time so that he could construct a narrative that showed him to be the winner,” said Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer. “And when it was all about feuds with other celebrities or contests over ratings or hotel branding, he could do that and no one cared enough to really check. And the bluster and bragging worked.”
“But in this case,” Mr. D’Antonio added, “he tried that in the beginning and you can’t brag or bluster your way out of people dying. And I think more than the suffering, the human suffering, it’s been the inexorable quality of the data that’s forced him to change.”
Only after viral projections grew more dire and markets began to tank did Mr. Trump shift tone and appear to take the threat more seriously, finally adopting a more aggressive set of policies to compel Americans to stay away from one another while trying to mitigate the economic damage.
Some in the public seem to have responded. Fifty-five percent of Americans approved of his handling of the crisis in a poll by ABC News and Ipsos released on Friday, up from 43 percent the previous week. A Reuters poll, also conducted with Ipsos, put approval of his handling of the pandemic at 48 percent, up from 38 percent a couple weeks earlier, while surveys by The Economist and YouGov showed a smaller rise, from 41 percent to 45 percent.
But even as he has seemed to take the crisis more seriously, Mr. Trump has continued to make statements that conflicted with the government’s own public health experts and focused energy on blaming China, quarreling with reporters, claiming he knew that the coronavirus would be a pandemic even when he was minimizing its threat only a few weeks ago and congratulating himself for how he has managed a crisis he only recently acknowledged.
“We’ve done a fantastic job from just about every standpoint,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve done a great job,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve done a phenomenal job on this,” he said Thursday.
The next day he grew irritated when Peter Alexander of NBC News asked if he was giving Americans a “false sense of hope” by promising immediate delivery of a drug that experts said is not proven. Mr. Trump said he disagreed with them. “Just a feeling,” he said. “You know, I’m a smart guy. I feel good about it.”
Mr. Alexander moved onto his next question, a “softball” by his own reckoning, asking what Mr. Trump would say to Americans who were at home watching and scared. Most presidents would use the opportunity to offer reassuring words. But Mr. Trump was still steamed and snapped, “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say.”
Later in the same briefing, Yamiche Alcindor of PBS’s “NewsHour” asked when everyone who needed a coronavirus test would be able to get one, as he asserted two weeks ago that every person already could. “Nobody is even talking about it except for you, which doesn’t surprise me,” he said dismissively. How about people with symptoms who could not get a test, he was asked. “I’m not hearing it,” he replied.
The White House rejects any criticism of the president as illegitimate. “This great country has been faced with an unprecedented crisis, and while the Democrats and the media shamelessly try and destroy this president with a coordinated, relentless, biased political assault, President Trump has risen to fight this crisis head-on by taking aggressive historic action to protect the health, wealth and well-being of the American people,” Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, said in a statement.
Mr. Trump acted at the end of January to restrict travel from China, where the outbreak was first detected, and repeatedly points back to that decision, arguing that he saved lives as a result. But he resisted stronger action for weeks. Even as governors, mayors and businesses decided on their own to curb large gatherings and eventually close down schools, restaurants and workplaces, the president at first offered no guidance about whether to take such action.
He has repeatedly misrepresented the state of the response — promising a vaccine “soon” that will actually take at least a year to develop, insisting that tests were available while patients struggled to find any, boasting about the availability of millions of masks while health care workers took to stitching together homemade versions. And dismissing the threat for weeks may have led to complacency among some Americans who could have acted much sooner to take precautions.
Mr. Trump’s defensiveness over the pandemic has become a central dynamic inside the White House as officials wrestle with difficult policy choices. Aides have long understood that Mr. Trump needs to hear support for his decisions, preferably described in superlatives. He often second-guesses himself, prompting advisers to ask allies to tell him he made the right call or go on Fox News to make that point in case he might be watching.
Over the last week, as Mr. Trump has faced ever more draconian and expensive options, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, sought to coax him into action by using bits of praise in news coverage or from other officials as a motivator, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Officials have learned that the president craves a constant diet of flattery, which they serve up during daily televised briefings. Vice President Mike Pence makes a point of repeating it day after day, sometimes repeatedly in the course of a single briefing. “Mr. President, from early on, you took decisive action,” he said during one.
Other advisers have followed suit. “Thank you, Mr. President, for gathering your public health experts here today and for your strong leadership in keeping America safe,” Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, told him at one point. “I want to thank you for your leadership during this coronavirus outbreak,” Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told him at another.
Even Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the veteran infectious diseases expert known for his just-the-facts style, has sometimes joined in praise of the president, at one point referring to Mr. Trump’s “proactive, leaning-forward, aggressive, trying to stay ahead of the curve” approach. While Dr. Fauci does not hesitate to correct the president’s facts, as he did on Friday over the unproven drug, he does so politely, careful to maintain his viability within a political team. Still, many noticed that he put his hand to his face in seeming disbelief when Mr. Trump referred to his diplomats as the “Deep State Department.”
Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said Mr. Trump had been unfairly criticized for his handling of the virus. “The media virtually ignore the president’s massive effort mobilizing the federal government, our industrial base and the scientific and medical community to combat this pandemic, rivaling F.D.R.’s arsenal of democracy,” he said.
Mr. King said that Mr. Trump was working with Democrats but the news media “prefer to dwell on initial failure of C.D.C. test kits and low inventory of masks and ventilators going back two administrations.” Still, he said of Mr. Trump, “He too often takes the bait.”
None of which comes as a surprise to those who dealt with Mr. Trump or studied his life before he became president. In real estate, he found he could overcome crises by bluffing his way past regulators, bullying the bankers and bamboozling the tabloids.
When banks came after him for overdue loans, he pushed back, arguing that it was in their interest that his brand not be harmed by calling him out. When contractors demanded to be paid, he found complaints about their work and refused, leading in part to more than 3,500 lawsuits. When his first two marriages fell apart, he took a scorched-earth approach against his wives, leaking to New York’s gossip columnists even if it meant his children watched ugly divorces play out in public.
“The typical modus operandi from him is to bluff, is to fake, is to deny,” said Jack O’Donnell, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
When Mr. Trump prepared to open the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City in 1990 and ran into trouble with the authorities, he summoned Mr. O’Donnell. “He told them I was an expert in operations and I could fix this,” Mr. O’Donnell recalled. “And they believed him. I was dumbfounded. He was completely bluffing them.”
To Mr. Trump, most of his crises were about paper and money, not people. The self-described “king of debt” treated loan repayments almost as if they were optional and made it a mantra never to back down. “I figured it was the bank’s problem, not mine,” he wrote in one of his books. “What the hell did I care? I actually told one bank, ‘I told you, you shouldn’t have loaned me that money.’”
Perhaps the only time before his presidency that the human toll of a crisis really struck Mr. Trump in a personal way came when three of his executives died in a helicopter crash heading to Atlantic City. He seemed genuinely shaken, visiting the widows to share in their grief.
“I actually think he handled that situation about as well as you could expect from him,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “It was such a shock to him. It was the first time I heard fear in his voice. It was the first time I saw empathy, that I saw emotion from him, because he realized the human loss there.”
Even then, Mr. Trump could not help inserting himself into the story, suggesting falsely that he almost boarded the helicopter himself. And within months, with his Taj project flailing, Mr. Trump began publicly attributing problems to the dead executives. In a crisis, “he always was more focused on who he could blame versus fixing the problem,” said Mr. O’Donnell, who quit in disgust.
Nor did Mr. Trump exhibit much empathy for the workers who lost their jobs when his casinos went bust. Instead, when asked about his failed Atlantic City ventures, he emphasizes his own ability to escape unharmed. “The money I took out of there was incredible,” he once told The New York Times.
The closest analogue to the current situation may be the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, another national trauma. Mr. Trump tried to thrust himself into the news coverage, telling an interviewer by phone that day that with the destruction of the World Trade Center he now had the tallest building in New York City, a claim that was not even true. He also has said he spent extensive time around the site trying to help the cleanup, a claim that has never been verified.
With the airports closed at the time, Mr. Trump was asked to provide his private plane to fly Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Gov. George E. Pataki to Washington for President George W. Bush’s address to Congress. Mr. Trump agreed — but in return asked for help getting permission to travel from Washington to another destination when others were grounded.
By his own account, Mr. Trump never imagined that he would be facing a pandemic, an invisible killer immune to bluster. “In every previous occasion, he was facing a human being or groups of human beings,” said Gwenda Blair, the author of a biography of the Trump family. “And obviously the coronavirus, it’s not a person, can’t be bullied.”
So Mr. Trump, with his recent descriptions of a war to be won over a “foreign enemy,” is seeking a dynamic that he is familiar with, personifying the virus as an opponent to be beaten, framing it as the kind of crisis he knows how to tackle. “He’s trying to make it into a win-lose situation,” she said. “That’s how he sees the world — winners, him, losers everybody else. He’s trying to make the coronavirus into a loser and himself the winner.”
If I am so smart, why am I know winning.
You should build relationships with people you don’t like for the good of the mission.
If you don’t like someone, most of the time that is your ego.
do you talk about building or you talk about building relationships a lot at
work even when people whom you might not like even with people who mean you don’t
like have you always been this way or did you also feel difficult also
difficulty in wanting to build relationships with those people if the
latter what are the things that help you to actually want to build relationships
with him things so when I was a young seal
I was pretty typical young seal pretty typical young man meaning I thought I
was invincible I thought I could beat everyone in a fight cuz I didn’t know
jiu-jitsu so you just think you’re just gonna win but that you’re wrong I
thought I knew everything of course and I thought I was smarter than everyone
else kind of typical sometimes I would rub people the wrong way and the people
that I would rub the wrong way were especially people that I third thought
were not squared away in the chain of command so if you weren’t square if you
if you were my boss and I didn’t think you were squared away I was gonna rub
you the wrong way no cuz I was gonna be slightly offensive yeah as a matter of
fact I got an evaluation it’s one of the first evaluations that I got when I got
to a SEAL team and back in the day yeah you’d get you were rated 4.0 was the
highest you could get and it would go all the way down to whatever like one
but at this time basically everyone got four oh and everything right you
basically got four oh and everything and like you’d have to mess up you have to
mess to get deviate from the four so I got all four O’s and I got a 3.8 which
was like a major dig and the dig was in I think it was like in relation like I
don’t know what the word was but when I got debriefed on it what the
guy that gave me the 3/8 what he what he told me
which I actually was proud of because that’s how stupid I was
he’s like you you you’re too hostile with people that aren’t squared away
that’s literally and I was all like whatever you’re damn
right I am hostile towards people that aren’t square to go to war right just an
idiot that’s what that’s what the situation
was and you know it made me mad if a leader was weak and I would form these
antagonistic relationships with leaders if I thought that they were weak and one
of these bosses eventually that I fought I was better than right I thought I was
smarter I thought I was smarter than him right I thought that he was an idiot
sure I should have his job right how often do you think that right I should
have that guy’s job I’m smart and the more I showed this attitude the worse
our relationship got in the world and the less he listened to me and the less
influence I had over how we did things and therefore the the worse we did and
the and the the worse our ability to perform God because he was just doing
things the way he thought without any good input from anyone below him in the
chain of command mm-hmm all because I had formed this antagonistic
relationship with him which was bad because then he’s not listening to me
and then one day one day I said to myself if I’m so smart if I’m such a
smart guy why am I losing why am I losing if I’m so smart if I am so smart
why can’t I get this guy to do what I want him to do even though he’s my boss
doesn’t matter if I’m so smart yes they were smarter than him why can’t I get
him to do what I wanted me to do hmm why if I’m so smart how come I can’t
have more influence over the way we operate if I’m so smart and he’s so dumb
mm-hmm and that’s that’s when I realized that’s when I had an away
an awakening that instead of blaming him for being stupid I was the one who was
being stupid I had lost the ability to influence my boss because I was being
stupid and because of my ego I literally thought I deserved his job okay I
thought pretty much anyone could anyone in the platoon should have his job and
therefore since I thought that I I understand of supporting him they said a
building a relationship with him i undermined him now once I got humble and
I started to build a positive relationship with him instead of an
antagonistic one that started to change and because because then he started
listening to me he started to change some things and my influence over the
whole situation became better because I now had a relationship despite the fact
I liked the guy despite that fact I built the
relationship and the situation got better I had more influence and that
became kind of my standard operating procedure was to build relationships
with people even if I didn’t like them to build relationships with people so
that I could have more influence now does what does that sound like right
that sounds like I’m kind of this manipulative two-faced superficial
disingenuous guy yeah that’s that’s being devious and conniving not keeping
it real not keeping it real right but the fact is that is not true that’s not
that’s not that’s not who I am you don’t know who I am I’m a guy that’s trying to
accomplish the mission that’s what I am I’m a guy that is trying to accomplish
the mission who is putting my own ego in check to build a relationship with
someone that I don’t like that I don’t respect but what I’m trying to do is
improve our operational capability what’s more important to me trying to
arrange the situation build the relationship so that we do better not so
that I get promoted not so that I’m getting some accolades but so that we as
a team do a better job I put the little feelings aside because I want the team
to win so if you’re having having some trouble getting over your feelings and
getting over your ego to build relationships for the good of the team
ask yourself the same question I asked myself a long time ago
which is this if I am so smart why am I not winning and if you answer that
question honestly then you’ll put your ego in check
you’ll go build the relationships that will make you and your team accomplish
the mission and win hmm there you go
can’t help but agree with that one you know what’s funny is if you think
about like why you wouldn’t like someone mm-hmm what what causes you and not like
someone most of the time that’s your ego anyways most of the time that’s your ego
anyways yeah and so you know you had that story of the you know you were
consulting somebody it was like a big CEO of yeah like a lacrosse guy that
story is probably the most common story I mean the way you handle it different
yeah but that scenario that you started with with us are so common man
where ya they rub you the wrong way because right off the bat you see him as
some kind of competitive figure to you like they’re you know some you know
compare you know you’re competing with them in your own mind in whatever and
the feelings probably meet you a lot of the time you know see kids don’t like
each other you know one anything he says you’re you know you’re already defensive
but it’s weird man how you can how that happened like that’s happened to me
before not is it wasn’t as overt but just like yeah I don’t really feel that
guy you know I don’t like I would because I not only is he like when you
look at them whatever they’re kind of competitive with you but maybe they do
something just this much different than you you know like it’s just different in
philosophy or something like that I was like oh let me again second and then
they open their mouth and say one word to you and it’s real nice you’re like oh
I love that guy you know just one little thing just one little like hey I’m cool
you know I like you kind of thing and it’s like oh man yeah when they say
something humble to you yeah it disarms your ego and you’re all of a sudden
you’re bros yeah it’s so weird but if they don’t if they escalate the ego
situation which then it’s very problematic happens all the time I mean
really that’s the natural course of things because you do have to put on the
brakes on your feelings and be like okay let’s make a different kind of decision
than the automatic one I got to switch to manual real quick and then bling but
the bottom line is you’re gonna interact with all kinds of different people if
you’re in any kind of team want so ever which is most most human beings interact
with other human beings through their job through their life through I mean
you could apply this to your family too right
there’s someone in your family that you don’t get along with well what good does
it do does it make your family unit better when you let those emotions play
out and let your ego play out no it doesn’t you’re better off you’ll get
further and you’ll have a better you’ll have a better life in your family if you
put your ego in check and then say you know what I’m just gonna build a
relationship with this person it’s gonna make everything better and smoother but
it’s like man if you it I feel like you can take the place of any marriage
counselor by just saying that for real like all you have to do is in and they
got to do it but all you got to do is ask like is this gonna help the
relationship with my wife or my family whoever it is in your is this gonna help
the relationship if I do this or don’t do this or is it gonna hurt it and
that’s it that’s it that’s super general question or whatever but it’s it’s so
cut and dry most of the time yeah of course it’s exceptions but generally
speaking it’s pretty cut and dry okay and a lot of time just like I said it
has to do with like your ego or your you know this this sense of vengeance little
micro sense of vengeance because I can’t believe she doesn’t respect the fact
that I took out the trash you know she asked me to take the trash all the time
finally when I do it nothing you know like chilli its I was talking to a
friend of mine and we were talking about you know I’ve talked about the mutiny
that I had yeah yeah Co platoon but we had a mutiny we fight
we had a mutiny against uh our platoon commander we fired he got fired and then
the other guy that came in to take his place was like the best guy mm-hmm and I
was talking to a guy that worked with him much later when he was a senior
senior guy and I was telling him I was like oh when I talk on the podcast about
the platoon commander that was like the best that’s who I’m talking he’s like no
way and and this guy working with he’s a senior guy and he says you know when he
when I worked with him he would take out that he would take out the trash from
the office every day and he and I started laughing said that’s right and
I’d be look and he was saying like oh I look at him and be like sir you know you
don’t need to do that it’s like no no it’s not good you know someone’s got to
take out the trash I got it mm-hmm this is a seat a guy that shouldn’t have
been taking out trash for 25 years taking out the trash
well is he picking up breath picking up brass taking out trash you know that’s
that’s being humble yeah being humble goes a long way
Narcissists get away with bad behavior because they have no shame in who they hurt.