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Why President Trump Caved: Shame in Helsinki

Making Sense of the Inexplicable

If anyone needs living proof that denial is not just a river in Egypt. President Trump’s support of a ruthless Russian dictator and his crass Helsinki dismissal of the institutions that protect our country have provided it. It also provided a portrait of the impotent rage of a bully acted out dangerously on a world stage.

I assure you: I do not believe in diagnosing an elected official in a public arena. However, I believe there are times when it is imperative to share vital information about the development of well-grounded emotional maturity, and what can go terribly, dangerously wrong in the functioning and awareness of an individual. Now is surely one of these times.

Fortunate individuals grow up in homes where there is secure “attachment” — essential bonding with primary caretakers during one’s early years. This bonding becomes the first floor in an emotional home that leads to the ability to care for and about others, as well as realize that he or she is not the center of the universe. Further, it leads to the ability to differentiate between friend and foe as well as the confidence to confront dangerous adversaries — in other words develop what I describe as a reliable “emotional sense of direction.”

In time, the fortunate are given permission to leave a parental home and carve out their own lives independently. The primary factors that make this healthy “separation-individuation” process impossible — ones that make a child doubt he will ever be able to protect himself, navigate the slippery slopes of life, or communicate with strength and honor— are terrifying rage and inability to find safety within the home, rejection if one displeases a parent, enmeshment (where all family members must agree on all and act as one unit), complete neglect, and extreme overprotection and overindulgence.

Deep within those who cannot separate from their parents is burning, unyielding anger (at themselves for their perceived weakness and at the parent or parents who made independence seem an impossibility). Yet, there is also the terror of expressing anger appropriately. 

Related research by University of Massachusetts doctoral candidate, Matt MacWilliams, became public during the primary of our 2016 presidential primary election. The study showed that the best predictor of those who would back Donald Trump’s candidacy were views about child raising — views that were black and white, held without question, and described as “authoritarian.” Trump supporters could not tolerate their children believing and acting in ways that differed from those stressed in the homes where they were raised.

When permission to think freely is not granted, a child grows into a chronological adult who lacks confidence and is emotionally fragile. In situations where one has learned how to be charming and glib, these traits are used to cover up frailties. Every possible means to keep this cover-up is called upon. Such personalities are ever on the run, often act impetuously, and delight in causing conflict. They cannot tolerate criticism of any type. Nor can they abide another winning what they desire. Unable to tolerate true intimacy, they feel compelled to continuously prove their sexual attractiveness and powers. Often their charm, verve, determination, and ruthlessness propel them to powerful positions, where bullying can become second nature.

Donald Trump’s father’s approach to success and business has been mirrored by his son. Further, it is common knowledge that Trump senior introduced his son to his revered guide, Roy Cohn, the corrupt attorney who helped mastermind the disgraceful reign of Joseph McCarthy during a ruthless witch-hunting period that bears his name. Roy Cohn’s mantra was to get what you want, regardless of how this is accomplished; to never admit an error; and above all, to keep your name in the public press.

Immediately before his Helsinki fiasco, President Trump received detailed information concerning 12 Russians indicted for compromising our electoral system.  Three days before his inauguration he was briefed about proven Russian cyber interference in the 2016 presidential election.  Yet, his frailties and fears made necessary confrontation of Putin an impossibility. Instead, Donald Trump offered sickening praise to a ruthless adversary. Evidence that he had not won the presidency on his own compounded an inability to distance himself from one like Roy Cohn, who had no ethical or moral guidelines. Without question, in Helsinki, the president of our United States aided and continues to aid a dangerous enemy in his quest for world domination.

Helsinki must be an awakening moral tipping point. McCarthyism received its fatal blow during a June 9, 1954 hearing when Boston lawyer, Joseph Welch, finally confronted Joseph McCarthy: “Until this moment, Senator…I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness…Have you no sense of decency?”

Tragically, the Republican Party fears this brave stance. They must at long last address Donald Trump’s reckless, terrifying behavior and displaced rage, and restate these long overdue words. Further, this is a message that voters must echo in the upcoming congressional elections, as well as our next election for the presidency of the United States. The future of our free world depends on it.

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