When President Trump delivered his remarks in South Korea, I was struck by how many times he accused North Korea’s Kim Jong Un of traits and conduct that characterize his own administration and its enablers. Psychologists call this projection – the attribution of qualities to others that apply to, but one denies in, oneself.
For instance, he bellowed, “The regime fears the truth above all else . . . .” This is from the man who sent CIA Director Mike Pompeio to meet with a debunked conspiracy theorist and who lies with impunity at every turn. Lest you think I exaggerate, as of Oct. 9, 2017, fact checkers at the Washington Post had tallied more than 1,300 Trump lies and misleading claims – just since the inauguration – or about 5 a day.
Then Trump shouted: “In place of a vibrant society, the people . . . are bombarded by state propaganda practically every waking hour of the day.” Again, this is from the man who daily sends out the shameless Sarah Huckabee Sanders to spin her web of deceit and duplicity before the White House press corps. He calls out credible reporters by name as “totally dishonest,” “disgusting,” “corrupt,” and “scum,” and the media collectively – other than his fawning sycophants at Fox News – as “the enemy of the American people.”
Next, he claimed that North Korea is little more than a “cult” at whose center “is a deranged belief in the leader’s destiny to rule as parent protector.” Remember Trump’s brag at the Republican National Convention: “Only I can fix it!” And his recent assertion, “I am the only one that matters.” And, of course, there’s his chilling and pathetic boast “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” All this sounds pretty cultish to me.
Then Trump complained that the North Korean regime has broken international commitments. We need look no further than Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Trans Pacific Partnership to see that he models the same behavior. And, of course, he has threatened to walk away from NAFTA, if our partners in this hemisphere don’t accede to his demands. For a time, it looked like he might even walk away from NATO.
Finally – and perhaps most telling – he slammed the regime for seeking conflict abroad to distract from “total failure that they suffer at home.” Yup, we can check that box too. In fact, that’s exactly what he was doing in his speech in South Korea.
They say it takes one to know one. I couldn’t help but think, as I listened to Trump’s list of grievances against Kim Jong Un, that – in so very many respects – he was describing himself as well.