Denial Sends A Different Message Than Trump Thinks It Does

In yesterday’s post, I described Donald Trump’s obsession with Barack Obama, and the way his resentment over Obama’s clear superiority drives so much of Trump’s embarrassing behavior. I attributed that obsession to Trump’s racism–a racism displayed once again in his appalling tweets telling four Congressional women of color (three of whom were born in the U.S.) to go “back” to “their” countries .

His racism explains a lot, but Trump’s personal deficits and appalling immaturity also contribute to his disastrous Presidency.

Charles Blow recently focused on that immaturity in a column titled “Trump Detests Apologetic Men.” He began by describing Alexander Acosta’s public “explanation” of his recently revealed sweetheart deal with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

It remains to be seen whether Acosta’s news conference performance will save his job. As The New York Times reported, “Mr. Acosta’s appearance before cameras was seen as a crucial test of whether he will keep his job, with an audience of one as President Trump watched and weighed a decision.”

But that’s the thing that stops you: For Trump, this isn’t about the charges or the children. For him, this is about how men perform denial. In the mind of the misogynist, a man’s word is the weightiest thing in society, even when he’s lying. One’s test of survival and prosperity isn’t what you say, but how you say it. It isn’t what you do, but how you defend or deny it.

As Blow notes, it isn’t the facts of this or any other case, that matter to Trump.

It doesn’t matter if you attack the country Trump is sworn to defend, as Russia’s Vladimir Putin did, if you are “extremely strong and powerful” in your denial.

It doesn’t matter if you are accused of giving the order to hack up a Washington Post columnist’s body with a bone saw, as the Saudi Crown Prince is.

It doesn’t matter if you are accused of sexual impropriety, assault or rape — Brett Kavanaugh, Rob Porter, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes. Just deny, deny, deny. Admit nothing.

If a man strongly, passionately denies something, then he has performed his function, he has risen to — or descended to — the moment.

The column included a quotation from Trump that reveals his utter inability to understand the way in which his behaviors are seen by normal, adult persons:

According to Bob Woodward last year, Trump talked about a “friend who had acknowledged some bad behavior toward women.” When counseling that friend on how to respond, Trump said, “You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women.” Trump continued: “If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead. That was a big mistake you made.”

In Trump’s world, apologies and punishments are for the weak. They are for losers.

Of course, that’s the exact opposite of reality in grown-up land. People who refuse to admit their mistakes, who refuse to own their own errors–who refuse to apologize when they’ve misbehaved or even inadvertently offended someone–are actually seen (accurately, I would argue) as immature and insecure.

That’s because defensiveness is childish. It is children who react to accusations by denying they did whatever it was, or by insisting that whatever was said or done was right and the accuser is wrong, no matter the evidence to the contrary. Children must be taught to recognize that everyone makes mistakes, and that people will think better of them, not worse, if they own their behaviors.

People who’ve actually grown up know that it is evidence of maturity to say “I was wrong. I’m sorry” when an apology is indicated.

Of course, some people never do grow up. There’s a reason people so often compare Donald Trump to a third-grader, and it isn’t just his vocabulary.


  1. Yes, Trump is like an elementary school-yard bully, but only to those he perceives as weaker than he is. If they are dictators in Russia, N. Korea, or the Saudi desert, he gives them whatever they want. He’s the worst negotiator and has shown that weakness on the world stage with Putin and others.

  2. Trump’s terminal narcissistic malady demands that he constantly be aware of someone, anyone or anything he can look down on to maintain his sense of self esteem. He now has the highest permission and approval in the world as we know it to feed that need; demeaning Americans hasn’t been a big enough “fix” to maintain his addiction so he has reached out to national leaders around the world, destroying much of our diplomatic relations with them. At this time; presidential election campaign time (which for him began on January 20, 2017), when he needs the votes; he has taken dead aim at 4 newly elected, more highly qualified elected officials than himself to target. There were a few hints on MSNBC and CNN yesterday before and after the “Team” held their news conference; that his racist insults may have backfired. It was hinted that the House Democrats had united with them as they all spoke of the many problematic issues of the Trump administration which they were there to resolve for all American people. Something Trump simply cannot comprehend.

    “Of course, some people never do grow up. There’s a reason people so often compare Donald Trump to a third-grader, and it isn’t just his vocabulary.”

  3. Trump perceives himself as strong, he loves to associated himself with strong men, absolute authoritarians. But Trump knows that is not what he is, he is a fearful scared child and that will never change. When a person is scared, when a person wants to be something they are not they lie. But Trump is not only fearful, he’s a deviat. If the Russians have anything on Donald Trump, it’s probably dealing with underage children. Trump alluded to his proclivities in the 90s in a Chicago Tribune story when he spoke to a young girl in a talent show and said, “you know what? in a few years I’ll be dating you!” Now, for anyone who thinks like that, is definitely a deviat. Trump has basically screamed from the mountain tops what he is, by his stories and anecdotes, by those that He defends, and by the support of those who do the things that he’s alluded to himself. So, when he’s doing these things, when he’s alluding to these things, we should believe this is who he is. it’s not by coincidence that the people who really like him, his strongest and staunchest supporters, laugh at anyone who try to point this out. It is like Donald Trump is their permission slip to indulge in the deepest darkest maleficent urges they have and it’s okay. Kind of like that movie Purge where anything goes on that particular night. Except with Trump and his supporters, it’s a long long long night.

  4. And as he continues to demean the office of the President, the Republicans continue to jump on the Trump train to nowhere. The death of the Republican party is the slowest and ugliest death in history.

  5. Were they alive today, D.C. Stephenson would be a dt supporter and Madge Oberholzer, had she survived that trip to Chicago & testified against Stephenson, would be just as roundly berated & demeaned as women who accused dt & his minions. (btw: 2020 marks 100 years since Stephenson, to profit from evil and to gain power, moved to Indiana and headed the kluxers. In 1925 he kidnaped and raped Ms Oberholzer, who committed suicide by swallowing mercury. On her death bed she gave a statement that resulted in Stephenson’s conviction for homicide. Thus the kluxers were shoved from power.)

  6. Cowardice is the essential nature of a bully. That’s why 45 is so obsequious to the world’s strongmen. Most bullies also have a “posse” that follows them around and cheers their behavior. Our favorite bully has the Republican Party as his posse. The absence of outrage from Senate and House Republicans over the past week just might be the most alarming exhibition of cowardice we have seen since McCarthy.

  7. Thank you mark small; Stephenson was the NATIONAL Grand Dragon of the KKK while living here in Irvington, his KKK political control was strong on the NATIONAL level; governors, mayors, all political levels. It all collapsed when one of his trusted kluxers had kept documents he had ordered destroyed; after Ms. Oberholzer’s death he produced them at trial, bringing about a NATIONAL collapse of much of the KKK. It is never surprising to me that Indiana remains a racist state; it has been Klan Kountry for many years.

  8. Alas, we have a substantial number of Christian denominations who reinforce this message of “men’s declarations are the final word” Sunday after Sunday. This leads to a flock that will back Trump, Kavanaugh, Acosta, and every man who lies. The flock includes children who grow up with the same world view.

    I don’t know how you break that cycle. It’s simply reason No. 843 that I despair for our nation.

  9. What about the denial of Mike Pence?

    He may actually be 45s teacher…he saw nothing wrong at the detention camps…”those people” have great facilities.

    I believe closed-minded people have the denial trait as well. I’ve read the comments defending Trump/Pence and my mind rolls with my eyes. This is why they all need to be replaced and never allowed to govern humankind or the planet. They are mentally (GOPs) not equipped for the job.

    May have to add Governor Holcomb to the same denial ridden manager. 😉

  10. ALL,

    Do any of you find it becoming more and more difficult to tolerate the trump supporters?

    I find them to be absolutely disgusting and I really don’t want to be around them at all. When I do have the misfortune to be in their presence in a public setting I am unable to hide my disgust of them and they are quite aware of it. Words are not needed. Eyes and body language clearly convey the message.

  11. Trump’s tactics are intuitively brilliant for those who elected him:

    1. Militarize the 4th and put the President at the center. As he told one aide, are they going to attack me for being too patriotic?

    2. Immigration. If I can’t build the wall because of the Dems and liberal judges, I can lock and round them up while treating them like the criminals they are. Let’s identify them by making them answer the question on the census. If they don’t, we don’t want them counted anyway.

    3. The Quad Squad is the perfect foil for his racist, sexist, anti-Muslim and nationalism tropes.

    4. Never admit anything. Defensiveness is childish.

    5. I alone am the source of the truth. Don’t believe “fake news”.

    6. He doesn’t fear Biden. He wants the association with Obama, someone with policies more like Hillary than any other candidate, someone his age and too polite to respond in kind to his attacks.

    This is how he got elected and how he hopes to get elected again.

  12. One bad thing about completely pervasive audio visual advertising/propaganda/fake news/brainwashing is that lies are now legitimized as marketing.

  13. Even scarier than the McCarthy-ism redux from the orange hairball, are the “jokes” about staying around as president for maybe 16 more years. This psychopath thinks he’ll live forever. And as good cultists, his white, male, insecure, racist, bigoted posse will follow him to Hell.

    I don’t care what the “polls” are saying, Trump’s audience is shrinking and becoming more radical. So, expect to see Trump become more radical. He can’t get any smaller.

  14. Nancy; fortunately my Trump supporting neighbors ignore me as if I carried the plague. I’m sure that could change next year when I post my Democrat -whoever it is – for president and repost my “Pence Must Go” yard sign. At this time; that is the only thing I have to look forward to. They will ignore my Hogsett sign this November.

  15. Sheila, your explanation fits Trump’s base to a “T”. White Evangelicals embrace a childish ideology with an immature faith based on idle fables, then strenuously deny science, logic, facts, even the process of reason, to defend their childish beliefs. The man-child Trump is a perfect fit for his White Evangelical base.

  16. Some have said Candidate Agent Orange captured the GOP from Country Club Republicans. Actually since Nixon’s Southern Strategy the dog whistles have been employed by various means. The addition of the Evangelicals and other Reactionaries back in the 1980’s pushed the Country Club Republicans to the side. However, the Country Club Republicans had the power of money to fund their candidates. The anti-science, anti-big government sentiments were perfect for the 1%.

    To a degree, perhaps to a large degree the more authoritarian and male dominated an institution is the more likely sexual abuse is tolerated to the point of being covered up think of the scandals in the Roman Catholic Church.

    President Agent Orange is just the culmination or marriage of like minded people – The GOP and President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence. The fact that President Agent Orange demeans and attacks people on a personal basis is taken as a mark of strength to the Trumpter’s.

    Make no mistake, President Agent Orange is just the ugly public manifestation of what the GOP has become.

  17. Nancy, I cannot bear to be around Trump supporters any longer. They think that all we have is a difference of opinion, but when I pinned one to the wall with how the laws he wanted could have caused my death, he started screaming at me to stop trying to change his mind and fell back to a declaration based on false news. Clearly, I had struck a nerve, and his identity is so wrapped up with Trump that he panicked. For me, it was a painful lesson that their cult is so strong that even the lives of family and friends mean nothing. I have zero patience for them now. I am very angry, but I also feel a profound sadness.

  18. Yes, children lie, cheat and steal and this has been a good role model for Trump but one must ask, “where are the adults that hold the child responsible and what are the consequences to the child?”

  19. We forget that Trump’s modus operandi in operating his business was learned from his mentor Roy Cohn who was the lawyer and supporter of Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthyism created a cruel witch hunt for Communists that created havoc in the country in the 1950s. Cohn was eventually disbarred for his unethical behavior. It was his motto: If accused, sue, if you lose, claim victory. Does this sound familiar?

  20. All,

    I hear and sense a growing “hatred” for Trump supporters. If this is happening for you, it means you are letting “Him” change you for the worse. Yes, obviously there are bad people among them; there are bad Jews, bad Muslims, bad Blacks, etc.. We are all human beings and complex with the lives that can go in different directions. But, by making them “the other”, you are succumbing to the same horrible virus.

    Once we depose him in 2020, we will need the “reasonable who have been blinded by fear” to rebuild our democracy for our grandkids. And we will need, by real actions, to be inclusive of them and improve their lives and opportunities so they will never go back from whence they are now…

  21. John Sorg, you are right. Period. Also, “His racism explains a lot, but Trump’s personal deficits and appalling immaturity also contribute to his disastrous Presidency.”
    We have been held hostage for almost four years now by a Republican Party’s spokesperson who has done exactly what they wanted him to do: 1. sew unrest in a world going brown, 2. divide, divide, divide, 3. give those who are fearful for their economic lives someone to blame, and 4. ensure the stability of their status in a long term white dominated world. When all this is behind us (if it ever is) much will be disclosed about the depth of outside interference and if we manage to work things out/compromise on a national level without civil war, we are going to have to come to terms with our history of persecution of the ‘other’. From day one, we have persecuted all who spilled (and who were forced )onto our shores from across the ocean.

  22. Lester; I have won my battle NOT to hate Trump, e al, and their supporters, have turned it to disgust. The battle against fear is not yet won; not for myself but for his direct targets as well as my younger family generations and others. Evil is triumphant over good in this country at this time and we are discovering enemies in some surprising areas…our own families, former fiends and neighbors…while we seem to be losing the battle to maintain normal relationships as Sherry’s experience proves. The entire country is losing the safety factor of aid from our allies of decades as we now must also fear our enemies whom Trump has riled and defiled with his threats. We may find ourselves alone in this world; where do we seek asylum?

  23. JoAnne – thanks for sharing. Knowledge is power…look at the differences in opinions and voting of those with more education. And it isn’t just “more”; it needs to be truth-focused and built around critical thinking. I again refer to my “bible” – “Teaching As a Subversive Activity”.

    There are other steps that can be taken, especially given the continued direction/propaganda of the White House (the Wizard behind the screen – Steve Miller).

  24. ALL, Do any of you find it becoming more and more difficult to tolerate the trump supporters?

    Yes!!!!!!!!! And the greatest sadness for me is that my brother is one of them. He lives on the opposite side of the country from me, so we don’t have to be in each other’s presence. I think he has me blocked on Facebook — never responds to anything, good or bad. He seems to think Trump is good for “business” and that’s all that matters to him.

    Another fear I have is that when the election is held, a) the elections will be rigged in favor of Trump, both from within and from outside the country; b) if there is a Democrat elected, Trump will refuse to leave and who will challenge him? Based on the current Democratic leadership’s gutless response to the daily refusal to obey the rule of law by top people in the current administration, I can’t see what will stop him from taking dictatorial charge of us and I believe enough of his supporters are radical enough and well-armed enough to back him. We already have so many formerly supposed law-abiding Senators backing whatever he wants and cabinet heads that are dismantling our protections, what will indeed stop him? I had a friend say “The Military” — well then, we really are sunk then!

  25. I believe Trump reminds many of themselves. I could even point to a couple of regular reader/contributors here at this very forum that have a seemingly similar personality to Trump.

    Trump–like herpes,is the gift that keeps on giving. He has provided the cover many of you have needed for a long time. The facade has been lifted and what has been revealed is the burning hate many of you always had for others. In the midst of this evolution we’ve learned how much the establishment Democrats hate the left as well. That’s what brings establishment Democrats and Republicans together–their hatred for the Left.

    Frankly,this blog seems to be nothing more than allowing an old and aging group of affluent Caucasians the forum to show their hate toward others …Trump is just the excuse/cover. The hate has always been there. Now, it has a focus. Moreover,that unabated hate explains the overuse of virtue signaling…

    It’s good Nancy lost her bid for public office,she doesn’t have the appropriate temperament for such responsibility.

  26. We amateur though with some professional psychologists as well are having a field day in trying to describe Trump’s bizarre conduct, but I am beginning to think that he is simply mentally ill (an illness or set of illnesses I have no qualifications to diagnose), and that we can ascribe multiple illnesses to such conduct. This, of course, is not the primary problem. The primary problem is that we have a mentally ill person clothed with the enormous power and bully pulpit of a president in charge of everything from tariffs to immigration to nuclear war, whatever the symptoms we like to describe. It really wouldn’t matter even if his conduct were good; we cannot have a mentally ill person in that position. He has to go before he does more damage to America, its people, and indeed the world.

  27. Maywin, absolutely! The sad thing is that a majority of his followers claim to be Christian, but they follow the man and not Christ. They completely go against Christ’s teachings and expect some sort of reward for their actions. One of the commenters said that they believe Trump is just mentally ill, well, he is mentally ill, narcissists are mentally ill, those who self aggrandize themselves are mentally ill, look at Adolf Hitler, or Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Vladimir Putin, who by the way is persecuting Christians in Russia by the truckload, even locking them up in prison. I wonder what the Christians in the United States think about that? And why they don’t clamour for their fearless leader, Donald Trump, to intercede in that criminal act. It is a mob mentality, it is something evil to be sure. I sat in the doctor’s office the other day and intently listened to older white patients watch CNN and laugh at the commentator talking about how Donald Trump was crazy and wrong. They said to themselves as they were watching that they were glad he is their president and they would support him again. So, Insanity runs deep. The idea of exacting some sort of pain on the other side or revenge, even at the risk of cutting their own nose off to spite their face, seems worth it to them. Losing their healthcare, having to pay more in taxes because of the gerrymandered withholding Donald Trump had the IRS do last year. And then, when they had to actually pay taxes instead of getting a refund, they blamed it on Obama, LOL! You just can’t make this stuff up, and the mental illness and stupidity has always been there, along with the bigotry and fear, they just feel authorized to promote anarchy now. Make no mistake, why all definitions, they are anarchists.

  28. Gerald Bostock; what scares me is, while we are all side-tracked worrying about Russia hacking into another election, how many other countries are doing the same thing…possibly with assistance from those in Trump’s family and administration with deep foreign connections? Are we being distracted by the open connections they don’t try to hide?

    Just because we are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t all out to get us!

  29. The annual meetings in Davos have paid off and now the aristocrats of the world are poised again to retake what they see as their world. We of course are reluctant to refight the revolutions that deposed them again so are at least partially convinced that freedom is not worth it.

    They hate Trump too probably as much as the German aristocracy hated Hitler then but then and now found and find a thick headed bully to be a useful off the books employee.

    We are not sufficiently outraged or realistic or organized to defend our gifts from heroes before us.

  30. Gerald Bostock,

    You haven’t been issued a license to judge anyone. Try something else.

  31. Vernon – Amen, brother! And, if I recall, Sheila has already issued a warning about attacking each other….Trump rubbing off???

  32. Gerald Bostock,

    You have made it clear in your post that you believe you possess a much superior brain and hold much more knowledge about this country, world, our politics, and so much more than the rest of us do.

    For example: You decided, with no real knowledge whatsoever about me, that I do not have the temperament to hold a public office.

    Here is my assessment of you: Based upon your comments, you absolutely match the definition of a white male with a superiority complex. In addition, you possess a highly overrated value of yourself and your mental capacity.

    In conclusion, your apparent passion and need to judge others on this blog (and most likely anyone you personally come across) reflects the personality and temperament of a person who is to be pitied.

    I suggest that you not ever again personally attack me or anyone else on this blog. It will not go well for you.

  33. To those of you who answered my question about becoming less tolerant of trump supporters:

    Thanks for your responses. I read them and appreciate your answers and views.

  34. Oh,that’s right! How dare I judge others!!! Being among a group of aging Caucasians that do nothing but constantly moan about others ….How DARE THAT BLACK GUY JUDGE US AND DISPARAGE US OVER OUR OWN HYPOCRISY!!

    I need to get myself to the back of the bus and STFU!!!

    Perhaps that could be the new slogan from the DNC? STFU!!!

    I forgot,the privilege of ceaselessly trumpeting (pun) value judgements upon others is the exclusive provenance of this privileged group of Caucasians!

    I’ll keep this in mind..

    When Democrats discuss social problems, it’s largely a performative dance focused not on addressing those problems but using those problems to validate their own social status.

    Yep,you let me know MY PLACE!!! Thank YOU MASTER!!

  35. JoAnn,

    Congratulations (in your first comment, first sentence) on helping to assure the survival of the much maligned subjunctive mood. It cries out, as it were, for protection.

  36. Gerald Bostock,

    Oooh! So you have finally confessed to being a victim who has launched himself into the Lord’s chair of judgement. Is it because you feel you are the victim, or did you just save your racial identity in order to justify your attacks on others you don’t know. Sounds like you’re exactly like the caucasians you so clearly despise. What do you see in the mirror? A mirror, or a hypocrite?

  37. I think I understand the demented mind of trump and why he is so unfit and incapable a leader. I am less understanding of the seemingly normal people who empower and continue to prop him up.

  38. Gerald,
    I’m definitely old and aging. Also Caucasian, but affluent not. Not even close to the middle. I’ve worked with and for the established Democrat Party in years past, but currently have moved too far left for their comfort. What my experience has taught me is that the establishment Dems do not “hate” me, but they do fear the ideas I express and support. Here in Indiana change comes so slowly that any move away from the established course is considered a revolution.
    And by the way, I did not know, nor do I think it relevant, that you are black.

  39. Hi Gerald S. —
    Yes, Trump has a mental illness — which is like saying to a cardiologist, he has a blood disorder. He has a PERSONALITY DISORDER. Personality disorders are included within the broad scope of “mental illnesses”, but a little understanding here may be helpful. Personality disorders describe clusters of personality traits that when they occur in a one individual indicate a disorder. Trump by all appearances has Narcissistic Personality disorder: (NPD) involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Others often describe people with NPD as cocky, manipulative, selfish, patronizing, and demanding. NPD falls under a category called Cluster B personality disorders which are characterized by: dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior and interactions with others. The problem with personality disorders, unlike other mental illnesses, is in many cases those who have these disorders see no problem with their behavior and are usually unmotivated to seek treatment. Other mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and bipolar usually produce symptoms that the patient finds very uncomfortable and for which they seek treatment. NPD seems related to childhood issues including childhood abuse or neglect, excessive parental pampering and/or unrealistic expectations from parents. To say “we cannot have a mentally ill person in that position” is to lump all mentally ill people into one unfortunate bag. Many of us with a mental illness get treatment and/or take meds which keeps our symptoms manageable much the same way that diabetics take insulin or check their blood.
    Hope that was helpful.

  40. I’m reading these blog comments and watching what is happening on the House floor. Fortunately both are a virtual reality to me.

    Joanne Freeman in a new book reports that between 1830-60 Congressmen engaged in more than seventy violent incidents of duels, fist fighting and stabbings among themselves.

  41. This blog is disturbing today, on all fronts. This is what I hate, hate, hate – the division and fear that trump (yes him personally) has caused in our country. Can’t we express opinions and not berate each other? Lester’s contribution at 11:14 is food for thought. It is all just so depressing, and I don’t see things getting better any time soon. Especially with all the in-fighting among Democrats. Putin is laughing at us, I’m sure.

  42. Thanks, LInda. There are many worse things to feed than thought as we have seen in the blog posts today. May tomorrow and forward be more civil (ized)…

  43. Terry; should we submit out conclusions to Bandy Lee, M.D., who compiled the book “The Dangerous Case Of Donald Trump” in case a sequel is in the planning stage. We can add to the 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts whose moral and civic “duty to warn” regarding what “condition his condition is in” shortly after his inauguration. All were subjective on his subjunctive mood(s) prior to what we have witnessed these past 2 1/ years. Just sayin’

  44. Kathy,

    I think the term you’re looking for is MALIGNANT NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER. It is a very short step from this condition to outright psychopathy. Not all psychopaths are overt killers, and if you look it up you will find that Trump’s behavior and outbursts check off all the boxes for this condition.

  45. Vernon —
    The DSM 5 does not recognize the term “Malignant” as part of the PD known as Narcissistic.

  46. The reason that Trump and his followers have departed
    so far from American norms is …


    We gave him an inch and they took 3.8 million square miles.

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