Time cover gets Trump just right

June 8, 2018

Michael D'Antonio is author of the book, "Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success" (St. Martin's Press). The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)Time magazine has connected the dots of Donald Trump's intensely personal presidency. The magazine's cover features the President in his business suit, staring into a mirror that reflects him in regal splendor, complete with crown. "King Me," declares the cover line, but the good stuff is announced in the headlines below: "Visions of Absolute Power," "Trump vs the Constitution" and "Why Mueller Won't Indict."

Who is Donald Trump?

Who is Donald Trump? In these pieces, Molly Ball, Tessa Berenson, Neal Katyal and Jack Goldsmith define the style and practices of a man who leads in the brutal and imperious fashion of a cartoon monarch. The roots of this ignoble attitude run all the way back to the President's childhood as the scion of one of America's wealthiest men in a family where he was groomed to royal ways."You are a killer, you are a king," was the mantra intoned by President Trump's father Fred as he taught his boys to believe in their right to rule. This detail, reported in Harry Hurt III's biography "Lost Tycoon, The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump," is a chilling marker for anyone trying to understand the degraded condition of politics under our current president. In biographies of Trump, including my own, "The Truth About Trump," one is introduced to a man raised by an imperious father and a mother besotted by the British royals. Ask Trump about his mom, as I did, and the most acute memory he relates finds her gaping at the television as Queen Elizabeth was coronated. In every telling, Fred Trump comes across as a stern, absent father devoted to his real estate empire. He was so insistent that he be obeyed that a 13-year-old, troublesome Donald was forced to enroll at a military academy. And yet it was one of these men, young Donald's role model Theodore Dobias, who told me that he regarded Fred Trump as overly tough -- or as he put it "a real German."

The problem isn't Trump's brain. It's his heart

The problem isn't Trump's brain. It's his heartI touch on Trump's childhood because his behavior, bullying and heedless, challenges everything we have come to expect from a president. Seemingly incapable of recognizing his responsibilities to institutions that make the country a more just and peaceable nation, Trump acts more like a boy tyrant than a mature political figure. He can perform like a facsimile of a president under extreme circumstances; remember the notecard that coached him on empathy when he met with school shooting survivors? But when he is on his own, he reverts consistently to childlike displays of cruelty and gloating. The infantile, all-about-me aspect of Trump can be seen in the way he abuses his pardoning power to score points against his political foes and law enforcement officials, and made nuclear diplomacy into a performance piece featuring his own ego. Trump so personalized his approach to North Korea that he made Kim Jong Un his equal -- just another child in the sandbox -- and failed to establish a position that seems likely to allow for real negotiations at the upcoming summit. Trump's personalization of the presidency has crippled him in his dealings with Kim, inspired him to degrade institutions like the free press and judiciary, and attempted to make a mockery of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Unable to see outside himself and value the system that transcends one presidency or one moment, Trump sacrifices the future for the sake of himself. Follow CNN OpinionJoin us on Twitter and FacebookAll that makes Trump regard himself as Time's "King Me" has been evident since he became a public figure in the 1970s. His father's intonation -- killer, king -- was so powerful that, combined with the son's talents, it produced the ongoing crisis that is his White House rule. The founders of our republic fashioned a government in a way that was supposed to constrain a kingly executive like Trump. Now that we have one, we will see if what they built will stand the test. 


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