Perhaps it’s time to think about what motivates bullies

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, February 7, 2017

By Charlie Mitchell

The whole world keeps trying to figure out what makes this Trump person tick. Fans and foes alike probe this person’s every word — his decisions, his orders, his announcements, his tweets — on the sincere belief there must be more than meets the eye.

What’s his plan?

Email newsletter signup

Is he practicing politics for personal profit?

Is he Machiavellian, rewarding friends and punishing enemies?

Is he a core conservative who believes that limited government maximizes prosperity?

Is he a closet liberal who sees no problem with sending the national debt past the stratosphere?

Is he racist and sexist but not homophobic?

Is he a stooge for his billionaire buddies, or does he mean it when he says America won’t be great again until its cities are healed and people are working?

Is he well on his way to, “Make America great again?”

The better question may be, “Does he have a plan?”

Bullies, as a rule, don’t.

Bullies become bullies as a mask to cope with their inferiority, their shortcomings. In psychobabble, bullying is a “coping mechanism.”

Remember when Toto pulled back the curtain, revealing to Dorothy that the Wizard of Oz was really a little old stuttering man? The wizard had no answers, no insights. All he had was bluster and blow. Trappings of greatness. Not greatness.

A bully makes fun of the teacher when he doesn’t know the answer to a question.

Could it be that President Trump targets the media — which clearly has longstanding doubts about his authenticity — because he doesn’t have answers?

He made some pretty strong declarations: Rid the planet of Isis. Control spending. Lower taxes. Sweeping infrastructure improvements. Seal the borders. Support the military and veterans. Bring back jobs. Prosperity for all. End regulations that confound capitalism. Save the planet from those who want to save the planet. Replace Obamacare with something better.

Suppose that was your homework.

Where would you start? What would you do?

Of course, in politics giving the appearance of a solution is often as good as a solution. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was to end discrimination in voting. It didn’t. The Clean Water Act was supposed to save stop pollution. The environment is still in trouble. John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963. Guess what? Women are still paid, on average, 20 percent less than men for the same work.

The point is that the challenges Candidate Trump promised so abrasively, so confidently he would be able to address are now in the lap of President Trump. He was dismissive, scornful of the attempts of President Obama and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. He built up the hopes of the faithful that there were quick fixes, such as building a wall or bartering deals to keep manufacturing jobs.

A good guess is that, whether he realizes it or not and while it’s still very early in his presidency, there’s a vast gulf between promising and delivering.

In a more perfect world, the public’s expectations of leaders would not so quickly reach critical mass. In a more perfect world, we would elect people who said, “I’m not sure what we can do about this, but I’ll work at it.” That’s not how it works. We are attracted to the bold visionary, the person who is positive he (or she) can right wrongs overnight — can spend trillions and save trillions at the same time.

It’s possible that with the public setting this standard for leadership we open the door to those who are exceptional at talking the talk and have no clue about how to walk the walk. So they lash out at non-believers in the media and elsewhere. It’s their mechanism for coping with their shortcomings.

Everything preceding this has been opinion and speculation, but here is a fact: A nation can tear itself apart with vitriol and animosity.

All presidents have loathed the media or various components of the media. All presidents have used the media as scapegoats. And there’s this: The press has more than its proportional share of wackos in its ranks.

What’s unprecedented is to have a president who doesn’t think he’s accountable to anyone who disagrees with him. In his inaugural address, President Trump said his victory was all about returning government to the people. It was his main point. The insiders were going to become outsiders.

But to date his actions and orders have been, well, reactionary. Bullies bully because they have no answers. As Texans say, “All hat, no cattle.”

Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at