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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.