by James A. Kidney
Poor Donald Trump. He appears to have no close friends. That wouldn’t matter to us — except that he has a real shot at becoming our next president. So it does matter — a lot.
Does he have close friends? A Google search suggests not. Take it from folks who call him a friend but, on closer examination, appear to be more in the nature of golfing partners with whom he has a business interest, such as Richard LeFrak, identified by The New York Times as “a fellow real estate tycoon who has known Mr. Trump for more than 40 years” (Trump identified LeFrak to the Times as one of two people, plus his wife and children, he called his best friends. The other one wouldn’t talk to the newspaper.)
“He’s very gregarious and has lots of acquaintances,” LeFrak told The Times. “But people that he’s close to? Not so many.” The Times report concluded that Trump’s “actual social circle has a fairly small diameter — even in his hometown, New York.”
At the end of 2015, a correspondent for Mother Jones wrote:
I’ve been wondering for a while whether Trump has any friends. Real friends, that is. Not family members, not people who work for him, and not celebrity buddies who have a casual acquaintance with him. I’m talking about people he’s worked with frequently and who like him. People he hangs out with regularly. People from his childhood or college years that he’s stayed close to. Are there any? I can’t tell. Nobody from the New York development community seems willing to say anything about him, which would make sense if they all dislike him but don’t want to trigger a temper tantrum. Who needs the grief, right? How about childhood friends? Not that I’ve heard of. Trump seems to view people almost entirely transactionally, as assets to be deployed, so it would hardly be surprising if none of them had stayed close. Given his penchant for demanding sycophancy, and lashing out instantly against even a hint of criticism, I suppose it would be hard to have any real long-term friends or even any long-term business pals. It’s kind of sad, actually.
A web site called Ranker.com identifies a bunch of celebrities as friends of Trump, calling none of them close, only “famous friends”. One of them, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, has been dead since 1779. There is no explanation of how he got on the list along with Kathy Hilton (mother of D-list celeb Paris Hilton), Mark Burnett (who produced Trump’s show The Apprentice) and Matt Lauer, host of the Today Show.
Ranker lists as Trump’s Number One friend Abe Wallach, who once served as head of acquisitions for the Trump organization. He told The Times that Trump would invite him to join he and Trump’s then-wife, Marla Maples, for a flight to Atlantic City for a weekend. “Donald would call and say, ‘Abe, what are you doing? Marla and I are flying down to Atlantic City. You and David want to come?’ I always thought: ‘Why me? I work with him all week. Isn’t there someone else?'”
Trump and his campaign team surely knew that a key issue Trump had to address at the Republican convention was his capacity to be president. This is not a cosmetic issue. Trump has shown himself to be childish, abusive, narcissistic, ignorant of policy issues and temperamental. Some narcissism is necessary to run for the presidency, but Trump takes it to an extreme, as he does the other aforementioned characteristics. The convention was a place to ease public concern. If he had any close friends who could identify more gentle, more normal traits from Trump’s personal life, the convention was the time to call upon them to speak up. But the only character witnesses were his children, all of whom also are in his employ. Let’s assume their praise was genuine. Even so, there were no stories of their personal life confirming the assertions of Trump’s good qualities. And, after all, they are his children. Presumably they love him, but are prejudiced thereby.
If Trump even tried to meet a goal of causing less concern about his personality and character at the convention (not clear he intended to do so), he failed. His dystopian picture of the United States and the world, along with his wholly self-centered and ungrounded prescriptions for a cure (“only I can do it”), merely confirmed the portrait he presented during the primary season.
Could a reason Trump is so angry, antagonistic and self-centered be his lack of friends? There is lots of pop psychology, some of it based on scientific studies, suggesting that real friendships are a key to health and happiness. According to one Psychology Today column, having close friends means “you will be more optimistic, less bothered by life’s hassles, less likely to engage in damaging behaviors, and less likely to suffer from debilitating stress.” This was sourced to a 1991 paper in Psychology and Aging.
An online column by the Mayo Clinic suggests reasons why Trump has few, if any, friends. It advises that to nurture friendship you should, among other things:
— Accept others. “Don’t judge… Don’t belittle or make fun of what the other person thinks or feels.”
— Be positive. “Nonstop complaining puts a strain on a friendship.”
— Don’t compete. “Don’t let friendships turn into a battle over who makes the most money or who has the nicest home. Instead, admire then talents and celebrate their good fortune.”
— Listen up. “Ask what’s going on in your friends’ lives. Let the other person know you are paying close attention through eye contact, body language and occasional brief comments like, ‘That sounds fun.'”
— Respect boundaries. “Try not to ask questions that make your friends uncomfortable.”
It seems clear why Donald Trump has no friends outside of his family. If he did, he would not be Donald Trump.
A man who cannot make friends, and has not done so his entire life, is not a person we should put in the White House. He is a man who takes counsel only from himself and recognizes the virtues of no one with greater or better experience. He will favor sycophants and attack even reasoned criticism and critics. He will be easily discouraged and lash out when he fails to succeed. He will be dangerous.