What Trump’s Feud With George Conway Reveals About the President

Like many people in Canada and the US these days, I’ve been intrigued by the Trump vs. George Conway feud. Trump has never shied away from a good scrap. The list of his adversaries wraps all around Washington and then some, and on a given weekend we can typically find him spewing out vicious tweets about his latest adversary.

George Conway has been a staunch Republican but he became disillusioned by Trump over the Muslim ban and ever since that time, he’s made it clear that Trump no longer has his support. It appears that Trump hasn’t been able to tolerate George’s defection — perhaps he’s that much more aggrieved because Conway is married to one of Trump’s most trusted advisors — and as a result, Trump has not hesitated to excoriate this latest betrayer.

Not that I’m offering up any diagnostic suggestions but Trump’s enraged response to Conway reminds me of something called “narcissistic rage,” or the fury experienced by someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder when another person causes them to feel humiliated by publicly disagreeing with them or disapproving their behavior.

For his part, George isn’t shying away from a fight, and he gives at least as good as he gets. Just the other day, Conway wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, saying that regardless of the findings of the Mueller report, Trump is guilty of being unfit for office.

The back-and-forth of Trump and Conway’s feud.

Earlier in the week, Trump had accused Conway of being jealous of his wife, Kellyanne’s success, and insisted that George Conway had been attacking Trump out of his own weakness. Trump also called George Conway a “stone cold loser” and a “whack job” in his recent tweets.

Conway, in turn, went to Twitter and diagnosed Trump with both Narcissistic and Antisocial Personality Disorder, citing the criteria straight out of every psychiatrist’s bible: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

While I’m not sure why Conway is wasting his time engaging in an unwinnable war of words with Donald Trump — unwinnable because a reasonable, ethical person can never win against someone who has no limits to the bad behavior they’re willing to engage in — it appears that the president’s motivation is the strategy of “divide and conquer.”

Divide and conquer — a strategy for splitting up pairs.

Divide and conquer is a well-known tactic whereby an individual attempts to drive a wedge between two people who are closely connected. It’s a ploy used by highly aggressive, combative individuals who are prepared to do anything and everything to defeat those whom they perceive as their opponents.

The reason for this could be that Trump is jealous of an adversary who’s in a good relationship; this could be because Trump himself appears incapable of forming meaningful or satisfying attachments. Perhaps Trump resents George being part of a happy couple and feels the need to punish him for “one-upping” Trump by having such a close marital bond.

Not that I’m diagnosing Trump — I have neither examined him personally nor received his permission to comment on his diagnosis in public — but interestingly, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will often have these motivations and engage in these types of behaviors.

The aim of the divide and conquer technique is to create trouble between the previously united pair, thereby destabilizing them, and when they’re weakened, presumably they’ll be easier to subdue. It would make sense for Trump to assume that George Conway would be destabilized by a rupture in his marital relationship.

Trump risks hurting both Conways with this feud.

The part that’s less clear is what motivation Trump might have to destabilize the marriage, and therefore the life, of one of his most trusted advisors. Usually, the strategy of divide and conquer is used against two enemies. It’s a very different and far more intriguing tactic when used against one enemy and one ally.

It’s not surprising that Trump would want to hurt George, his nemesis, and that he’d do this is by pulling Kellyanne toward himself and away from her husband. It’s akin to the behavior of a schoolyard bully who steals a friend from another kid, not because they like the new friend but in order to take this person away from someone who they resent.

It’s not surprising that Trump would be so vindictive toward George that he’d maneuver to end his marriage, but it’s a much trickier move when it comes to Kellyanne. By aiming to get her to “prove” her loyalty to her boss, he’s putting her into an impossible position. Whichever man she chooses, Kellyanne can’t win

It’s very risky for Trump to be putting Kellyanne in the position of having to choose between her husband and her boss. Trump risks making her angry or at least disillusioned toward him and he risks losing an extremely important ally, but then again, Trump has never been averse to risk, even when these risks are potentially self-destructive.

Antisocial personalities are destructive to self and others.

Again, interestingly, and not that I’m diagnosing Trump, but part of the diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder is a pattern of reckless disregard for one’s own safety and that of others.

Just the other day, a report came out saying that Trump appeals to men who have “fragile masculinity,” and are secretly insecure about their manhood. Trump does an awful lot of macho posturing and apparently this is reassuring to men who aren’t confident within themselves.

Whenever someone tries too hard to prove a point, I’m always skeptical. In general, a confident person has nothing to prove because they know who they are and they feel good about themselves, and only the insecure person needs to go on about how great they are. The more they brag about themselves, the more they list all their amazing attributes, the more insecure it shows that they are, deep down inside.

The more a person needs to prove something, the more insecure they are.

Another interesting thing to note is that the more argumentative a person is, the less capable they are of tolerating disagreement or disapproval. Rather than indicating forcefulness or strength of character, Trump’s constant stream of arguments with people from every corner of his existence would actually indicate a deeply insecure, overly defensive individual who is so threatened by dissent that he’s compelled to attack anyone who isn’t entirely affirming to him.

George Conway must be really getting Trump’s goat, especially because Trump sees Kellyanne as “his” ally. No wonder he’s trying to divide and conquer this duo. To Trump’s fragile ego, there’s only one person that Kellyanne must be loyal to, and that can only be him.

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Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series

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Marcia Sirota

Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series