Donald Trump was asked a seemingly innocuous question by the Times of London over the weekend: Name a few of your heroes. Here's how Trump responded:
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 16, 2017
Um, okay. Let's unpack this.
Trump makes clear he likes neither heroes nor the concept of heroes. But, he never says why. He then transitions into:
1) Talking about how he respected his dad.
2) How negotiating ability is like a gene — you either have it or you don't (which sort of reads as Trump making clear he didn't learn to negotiate from his dad).
3) A rehashing of the Republican primary fight, which concluded roughly seven months ago.
4) An argument that talent is what matters most in success.
5) A return to sort-of praising his dad for teaching him leadership (although he, again, believes that is the sort thing you are born with).
I take away three things from this “answer” from Trump.
Number one is that his tendency to just talk when asked something is very much on display here. This is a stream of consciousness answer for the ages. Trump goes from heroes to winning the Republican primary within seconds. Then to baseball and golf and then to his dad. It may make more sense to watch than to read. But it makes no sense to read.
Second, Trump is just not introspective. A question about heroes by its very nature necessitates some level of introspection from the person to whom it is asked. What makes a hero? What are the traits you most admire in a person? Who are the sorts of people that you model yourself after? Trump simply doesn't open up. Ever. He is constantly moving forward. He doesn't look back. He doesn't second guess. He assumes he has always done the right thing. In a way, it's a remarkable personality trait and one that as someone who constantly second guesses himself, I sort of admire. The point is that Trump doesn't engage in navel-gazing in public — and, my guess is, in private either.
Third, Trump views himself as totally sui generis. He owes no one for his successes. He models himself after no one. There is no blueprint for Donald Trump except the one he writes for himself. Viewed through that lens, Trump's odd transition from a dismissal of heroes to a discussion of how he beat so many candidates in the Republican primary actually makes sense. The truth is Trump views himself as a prime mover of history, someone who makes new paths rather than following old ones. What Trump was really saying then was that he doesn't believe in heroes only singular men in history — of which he considers himself one. He believes they only made one Donald Trump and then broke the mold.
The way in which Trump reveals his true nature is often when he is seemingly just talking to talk. The assumptions he makes — or refuses to make — speak to a worldview at which he, alone, sits at the center.