One of the most powerful storms in recorded history is barreling toward Puerto Rico and Florida, throwing evacuation zones into chaos and threatening thousands of lives. In response, President Donald Trump is not expressing worry or empathy for those in the storm’s path. He is not encouraging donations to the Red Cross or other disaster relief groups. Instead, he appears impressed: The hurricane is just so big!
Both Irma and Hurricane Harvey have revealed something truly strange and kind of unnerving about how Trump deals with natural disasters. During Harvey, too, Trump showed a complete inability to empathize with the millions of Texans whose lives were dramatically changed by the storm, handling it instead by keeping the focus on himself. As the Washington Post noted five days after Harvey made landfall, Trump had yet to mention any of the dozens of Americans killed. Instead, he “talked favorably about the higher television ratings that come with hurricane coverage, predicted that he will soon be congratulating himself and used 16 exclamation points in 22 often breathless tweets about the storm.”
Trump seems to miss that Hurricane Harvey ruined any lives at all. When he met with flood victims at a shelter in Houston, he told reporters that victims “were just happy. We saw a lot of happiness. It’s been really nice. It’s been a wonderful thing. As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing. Even for the country, and for the world to watch. Have a good time everybody.”
We’ve know for a long time that the president is a narcissist, obsessed with promoting himself and convinced that he does everything in the biggest, best, most successful way. But now we know that his narcissism knows no bounds—that he’ll continue to congratulate himself even as lives are lost. At the time of this post, Irma is slamming into the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds. If it hits Florida, the devastation could be even worse than Harvey. If Trump’s past behavior is any indication, it’s likely he’ll spin this not as a human tragedy, but as “a wonderful thing.” That’s not a quirky personality trait; it’s a dangerous form of denial.