First published in the Lake Champlain Weekly
Written by Quentin Langley
It is fairly easy, these days, to mock up a front cover of Time to have yourself, a friend, or relative declared Person of the Year. Perhaps it is a fun thing to do for someone’s birthday or retirement party. You have probably never actually been Time’s Person of the Year, other than in 2006, when we all shared the accolade. You have probably never even been on the cover in some other capacity.
Donald Trump has, and not only since he moved into politics. He was Person of the Year in 2016 but was featured on the front cover in his real estate mogul capacity as long ago as 1989. But this has not stopped Trump, or someone in his business, from fabricating a Time front cover from March 1st 2009, framing it, and hanging it in several of his golf clubs both in the US and around the world. There was no issue of Time dated March 1st 2009, and Trump did not feature on the cover the magazine at any point in that year.
This is a fairly astonishing degree of narcissism, even by Donald Trump’s standards. It seems especially odd when, unlike most of us, Trump has some real Time front covers he could have used instead. Did he not like the pictures used on other occasions? Did he want to pretend that he was featured more often than he really was to boost his image as a business “genius”? He has previously claimed to have been on Time’s cover more often than anyone else – an honor which actually belongs to Richard Nixon.
Nixon is probably not a president whom Trump hopes to emulate.
Trump’s tenuous relationship with truth has been well-documented. He calls any media coverage that is less than sycophantic “fake news”, when not all of it is fake. And yet he – or his organization – literally fakes news magazines to make the big man feel bigger.
There is probably no president of recent decades – not even Gerald Ford – whom it would be fair to call “humble”. The presidency simply doesn’t attract people with that quality. But Donald Trump’s astonishing narcissism is in a class of its own. This is one measure on which he easily bests all his predecessors, and perhaps all of them combined.
He plasters his name on buildings; he claims a “droit du seigneur” over any woman he chooses; he brags “I don’t even wait. He even brags about being humble, telling a journalist “I am much more humble than you would understand”. Gosh. We aren’t even smart enough to understand how humble he is.
So, what if Vladimir Putin has some intelligence that could prove embarrassing to Trump? In some ways it is an astonishing question. The man doesn’t seem to get embarrassed. When he has been caught blatantly lying, he simply doubles down on the lie. He boasted about his penis in a presidential debate.
But his ego is extremely fragile. It is not hard to imagine Trump being blackmailed by a hostile power and he would certainly rank his ego above the welfare of the United States.
Quentin Langley lives in New York and London and teaches at the University of Bedfordshire Business School. He is the author of Brandjack: How your reputation is at risk from brand pirates and what to do about it