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President Trump’s refusal to unequivocally denounce white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists who chanted racist and anti-Semitic slogans in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, and to assert instead on Tuesday that “there is blame on both sides,” led to widespread condemnation. What it did not do was surprise psychologists.

They see two forces in play. Trump responds to criticism and the damage it does to his self-esteem by lashing out, including by taking an extreme position that is as much as possible at odds with his critics’. And he (perhaps unconsciously) recoils from undercutting his supporters because that would implicitly call into question their judgment, which includes voting for him.

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  • Maybe Trump’s reluctance to denounce the right wing extremists (to the extent his critics seem to demand) may also have been a pragmatic move to avoid the mistake Hillary made with her blanket condemnation of the so-called basket of deplorables, which perhaps alienated potential voters for her.

    While he’s on the record as denouncing neo-nazi/white supremicist ideology and violence (who knows if he means it or not), by not citing those people as being totally bad to the bone, Trump maintains their support by taking a hate-the-sin-not-the-sinner approach to the matter. That’s not a stupid move by a politician, even one as inept as The Donald is.

  • Many people noted at the time that his Monday comments sounded like the scripted confession of a hostage — no passion in them at all. Tuesday is when his passion clearly returned.

    Last night his comment on the Navy disaster of the John McCain destroyer was: “That’s too bad.” But you can be sure that if one of his target groups (Moslems or liberals, for example) had been responsible, he would have been much more passionate.

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