It isn’t a new notion to compare Trump to Caligula, who at least made many positive changes to Rome during his reign, and say that Trump is far worse. Paul Krugman wrote “Trump Makes Caligula Look Pretty Good” in August 2017. 2017! That was more than a year ago!
I’m used to writing as a psychotherapists ticking off the ways Trump meets the definition of being a malignant narcissist. Compare and contrast just a few characteristics and behaviors of Caligula who was also most likely a malignant narcissist.
Caligula believed he was a living god, he had those in Rome, including senators, worship him as such. This is from Wikipedia:
Caligula was self-absorbed, angry, killed on a whim, and indulged in too much spending and sex. He is accused of sleeping with other men’s wives and bragging about it, killing for mere amusement, deliberately wasting money on his bridge, causing starvation, and wanting a statue of himself erected in the Temple of Jerusalem for his worship. Once, at some games at which he was presiding, he ordered his guards to throw an entire section of the audience into the arena during the intermission to be eaten by the wild beasts because there were no prisoners to be used and he was bored.
While repeating the earlier stories, the later sources of Suetonius and Cassius Dio provide additional tales of insanity. They accuse Caligula of incest with his sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla, and Livilla, and say he prostituted them to other men. They state he sent troops on illogical military exercises, turned the palace into a brothel,and, most famously, planned or promised to make his horse, Incitatus, a consul, and actually appointed him a priest.
I heard the comparison again today on “Morning Joy” in the context of a discussion of Trump being, to use the overused yet apt word, unhinged and no longer capable of governing the country in a responsible fashion.
I have to keep reminding myself how long ago Krugman wrote “Journalists have stopped seizing on brief moments of not-craziness to declare Trump “presidential”; business leaders have stopped trying to curry favor by lending Trump an air of respectability; even military leaders have gone as far as they can to dissociate themselves from administration pronouncements.” He also wrote about the cowardice of members of the GOP lose support of the white supremacists and thus were afraid to challenge Trump writing “so the odds are that we’re stuck with a malevolent, incompetent president whom nobody knowledgeable respects, and many consider illegitimate. If so, we have to hope that our country somehow stumbles through the next year and a half without catastrophe, and that the midterm elections transform the political calculus and make the Constitution great again.”
Going back even further, in 2016 best-selling historian Tom Holland compared him to Caligula even thought he “has not yet made a horse his running mate, but Donald Trump can be compared to one of the most notorious of all Roman emperors.” In a Guardian article, “Donald Trump has ‘fascinating parallels’ with Caligula, says historian” Holland describes Caligula as someone who “wanted to rule as an autocrat and he was contemptuous of the pretence that the senate had any power at all.” He compared him to what Trump did to the Republican establishment (not realizing that once he became president the same establishment would become enablers): “What he did was to trample the dignity of the senatorial elite into the dirt and what he discovered in doing that was that the mass of the Roman people really enjoyed it.” Keeping in mind how long ago these observations were made and how Trump has gotten even worse Hays noted that “Trump has said and done things that are utterly shocking by the standards of traditional political morality, but far from making him unpopular with the masses there is a sense in which he has become the toast of the people.”
Caligula sponsored chariot races and made a huge six-horse chariot for himself, which he would drive around Rome showing off and Hays notes that “he did all the things that the people thought an emperor should do … they loved him for it.”
His behavior as emperor led to several failed conspiracies against him until officers within the Praetorian Guard led by Cassius Chaerea succeeded in murdering the emperor, having been planned by three men, with many in the senate, army and equestrian order said to have been informed of it and involved in it.
Trump believes that attempts by Robert Mueller, the Southern District of New York, the State of New York Attorney General, and congressional Democrats soon to control the House, are conspiracies to undermine his presidency, or as he conceives it, his rule.
He should thank is incredibly lucky stars that he holds office in a Democracy where he will be held to account for his transgressions in a civilized way. When he leaves office either voluntarily or against his will, he will be able to retire to the glitz and gold of Mara a Lago where he can still hold court with his remaining wealthy friends and, unless Melania gets it in the divorce settlement, to his penthouse in Trump Tower.
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