Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Stephen Colbert's extended interview with the lone sympathetic Trump is chilling nonetheless

Stephen Colbert, Mary Trump
Stephen Colbert, Mary Trump
Screenshot: The Late Show

Maybe it was the simple fact that watching a member of the Trump family speak for 20 minutes didn’t make viewers’ brains attempt a fail-safe shutdown in self-defense, but Stephen Colbert’s Wednesday Late Show interview with Mary Trump made for gripping television. The clinical psychologist (who clearly took her own SATs) sat for a remote extended interview with Colbert about her recently released (despite uncle Donald’s sweaty legal efforts) family memoir Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man. In doing so, the PhD not only gave America the confusing experience of watching a Trump speak in complete, measured, and reasonable sentences, but a rare and genuinely unsettling sense of what might be driving her uncle to do the things he does.

Colbert first tentatively checked in with his guest about the years of uncle-bashing he’s done on national television, quickly being assured by Mary Trump that being a Trump is even more appalling these days than just living under one. Calling the night of Trump’s 2016 victory “one of the worst nights of my life” (“You and me both, sister,” chimed in Colbert), the author said that she, too, has a horrible moment of daily realization that Donald Trump is in the White House, only compounded by her intimate knowledge of just how damaged her uncle is. With the cold rationality of the clinician, Mary Trump said of the person holding the nuclear codes and who’s assembling a secret police force to attack protesters in Democrat-led cities, “Donald has so many pathologies and they’re so complex, there’s so much co-morbidity.”

Asked by Colbert whether there’s anything that could be done therapeutically for Donald Trump’s at this late point, the professional psychologist paused before stating flatly, “It’s an awful answer, and I hate saying it, but I think the answer is no.” Citing Donald’s warping by the overbearing tyranny of her grandfather Fred and the insulating protection of enablers, institutions, and opportunists who are “perfectly happy with him” the way he is, Mary Trump said of her uncle, “It’s impossible for Donald to admit any kind of weakness.” She continued, saying that the only message he’s ever learned in a life of privilege, wealth, and shady dealings is that “he can double down—he keeps getting away with it.”

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Painting a picture of her family as one where “fear is the most powerful factor,” Mary Trump said that, of course, there are some family members who are willing to privately admit that they know just how limited and unfit Donald is for the most important job in the world. Unfortunately, according to Trump, “They’re all sort of tied together in ways that would make it impossible to breach what they would consider family loyalty.” As for her embattled attempts to breach that insular world with her book (and in turning over a trove of deeply shady Trump financial records to the New York Times’ Susanne Craig), Mary Trump told Colbert that, while she’s taken “necessary precautions” against Trump clan retaliation, she remains free of the familial fear herself. Telling the truth at this pivotal and perilous time in the nation’s history, Trump stated, “outweighed all other considerations.” (The Trump in question being Mary Trump, obviously.)

In the wide-ranging but damningly-for-Donald focused and credible interview, Mary Trump had plenty of family dirt to expose. From those rumors about her grandfather being arrested at a Klan rally (she’d only be surprised if noted and virulent bigot Fred took time away from work to attend), to the reason her father Fred was considered a “failure” by her grandfather and uncle (he was apparently kind of a nice, well-liked, and generous guy), to her thoughts on Trump bragging about that test for early-onset dementia (itself indication of failure), the one Trump America needs to hear from right now was unsparing. And while she, comparing her uncle to Frankenstein’s monster in how horribly he was twisted by his family legacy, said that there can be some sympathy for the little kid he was, her uncle is now clearly beyond help, or reach.

“We’re talking about a man who I do not believe could function in the world on his own,” said the niece of the president of the United States, continuing chillingly that the president is “demonstrates sociopathic tendencies.” And—just to ensure nobody sleeps again—that a lifetime of “failing upward spectacularly” while being protected by those who find his conscienceless ambition useful has left her uncle without even Fred Trump’s “high-functioning” sociopathy to carry him through. Apart from voting her mentally unfit relative out of office, Mary Trump told Colbert that the only real remedy for us as a nation is to “find out all the things that have been done” in her uncle’s name over the past three years, and then to “hold people accountable.” For Donald Trump, she said, that would be literally the first time in his life anyone will have done that.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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