Last weekend I had the privilege of hearing live both Caitlyn Jenner and President Trump. Jenner was at the Philadelphia Free Library and the president was at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. The words, the crowd, the attitude, and the values could not have been more dissimilar.
I heard Jenner being interviewed by my friend Buzz Bissinger, who had just written a new book with her. We were curious to learn more about her struggles and her transgender transition.
I took my teenage son to hear the president in an effort to better understand the “Trump Phenomenon,” the president himself, and his supporters. I view hearing a president speak in person as a privilege and an important part of history, and have heard virtually every president speak since Richard Nixon. As the former CEO of the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future in Philadelphia in 1997, I worked closely with Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. And, as a middle-of-the-road voter, I felt compelled to hear the 45th president as well.
The differences between Trump and Jenner are clear and dramatic. We waited in line for 70 minutes to hear Trump, and after watching each speak for about an hour, I understand not only how wide the chasm is between these two individuals, but also within America.
Jenner came to Philadelphia to educate, inform, and — truthfully — perhaps sell her book, in part to bring America together. Trump came to Pennsylvania to divide, defend, and sell only himself. Jenner’s audience listened respectfully, as she described her struggles. Trump’s audience listened to him rant and rave about those out to get him. Jenner’s crowd knew how to laugh. The predominant emotion displayed by the Trump crowd was anger.
Trump acted like a bully. Jenner described her experiences being bullied. Trump revved up the crowd and asked them to join him in bullying the media. We watched the crowd turn and point their fingers hostilely at the cameras and the reporters multiple times. The sea of red “Make America Great Again” hats was waiting for red meat and right on cue they got it and responded. Both Trump and his supporters understood why they were there and what their respective roles were. I felt that many in the crowd were comfortable in their skins as bullies, even if they don’t view themselves that way.
Jenner talked of differences among Americans, and asked that we all come together. Trump exaggerated the differences, and incited the crowd repeatedly to build a wall. His fight to eliminate sanctuary cities got the expected applause from the clearly xenophobic audience.
Jenner appealed to the best of America, Trump to the worst fears and paranoia of Americans.
Jenner talked genuinely about the secrets of her life; Trump ranted and exaggerated his rhetoric. He just couldn’t resist. Vice President Pence, in his introduction, claimed that 500,000 new jobs have been created since Jan. 20. Trump said 600,000 new jobs, a 20 percent increase in less than an hour. Pence indicated that illegal crossings at the Mexican border had dropped 60 percent since January. Trump couldn’t resist raising that number to 73 percent. Trump exaggerated the size of the crowd and said the arena was packed. It wasn’t, and the fire marshal did not restrict the size as Trump claimed. I asked.
As expected, Trump was highly critical of former President Barack Obama, but, to my surprise, his call for repealing and replacing Obamacare received only a lukewarm response from the crowd. It was clear that many in the crowd have felt its benefit, and were not keen to support its repeal.
To talk often about yourself in front of a crowd, you must have some narcissistic tendencies. Jenner certainly did, but Trump displayed narcissism on steroids. The only way to describe his behavior was that of a “super-narcissist.” Only a super-narcissist could behave as he did. Only a super-narcissist could deliver the most divisive speech, I have ever heard a sitting president of the United States deliver.
The bottom line of the weekend: Both individuals continue their personal transformations. Trump is becoming crazier by the week. Jenner is not.
Stuart H. Shapiro is a former Philadelphia health commissioner. email@example.com