Trump reveals himself again as he defends a Hitler devotee’s anti-Semitic views…

Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, seen above, was convicted of all charges brought against him in relation to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. (Photo: Courtesy federal court motion against Timothy Hale-Cusanelli)

Of all people to highlight at his weekend Pennsylvania rally, former President Donald Trump gave stage time to a single Jan. 6 rioter from New Jersey who dressed like Adolf Hitler and told co-workers that the führer “should have finished the job,” according to investigators.

At his recent rally in Wilkes-Barre, PA it was reported that the former president highlighted a Nazi-loving, anti-Semitic, convicted insurrectionist Timothy Hale-Cusanelli. The Hitler devotee who shared the Fuhrer’s hateful views was drummed out of the National Guard, becoming the first known service member to be forced out of the military after officials learned of alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Cusanelli’s aunt was featured on the stage in Wilkes-Barre to plead for “sympathy for Tim:”

“Tim went to the nation’s capitol to hear his president speak” last year, Cynthia Hughes told the crowd.

Tim’s aunt and her favorite ex-president failed to inform the rally-goers that her nephew’s beliefs forced the New Jersey National Guard to boot him from their ranks. Here’s a sample for those who may not have heard:

Several colleagues told investigators about his wearing of a “Hitler mustache” while at work, court papers show. Among them was a supervisor, who said Hale-Cusanelli was admonished because of it. One sailor told investigators that he heard Hale-Cusanelli say that if he were a Nazi, “he would kill all the Jews and eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and he wouldn’t need to season them because the salt from their tears would make it flavorful enough,” according to the court filing.

Alex Horton, Washington Post, October 20, 2021

As we watch history unfold before us, the truth is becoming more obvious. This is the underbelly of the American experiment- the one in which secrets are revealed. We choose to focus on Donald Trump because of his bombast. The unraveling of the Republican Party and its leadership is astounding, but the disintegration of long-held American values by a pipsqueak like Cusanelli is far more disheartening. Holocaust-denying, slavery rationalizations, and undemocratic rantings have raised an ugly head. While the Trump effect is obvious, the reaction of the mobs who cling to him begs the question- which of these is the symptom, which is the disease?

These are dangerous times, to be sure. The dissolution of a major political institution doesn’t occur in a vacuum- the unmasking of major political figures has historical significance beyond the morning’s headlines. The mistake we fall prey to is the belief that what we see represents a change. The insurrectionist, bombastic, misogynistic, and deeply racist Trump is the man at his core without the larded-on layers of civility he assumed in order to appear normal. At his core, we all know that the man has no set of principles he acts upon, and beyond that, his behavior is bounded by what others say, think and feel. Trump is a chameleon in its truest sense- a man without an inner compass, sans reflection, deprived of original thought. More than ignorant, he is vapid.

In appraising a cult-like leader, like Trump, the tendency is to elevate their impact over their followers. We forget that without a rabid following their power wanes. I suggest that Donald Trump is a true social chameleon type, one whose energy and actions are derived from others. Trump’s true inner soul is an amalgam of his father and the family fixer, Roy Cohn. One, his father, instilled the insecurities that limited the son’s worldview. It helped create the “them vs. us” mentality that informs his oddly chosen friends list. The other taught him to react to incoming negative attacks by doubling down, resorting to scorched-earth tactics, and stalling for time. In an archival NYTimes article written years before his ground-breaking theory on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman’s article, ‘Social Chameleon’ May Pay Emotional Price, cites social psychologist Mark Snyder’s work on the type:

‘’Those who are at the extreme in self-monitoring are sociopaths, con artists who will say and do whatever gets them what they want at the moment, On the other hand those who are extremely low in self-monitoring are, like obsessives, utterly stubborn in their adherence to the sense of being right no matter what. If a situation doesn’t mesh with that sense, they are totally unwilling to change to fit in. They act as they feel they should, no matter what others make of it.’’

— By Daniel Goleman, March 12, 1985

Another psychologist, William Graziano, wrote that social chameleons are reactive rather than originators of their behaviors. They key on social cues to help them learn what is expected of them by others. He states that chameleons,

‘’…thrive on inconsistency. They don’t mind in the least saying one thing and doing another. But those at the other pole can’t stand such a discrepancy.’’

The bottom line is that as a shapeshifting opportunist, Trump is a poster child for the dark side of EQ. The theory posited by Peter Salovey at Yale and John Mayer at the University of New Hampshire before it was popularized in Goleman’s 1995 publication is not without controversy. For every EQ genius like Martin Luther King or Barack Obama, the theory proposes negative types who use their skills to the detriment of others:

According to these experts, emotional intelligence helps people disguise one set of emotions while expressing another for personal gain. Emotionally intelligent people “intentionally shape their emotions to fabricate favorable impressions of themselves,” Professor Kilduff’s team writes. “The strategic disguise of one’s own emotions and the manipulation of others’ emotions for strategic ends are behaviors evident not only on Shakespeare’s stage but also in the offices and corridors where power and influence are traded.”

The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence, The Atlantic, by Adam Grant, January 2, 2014

Grant makes the point that this skill should not be viewed as an unmitigated positive. The example he used in his argument identifies purveyors of the “dark side” of emotional intelligence include many of the 20th-century political monsters who found ways to manipulate their followers:

Social scientists have begun to document this dark side of emotional intelligence. In emerging research led by University of Cambridge professor Jochen Menges, when a leader gave an inspiring speech filled with emotion, the audience was less likely to scrutinize the message and remembered less of the content. Ironically, audience members were so moved by the speech that they claimed to recall more of it.

The authors call this the awestruck effect, but it might just as easily be described as the dumbstruck effect. One observer reflected that Hitler’s persuasive impact came from his ability to strategically express emotions-he would “tear open his heart”-and these emotions affected his followers to the point that they would “stop thinking critically and just emote.”

- Adam Grant

While it has become passe here for diarists including myself to conjure comparisons of Donald Trump to Hitler, I believe the likeness is conspicuous. We are faced with a mounting army of Trump-inspired lunatics who are in a reciprocally manipulative relationship with a master. Their skepticism has overtaken reality and, therefore, they hardly believe — in anything. They mirror the trappings of a true nihilist, one who has ”… no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy.“

Originally published at on September 7, 2022.



Former president of the International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) and a founder of a charter school based on MI theory.

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Vince Rizzo

Former president of the International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) and a founder of a charter school based on MI theory.