The narcissist in the White House Thoughts on the causes of the present discontents


Well into his second term and with a string of domestic and foreign policy scandals and failures dogging his record, many are now saying what was once barely whispered, i.e. that President Obama appears to be less “the One” we’d been waiting for, and more like a blown-in-the-glass charlatan, ~ or to be more diagnostically precise, a ‘narcissist’ who somehow fooled our nation into electing him to the highest office in the world…twice. If that isn’t newsworthy, nothing is.
To this day, almost all anyone still knows about Obama’s actual background is essentially what he and his publicists, fan base, and political advisors want us to know. He gives no detailed information and never allows himself an unguarded moment from which to glean the truth. His two autobiographies are more poetry than personal history, and Obama himself has admitted that a lot of it was “made up.” Mr. Obama’s writings don’t offer details of a life, so much as they try to create a mythology of a life, in order to craft a grandiose impression of an extraordinary persona who is more than a mere person. His actual life’s history is shrouded in mystery, hid behind a stone wall of silence. His hyper sensitivity about the facts runs deep and he levels ridicule on anyone who questions it, offering only those tidbits that lend to the impression that he is like no other politician before him, ~ a contention now seen to be so extravagantly over the top and false as to be silly. So, what accounts for this man? Exceptional as he may be, it is not the stuff of greatness that makes a difference in the trajectory of the world toward a good outcome. It is instead, an illness.
Narcissism is a psychological disorder so named for the Greek myth of the young Narcissus, a man who falls in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. The meaning of the Greek metaphor is a crystalline psychological insight to a personality disorder that afflicts certain people in profound ways. Narcissistic Personality Disorder formally entered DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in 1980, though the pathology had been observed in clinical settings, and written about in theoretical psychiatry for at least 100 years; and is found in literature throughout the record of human history. For reasons of diagnostic and empirical utility, the personality disorders panel of DSM V recently removed categorical diagnoses entirely and now ask clinicians to examine personality disorders within a “dimensional rating” system. So, today the categorical diagnosis of “narcissistic personality disorder” as a distinct and identifiable status has been supplanted with the notion of a spectrum disorder of several disabling characteristics. That may be helpful to the practitioner and therapist, but the existence of personalities once delineated as having “narcissistic personality disorder” should not be thought of as having been excised from the family of man. Not as long as people with a peculiar spectrum of enumerated characteristics and traits are still to be found among us.
What the medical literature has said about narcissism is fascinating, and because it so precisely fits the personality of President Barack Obama, taking note of the similarities should not be dismissed as just another ad hominem attack, (though it certainly is a critique of his personality and fitness for office).
If he had remained in the Senate, it wouldn’t have mattered much what his personality issues were. He’d be thought of as one among many self-absorbed careerists taking a turn at politics for what it might be worth. But as the President, we have a right, even a duty, to look into all aspects of his personality for clues to his psychological fitness for office. There is no sense in ignoring what we know about personality when we could put it to use in examining, not just ourselves, but our political leaders as well. When you do this honestly, you are immediately struck by the fact that Obama has far too many of the traits of narcissism for it to be mere coincidence. (There are no coincidences.) Understandably, for anyone to pronounce that the President of the United States has a personality disorder is deeply discomfiting for people and difficult to accept. I appreciate that, but the evidence is just so convincing. Some people (especially if non-political) reason that the odds of someone with a serious mental illness rising to such heights of power has to be infinitesimally small. Their point is well taken, especially in this case, where only 1 percent of the population is thought to be affected by narcissistic personality disorder. Yet, even though some level of narcissism is undeniably normal in today’s society for any healthy person to function in the competitive world we live in, the profile in psychological terms describing pathological narcissism is decidedly different. Narcissism is not a facade, it is not a pose, it goes to the core of the person and animates his existential sense of himself. It is a deep-rooted sort of disorder and disturbingly apt when considered with Barack Obama in mind.
For examples of what pathological narcism is, I found David Thomas, who lists the seminal characteristics in his 2012 book, Narcissism: Behind the Mask. The leading personality traits include; “an obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges, hypersensitivity to insults, haughty demeanor, detestation of people who do not admire them, willingly uses people, pretends to be more important than they are, claims to be an expert at many things, and ungratefulness.” You will have to decide for yourself, but as I see it, he could have been describing President Obama in a countless number of situations.
Think of the number of times Obama had referred to himself during his first State of the Union address; it was a staggering 114 times. He said “I” 96 times and used “my” or “me” 18 times. He boasts of knowing more about public policy than his policy advisors who he chose to help him. And, perhaps most obviously, in every public setting in which he appears, he is preternaturally haughty. As a narcissist, he has to be. Haughtiness is a tool by which a lesser person imagines that he measures up to highly successful people with more experience, talent or accomplishments. Being disdainful of all others, particularly critics, allows the narcissist to employ his arrogance and vanity to keep self-doubt at bay and prevent the embarrassment of being publicly exposed and the pretense undone. We got a glimpse of the unravelling of the Obama persona in the first Romney debate. when if you recall, he stumbled badly and couldn’t put his thoughts together in any coherent way. At that moment, he could have been revealed for the fraud that he is had Romney been capable of delivering a knock-out punch. But he wasn’t. Nevertheless, we were given a glimpse of the real man that evening and it was telling.
Researchers Fred Rhodewalt and C.C. Morf, have concluded that “narcissists enter social interactions with the goal of being admired rather than liked.” (The entirety of their descriptions fit what we know about Obama.) Narcissism, according to these scholars is “associated with high power and low intimacy strivings.” Narcissists “do not want to establish or maintain warm interpersonal relations.” Obama’s inability to forge alliances with members of Congress or anybody, for that matter, is a reflection of these traits. Like many powerful people, he has sycophants surrounding him, but his close personal friends are few. White House chief Valerie Jarrett is the one person he trusts without exception and is the single most powerful aide in his administration. Though she had no Washington experience or understanding of how the government works, Obama gives her access to every White House meeting and he passes all important decisions by her before acting (according to Ed Klein in his book, The Amateur). Her previous government experience came as a housing official, dismissed from the Daly Administration in Chicago. When asked about the President, Jarrett can barely contain a giddy schoolgirl admiration. She famously said of him that he can be “bored” at times in the White House, “because he is so gifted.” Seriously? Is this representation to be believed? With the fate of 300+ million Americans in his hands, and the leadership of the free world his responsibility, the man is bored? That’s not genius, so much as it is disengagement, which is another clinical indication of narcissism. According to researcher, Dr. Arnold Cooper, narcissists show “a pattern of early success followed by later mediocrity.” They also show “chronic or intermittent feelings of boredom and emptiness as achievements do not sustain better feelings about the self” and they begin to show an “inability to be interested in the work itself.” So, maybe Ms. Jarrett is on to something, but not what she thought. He is, indeed, bored, but not because he is brilliant. It is because of his disengagement which is on display in a string of domestic and foreign policy failures that are roiling even now. In fact, Jarrett’s over-the-top admiration of Obama reflects a profoundly unsettling blind faith that plays a key part in the structure of the narcissist’s imaginary world.
According to psychotherapist Dr. Alan Rappoport, narcissists have an uncanny ability to “get others to buy into their vision and help them make it a reality.”  Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited says, “the narcissist has an overpowering need to feel important and special, and the codependent has a strong need to help others feel that way.” They are natural magnets for each other. Ms. Jarrett fits that mold precisely.  She is the codependent enabler that keeps Obama’s delusion strong. She once told New Yorker editor David Remnick that the president is “just too talented to do what ordinary people do.” For a codependent, like Ms. Jarrett, such an outrageous depiction is not spin, but merely explains his meteoric rise to greatness. The myth and the man are one. He is the One. And remarkably, thanks largely to a supportive (if not supine) press corps and a brilliant campaign strategy, a majority of voters in two elections were persuaded that this man’s charade was true.
But that was then. Now, he has a 59% disapproval rating. His scandalous mismanagement of federal agencies,and foreign policy failures have left the Middle East in chaos with thousands of innocents dying, millions of Americans underemployed or out of work or on welfare, and the nation itself not so impressed anymore. Many now suspect that they’d been sold a bill of goods. One nagging question forces itself to the mind; and that is; “how is it possible that a man who once seemed so nearly ideal, could be so humbled by his own record and bereft of achievement in office? We know what his excuse is; he blames the Bush administration, Republicans in Congress and the Tea Party. But, isn’t it more probable that his failures are the result of a personality unsuited to the high office he entered?  If that is the answer, then the explanation is in the psychology of the man.
Though psychiatry has settled on its description of narcissists as seeming to have very high self-esteem, they also caution that narcissism is not the same thing as true self-esteem. The people we know with high self-esteem who are highly accomplished, are very often outwardly modest and self-effacing, sort of like a Jimmy Stewart character in a movie, — whereas narcissists are nothing of the sort. They revel in the self-importance their delusion animates in them. It was once thought that narcissists possessed superficially high self-esteem, but that deep down they were actually insecure. Observers reasonably inferred that insecurity was present because narcissists are so highly defensive when their self-esteem is threatened (they can even be aggressive in such situations). But, that’s not the whole story.
The latest thinking is that narcissists are actually quite self-assured, secure and grandiose on both levels simultaneously. Their delusion is thus psycho-socially comprehensive, which is fundamental in affording them no opportunity for seeing the truth about themselves. They are deeply self-deceived, even delusional about who and what they actually are. Among narcissists, and I think we’ve all known some, dangerous lifestyle choices are common and characterized by sensation-seeking and impulsivity, which can be financial, sexual or even political decisions that are untethered from common sense or law. (In a way it mirrors the mania experienced in BiPolar syndrome.) What could be more grandiose than putting yourself up for the Presidency of the United States, while possessing absolutely no relevant experience or training for the job?  A narcissist would take that monumental risk in stride, completely confident in his ability to stand for office, appear confident, sound smart, and convince enough people that he is uniquely capable, while dealing with critics by marginalizing them as nothing more than politically motivated troglodytes.
The DSM lists other traits of narcissism as vanity, boastfulness, self-centered, exaggeration of one’s achievements, feelings of entitlement, and believing that one deserves only the best. Does this not sound familiar? During press conferences following the successful Seal Team 6 operation that killed Bin Laden, Obama himself took personal credit for “ordering” the mission more often than he expressed respect and gratitude for the men that actually conducted it. The DSM describes the narcissistic personality as having a grandiose feelings of self-importance in one or more areas in life, and having unusually high confidence in one or more fields, bordering on arrogance, with a fear of being thought “normal” or like everybody else. Otto Kernberg is a psychoanalyst and professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College who has written extensively about this. According to Kernberg, individuals with a narcissistic personality possess a capacity for consistent work and may even become socially quite successful, yet their work and productivity are in the service of exhibitionism, and they lack genuine, in- depth professional interests. Kernberg calls this tendency “pseudosublimatory” in order to contrast it with actual productivity. Obama’s social distance from other faculty when he taught Constitutional Law courses, or his snubbing of Congress could thus be explained, as could the absence of any apparent expertise in any field except the politics of getting elected, which could be thought the most exhibitionist arena that exists.
Obama’s political skills are undeniable. He can deliver superb political oratory and have a friendly crowd up on their feet in sheer adulation, but tellingly, he cannot deliver a speech without a teleprompter or repeated references to himself. He is obsessed with himself. And though he exudes confidence in every setting, he has little capacity for handling the actual responsibilities or long hours required of the job. When answering questions about the most complex of issues, he is always glib, short on facts and analysis and long on sonorous generalities. Before entering office he had no notable achievements. He was a “community organizer,” working to get government grants for programs in a poor black neighborhood in Chicago. With such an inconsequential background, why is anyone surprised at his performance in office? And what could possibly account for his belief that he, of all people, should be the President of the United States? Nothing that I can see, except a narcissistic personality disorder.
If it seems too improbable that Obama has a personality disorder, consider some other examples from history and think about whether their behavior differs in character from his. In 2003, The New York Times profiled the life of a man who arrived on the scene, capturing the imagination of the nation. His name was David Hampton and he gave a glimpse into the troubled mind of the narcissist. In his life, Hampton posed as different people from many different circumstances until he died; alone and dissolute at the age of 39.  His escapades were so impressively convincing that Hollywood made a movie of his life and called it “Six degrees of Separation,” starring Will Smith. Hampton had successfully posed as the son of actor Sidney Poitier and using this nom de plume, persuaded Manhattan’s wealthiest A-list celebrities that he was, either a classmate of their children, and/or the victim of a mugging in which he lost his cash and a Harvard term paper. His iron-clad confidence was singular; and he was supremely poised, as well as elegant in his bearing and mien. His actual achievements in the real world, of course, were nil, but he pulled off this con with preternatural ease.
Hampton discovered his aptitude for hoodwinking people while attempting to cut the line at the famous Manhattan nightclub, — Studio 54. That was the first of several impersonations that kept him motivated, well fed, clothed and sheltered in the kind of comfort reserved only for the very wealthy. He got conspicuous enjoyment out of fitting in with people he knew to be his betters. He even fooled the dean of the Columbia School of Journalism. The con allowed Hampton to see a different world and gave him a profound sense of entitlement to it. He was a narcissist living the dream. You could even say of him, “he had game.”
Similar personalities have occurred throughout history. Wall Street’s most successful Ponzi schemer, Bernie Madoff, was a prototypical narcissist with the chops to build an actual financial empire on Wall Street, employing hundreds of people and bilking even more. His kind of narcissism is explored by Christopher Lasch, who writes about “cultural narcissism,” where every activity and relationship is defined by a hedonistic desire to acquire the symbols of wealth. Madoff was an ostentatious success while at the same time being a fraud on a truly massive scale. The financial carnage he wrought upon individuals and institutions was immense, for which he felt no shame or guilt. His entire life was sustained by a narcissistic personality disorder which was psycho/socially comprehensive.
On a different scale, but just as impressive, is the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder and promoter of Scientology, an ersatz religion/cult which preys on successful movie industry insiders, including top box office earners Tom Cruise and John Travolta. In reality, Hubbard’s entire life’s narrative is nothing but a fiction, yet he fooled enough people to build an enormous empire that exists to this day. A more ominous narcissistic character was Rev. Jim Jones, a preacher who gulled hundreds of educated, middle-class people into selling everything they owned and moving to Guyana to form a new Christian dispensation built around Jones’ personality. Their world ended when he ordered them to take communion which he had laced with a poison that killed every one in his cult. Both men would seem drawn from Erich Fromm’s psychological description of “malignant” narcissism, which morphs readily into antisocial, paranoidal and schizoid personality disorders.
If you know political history, you probably know of Jimmy Walker, a fast-talking, self absorbed song-and-dance man who somehow became Mayor of the City of New York in the 1930s. His was an era when New York was the undisputed center of the nation, financially, economically and culturally; and Walker was at the center of it. It is no exaggeration to say that during his entire tenure, all he brought to the City was a willingness to steal for Tammany Hall, for himself and for the corrupt businessmen who backed him. Walker starved the City of needed tax revenue, while countless New Yorkers suffered during the Depression. Yet, the press loved him and the masses rallied to his side.
With a little imagination and a bit of reading, it isn’t that hard to see that many of history’s worst tyrannies were created by narcissistic sociopaths of the sort that Erich Fromm called “malignant,” most of whom erected a cult of personality to surround themselves, adore them and project their image. Stalin comes to mind. Much more than mere religious fanatics, some of these men created mass international political movements, militaries and economies powerful enough to dominate, then decimate, Europe, parts of Asia and North Africa, producing nothing but death, genocide and destruction on a global scale. They did so with a single-minded self-assurance that only a malignant personality disorder can manufacture. And incredibly, though tens of millions were murdered and more died in their wars, these narcissists were adored by millions and they had the press on their side.
By what definition of normalcy might someone come to the conclusion that he, and he alone, is destined to guide the world’s trajectory? For me, the answer is; no one. At least no one that I can conceive. And yet, in the history of civilization such men are not in short supply. A top-of-mind list would include Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, Kim Jung Il, and even Torquemada, the Inquisitor of the Church. Every religion has them. That’s why the Founding Fathers erected a firewall between government and organized religion. They recognized the danger should a religion be allowed to abet the rise of a charismatic tyrant in government. But even they didn’t foresee the need of a firewall against the psychologically unfit charismatic.
If there have been narcissists such as these on the world stage before, why is it so hard for some to believe that we have one in the White House now? That many important men in history were mentally unfit is an obvious, if awkward and rarely mentioned, fact, but it is a fact that must be faced. A narcissist is incapable of understanding the harm he’s likely to inflict once in power, but that’s what always happens. Left to their own devices, with no expertise, they glide from personal grandiosity toward totalitarianism and wreak havoc on a huge scale. Consider. Obama’s disdain for the legislative process of all democracies. “If it weren’t for Congress, I could get a lot more done,” he laments. His answer for an inability to persuade and negotiate, is to issue Executive Orders and change laws by fiat. And although no one would compare him with sociopaths like Stalin and Hitler, the similarities between this President and any one of the narcissistic political personalities found in history are obvious, and for that reason, deeply troubling.
The recurring themes of the Obama administration include countless examples of ineptitude…but of much greater concern is his oft-stated desire to be a tyrant (in the Greek city-state sense) and to be free to implement policies without consensus or debate. He is dictatorial in his heart, not democratic. And as President, he wants the unfettered freedom to act, even on an unimaginable scale, without forging consensus. What is pathological about this is that he continues to seek that authority, despite a series of grave failures. He plunges from one blunder to the next, never accepting responsibility himself and never doubting his righteousness. He is almost robotic in his ability to delete from memory any failure or hint of self-doubt. Yet, both are exactly what a normal person must experience in order to learn from mistakes. Mistakes are what enables us to learn and eventually figure out how to do what works. But a true narcissist can’t learn from his mistakes because he can’t admit to himself that he makes mistakes. He doesn’t know that success and failure work together; that they humanize and mature a person, and in the process change the world when experience trains a person to create something that works as it was intended to work.
When our nation coalesces to honor the good that our heroes and founders have achieved, it unites us and encourages civic virtue. However, when the masses sing hosannas to a candidate or sitting president, particularly one with no experience or record of achievements, we are inviting trouble. To preserve freedom, all leaders must be closely audited by a free people and a free press. It is only in forcing them to measure up to an honest examination that we can keep government in check and hope to achieve even rudimentary solutions to countless social problems. But, if we suspend reason and effectively worship politicians, viewing them as messiahs, we will end up with tyrants and failure on a huge scale. The list of failed Obama initiatives is striking, instructive, and growing by the day. It includes Obama-Care, the Benghazi deaths, weaponizing the IRS to punish political opponents (and destroying evidence of the crime), allowing the NSA to spy on citizens, releasing terrorists from Guantanamo in exchange for a deserter, the Fast and Furious gunrunning fiasco, and his decision to bug-out of Iraq only to see it immediately plunge deeper into war and chaos. Iraq cannot help but fall to ISIS and Iran without the involvement of the US. If ISIS succeeds, it will mean that the most dangerous, religiously fanatical regime on earth will have both access to a nuclear capability and an army of occupation willing to kill, pillage, rape, and enslave all of Africa, the Middle East and eventually Europe. This has the appearance of being his biggest mistake to date, but we are a long way from 2016, and the worst may yet be to come.
Looking back, the nation should have seen that Obama could not help but fail in the crucible of our incomparably complex and powerful government, because he entered the job with no preparation. Famed psychoanalyst Karen Horney (1939) wrote that the “narcissist loves and admires himself for values for which there is no adequate foundation.” She said that they have an “expectation that devotion or glory can be obtained without effort and initiative.” This echoes Kernberg’s observations that they are “Pseudosublimatory,” in  contrast to being actually productive. Well, that’s the President, and there’s no sense in denying it. In fact, a lot of harm can come of ignoring personality disorders in a man who is President.
Knowing little and possessing no achievements in the world, Obama grandiosely imagined that his “special gift” (something he referenced in conversation with Sen. Harry Reid) would be sufficient. But it is not. That gift is the ability to hold court, expostulate and mimic what he perceives to be the manner of truly accomplished men; hence the vanity and hauteur. He is reported to have told Valerie Jarrett (in what should have been a moment of levity but wasn’t) “I got game, — I can play at this level.”  One can only flinch at such obvious narcissism. His “game” is not a skill, it is an illness that neither America nor the world needs. We need is a leader who is the equal to the office, not a mimic who admires himself without the least foundation.
Were it not for his narcissism and the support of co-dependents like Jarrett, Obama would have crumbled after his first day, let alone his first term, in office. How many foreign leaders have expressed dismay at President Obama after meeting with him? The former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, is reported to have said that Obama was dangerous and “aliene,” — which translates as “insane.” In a poll released by Gallup in February 2014, for the first time since he became president, most Americans now think world leaders do not respect Barack Obama. Who, but a narcissist could persevere despite such comprehensive inadequacy?
No surprise then, that despite being glib, Mr. Obama is famously incapable of addressing an audience on complex subjects extemporaneously; something most professionals and every accomplished politician can do with ease. With a Teleprompter to read from he sounds well-informed and experienced. Without one, he becomes almost incoherent and stumbles into illogical blind alleys. Being a narcissist, he doesn’t see this as reflecting his essential incompetence. He lacks the desire to negotiate solutions to problems or get them implemented through consensus because he has none of the skills of a seasoned executive, but he never blames himself. Instead, he blames political opponents. At best, he and his staff of ideologues are purveyors of half-baked ideas that only the dim-witted liberal media are impressed by. That’s why even his signature policy initiative was passed with no Republican votes, rolled out chaotically, is hard to explain, endlessly complicated and has no chance of being successful without government subsidies that they said would never be needed.
Obama does have certain skills. He can deliver superb political oratory to a friendly crowd and have them up on their feet, within minutes but not without a teleprompter and not without references to himself. He is obsessed with himself. And though he exudes confidence in every setting, he has no capacity for handling the actual responsibilities and long hours inherent in the job. When answering questions, he is always glib, short on facts and analysis and long on sonorous generalities. Before entering office, he had no notable achievements. He was merely a “community organizer,” working to get more government grants for a black neighborhood in Chicago. With such an inconsequential background, why is anyone surprised at his performance in office, and what could possibly account for his belief that he should be the President of the United States?
The result of having a narcissist in the White House is that we are stuck with a rudderless government that fails on countless fronts, but which never assigns responsibility to one of its own. Nothing works as it should, but it is always someone or something else’s fault. He boasts that jobs are being created, — but fails to mention that the jobs are part-time, don’t pay much and that the number of hours-worked in the economy are shrinking. The third-world grows more unstable by the day as terrorists and tyrants act with impunity because America’s leadership is known to be weak and vacillating. The release of a soldier held hostage in exchange for five terrorists held in Guantanamo revealed such incompetence that it may prove to be his ultimate undoing if the soldier is convicted of desertion and the terrorists go back into the war against the US. High on the list of his bad decisions was the draw down of troops in Iraq to the point of inviting an explosion of violence and a humanitarian catastrophe. The probable overthrow of that government is next. But the Obama White House trudges-forward, seeing none of these as failures.
Real leaders, like FDR, Eisenhower, Churchill, Thatcher and Reagan had nothing in common with Obama. They knew that Democracy works best when the opposition party is brought in to help solve problems. These leaders could also speak inspirationally (even without notes) and accepted responsibility for what happened on their watch. Not surprisingly, they were successful in highly competitive arenas before coming into government, and it taught them much of what they needed to know to become successful as world leaders. A narcissist has no such experience to define and propel his life. He is an imitation. His political successes are due only to an ability to present a prepackaged image to a disengaged electorate and a willingness to sell himself to the highest bidders in the campaign-financing sweepstakes. There is great irony in the fact that the 1 percent he loves to castigate, financed his campaign to win the vote of the people that elected him. But instead of growing the economy as promised, Mr. Obama put us on a course that only shrunk the middle class and leaves millions under-employed.
Under Obama, the age-old standard of “good enough for government-work” seems inspired from the top. His work-days are short; his vacations long, numerous and extravagant. No one has any respect for the lassitude and ineptness in government, but the President tell us that things are fine. Not a hint of a problem at the IRS, he tells the press. He promised the healthcare bill would let you keep your doctor, knowing it to be a lie. And despite strained explanations about the Benghazi attack starting as a demonstration prompted by an internet video, few believe that anymore either. An estimated 60,000 people are flooding over our southern border illegally, including many gang members, and Islamist fanatics, but the federal government is not trying to stop it. He promised the most transparent administration in history, but we got the obverse and now he contends he can act without the consent of Congress, saying; “I can do whatever I want; I have a pen and a telephone,” with which to create policy.  This is an oft trod path and it always leads to totalitarianism. His presidency, like his life, is built upon half-truths, self-aggrandizement and narcissistic grandiosity. And though he and his inner circle are unmoved by the slow-motion train wreck they’ve steered the nation and the world into, they see nothing amiss. If this isn’t narcissism, I don’t know what would be.
The exact cause of narcissism is not completely understood by the researchers. Some say it’s a disorder that begins in the early part of adulthood and often aggravates with the passage of time. Others point to a variety of correlates which include considerable emotional abuse in the formative years, overindulgence and excessive admiration (particularly during childhood). Kernberg holds that the narcissist as a child was left emotionally hungry by a chronically cold, un-empathic mother. The child’s sole defense then is to take refuge in some aspect of himself that his parents, particularly his mother, valued. Thus, grandiosity developed. President Obama’s family history, such as we know it, could be so described. His upbringing was loosely managed by Old School Communists, New Age Leftists, and rich Socialists who passed him from pillar to post while nurturing his ego and shaping his understanding of the world. (To say that this was unusual is an understatement.) And yet, a world-view is formed precisely in this way. His upbringing was unique in an unquiet way. His father, a marginal character who identified as a Communist, was a second-rate academic,and a serial bigamist who beat and abandoned his wives and children. He became a drunkard and killed a man in an alcohol-related accident before he killed himself behind the wheel. Once his father abandoned her, his mother, also a self described Communist, married another man and moved Barack from place to place, including Indonesia. Eventually, she, too, would abandon him, sending him off to live with her parents, who were also Communists, in Hawaii, where he was cosseted in one of Honolulu’s top prep schools on the way to a Harvard education and a life predicated on becoming a public man. Rounding out the people in his life who profoundly shaped his worldview there was his church pastor, a preacher of fringe Black Liberation Theology, and a long-time friend, Bill Ayres, founder of the Weather Underground and a domestic terrorist.  These influences upon a young mind that was also fired with the inner flame of monomania can’t just be shrugged off as though they were inconsequential. They manifest themselves to this day in his psychology, his belief system and in the policies he has put in place for our government. The worst of all these possible influences would have to be Bill Ayers, whose project in life has been to expose America for what it is and diminish what he sees as the disproportionate power it has to do harm. Because he is who he is, Ayres’ critique of America posits one solution to a nation that would wage war upon North Vietnam’s “peasant army;” — a weaker, less influential America that can no longer force its will upon the weak and helpless peoples of the world. American power is the root of all evil, not the American people, per se, but those who use its military might for economic and cultural hegemony must be neutered, in this world view. That such political philosophies inform and animate leftist movements all over the world should not be ignored, and has to be considered in any honest audit of what comes out of the Obama White House. To be considered an intellectual by no means implies that a person is smart enough to know what he’s doing nor able to tell right from wrong. Most of the time, the opposite is true.
To conclude that a man with a personality disorder occupies the White House may appear to be rank partisan rantings to some, but in reality it is nothing more than to see the truth related by a children’s fable, ~ “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” — Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 tale, here cloaked in 21st century presidential garb. The truth revealed in fables such as this is found in many cultures and in many forms, but it remains the best literary metaphor for that which smacks of pretentiousness, hypocrisy and most of all, collective denial, — all of which characterize the President and his supporters. The nation’s myopic view of Obama is reflected in the fable as the crowd that murmurs aloud their admiration for his garments. It is the mass hysteria of group-think that always moves masses to collective action of less reflective kind.
One shudders to think what lasting damage will come of having such a profoundly unfit man in the White House for eight years. We may have to wait until he leaves office before we know the whole story of what he and his incompetent and ideological administration have done to the country. His Congressional allies, fearful of how it will affect their next election, will never permit an honest examination to happen until after he’s gone, but as election day nears watch for the commentary even from them to begin to grow slightly more honest, as Democrats will need to distance themselves from his record if they hope to survive. Hillary Clinton’s distancing herself from his foreign policy failures is a prime example, notwithstanding the odd/obvious inconvenient fact that she was his Secretary of State.
The long tail effect of having been led by a psychologically damaged man will impact the nation and the world for years to come. There will be many deaths and much destruction in the chaos created in the wake of his ineptitude. And as for that, I say the Democratic Party and the voters who put him in office have some soul-searching to do for their responsibility in creating this bizarre and dangerous chapter of American history. We will have to do better if we want to survive as a nation and sustain a civilization that honors human dignity. Large parts of the world are becoming a dystopia aflame with Islamic religious extremism. A vast reshuffling of sovereign borders is taking place as we speak, along with the absorption of populations under the banner of Islamic hegemony. So far, the Obama policy is to walk away from it. Plots, terrorism and revolution are the result of a feckless “leading from behind” foreign policy, and American is less influential as a result. Today more sovereign nations are controlled by criminal or radical religious elements than ever before and nuclear proliferation proceeds without any expectation of effective containment. The spread of ISIS to Pakistan or its alliance with Iran imply as much. These developments are dangerous and will get worse before they get better, while we wait for the Obama administration to be over.
When America elected Obama we inadvertently created a global leadership vacuum that left the nations of the world without its polestar. Leading from behind is not leading at all. If nations and peoples sense that there is no one at the top, the chaos down below worsens as ideology driven powers struggle for land and influence. We are almost forced to accept the consequences of this madness until the clock runs out. Nothing anyone may say or do can remove him from office, short of impeachment, which could only come if the 2014 elections deliver a massive sea-change in the political composition of the Senate. But until that time, we can at least forestall greater damage by seeing and speaking the truth of who and what Obama really is. We live in a free society. We must rely on our freedom to salvage what we can from this wreckage by freely and openly discussing what we must do to contain a psychologically unfit man in office, now that we know.


One response to “The narcissist in the White House Thoughts on the causes of the present discontents

  1. Pingback: The narcissist in the White House Thoughts on the causes of the present discontents | 4tune8man

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