The tell-tale “dead eyes”
Much has been written about Barack Obama’s charasmatic personality during his meteoric ascension to the top of the Democratic ticket. A reoccurring theme in many stories has been his apparent narcissistic qualities. Even though, for some time, I’ve been under the impression that Obama does indeed have some narcissistic qualities, I’ve resisted writing anything about it for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, I have no significant background in psychology, myself. I’m no expert, and can only claim to have a basic understanding of narcissistic disorder through what I’ve read independent of any sort of formal instruction. In other words, what do I know?
Secondly, this is a favorite ploy of the left. Bush (and conservatives) have been accused of every type of personality disorder known to man, (including narcissism), though on closer examination, one usually finds the diagnosis’ of disorder to be no deeper than, “we disagree with you so you must be crazy.”
Third…who cares? The man is still considered the second coming to millions even after the Reverend Wright, and William Ayers controversies; even after his terrorist endorsements, and commie connections came to light. So what if he’s in love with himself. To his narcissistic followers, that’s not a bad thing.
Finally…This assessment of Obama could be completely wrong.
But I don’t think so.
There’s just been so much written about Obama’s narcissism, going back over a year, (before he was even taken seriously as a contender), that it seemed worth looking into, and I thought it might be useful to bundle some of it up into one post.
As mentioned above, part of the reason for Obama’s success, I believe is the narcissism of his impressionable followers. Kathleen Parker put it this way at Real Clear Politics:
To play weatherman for a moment, he is a perfect storm of the culture of narcissism, the cult of celebrity, and a secular society in which fathers (both the holy and the secular) have been increasingly marginalized from the lives of a generation of young Americans.
All of these trends have been gaining momentum the past few decades. Social critic Christopher Lasch named the culture of narcissism a generation ago and cited addiction to celebrity as one of the disease’s symptoms — all tied to the decline of the family.
That culture has merely become more exaggerated as spiritual alienation and fatherlessness have collided with technology (YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) that enables the self-absorption of the narcissistic personality.
Grown-ups with decades under their double chins may have a variety of reasons for supporting Obama, but the youth who pack convention halls and stadiums as if for a rock concert constitute a tipping point of another order.
But it’s Obama’s own apparent narcissism that has most tongues wagging, many of them, psychologists who believe they’re able to detect most of the classic signs of the disorder in him. Here’s one I found in the comments section at The Debatable Land. This is from August, 2007;
Another commenter with personal experience with NPD:
Personally, I think Obama clearly has narcissistic personality disorder.
My mother was diagnosed with it also. So I too have a really good idea of what it looks like. And to me, in Obama’s case, it’s clearcut.
And when I’ve looked online, I’ve seen that I’m not the only child of a narcissist who thinks this about Obama.
If you look at Obama’s language in books and speeches, there’s actually a great deal of “I” usage. And he’s prone to occasionally speaking in the third person. What I find more striking is that his “we” usage is often odd, as though everyone is an extension of him. My mother does exactly the same thing (a naive observer could even mistake this for selflessness). As well as the use of vague pretty language (everyone thinks she’s on their side) and the smooth charm.
Another person who claims to have a background in Psychiatry:
…In fact a friend of mine who is a police psychologist examined a few of Obama’s videos and appearances where he was defending himself and we both saw the classic symptoms showed by suspects when they lie. To be specific we know that when a person is lying they will become extremely defensive, refusing to answer any questions and even accusing you of lying, meaning they have something to hide.
Of course there is nothing wrong with defending oneself against an attack, but in Obama’s case you notice it’s never about the specific charges against him, it’s always about the attacker – his “persecutor”. It’s about deflection. It’s like the kid who gets caught in the cookie jar by Mom only to complain about what his sister is doing.
Sen. Obama later explained his wife’s remarks this way: “What she meant was, this is the first time that she’s been proud of the politics of America.”
I do not believe that Sen. Obama’s explanation is valid. I think Mrs. Obama said what she meant and meant what she said. But even if Sen. Obama’s reformulation of his wife’s remarks is valid, the fact remains that the closest person in the world to Barack Obama has never been proud of the politics of America, that it took her husband’s primary wins to change a lifelong lack of pride in anything about America’s political life. That’s troubling on its own — for his and her contempt for American politics. And it is even more troubling for its narcissism — do Sen. Obama and his wife believe that only his success has made American politics worthy of pride?
We are therefore confronted with either a contempt for America — if the original statement reflects Michelle Obama’s thinking — or some real narcissism on the part of both Sen. and Mrs. Obama. That narcissism is easily demonstrated. Just imagine if Hillary Clinton or John McCain had said they supported their spouse’s view that until their primary victories, they had never been proud of their country’s politics. Either of them would have looked foolish before the American people. That is why many believe Sen. Obama has been getting a relatively free ride in the American media, which largely adore him.
Mark Steyn was taken aback by Obama’s reaction to Bush’s Knesset speech. If you remember, Obama was convinced that Bush, when speaking of appeasers, was referring directly to him:
It says something for Democrat touchiness that the minute a guy makes a generalized observation about folks who appease terrorists and dictators the Dems assume: Hey, they’re talking about me. Actually, he wasn’t — or, to be more precise, he wasn’t talking only about you. Yes, there are plenty of Democrats who are in favor of negotiating with our enemies, and a few Republicans, too — President Bush’s pal James Baker, whose Iraq Study Group was full of proposals to barter with Iran and Syria and everybody else. But that general line is also taken by at least three of Tony Blair’s former cabinet ministers and his senior policy adviser, and by the leader of Canada’s New Democratic party, and by a whole bunch of bigshot Europeans. It’s not a Democrat-election policy, it’s an entire worldview. Even Barack Obama can’t be so vain as to think his fly-me-to-[insert name of enemy here] concept is an original idea.
Yes, he can.
Then there’s Obama’s bizarre plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons:
I guess he’s going to be able to achieve all that based on his charm and good looks.
I may be just an armchair, amateur psychologist, but that right there is scary.
And here’s a recent example of what I would call narcissistic behavior, caught by Slublog at AOSHQ:
Yesterday, President Bush attended a number of fundraisers for John McCain. The media was not invited, and Barack Obama was outraged.
If you blinked, you missed it – John McCain and fellow GOPer President Bush held a private fund-raiser Tuesday night, but Democrat Barack Obama made sure it lasted all day. “No cameras, no reporters, and we all know why,” Obama said of McCain’s powwow with Bush.
“Sen. McCain doesn’t want to be seen, hat in hand, with the President whose failed policies he promises to continue.”
You guys know where this is going, right?Yeah, he’s being a hypocrite. That’s not the only private event he’s attended, either. And those “bitter” comments? They were also made at a private fundraiser. I guess Obama doesn’t want to be seen, hat in hand, with billionaires. Given the stupid remarks he made about guns and religion, “we all know why.”
UPDATE: (June 18):
Mary Katharine Ham agrees with me, noting that Obama is now selling on his campaign website:
…a faux-leather-bound collector’s edition DVD of the “More Perfect Union” speech. A piece of oratory ripe for canonization at the age of just three months. A piece of oratory so sage in its insight, so true in its observations, so riveting in its delivery, that the orator himself admitted it was all bunk just one month after its delivery, and yet still believes that you should own a copy of this “landmark speech” from which he has since entirely backtracked.
Not only is this a ridiculously egotistical move, even for a presidential candidate, but it’s yet another appropriation of traditional patriotic words and imagery by a man who has claimed to dislike the manipulation of patriotic imagery for political purposes.
UPDATE (July 14):
A couple more examples:
And Obama’s desire to give a campaign speech at Germany’s historic Brandenburg Gate:
The gate stood for 28 years behind the Berlin Wall in communist East Germany’s heavily fortified border zone. Probably the capital’s best-known monument, it was once a symbol of Germany’s Cold War division and now stands for its reunification.
Steg (spokesman for the chancellor), noted that the Brandenburg Gate has become “a place with a particular exclusivity, intensity and symbolism” in view of past speeches by sitting U.S. presidents and events such as a large rally in solidarity with the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
As a result, he said Merkel has voiced “great skepticism as to whether it is appropriate to bring an election campaign being fought not in Germany but in the United States to the Brandenburg Gate.”
Steg said that “no German (chancellor) candidate would think of using (Washington’s) National Mall or Red Square in Moscow for rallies, because it would be considered inappropriate.”
Angela Merkel reportedly found Obama’s plan to be “a bit odd”.
In a famous 1987 speech that used the gate as a backdrop, President Reagan urged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “open this gate” and “tear down this wall.”
In 1994, four years after German reunification, President Clinton spoke on the other, formerly eastern, side of the gate – declaring that “Berlin is free.”
Now Obama the candidate wants his turn?
UPDATE: (July 18):
Charles Krauthammer writes in The Audacity Of Vanity:
Americans are beginning to notice Obama’s elevated opinion of himself. There’s nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?
Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted “present” nearly 130 times. As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work is a biography of his favorite subject: himself.
It is a subject upon which he can dilate effortlessly. In his victory speech upon winning the nomination, Obama declared it a great turning point in history — “generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment” — when, among other wonders, “the rise of the oceans began to slow.” As Hudson Institute economist Irwin Stelzer noted in his London Daily Telegraph column, “Moses made the waters recede, but he had help.” Obama apparently works alone.
Obama may think he’s King Canute, but the good king ordered the tides to halt precisely to refute sycophantic aides who suggested that he had such power. Obama has no such modesty.
After all, in the words of his own slogan, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” which, translating the royal “we,” means: ” I am the one we’ve been waiting for.” Amazingly, he had a quasi-presidential seal with its own Latin inscription affixed to his lectern, until general ridicule — it was pointed out that he was not yet president — induced him to take it down.
UPDATE (July 23):
Yep, more and more people are are beginning to notice:
Barack Obama always was a larger-than-life candidate with a healthy ego. Now he’s turning into the A-Rod of politics. It’s all about him.
He’s giving his opponent something other than issues to attack him on: narcissism.
A convention hall isn’t good enough for the presumptive Democratic nominee. He plans to deliver his acceptance speech in the 75,000 seat stadium where the Denver Broncos play. Before a vote is cast, he’s embarking on a foreign policy tour that will use cheering Europeans – and America’s top news anchors – as extras in his campaign. What do you expect from a candidate who already auditioned a quasi-presidential seal with the Latin inscription, “Vero possumus” – “Yes, we can”?
I used to think he was Captain Bullshit.
Now I think he is so dangerously narcissistic his ego just warps the world around him, like gravity, so that everything really does wind up revolving around him.
This is pretty extraordinary. A candidate for the American Presidency is using flyers printed in German to turn people out for his campaign rally in Berlin on Thursday. This flyer can be found on a bilingual page on BarackObama.com advertising the event … The German flyers bear Obama’s campaign logo and say “Paid for by Obama for America.” …
So, this isn’t just some sober, high-minded foreign policy speech, part of a foreign trip occurring under the auspices of his official Senate office. It is a campaign rally occuring on foreign soil. They are using the same tactics to turn out Germans to an event as they would to any rally right here in America.
He calls this “breathtakingly arrogant”.
Glenn Reynolds says Obama seems to be running for President of the World.
UPDATE (July 24):
This spoof poster about Obama’s trip to Berlin says it all:
Via Newsbusters: Jake Tapper from ABC is one of the reporters covering Obama on his overseas trip. Here are some of his thoughts:
Obama’s campaign has been pulling out all the stops, distributing these flyers in German to round up a huge crowd for his speech tonight, one the Obama campaign is billing at almost presidential. Even though he is not the president.
-to his hobnobbing with world leaders, to his military exercises in Israel and Iraq, everything about this trip is meticulously designed to make you comfortable with Obama as commander in chief. That started with his newly retrofitted plane. The American flag on the tail wing has been replaced by an enormous Obama “O.” And the slogan “change we can believe in” is on the sides. [Tapper is now inside the plane.] Inside, the plane has been redesigned to separate the senator and his staff from us lowly reporters. And this was the site of a big media mutiny the other day as Obama officials insisted they’d be able to brief us on background as anonymous officials. One of them said that’s what we did at the White House during the Clinton years. We pointed out they don’t work at the White House. Other flourishes, an Obama napkin holder after we refueled in Ireland.
UPDATE: July 28:
What I call “narcissism”, J.R. Dunn at the American Thinker calls “hubris”:
The operative term here is “hubris”. A word of Attic Greek origin, hubris was a major concept animating classical Greek thought. Hubris is overweening pride, an arrogance so profound and so visible as to affront the gods themselves. Hubris was a quality often identified with Greek tragic heroes. The hero allowed simple human pride in his accomplishments and station to burgeon to offensive proportions, at which point the wheels of fate began rolling. The ending was never good — the valiant Ajax stabs himself to death at a lonely spot, the kingly Oedipus is transformed into a howling, self-blinded wreck.Barack Obama embodies hubris in chemically pure form. Not that he’s a tragic hero, or a hero of any sort, to anyone apart from his deluded legions of college freshmen. Beyond cleaning Hillary’s clock, he has no accomplishments to speak of, and as for his station… A glance at Trent Lott, Robert Byrd, and Ted Kennedy clearly reveals that “U.S. senator” is not a position of particular pride.But even if he hasn’t founded cities, destroyed monsters, or led men into battle, Obama does share one quality with the heroes of the ancient world: an absolute conviction that he is superior to the ordinary run of humanity. Like them, Obama believes himself a man of destiny, and like them, Obama will go over the edge.
Barack Obama actually appears to be running against God. By claiming that he can do things only God can do, like heal “broken souls” and fill up “holes” in people’s hearts, make all “divisions” go away and disperse with all inconvenient “distractions,” Barack Obama claims power that no mortal man, and certainly no mere president has ever had, or ever will have, no matter how much money he has to spend or how brilliant or how able he may be.Most rational human beings know this without thinking hard.That’s why this isn’t an ordinary election, and why it is becoming more absurd by the hour.
Obama has arisen from nothingness, from one accomplishment-free political gig to another, propped up by leftists adulators and sycophants, to offer a perfect portrait of socialism’s eternal snare. Forget God; put your hope in mankind. Human arrogance and narcissistic pride. From the fall in the Garden to the present, from generation to generation, Satan’s delusion holds sway with many.Barack Obama is walking, talking, breathing narcissism. The iconography of his campaign is nothing, if not the glorification of Obama, a solitary, quite mortal man. They must glorify Obama’s image because, in reality, he has no accomplishments that bear mention.Obama struts his nothingness with grace; even his detractors admit that.What could more openly and more amply demonstrate the absolute emptiness of socialism’s promise than the perfectly empty resume of its newest hero?
The salvation that Obama offers comes in the form of radically changing America to a utopian state, which he contends will fix our “broken souls.” That simply is not within the province of his abilities.
As Pope Benedict has so wisely and emphatically stated:
Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes, not divine, but demonic.
— Truth and Tolerance; p. 116
Barack Obama stands front and center now, offering the age-old false promise that mankind can save itself through “collective redemption,” and simply because he employs Christian language and symbols, no genuine lovers of God will be fooled.Hope in God?Or hope in Obama?I thank God every day for giving us Americans such a clear and easy choice. Perhaps He is simply using Barack Obama to separate a bit of chaff from the grain.