Is Obama a Narcissist?

I wish people didn’t use psychoanalytic terminology stupidly. Because when they do, they say more about their own deep-seated issues than about the topic they think they are discussing. See the following example:

First, Obama’s personality. In an earlier life, I spent a lot of time studying the psychoanalytic literature on narcissism. It was all part of a study of canonical American poetry, where I thought that the imperial grandiosity of the American imaginary could be illuminated by examining its underlying narcissism. But all that is by way of saying I’m not using this term recklessly. I think there’s a lot of the narcissist about Obama. There’s something chilly and empty about him. Unlike Bill Clinton, he doesn’t revel in human company. It makes him uncomfortable. He wants the rich and powerful to love him, but doesn’t care about the masses (unless they’re a remote but adoring crowd). Many people seem to bore him. It shows.

I have no idea whether Obama or Romney are narcissists. I’m not their therapist, so it’s not for me to decide. However, I know that not liking human company is not a narcissistic trait. Neither are aloofness or feeling bored by people. If you consider these to be negative qualities in a human being or a politician, that’s your right. These are not narcissistic qualities, however.

Narcissists don’t like to spend time alone. They are in need of an admiring crowd at every stage of their existence. Narcissists have great people skills because without such skills they would not be able to find the audience to observe their narcissistic performances. Narcissists know all too well how to relate to others and make themselves indispensable. They feel uncomfortable outside of human company, not within it. Other people can have as much capacity to bore them as food does to bore a foodie. They dedicate their lives to consuming other people.

The failed analysis offered in the linked post is a great illustration of why the so-called “psychoanalytic literary criticism” is worthless garbage. Psychoanalyzing and diagnosing works of art is stupid. Doing this to politicians is not too smart either. This kind of analysis is always politically and critically impotent because it betrays an incapacity to engage with ideas (or works of art) and substitutes analytical thinking with a tabloid obsession with personalities.

About these ads

51 comments on “Is Obama a Narcissist?

  1. What an incredibly stupid quote! Even if we want psycho-analyze presidents it is very clear that Clinton would be the narcissist: charismatic, great people skills, womanizer. Obama in contrast might have slightly introverted tendencies. “There is something chilly and empty about him” — as an introvert I find this really offensive. Just because someone does not revel in human company does not mean the person is chilly or empty.

    • Exactly! The man is elected to take care of complex political issues, not children and kittens. So what if he’s a bit chilly and introverted sometimes?

  2. This is slightly off topic but I continue to be so surprised to the general reaction to the debate. I didn’t think Obama performed at his best but I thought he still was quite charming: polite, warm, smart. Romney on the other hand struck me as VERY rude; he interrupted everybody; he smiled painfully at weird moments; he was aggressive. Why would someone want a rude President who interrupts people and who can’t follow the simple and agreed-upon rules for a debate? I am biased of course and would never vote for Romney in a million years. But I truly am surprised that “average voters” seem to have found Romney’s performance so appealing and that they found Obama’s performance so “chilly.” If we are talking about affect and not issues, I thought Obama seemed a million times more personable than Romney. I really don’t get it.

    • I agree that Romney. Looked rude and his smile was completely fake.

      I don’t think that actual voters liked him more. This is what journalists and pundits want us to believe. These journalists are heavily conservative and they are grasping at straws because they know how bad their candidate is. Now they are inventing this weird story about the cold narcissist Obama. They have nothing else on the President, so they have to stoop to silly psychologizing.

      I remember that after the first Obama / McCain debate, the same pundits shrieked that McCain won the debate. And where is McCain now?

    • I am more than half afraid that a lot of Americans find Obama “chilly and remote” because he doesn’t fit the “smiling, agreeable darkie” personality that African-Americans are supposed to present. As for Romney, many Americans, especially white ones, are full of buried resentment against the loss of privilege, prestige, power, and riches that they were raised to believe was theirs by right, and not-so-secretly cheer someone who seems to embody their anger against an “unfair” world. A lot more Americans simply don’t know how to act like adults, and see rudeness as being forthright, or “telling it like it is,” or some such nonsense.

      • Even some of my friends are shockingly rude at times and think it is a quality that shows how down to earth they are. I forgive them, because they don’t know any better and are probably too old to change their ways.

  3. “Narcissists don’t like to spend time alone. They are in need of an admiring crowd at every stage of their existence. Narcissists have great people skills because without such skills they would not be able to find the audience to observe their narcissistic performances. Narcissists know all too well how to relate to others and make themselves indispensable. They feel uncomfortable outside of human company, not within it. Other people can have as much capacity to bore them as food does to bore a foodie. They dedicate their lives to consuming other people.”

    You describe very well the lifestyle of the vast majority of politicians. So the vast majority of politicians are narcissists, not only Uncle Tom OSama.

    • @ David Gendron: you may know this already. but just in case you aren’t aware……. In the US calling a Black peson “Uncle Tom” is considered an INCREDIBLY racist slur. On par with calling a black person “nig—” or to put it another context, akin to calling a gay person “fag—.” (I don’t want to type such terrible words on Clarissa’s blog.) Again, you may know this and intend it. But since don’t appear to be American and may not intend racism, I just thought I would let you know that the term is generally considered deeply deeply racist and hateful.

      • I know this but I will not apologize for this. Obama promises change and, in place, he continues this white-centrist-capitalist-militaro-terrorist agenda shared by both Repubenrons and Mediocrats. So Nader was right when he wonders if Obama is an Uncle Tom (in opposition to Uncle Tom) submitted to corporate interests and lobbies.

        This is not racist. I don’t think that Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Shirley Sherrod are or were Uncle Toms. But Obama and Romney are Uncle Toms!

        I hope that someday, people realize that there’s nothing to hope with politics! Especially in USA where almost nobody wants their State to secede.

      • “I just thought I would let you know that the term is generally considered deeply deeply racist and hateful.”

        I agree with “hateful”. What’s the problem to be hateful with Romney, for example?

      • I wasn’t trying to get in to a political debate here. I like Obama more than you do but I certainly have some trouble with his policies. But I wasn’t defending Obama’s politics in the above comment and had no interest in starting a political debate. I was just thinking that perhaps you meant to attack Obama’s politics and didn’t necessarily meaning to attack him for his race. Terrible, murderous, white politicians almost ruined this country and they were never attacked for their race. It’s sad to me that a Black politician is attacked for his race. But as long as you are aware that you are using racist slurs, then that’s fine I guess. I just wanted to let you know how that name comes off in an American context.

    • Political scientist have long ago identified the curious phenomenon in which people from the left are hardest on mild reformers than on their actual enemies. This lack of support from their side is part of the environment which facilitated the coup d’etat against Arbenz in Guatemala and unleashed forty years of dictatorship.

      You might feel like you are a true radical by taking Obama to task, but in practice all you are doing is carrying the water for Romney, which is every bit as bad as the Obama caricature you paint and then some.

      • Culture Club: I’ve noticed this, too. When Romney says something horrible, I’m not outraged because I never expected anything different from him. But when Obama does it, I’m incensed because I expected better from him. I don’t even think I have any posts that are critical of Romney on my blog because everything seems so obvious about him.

      • I’m an anarchist, so I don’t care about “right” of “left”, especially when they act as the same. And I was even more critical when Enron With Bush was in power, especially in his last 4 years.

        And I know that Romney will be at least as shitty, maybe a little more.

        “the coup d’etat against Arbenz in Guatemala and unleashed forty years of dictatorship.”

        Don’t forget that the CIA supported this coup.

      • Don’t forget that the CIA supported this coup.

        I don’t but the CIA also supported the coup against Chavez and it failed. They also tried coups against Castro and the Sandinistas and those failed too. The difference? those governments had the support of the people.

        • “I don’t but the CIA also supported the coup against Chavez and it failed. They also tried coups against Castro and the Sandinistas and those failed too. The difference? those governments had the support of the people.”

          – EXACTLY!!!

  4. I think that this is just another example of the typical reductist analysis used in the current election cycle.

    Washington Times:

    1 The Obama campaign slogan is “Forward.” (true)

    2 There were many socialist and communists magazines at the beginning of the 20th century with the name, “Forware”. (true)

    From one and two, WT concludes Obama is a socialist/ communist.

    Many Media:

    1 Romney had his dog, Shamus, on his roof rack during a trip to Canada. (true)

    2 Many sociopaths mistreat animals when they were young. (true)

    From one and two, these folks conclude that Romney is a sociopath.

    Obviously these examples are, as sociologists point out, confirmatory bias where they support prior conclusions as well as illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations) and this is true of both parties with their media supporters. The liberal echo chamber is as bad as the conservative one. “An incapacity to engage with ideas” phrase in your post reminds me that the Texas Republican party’s current official written platform includes a section that opposes “critical thinking” so you know my confirmatory bias. Video time – Romney as Dexter.

    • I agree. Journalists prefer to engage in “psychoanalyzing” the politicians instead of looking at the convoluted tax proposals coming from both sides and figuring out what they mean. The journalists are lazy. They don’t want the hard work. They want easy labels they can attach for maximum shock factor. Narcissist! Sociopath! Labels with absolutely no substance.

      Yet nobody has even tried to tell me how much I will pay in taxes next year if either candidate wins.

  5. YES Indeed, Romney is a corporate killer. And Westgate Resort’s David Siegel is having a bribing behavior when he threatens his employees by saying:

    “If President Obama is re-elected and raises taxes, Westgate Resort’s David Siegel says he will have to lay off workers and downsize his company — or even shut it down”
    CNBC

    To me this pronounement is a direct attack to the foundations of American Democracy.

    • Perhaps you would like to read the actual text of David Siegel’s “your’re fired” memo.

      Subject: Message from David Siegel
      Date:Mon, 08 Oct 2012 13:58:05 -0400 (EDT)
      From: [David Siegel]
      To: [All employees]

      To All My Valued Employees,

      As most of you know our company, Westgate Resorts, has continued to succeed in spite of a very dismal economy. There is no question that the economy has changed for the worse and we have not seen any improvement over the past four years. In spite of all of the challenges we have faced, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn’t interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose. In fact, I encourage you to vote for whomever you think will serve your interests the best.

      However, let me share a few facts that might help you decide what is in your best interest.The current administration and members of the press have perpetuated an environment that casts employers against employees. They want you to believe that we live in a class system where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. They label us the “1%” and imply that we are somehow immune to the challenges that face our country. This could not be further from the truth. Sure, you may have heard about the big home that I’m building. I’m sure many people think that I live a privileged life. However, what you don’t see or hear is the true story behind any success that I have achieved.

      I started this company over 42 years ago. At that time, I lived in a very modest home. I converted my garage into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you. We didn’t eat in fancy restaurants or take expensive vacations because every dollar I made went back into this company. I drove an old used car, and often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business — hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. Meanwhile, many of my friends got regular jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a nice income, and they spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into this business —-with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford to buy whatever I wanted. Even to this day, every dime I earn goes back into this company. Over the past four years I have had to stop building my dream house, cut back on all of my expenses, and take my kids out of private schools simply to keep this company strong and to keep you employed.

      Just think about this – most of you arrive at work in the morning and leave that afternoon and the rest of your time is yours to do as you please. But not me- there is no “off” button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have that freedom. I eat, live, and breathe this company every minute of the day, every day of the week. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. I know many of you work hard and do a great job, but I’m the one who has to sign every check, pay every expense, and make sure that this company continues to succeed. Unfortunately, what most people see is the nice house and the lavish lifestyle. What the press certainly does not want you to see, is the true story of the hard work and sacrifices I’ve made.

      Now, the economy is falling apart and people like me who made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced to bail out all the people who didn’t. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed 42 years of my life for. Yes, business ownership has its benefits, but the price I’ve paid is steep and not without wounds. Unfortunately, the costs of running a business have gotten out of control, and let me tell you why: We are being taxed to death and the government thinks we don’t pay enough. We pay state taxes, federal taxes, property taxes, sales and use taxes, payroll taxes, workers compensation taxes and unemployment taxes. I even have to hire an entire department to manage all these taxes. The question I have is this: Who is really stimulating the economy? Is it the Government that wants to take money from those who have earned it and give it to those who have not, or is it people like me who built a company out of his garage and directly employs over 7000 people and hosts over 3 million people per year with a great vacation?

      Obviously, our present government believes that taking my money is the right economic stimulus for this country. The fact is, if I deducted 50% of your paycheck you’d quit and you wouldn’t work here. I mean, why should you? Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, that’s what happens to me.

      Here is what most people don’t understand and the press and our Government has chosen to ignore – to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Instead of raising my taxes and depositing that money into the Washington black-hole, let me spend it on growing the company, hire more employees, and generate substantial economic growth. My employees will enjoy the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But that is not what our current Government wants you to believe. They want you to believe that it somehow makes sense to take more from those who create wealth and give it to those who do not, and somehow our economy will improve. They don’t want you to know that the “1%”, as they like to label us, pay more than 31% of all the taxes in this country. Thomas Jefferson, the author of our great Constitution, once said, “democracy” will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

      Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate business, not kill it. However, the power brokers in Washington believe redistributing wealth is the essential driver of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change they want.

      So where am I going with all this? It’s quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.

      So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job. While the media wants to tell you to believe the “1 percenters” are bad, I’m telling you they are not. They create most of the jobs. If you lose your job, it won’t be at the hands of the “1%”; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country.

      You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about.

      Signed, your boss,

      David Siegel

      And if Obama wins and Siegel’s employees are clipping food stamps, check out his new home.

      • I really don’t see the point of dicussing this. The guy is completely entitled to his opinion, his house and his hiring policies. He is also entitled to his senility from which he obviously suffers.

  6. @Evelina Anville

    “Terrible, murderous, white politicians almost ruined this country and they were never attacked for their race.”

    And OSama is a terrible, murderous behave-like-white politician who ruins the country, and Romney is not better, and so on…

    What is more racist?

    1) Me the fucking anarchist who use the term “Uncle Tom OSama”

    2) Be submitted to white corporate militaro-terrorist power like Obama does right now.

    Ask Shirley Sherrod about this…

        • That’s precisely what Romney wants us to believe!

          No, Romney will not do the same thing. He will stuff the Supreme Court with unhinged religious fanatics like Scalia. He will destroy women’s rights. He will raise taxes on people like me. He will destroy the social security system. He will make the healthcare system worse than it was under Bush. He will start a war with Iran and God knows whom else. He will destroy public education. He will destroy schools. He will destroy the sciences. He will be like Bush Jr but more rabid.

          Once again, the idea that “they are all the same” plays into the hands of religious fanatics.

      • That’s what people thought when Bush ran against Gore. That ultimately it wouldn’t be much of a difference. Seemingly, two wars and the biggest financial crisis in history later, there are ignoramuses out there who still think that way.

        • “That’s what people thought when Bush ran against Gore. That ultimately it wouldn’t be much of a difference. Seemingly, two wars and the biggest financial crisis in history later, there are ignoramuses out there who still think that way.”

          – Thank you for saying this!!! This is a great argument against the “they are all the same” mentality. How many people didn’t even go to the polls in those elections? And today we are all paying the price. I still lived in Canada at that time but I was glued to the TV all night long, waiting for the results of the elections. Even then I knew that if Bush won, we’d all be in deep shit. And we are.

    • and here I was thinking that people were individuals who could act anyway they pleased. Turns out that no, they have to act according to the color of their skin. Not that this is racist or anything….

  7. “That’s what people thought when Bush ran against Gore. That ultimately it wouldn’t be much of a difference. Seemingly, two wars and the biggest financial crisis in history later, there are ignoramuses out there who still think that way.”

    In a militaro-terrorist standpoint, I don’t think that it would have change things greatly. But with Gore, maybe American terrorists would have been more in Afghanistan than in Irak, like Obama does right now.

    On the environmental standpoint, I admit that with Gore, the change would be more clearer, even though I don’t like very much his eco-fascist dogma.

    It’s not only Enron With Bush who have created this economic crisis.

      • I agree. And no other politician would do better than him against that. I don’t think he was so bad (even though I’m very critical about his economical policies) against the crisis, and a Repubenron president would not have been better.

  8. “Romney will not do the same thing. He will stuff the Supreme Court with unhinged religious fanatics like Scalia. He will destroy women’s rights. He will raise taxes on people like me. He will destroy the social security system. He will make the healthcare system worse than it was under Bush. He will start a war with Iran and God knows whom else. He will destroy public education. He will destroy schools. He will destroy the sciences. He will be like Bush Jr but more rabid. ”

    Yes, Romney will be possibly a little more shitty than Obama, I know. But I think he is too much moderate (look at his previous political record, especially in Massachusets) to be more shitty than Bush (maybe as much, though). He just plays wedge politics right now to please his radical pro-Santorum-Tea-Party base.

    • If everything I listed sounds like “A LITTLE WORSE” to you, then I don’t know what else to say. It might feel safe back in Canada, but there is no evidence Canada can withstand another market crash as well as it did the first.

      • Canada, yes (not as good as now, though). Québec, clearly not. (and in our case, no need of a portential financial crisis to see problems to come)

        I don’t think the identity of the next president will determine if it would have another crisis of not.

      • Exactly. They are calling to going back to the exact same policies of Bush this time around. Say what you will about Reagan (and I have a lot to say about that) but at least he wasn’t proposing we go back to wiretapping democrats at the Watergate Hotel complex.

        Romney is most definitely proposing a return to the Bush policies, both internally in terms of taxes and regulations and externally in terms of foreign policies.

  9. And you know what, the USA economy is in better (not great, but better) shape right now. And if this economical trend continues until the election, I’m pretty confident that Obama will be re-elected.

  10. “This kind of analysis is always politically and critically impotent because it betrays an incapacity to engage with ideas (or works of art) and substitutes analytical thinking with a tabloid obsession with personalities.”

    I agree with this, on every level, although I would go further and say that psychoanalytical critiques generally remove the teeth from substantive political critiques, by making them seem to be all about the isolated individual writer. The critic actually isolates the writer by his barrage of psychological criticism to the point that the writer no longer speaks.

    Here are some notes I wrote a long time ago on this phenomenon:

    http://musteryou.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/marecheras-little-pattison/

      • It’s a kind of inclination to the genetic fallacy.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_fallacy

        Imagine if you had begun your life in a country which began a civil war when you were in primary school. You were exceptionally smart, but “civilization” was identified as the capacity to speak English and act in a British way, whereas liberation was identified as the ability to renounce British values, including the English language? Imagine your parents were on the side of the “liberation”, but to be on that side meant you couldn’t liberate yourself personally from a state of extreme poverty and repression, since the only means to do so was by getting an education in a missionary school? The psychological conflict this would produce would be tremendous. It would probably tear your mind apart.

        And then, someone comes along and presumes to analyse your psychological torment in relation to your comments about how your mother had become a prostitute to support the family. “What a terrible thing to say about one’s mother!”

        Well, this is to suppose that the writer was just alleging prostitution and that his mother hadn’t actually needed to make money in this way. Why doubt the writer? It must be important to make it seem like all of his psychological torment was a result of having “mummy issues”, but why does a critic need to see it that way?

        Psychoanalytical theory, perhaps especially academic versions of it, does not take into account political and social issues. It makes those who have used every amount of ingenuity to survive tremendous waves of upheaval seem like blathering idiots who brought their problems on themselves. The same applies to my memoir, which is in the Marechean genre. One cannot separate the individual from the historical and social context of the times without losing its meaning.

  11. Pingback: The Marecheran genre and the importance of history « muster you

  12. Pingback: Occasional Link Roundup | Brute Reason

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s