11 May 2016

Two Pathological Narcissists in a Row?

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Paul Rahe explores the remarkable similarities, and notes the differences between, Trump and Obama.

Shortly before the Indiana primary, The Wall Street Journal’s “Notable and Quotable” published a brief squib lifted from the Mayo Clinic’s online entry regarding narcissistic personality disorder:

    If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement—and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything—for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.

    At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection. . . .

    [The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5] . . . criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

    Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

    Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it

    Exaggerating your achievements and talents

    Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate . . .

    Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

If there was no commentary, it was because there was, in fact, no need – for it was self-evident whom the editors of that daily had in mind. It is nonetheless worth noting that, had they published the same squib at any time between April, 2009 and January, 2015, everyone would have recognized that the target was Barack Obama. Never in the history of the American Republic has there been a President as devoted to self-referential pronouncements and to self-praise. Nor have we ever had a President before who supposed that his knowledge and ability was superior in every particular to that of the experts whom he had hired to advise him. The self-confidence of Barack Obama knows no bounds.

There is, to be sure, this difference between our current President and the aspirant targeted by The Wall Street Journal. The latter is deficient in self-discipline. Incontinence ought to be his middle name. He is incapable of marital fidelity, and he has long advertised the fact. He is a model of indiscretion, and he responds to criticism with uncontrollable rage. …

Like Barack Obama, he is an accomplished actor, and he has one remarkable gift. He can spin a tale of his own greatness, and he can make the credulous believe it. Furthermore, like Barack Obama, he has devoted his life to aggrandizement. He is not a promise-keeper; he is a promise-breaker. He seduces others, uses them, and dumps them. Look at the women in his life; look also at his record as a businessman. In business, when he fails, his partners are always left holding the bag. When he speaks of “the art of the deal,” he has in mind “the art of the steal.” It is not clear that he has ever cared – really cared — for another human being: apart, perhaps, for his children whom he considers extensions of himself. It is all about winning, all about humiliating opponents, all about showing off, all about commanding the stage.

I can see why those who recoil in horror at the prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming President (as I do) are inclined to suppose that The Donald would be better. He might be. He just might be. But if he is elected, it will be The Donald Show, just as we have lived through The Barack Show. The chief difference will be that Trump will be erratic – driven this way and that by his anger at perceived slights. The man has no principles whatsoever, and he has no self-control. Barack Obama has systematically exploited us in support of the narrative he is intent on constructing. There will be no system to what Donald Trump does. Under his direction, our government will be as chaotic as his romantic life, and we will once again be extras in a drama staged by and on behalf of someone else.

Read the whole thing.


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