[Marxism] Narcissistic disorder?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Sep 13 09:18:43 MDT 2011

On Sep 13, 2011, at 9:09 AM, James Leveque quoted Gawker:

Doug Henwood replying to James Leveque on LBO-Talk:

 > We're told by a source inside the *Times* that the paper is 
preparing a
 > story arguing that Obama no longer finds joy in the political
 > back-and-forth, has seemed increasingly listless to associates, 
and is
 > generally exhibiting the litany of signs that late-night cable 
 > will tell you add up to depression.

I've thought all along that the guy has narcissistic personality 
disorder. All politicians do to some degree, but his seems 
extreme. It also explains the reaction of many of his supporters - 
initial passionate crush followed by disappointment. The guy is 
charming at first, but then his emptiness takes over and you want 
to be rid of him. So it would make sense that he's depressed - a 
narcissistic depression characterized by feelings of emptiness and 
abandonment rather than a neurotic one, filled with self-reproach.



Counterpunch September 13, 2011

Political Patricide
Obama’s Great Betrayal

Barack Obama’s betrayal will resonate in history long after he has 
become just another name on the over-priced celebrity speaker 
circuit.  It is a betrayal of far more than the youthful idealists 
and loyal progressives who put him in the White House.  Obama has 
unmoored the Democratic Party from its foundations – philosophical 
and electoral.  No longer is it expression of the programs and 
ideas that crystallized with the New Deal and which dominated the 
country’s politics for sixty years. Its future is that of ad doc 
assemblage of hustlers and operators beholden to campaign donors 
of all stripes, a party whose sole claim to govern will be that it 
is not the amalgamated Tea/Republican Party.  Obama, by this 
Oedipus like act of patricide, has also betrayed the country that 
voted for an enlightened leader with a social conscience – a 
country in desperate need of the opposite to the fate he has laid 
on us.

Barack Obama was the active factor that has precipitated this 
tragedy.  Who and what he is, therefore, is of the utmost 
importance.  It deserves close scrutiny since his unbecoming 
traits of personality are not his alone, although he does 
represent their distilled essence – and he alone managed to become 
President of the United States.  There are more Obamas, or Obama 
look-alikes, in our future.  What are the most salient ingredients 
in his private-public persona?  Most striking is a behavior 
pattern that resembles closely the narcissistic syndrome – even if 
he is not a clinical narcissist.  A narcissist has no convictions 
other than a total dedication to his own gratification.  That 
gives him the freedom to maneuver without inhibition or conscience 
with the revered self as the only reference point.  All 
expressions of ideals, of opinions, of intentions are implicitly 
so qualified.  A complementary narcissistic trait is an ease with 
blurring the line between virtual reality and actual reality. 
Narcissists believe everything they say – at the moment they say 
it.  Their declarations are sterile acts that have no pride of 
parentage nor can they expect honor from offspring. Witness 
Obama’s momentarily rousing support of a labor movement that he 
has scorned for thirty months. This is the same President who has 
launched an all-out campaign against public school teachers whose 
unions serve as the whipping-boy for all that ails American 
education.  Narcissists take as given that they never dissemble or 
lie – because to do so is to acknowledge that reality has an 
intolerably constraining claim on them.

Of course, this last is a feature of contemporary American 
political culture in general.  Facts are taken to be infinitely 
malleable, the very notion of truth is denied, speaking honestly 
is viewed as a life style choice, and communication is more a 
matter of self affirmation than an attempt to convey knowledge, 
emotion or intention to somebody else.  We have externalized navel 
gazing to a remarkable degree.  All the demonstrative primping and 
preening suggests self-licking ice cones looking for an audience. 
One consequence is that public discourse in not anchored by common 
standards of honesty.  It is a maelstrom of raw opinion, emotive 
outbursts, mythology and primal screams.  Accountability, 
therefore, ceases to exist.  There is accountability only where 
there are benchmarks of veracity, a reasonably rigorous monitoring 
of what is said and done, and a dedication on the part of some at 
least to ensuring that these requirements for a viable democracy 
are met.  The abject failure of the media to perform these 
functions to any reasonable degree is a hallmark of our times. 
The think tank and academic worlds are little better.

This amorphous environment is narcissist friendly terrain.  It is 
permissive of twists and turns, leaves no record of what was done 
yesterday or the day before – much less a year ago, and focuses 
only on the evanescent existential moment.  Case in point is the 
remarkably uncritical coverage that Obama has received from the 
supposedly responsible media – especially those who claim to be 
upholders of the ideas and policies and interests that he has 
betrayed.  This aspect of the Obama saga is overlooked because of 
the savage, mindless attacks on him by the crackpot right which 
now controls the Republican Party.  Their excesses were the story, 
the only story.  The instinct to protect Obama was so powerful 
that it stilled the voices of those who should have been both 
bolstering and cajoling him to remain true to his avowed 
commitments.  To this day, the hesitation about calling out Obama 
is manifest – witness the minimal reaction to his brazen reversal 
on clean air standards that he is required by legal stipulation to 
promulgate.  Pressuring Obama early on also would have been the 
line of political realism since opinion surveys have made clear 
that it was the Republicans who were out of step with prevailing 
attitudes on issue after issue.  That remains true despite the 
White House, and the Democratic Congressional leadership, 
jettisoning them wholesale.  This positive disposition toward 
government’s role in providing for the welfare of citizens cannot 
last for very long, of course, with the Democrats’ defections that 
have left American politics with only one narrative, the 
legitimizing of a Darwinian social philosophy, the ensconcing of 
moneyed interests on the throne of power, and the deference now 
shown the Tea Party outrages.

The vow by so many not to hold to account a President (the first 
person of color to occupy the White House) who engaged in one 
unseemly sellout after another emboldened Obama to go further and 
further down that road.  They were enablers of his betrayal. Only 
now that the disaster has occurred are a few tentative, mild 
voices of serious criticism raised about the man, his methods and 
his politics.  They have little practical meaning since the damage 
is done, the game is lost, the Democratic Party is denatured, and 
the great progressive wave of the 20th century that reconciled 
Americanism with the social ethics of the modern world reversed. 
Free of any mea culpas and lacking a sense of urgency, these timid 
chastisements fall into the ignoble category of “grandpa 
reassurances.”  When many years from now a grandchild asks over 
Thanksgiving dinner: “grandpa, where were you when they ruined my 
country?” he can dredge up something he wrote in the late summer 
of 2011 to show that he was indeed a responsible person on the 
side of the angels.

That is what public virtue amounts to in today’s America in the 
wake of the great Obama betrayal.

Michael Brenner is a Professor of International Affairs at the 
University of Pittsburgh.

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