Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Enigma of Obama

A school of thought is emerging that Barack Obama has an advanced form of narcissistic personality disorder. I heartily agree with Robert Bowie Johnson and Dr. Sam Vaknin in their shared conclusion, but I reached it from a somewhat different route. I had been trying to write an article comparing our political candidates to circus freaks such as chameleons, phoobs, and contortionists. But I was stumped when I came to Obama, who seems to partake of all of these metaphors. How can one categorize a man who combines:
a revivalist's grandiose and extravagant oratory,

a charismatic talent for swaying crowds for no logical reason that they can explain,

bewilderingly contradictory changes in positions on issues,

a squidlike ability to befog and blur statements into ambiguous or ominous vagaries,

an inflated image (and self-image) covering a naive and meager mental ability,

a penchant for gaffes and misstatements combined with a dismissal of any corrections as irrelevant or malignant,

a humorless rigidity, elitist aloofness, and perpetual air of condescension, and

a thin-skinned aggrievement at being misinterpreted or of having his privacy violated.

It's like trying to cram a three-ring circus into a pup tent. Unlike a chameleon, he maintains a constant personal image; it is only his positions that change. He shares the ignorance and self confidence of megaegos, but they doggedly stick to one set of dogmas while he changes them with the ease of a shapeshifter. Moreover, he maintains conflicting positions with more grace than a contortionist and more rigidity than an india-rubber man.

I tried thinking of him as a Jekyll-Hyde case. I imagined the leftist Dr. Barack, having won the nomination, drinking a potion and turning into the centrist Mr. Obama for the final campaign. I had to discard this model because Obama manages to hold conflicting positions simultaneously, like one of those images under ridged plastic that changes back and forth as you tilt it.

I next thought of Obama as an amoeba [no anagram intended], incessantly changing its detailed shape to engulf its prey while maintaining a constant overall appearance. This suggested the image of an amoeba splitting in two (one to reassure the liberals while the other woos the centrists) or of Siamese twins or a two-headed man-a perfect freak for my political sideshow.

And then I saw the ads for "The Dark Knight". Of course, Barack Obama is Harvey Dent! Imagine Two Face in the White House, with his subservient aides saying: "Mister President, Iran has just detonated an atomic bomb. Should we attack them or negotiate?" Without a word, the coin flips up and spins in mid-air....

But all this imagery iconizes only one facet of Obama. His penchant for pyrotechnic oratory calls to mind a sideshow barker or snake oil salesman. His charisma suggests a hypnotist, or perhaps the daring young man on the flying trapeze. His pompous humorlessness suggests Victorian icons that I have described elsewhere. But his most prominent trait is the incongruous combination of meager mental resources, as evidenced by his frequent gaffes and childishly na‹ve pronouncements, with a greatly inflated self-image of his expertise and capabilities.

I then thought of one of those huge balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. There is something like that in C. S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, wherein one of the damned spirits, an ugly silent dwarf, leads around a large impressive puppet that speaks for him like a ventriloquist's dummy. Or like the old man in "Men in Black", who turns out to be a robot operated by a tiny alien sitting at the control panel inside its head.

But these extravagant fantasies are needless excesses. As she occasionally does, Maureen Dowd managed to pinpoint Obama precisely:
He seems more like a child prodigy. Those enraptured with his gifts urge him on, like anxious parents, trying to pull that sustained, dazzling performance out of him that they believe he's capable of; they are willing to put up with the prodigy's occasional listlessness and crabbiness, his flights of self-regard and self-righteousness.

But Dowd did not carry her analysis far enough. As Johnson and Vaknin and others have already pointed out, the traits she hints at would alert a psychologist to the likelihood of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), whose symptoms include
An exaggerated sense of self-importance; exaggerates achievements and talents; expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements

Need for excessive admiration

A sense of entitlement

Selfishness; taking advantage of others to achieve own ends

Lack of empathy

Arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behavior or attitudes.

It is important to realize that NPD is much more dangerous than simple vanity. Even closer to Dowd's precocious-child model is Joanna Ashmun's description of NPD:
"Narcissists have normal, even superior, intellectual development while remaining emotionally and morally immature. Dealing with them can give you the sense of trying to have a reasonable discussion with a very clever six-year-old -- this is an age when normal children are grandiose and exhibitionistic, when they are very resistant to taking the blame for their own misbehavior, when they understand what the rules are (e.g., that lying, cheating, and stealing are prohibited) but are still trying to wriggle out of accepting those rules for themselves."

The Dowd-Ashmum model, which seems to account for all of the Obamic traits listed above, moves us to pity and then horror. A child with NPD is bad enough -- but what if that child had the immense power of the President of the United States? As if to answer that question, Ashmun's website refers to Jerome Bixby's famous short story "It's a Good Life", in which a small boy is omnipotent, to the servile terror of everyone else in his village. A plot summary can be found in Wikipedia. The whole story can be found here. But I warn you that, if you read it, you will be very anxious until the election is over -- and perhaps even more so in the years to come.


Romanticizing Obama

I think I have finally come to understand the reason Barack Obama appeals to many of his devoted followers despite his lack of accomplishment. The world of romance, not politics, must be our guide.

Reading the most recent polls, I've been rather bewildered by the enthusiasm American voters have for a Barack Obama presidency. There's so much about him that seems antithetical to holding the preeminent job in America.

It's true that the media has built a pretty tight firewall around him, insulating Americans from the less savory information in his past. Few outside of political junkies know about the depths and breadth of his Rezko association; the $100 million dollars he and Bill Ayers frivoled away propping up radical Chicago groups, rather than Chicago schools; his surprisingly close relationship with that same Bill Ayers, the one who was behind the Pentagon bombing; his mentorship from Communist and pedophile, Frank Marshall Davis; his numerous and overlapping links to organizations committed to America's demise; or the fact that his term in the Illinois Senate saw a profound degradation in the standard of living that his constituents enjoyed.

Still, even with that media padding, and rapturous leg quivering, the media has had to concede a few things about Obama. Voters know that he spent 20 years attending weekly sermons from a man who loathes America; they know that he spent a significant chunk of his career as a community organizer, a "profession" most Americans would find impossible either to define or to justify; they know that he was a law professor who never managed to publish anything; they know that he didn't sponsor any significant legislation during his tenure in the Illinois Senate; they know that he didn't sponsor any significant legislation during his tenure in the United States Senate; and they know that he's spent virtually all of his undistinguished time in the United States Senate campaigning to become president. In other words, no matter how the media tries to protect Obama from his own past, the facts that have leaked out reveal a man of little experience and no accomplishments.

In my world, accomplishments matter. If I'm giving someone the highest executive office in the land, I'd kind of like that person to have a positive track record. That's why I liked Romney. Everything he touched turned to gold, not just gold lining his own pockets, but gold for everyone else connected to the project. That's also why I like McCain. He may not be a Romney-esque money machine, but he has a record of accomplishment. Whether or not one likes what he ended up doing, he at least got things done. Not so Obama. Even the least informed Americans must know that he's done nothing in his career but talk.

Faced with what appears to me to be a conundrum -- why the majority of voting Americans would prefer for president a man whose resume is a big fat zero - I asked a friend for his opinion. He said (and I think he's right), that most people don't care about Obama's past record of accomplishments. Instead, he says, they simply like what they hear. He's promising them a lot of things -- such as a crystalline, pre-industrial environment, without any economic downsides; peace and harmony with the baddest of bad guys; universal health care; and wealth for all -- and they believe those promises, despite the fact that Obama's ineffective resume shouldn't give them reason to believe that he can follow through on any of his promises.

And just like that, I suddenly got it. I got why Americans are flocking to Obama: They are precisely like the woman who wants to marry a romantic bad boy. Sure, he's been running around on her, and he can get pretty verbally abusive. Still he always tells her he loves her and he promises her that things will get better. With those promises echoing in her head, she's absolutely certain that, if she can just get him to the altar, he'll improve. The act of marriage will magically transform him from an abusive boyfriend who makes pretty speeches into the man of her dreams -- one who is precisely as good as he promises to be. The fact that her friends keep pointing out his myriad failings and that they remind her that the leopard can't change his spots is irrelevant. He says he loves her and if, she can just force that marriage, he'll suddenly realize that he has to change.

I bet all of you, man and woman, have seen this scenario play out in the life of at least one woman you know. (And yes, that's sexist, but I don't know any men who go through this bizarre "she treats me horribly now, but she'll magically improve later" game.) And I ask you, those of you who have seen this or lived this: Does the man ever change, either because of the ceremony or because the woman wants him to?

I've never seen it happen. I have seen some men change, but that's come from within, and usually goes along with hitting rock bottom and then finding God. The wedding ring had nothing to do with it.

Right now, voters are thrilling to the feeling of dating the political bad boy, the cool guy who talks a good line, but who has a trail of personal and professional failures in his wake (and some pretty unsavory friends too). Everybody wants to date the bad boy once and a while. But the thing is, you don't marry the bad boy. Just as marriage to the bad boy won't magically make him better, a presidential inauguration won't transform the anti-American, unaccomplished Barack Obama into an effective statesman imbued with a true love for his country.

So, if you voters think there is more to this Barack Obama than just pretty words, I suggest that you do with him exactly what I'd suggest if you were a young woman infatuated with the bad boy: Wait a while (four years? eight years? twelve years?) and see whether, with time, he either grows up and grows out of it, or if he follows that downward trajectory, validating your decision to reject him in the first place.


Do Facts Matter?

Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time." Unfortunately, the future of this country, as well as the fate of the Western world, depends on how many people can be fooled on election day, just a few weeks from now. Right now, the polls indicate that a whole lot of the people are being fooled a whole lot of the time.

The current financial bailout crisis has propelled Barack Obama back into a substantial lead over John McCain-- which is astonishing in view of which man and which party has had the most to do with bringing on this crisis. It raises the question: Do facts matter? Or is Obama's rhetoric and the media's spin enough to make facts irrelevant?

Fact Number One: It was liberal Democrats, led by Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, who for years-- including the present year-- denied that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taking big risks that could lead to a financial crisis.

It was Senator Dodd, Congressman Frank and other liberal Democrats who for years refused requests from the Bush administration to set up an agency to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It was liberal Democrats, again led by Dodd and Frank, who for years pushed for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to go even further in promoting subprime mortgage loans, which are at the heart of today's financial crisis.

Alan Greenspan warned them four years ago. So did the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to the President. So did Bush's Secretary of the Treasury, five years ago. Yet, today, what are we hearing? That it was the Bush administration "right-wing ideology" of "de-regulation" that set the stage for the financial crisis. Do facts matter?

We also hear that it is the free market that is to blame. But the facts show that it was the government that pressured financial institutions in general to lend to subprime borrowers, with such things as the Community Reinvestment Act and, later, threats of legal action by then Attorney General Janet Reno if the feds did not like the statistics on who was getting loans and who wasn't. Is that the free market? Or do facts not matter?

Then there is the question of being against the "greed" of CEOs and for "the people." Franklin Raines made $90 million while he was head of Fannie Mae and mismanaging that institution into crisis. Who in Congress defended Franklin Raines? Liberal Democrats, including Maxine Waters and the Congressional Black Caucus, at least one of whom referred to the "lynching" of Raines, as if it was racist to hold him to the same standard as white CEOs. Even after he was deposed as head of Fannie Mae, Franklin Raines was consulted this year by the Obama campaign for his advice on housing!

The Washington Post criticized the McCain campaign for calling Raines an adviser to Obama, even though that fact was reported in the Washington Post itself on July 16th. The technicality and the spin here is that Raines is not officially listed as an adviser. But someone who advises is an adviser, whether or not his name appears on a letterhead. The tie between Barack Obama and Franklin Raines is not all one-way. Obama has been the second-largest recipient of Fannie Mae's financial contributions, right after Senator Christopher Dodd. But ties between Obama and Raines? Not if you read the mainstream media.

Facts don't matter much politically if they are not reported. The media alone are not alone in keeping the facts from the public. Republicans, for reasons unknown, don't seem to know what it is to counter-attack. They deserve to lose.

But the country does not deserve to be put in the hands of a glib and cocky know-it-all, who has accomplished absolutely nothing beyond the advancement of his own career with rhetoric, and who has for years allied himself with a succession of people who have openly expressed their hatred of America.


Obama Breakout? The Illinois senator's new friend: Moe Mentum

If recent elections are any indication, Barack Obama's lead in the latest survey from the Pew Research Center bodes quite well for his presidential chances. The poll, released this week and conducted in the three days following his debate with John McCain in Oxford, Miss., shows Mr. Obama taking a solid six-point lead among likely voters.

Mr. Obama has history on his side: The winner of the last two presidential elections held the lead in the Pew survey immediately following the first general election debate. In both 2000 and 2004, it was George W. Bush who led in the Pew polls before going on to win the general elections.

In the Pew survey released Oct. 10, 2000, Mr. Bush took the lead -- albeit by a single point -- for the first time, despite the fact that voters felt Al Gore won the debate. That poll proved relatively accurate, as the popular vote difference ended up being 8/10 of a point (with, ironically, Mr. Gore winning the popular vote but losing in the Electoral College). In the Oct. 4, 2004, survey voters once again felt Mr. Bush lost the debate, yet he led John Kerry by five points and went on to win the popular vote by 2.4 points.

Of course, two elections aren't exactly a trend (Pew didn't release a poll immediately following the first debate before 2000), but with about a month to go until Election Day, Mr. Obama has other numbers currently going his way. He now leads in the RealClearPolitics polling averages in all the top battleground states -- Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio -- as well as the traditionally Republican states of Virginia and Colorado.


Origin of Obama's Last Name Explains A Lot

Barack Obama has used at least five different names** during his 47-year lifetime, according to a lawsuit contesting his citizenship qualifications to seek the presidency. Because most Americans know him only by the name they see on campaign signs, I decided to investigate the origins of his name — specifically, his last name — and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Moreover, had I not read it with my own eyes, I might not have believed it.

The origin of the name "Obama," according to Wiki Answers, is based on the Luo verb that means "to be bent" or "to be twisted." [Note: No, I didn't make this up!]

That might explain why I am so vehemently opposed to the Democratic Party presidential nominee and his bid for the White House.

**They are: Barack Hussein Obama, Barry Soetoro, Barry Obama, Barack Dunham and Barry Dunham.


(For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena . For readers in China or for when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)

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