Narcissist in Chief?

As Charles Krauthammer has pointed out, Obama "has never been overly modest about his own powers." Obama certainly has an inflated sense of his own importance. After all, he declared that history will mark his ascent to the presidency as the moment when "our planet [began] to heal."

I was reminded of Obama's exaggeration of his own self when my freshman literature class began to analyze Willa Cather's well-known story entitled "Paul's Case." Our analyses led us to discover a piece in Studies in Short Fiction entitled "Paul's Case: A Narcissistic Personality Disorder, 301.81-Critical Essay," by Rob Saari. In this article, Saari makes the case that the protagonist of Cather's story reflects many of the "essential features of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder." Some of these include the following:

  • Pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy
  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Believes that he is "special" and unique and can be understood only by other special or high-status people
  • Has a sense of entitlements
  • Is interpersonally exploitative -- i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behavior.

As I read the above in preparation for our class discussion, I had this disturbingly eerie feeling that I was actually reading about Barack Obama, and not a mere fictional character of Cather's. Obama's lack of empathy has been quite apparent in the Arizona immigration situation, in the current appeals for more immediate action in the Gulf, in his hasty appraisal of the "stupid" cops involved in the Gates affair, and in his ongoing indifference to the genuine needs of the besieged state of Israel. 

Furthermore, even when the American people consistently indicate their displeasure with the health care reform law, Obama simply shows his arrogance and takes no notice of the people's desires. Instead of accepting the free flow of information from the people he is supposed to serve, he resorts to adding "teabagger" to his public lexicon. His contempt for America is staggering. His haughtiness towards the American electorate and his puffery with dictators in a bid for their admiration is breathtaking.

Furthermore, the president intimates that we are not capable of understanding and clarifying issues -- Joe the Plumber could not possibly be accurate when he correctly asked if Obama's ideas were, in fact, socialist. What does a guy who works with a wrench know about such things?

Obama accepts the notion that he is the messiah -- that he and he alone can fix this country and, for that matter, the world. If ever there was an exaggerated achievement without commensurate accomplishment, the Nobel Peace Prize given to Obama would be it. He expects to be recognized as superior even when he has achieved nothing positive to show it. He ignores the evidence about global warming and man's alleged interference because this simply does not comply with his demands -- details be damned.

There are no substantive examples of his school achievements. His portfolio is razor-thin, and there is evidence that he did not author his own books, yet he rides on the crest of all-consuming power and privilege.

Author Rob Saar states that "people with narcissistic personalities tend ... to deprecate and treat with contempt those from whom they do not expect anything (often their former idols). Their relations with others are often exploitative ... Beneath a surface that is often charming and engaging, one senses coldness and ruthlessness." 

How often have we been privy to that allegedly cool demeanor of Obama's turning into a dismissive disdain for anyone who does not agree with him and/or stands in his way? He distanced himself from his pastor of over twenty years because that relationship hurt his ends. He has knifed companies in the back that once financially supported him. He seems obsessed as he constantly bashes former President Bush and rails, yet again, against the oil companies and others. All of these entities receive derision and abuse from this man. 

He can do no wrong in his own eyes, as he views "others as objects to be manipulated." Arrogantly he dismissed a reporter's question at a press conference that was supposed to be about the Daniel Pearl Freedom of Press Act!

He exploits all issues, making everything into a crisis, and yet when he accomplishes nothing to ameliorate the difficulty, he turns and blames it on everyone else. And no wonder: "Devaluation of others (DSM-IV 658) is yet another symptom of the narcissist's grandiose self-image."

I humbly submit that I have no medical expertise in the field of psychology, but gosh darn -- this little literature lesson gave me one heck of an insight into this 44th president. I wish it were only a story that I was analyzing and not a man who is our commander-in-chief, since the implications are far more frightening in the latter case.

Illustration by Richard Tyrell

Eileen can be reached at