11 January 2006

Narcissism, the public, and the President

Stephen Soldz raises an important point in the article below: narcissism. In this case, he is looking at George W. Bush, although as Soldz suggests, Bush is not alone with these characteristics. That, of course, is the subject of ponerology, looking at the pathological characteristics of leaders everywhere and understanding how they get to power and how they stay in power through a ponerogenic network. We might also hope that an understanding of ponerology might one day help us to remove them from power and prevent them from even getting into power. One of the pernicious results of the arrival of a pathocracy is that the values of society become the values of the psychopath, the narcissist, and other pathological types. We see this also in Sodz's article when he says "A large fraction of the American public has been attracted to a leader who appeared to genuinely not care what others think. Who among us never wished we could say 'the others be damned' and do whatever we wanted? While most of us don't dare act on these wishes, a narcissistic leader can provide us with vicarious satisfaction." Because society's standards are set by the psychopath, we all are affected. We resonate with someone who doesn't care what others think. Now, within someone who has a conscience, not caring what people think may mean something completely different than when it occurs in a being devoid of conscience, devoid of empathy, and incapable of feeling another's pain. With a conscience, it can mean allowing your conscience to guide your decisions, rather than permitting one to be influenced by authority figures or fears of societal approval or disapproval. In the psychopath, it simply means not caring at all about anyone else without reference to conscience. In other words, self-interest taken to its extreme. So the same terms have different meanings, and, yet, as long as we do not admit the existence of pathological beings without conscience, beings of conscience will interpret the words of the psychopath as if they were saying the same thing. We project our own humanity, or conscience, onto the conscienceless -- to our detriment.
Narcissism, the public, and the President: by Stephen Soldz January 10, 2006 http://www.opednews.com President Bush spoke last week to wounded soldiers at Brooke Army Medical Center and uttered these immortal words indicating a lack of true appreciation for the suffering of the gravely wounded, often permanently disabled soldiers he was speaking to:
'As you can possibly see, I have an injury myself -- not here at the hospital, but in combat with a Cedar. I eventually won. The Cedar gave me a little scratch. As a matter of fact, the Colonel asked if I needed first aid when she first saw me. I was able to avoid any major surgical operations here, but thanks for your compassion, Colonel.'
At a time when the number of severely wounded soldiers is rising, this lack of appreciation is disturbing and portends badly for adequate resources being made available to care for damaged soldiers and veterans over the coming months, years, and decades.
This episode was far from the first time Bush uttered bizarre sounding comments in response to the injuries of others. Who can forget his remarkable message to the hundreds of thousands of people, many poor and black, whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Katrina:
'Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch.'
While Bush's comments to wounded GIs were uttered together with the usual platitudes expected on such occasions, these quotes illustrate Bush's greatest strength and also his greatest weakness, his narcissism. Narcissism At an observable level, narcissism involves a self-centeredness that makes one oblivious to the emotional existence of others. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (IVth edition: DSM-IV) defines its pathological extreme (narcissistic personality disorder) as:
'A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.'
In the odd DSM manner, this condition is diagnosed by having a threshold number of the following symptoms (5 out of 9), regardless of which five symptoms they are. (To be diagnostic of a clinical condition each symptom should be possessed to the extent that it interferes with functioning or causes distress):
'Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements) 'Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love 'Believes that he or she is ''special'' and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions) 'Requires excessive admiration 'Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations 'Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends 'Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others 'Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her 'Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes'
I am very leery of making diagnoses via long-distance of people I have never met. Additionally, I am well aware that one must be skeptical of much 'information' publicly available about major political leaders as this information is carefully filtered through the lens of PR manipulation designed to create desired images among the public. Furthermore, one must remember that a large degree of narcissism is common, perhaps even necessary in leaders who rise to presidential level. It is certainly hard for someone who is not convinced of their special qualities to have the drive, determination, and desire to undergo all that is required to get the position. Despite these caveats, it is striking to compare what we apparently know about President Bush's character with these criteria. This exercise is not undertaken to assign a clinical diagnosis to the President or to assign labels as a sophisticated form of character assassination. Rather, it can be used as an indicator of his personality, of long-standing tendencies to think, feel, and behave in characteristic ways, regardless of whether such a personality is a clinical problem. And President Bush's personality, because of its potential effects on many Americans and much of humankind, is an important object of study. Without denying the importance of national and class interests in the formulation of policy or endorsing the great man theory of history, understanding George W. Bush's personality may shine light on certain aspects of his administration's actions and on his appeal to the American public at this moment in history. Whatever material and strategic goals undergird this administration's foreign policies, it seems incontestable that these goals have been pursued in a manner that prevented their realization, indeed, in a manner that, as predicted by many mainstream commentators and former policy-makers sharing similar goals, had catastrophic results. When a former National Security Agency director describes the Iraq war as the greatest strategic blunder in American history, consideration of psychological factors contributing to the blunder hardly seems out of place. And when much of the public follows the blundering leader over the precipice, it seems appropriate to examine the attractions of that leader. Given President Bush's quite modest prior achievements, including his numerous failures at business opportunities that were handed to him on a silver plate, there is little to suggest that he is outstanding in any characteristic other than ability to get elected. He certainly lacks much knowledge of international relations that would seem to be an essential perquisite for taking risky major decisions that modify long-standing American and international policies and alliances. Yet he appears to view himself as a Commander-In Chief for the ages. Given the private nature of the fantasies described in the second criterion, it is hard to know if he is 'preoccupied' with these grandiose fantasies. Yet, his apparent messianic mission to bring 'democracy' to the Middle East, an area where wiser heads, however imperial their desires, have feared to tread, along with his reported comments suggesting that God speaks to him directly, suggest that Bush does indeed harbor grandiose fantasies of virtually unlimited success. One also might wonder about Bush's repeated admiration for the ease of dictatorship, expressed, according to Wikiquote, on at least three occasions [July 1998, December 18, 2000, and July 26, 2001] years apart. A typical quote is this one from December 18, 2000: 'If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier... just so long as I'm the dictator.' One certainly could infer a wish for the unlimited power of the dictator. Of course this was said in jest, but humor oft repeated often provides illumination into the character and desires of the teller. Bush's behavior has often suggested that he has a sense of entitlement and feels that he is special and that he should be treated special. He got out of exposure to combat in Vietnam by having his family pull strings -- something about which he even boasted -- while steadfastly supporting the war in which tens of thousands of other less privileged Americans and countless Vietnamese died. He apparently sees himself as uniquely endowed to make decisions of life and death, of which laws he will obey and which he will ignore, of which congressional representatives or journalists he will deign to acknowledge and which he will ignore. The extraordinary lack of accountability of his administration is due, in part, to Bush's sense that he is accountable to no one. The Presidential attitude toward torture, of publicly proclaiming his right to order it whenever he feels like it (as opposed to authorizing it in shameful secrecy like past presidents) also suggests a sense of divine destiny of proportions extreme even for presidents. The recent NSA eavesdropping scandal also, unusually, involves a deliberate public boasting of his right to break laws (over 30 times) with a sense of total impunity. The extent to which his administration has gone to protect the President from any exposure, however fleeting, to protesters and dissidents suggests a Presidential antipathy to any challenge to his authority. As for his need for excessive admiration, his surrounding himself with sycophants like Harriet Miers, who evidently once claimed that Bush was 'was the most brilliant man she had ever met.' and Condoleezza Rice, who is known for never challenging Bush, is certainly suggestive evidence. In considering empathy, or its lack, Bush's career is full of illustrations, like the comments above to wounded vets, or his complete uninterest in the suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina until it became a potential political liability. And who can forget his mocking of Karla Faye Tucker's plea for Bush to commute her death sentence: 'Please,' Bush whimpered, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'please, don't kill me.' Envy is the one symptom for which I am aware of no obvious evidence. When it comes to arrogance, I don't need to even mention the evidence, though those horrid sneers he routinely exhibits in public cannot go unnoted. We thus have extensive evidence of narcissistic tendencies in the President. [I want to state again that I am not assigning a diagnosis to him, but am claiming he exhibits certain personality characteristics.] To a degree, much of what is said of this president could be said about many others, and other top leaders as well. Grandiosity, arrogance, and, to a degree, a sense of entitlement, seem to pretty much go with the territory. Evident to an unusual degree for a top American leader, however, is Bush's lack of empathy. He seems, to an extreme degree, to genuinely not have a clue what other people, especially those less fortunate in life, are experiencing, nor does he have any interest. There is no evidence that the potential inappropriateness of his joking about his scratches to severely injured veterans might be insensitive, just as there is no evidence that he has ever cared about the tens of thousands of those wounded as a result of his commands. No one has ever claimed that Bush called in Secretary Rumsfeld and said 'What are you doing to reduce the casualties. Where the hell is that armor?' [I concentrate on President Bush's obliviousness to American casualties not because I don't value equally the tens to hundreds of thousands of dead and injured Iraqis, but because it is a sad fact of statecraft that 'enemy' casualties seldom weigh on any leader in wartime. But many wartime leaders do feel the weight of casualties on their own side.] Similarly, there is no evidence that Bush weighed his role or gave even a moment's thought as Karla Faye Tucker awaited execution. He made not even a pretense of wrestling with the decision, perhaps because he could not imagine that others might expect him to exhibit an awareness of the magnitude of this life-and-death decision, regardless of whether he ultimately went ahead with the execution. Bush's Narcissism and the Public For President Bush, his narcissism has been a source of political strength. A large fraction of the American public has been attracted to a leader who appeared to genuinely not care what others think. Who among us never wished we could say 'the others be damned' and do whatever we wanted? While most of us don't dare act on these wishes, a narcissistic leader can provide us with vicarious satisfaction. As a nation, we won't let others impede us, not the weak untrustworthy French nor the United Nations that always wants to negotiate and compromise rather than just act. People perceive Bush's narcissism as a source of strength when strength is conceived as the ability to impose his/our will on others. This dynamic is in addition to, in fact may even be in conflict with, the oft commented upon sense of safety provided by a strong leader. For, at least one version of a strong leader is modeled on the caring father who will do anything that needs to be done to protect the family/nation. The narcissistic leader, however, does not care about the needs or desires of others, of the nation's public, but only of his own. Just as with an abusive self-absorbed parent, citizens can defensively delude themselves into believing that a narcissistic leader cares about them. The defensive nature of this belief lends it a fragility and hence a rigidity requiring active defense from potential criticism. At the same time, the potential for conflict between identification with the narcissistic leader and wish for a strong caring leader can pose a danger for such a leader as it may provide an opening for recognition of the self-serving nature of the leader's' actions. Recent polls showing a decline in Bush's rating on items like 'the President cares about people like me' may indicate such a process is underway. Once this process starts, it can be hard to reverse. Bush, for example, as he runs around the country trying to restore public support, continually puts foot in mouth as he cannot view the world from the perspective of others. He doesn't pander, not only because of his arrogance, leading to a sense that he must be right, that he is incapable of making mistakes, but also because he is to a large degree incapable of pandering; it appears that, to a great extent, he simply cannot imagine what others think or want when it differs from his own thoughts and wishes, so he cannot promise to give people what they want when they fail to identify with his desires. To complement the descriptive features of narcissism involved in the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria, psychoanalysts have learned that narcissism is intimately connected with fear of one's weakness and vulnerability, and with aggression toward the other whose individuality is obliterated by the narcissism. As the weakness and vulnerability needs to be kept out of awareness, narcissism contributes to another process that poses dangers for narcissistic leaders like President Bush in that their narcissism contributes to an ignoring of reality, of possibility of error or other indicators of potential weakness. Bush doesn't appear to seriously consider that what he thinks may not accurately represent reality. Iraq will welcome his legions with flowers so there is no need for contingency planning just in case that assumption is wrong. Iraqis are valiantly struggling for pro-American 'democracy' [whatever that means to him], so there is no need to consider that, just possibly, rival Iran is the big winner from Bush's Iraqi intervention. Harriet Miers is a convenient choice for Bush so there is no need to consider what others may think of her appointment. And Bush, like other tragic leaders throughout history, may actually believe the incredibly dangerous notion that there is no alternative to victory in an Iraqi conflict which, in all likelihood, has already been lost. Bush's narcissism, thus, has provided the backbone of certainty which makes him appear as a strong leader to those so predisposed. But it also contributes to those character flaws that may ultimately lead to his undoing. http://soldzresearch.com/stephensoldz Stephen Soldz is psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Institute for the Study of Violence of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He is a member of Roslindale Neighbors for Peace and Justice and founder of Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice. He maintains the Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report web page and the Psyche, Science, and Society blog."
(Via OpEdNews.)


Blogger Yalun said...

'The Royal We'

Last year, the president had the government spend about $1 million for his aircraft carrier photo-op when he declared major combat over in Iraq. [“The sign read: ‘Mission Accomplished.’] …[Recently] American taxpayers picked up the [$100,000] tab for the red carpet, walkway and artificial island hurriedly built over a memorial pool so that Bush and French President Jacques Chirac could walk in style to the dais for last week's ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings… The red carpet price tag wasn't anticipated by Pentagon planners, so … “That money will have to come out of some account that otherwise would be spent on soldiers,” according to a source familiar with the situation.

"The president's feet are not to touch the dirt.” (That was the order given to workers at Eisenhower Park in Nassau County prior to King George’s visit) “So all yesterday, large crews drawn from all county parks worked to ensure that, as always in his life, George Bush's feet do not touch the ground when he appears in the big park today. (He doesn't want his feet on the ground and he will be at a GROUNDBREAKING ceremony...)


Q: Why the ban against the king putting his feet on the ground?
A: In order to interrupt grounding of chakras.
Q: What happens when the chakras are grounded?
A: What happens to you?
Q: Well, a circuit is closed and energy flows out of you. When you are grounded energy flows out of you or through you...
A: Or in.
Q: Why?
A: Would you do Reiki with high heels on?
Q: No. You take your shoes off.
A: Why?
Q: So that you complete the circuit so the energy comes into you to give to another person.
A: Yes.
Q: So, if you have a king whose feet are not allowed to touch the ground, that becomes an altogether STS mode of existence, I would think...
A: Puppetry, as one sees today.
Q: Then, when the individual has been lamed, they have become a puppet.
A: Yes, and who is the puppeteer?


Bush’s verbal gaffes No Longer Laughing Matter

At a bill signing ceremony in the White House on August 5, George Bush pulled off his latest verbal gaffe. Captured on film and shown worldwide, as well as on Jay Leno, Bush remarked with his patented smirk, "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

The same day I read this, I had just finished an article by Charley Reese, Vote for a Man, Not a Puppet, written in May. Reese, a staunch conservative and formerly a columnist with the Orlando Sentinel, writes: "It’s no wonder the president avoids press conferences like the plague. Take away his cue cards and he can barely talk. Americans should be embarrassed that an arab king (Abdullah of Jordan) spoke more fluently and articulately in English than our own president at their joint press conference recently.”


‘W’ nominated school bully
(Things I learned in better schools: Playing unfair every step of the way--and publicly lauded for it.)


Bob Harris over at ‘This Modern World’ has scanned photographic evidence that Bush was an asshole in college:

—“George Bush delivers illegal but gratifying right hook to opposing ball carrier.”

Note the caption is from the original photo in the Yale yearbook. Harris, who knows more about rugby than I do, adds:

“Incidentally, while rugby is a contact sport, every player knows that tackling above the shoulders is a foul. So is leaving your feet during a tackle. Either of these is serious enough that the other team is immediately awarded a penalty kick, often directly resulting in points for the other team. So even without throwing a punch, Bush is already well outside fair-play. Grasping an opponent by the back of the head and punching him in the face is 'beyond the pale' -- I've watched rugby avidly for years, and I've never seen it during an open-field tackle like this, honest -- and it will typically result in a player being immediately sent off [the playing field].”

This picture was on the ‘dead tree edition’ of this LA Times column. The picture didn't make the online edition, which is unfortunate, but Harris saved the day which his scan. - kos


This is Your President On Drugs
(Can this man be trusted with 'weapons of mass destruction'?)

I am loath to dispense rumours to smear someone out of hand and I treated this story with some caution before posting. It appears that our president is unbalanced and rapidly losing control of his faculties. He seems unable to reconcile our reality with his responsibility without a major breakdown ahead. Read this for yourself and do some research of your own. -JG-

President George W. Bush is taking powerful anti-depressant drugs to control his erratic behavior, depression and paranoia, Capitol Hill Blue has learned. The prescription drugs, administered by Col. Richard J. Tubb, the White House physician, can impair the President’s mental faculties and decrease both his physical capabilities and his ability to respond to a crisis, administration aides admit privately. “It’s a double-edged sword,” says one aide. “We can’t have him flying off the handle at the slightest provocation but we also need a President who is alert mentally.”

Angry Bush walked away from reporter's questions.

Tubb prescribed the anti-depressants after a clearly-upset Bush stormed off stage on July 8, refusing to answer reporters' questions about his relationship with indicted Enron executive Kenneth J. Lay. “Keep those motherfuckers away from me,” he screamed at an aide backstage. “If you can’t, I’ll find someone who can.”

Bush’s mental stability has become the topic of Washington whispers in recent months. Capitol Hill Blue first reported on June 4 about increasing concern among White House aides over the President’s wide mood swings and obscene outbursts. Although GOP loyalists dismissed the reports an anti-Bush propaganda, the reports were later confirmed by prominent George Washington University psychiatrist Dr. Justin Frank in his book "Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President." Dr. Frank diagnosed the president as a “paranoid meglomaniac” and “untreated alcoholic” whose “lifelong streak of sadism, ranging from childhood pranks (using firecrackers to explode frogs) to insulting journalists, gloating over state executions and pumping his hand gleefully before the bombing of Baghdad” showcase Bush’s instabilities. One long-time GOP political consultant who – for obvious reasons – asked not to be identified said he is advising his Republican Congressional candidates to keep their distance from Bush. “We have to face the very real possibility that the President of the United States is loony tunes,” he says sadly. “That’s not good for my candidates, it’s not good for the party and it’s certainly not good for the country.”

“I was really very unsettled by him and I started watching everything he did and reading what he wrote and watching him on videotape. I felt he was disturbed,” Dr. Frank said. “He fits the profile of a former drinker whose alcoholism has been arrested, but not treated.”

Dr. Frank’s conclusions have been praised by other prominent psychiatrists, including Dr. James Grotstein, Professor at UCLA Medical Center, and Dr. Irvin Yalom, MD, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University Medical School. The doctors also worry about the wisdom of giving powerful anti-depressant drugs to a person with a history of chemical dependency. Bush is an admitted alcoholic, although he never sought treatment in a formal program, and stories about his cocaine use as a younger man haunted his campaigns for Texas governor and his first campaign for President. Veteran White House watchers say the ability to control information about Bush’s health, either physical or mental, is similar to Ronald Reagan’s second term when aides managed to conceal the President’s increasing memory lapses that signaled the onslaught of Alzheimer’s Disease.

"President Bush is an untreated alcoholic with paranoid and megalomaniac tendencies," Dr. Frank adds.


"Deluded people! There exists a conspiracy in favor of despotism, against liberty, of incapacity against talent, of vice against virtue, of ignorance against Light! It is formed in the depths of the most impenetrable darkness, a society of new creatures who know each other without being seen, who understand themselves without explanation, who serve each other without friendship. The aim of this society is to rule the world, to appropriate the authority of sovereigns, to usurp their place, leaving them only the sterile honor of wearing the crown. It has adopted from the Jesuit regimen, blind obedience and the regicide principles of the seventeenth century. From the Freemasons, it has taken its trials and exterior ceremonies; from the Templars, its infernal evocations and bold unbelief. It employs the discoveries of physical science to impose upon the uninstructed multitude; it uses fashionable myths to arouse curiosity and inspire dedication; it goes back to the opinions of the ancients to get men used to commerce with intermediary spirits. Every species of error which afflicts the earth, every half-baked idea, every invention serves to fit the doctrines of the Illuminati...everything serves equally to their views, everything becomes cause and instrument; they reject nothing which is proscribed by the community of mankind. And none of this do they admit by conviction; they allow it to subsist as a method of multiplying opinions and trials ....a base upon which rests a new conspiracy. The aim is universal domination."

Marquis de Luchet—Essai sur La Secte des Illuminés (Essay on the Sect of the Illuminati) 1789

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: "This is Your President On Drugs"

Since completing my Doctoral studies in psychology and religious issues, I have been practicing as a Psychologist for the past 20 years. That said, I want to heartily agree with Dr. Justin Frank's diagnosis.

Of course, 40 years ago, my attorney father wryly pointed out, "Politicians are ALL crazy--they have to be to run for office!"

And to think, a few years ago I thought it was my life-long Republican mother who needed diagnosing, because she kept ranting "Bush is another Hitler!--you better wake up!"

Parents--what do they know?!

6:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE "The Royal We"

Well, from the rotten-
from-the-tree department, let's not forget the "Mother" of all sociopathic comments made by Barbara Bush on Good Morning America in March 2002:

"Why should we hear all about body bags and deaths [in Iraq]? Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

To which Cindy Sheehan replied later, "Now I have something to tell you, Barbara. I didn't want to hear about deaths or body bags either. On April 4, 2004, three Army officers came to my house to tell me that Casey had been killed in Iraq. I fell on the floor screaming and begging the cruel Angel of Death to take me too. But the Angel of Death that took MY son is YOUR son."

What a great retort--but sadly, one that was surely just an odd noise in Barbara's pearl-studded ear.

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[Note to moderator re my anonymous post a minute ago entitled,"RE This is your President on drugs": I meant to say I heartily agreed with "Stephen Soldz", to whose article my comments were directed vs. "Dr. Frank" Thanks]

7:15 AM  

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