President’s narcissism on display in NYT magazine

(CCU Faculty) Imagine a man, standing alone on the shoreline. Hours earlier, an earthquake rumbled miles off the coast, tsunami warnings blared and everyone else around fled to higher ground. All but this one man, all alone. He was determined to stand his ground, pointing his finger at the approaching tidal wave, shouting, “You can come ashore if you must, but you will not move me.”

The Sunday, October 17th New York Times Magazine includes a lengthy account of President Obama’s first 21 months in office and the recent struggles his administration has been facing, including the decline in his public approval polls from the mid 60’s a year ago to the mid 40’s today.

In the article, Obama appears to be coming to grips with the fact that Republicans will make significant gains in this November’s election, likely taking control of the House of Representatives and moving closer to an even split – if not a majority – in the Senate. This will indeed be a new political landscape for Obama and, depending on the Republican pick-ups, may potentially a political “tsunami.”

Obama’s reaction to this coming tidal wave are two, equally absurd, responses. First, he suggests that Democrat losses will be due to a failure to effectively communicate, and second, that Republican victories will translate into a demand that Republicans be more cooperative.

In the Times interview, President Obama suggests that his decline in popularity is not due to the fact that Americans disagree with the direction in which he is leading the country; rather, he explains, it is caused by his failure to properly communicate and explain the reasoning for his policies.

Obama suggests that if only he and his White House team had more effectively explained to the American people what they were doing, Democrats would fare better this fall. “[W]e probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration – and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top – that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular.”

The suggestion that Presidential approval is at 44%, 55% favor repeal of the healthcare bill, and only 38% approve of how he is handling the economy is due to “poor communication” is of course absurd. Would Obama even entertain that the public understands full-well what his policies are about or that they are increasingly rejecting them and seeking change in the Congressional leadership in order to check and correct these policies?

Echoing this view is Vice President Joe Biden, who recently explained that the reason that Obama and the Democrats weren’t running on the “accomplishments” of the administration over the past 21 months was that “it’s just too hard to explain.” As if it couldn’t possibly be that the public recognizes that the administration just has had very few accomplishments.

The second reaction from Obama is that a Republican victory in November will be fueled by a public clamoring for Republicans to stop being the party of “no” and start working with him. Candidate Obama promised to work consistently with Republicans. If only Obama would have taken his own advice. While promising to work across the aisle, these overtures have been limited to the occasional deal with one of the New England Senate Republicans to secure a cloture vote.

With Obama’s approval, Republicans in both the House and the Senate have been shut out of all substantive negotiations during the past 21 months. And now, facing significant defeats in the mid-term election, he claims that it is the public demanding a repentant Republican party. “It may be that regardless of what happens after this election, they feel more responsible… the American people are going to be looking to them to offer serious proposals and work with me in a serious way.” It is remarkable how an electoral repudiation of one’s own party can be interpreted as the public demanding responsibility of the winners.

Narcissus was charmed with his own beauty, wasting away as he was unable to turn away from his own reflection in a tidal pool. Obsession with self and an inability to consider criticism as justified is a disturbing quality of our President. Perhaps the tidal wave will crash the tidal pool and shatter the reflection, forcing him to look around.

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