American Narcissus–Updated
November 15th, 2010

Over at the Standard I’ve got a medium-sized piece on President Obama’s vanity. There’s nothing really new in–it’s mostly a compendium of stuff we’ve all seen for the last two years, but tied together and in one place. Mind you, it’s an incomplete list. And the catalogue keeps growing.

Mentioning the piece, Scott Johnson adds a few bits, my favorite being that Obama’s vanity “almost disposes of the speculation that Obama is a Muslim. The man can’t be a Muslim; he worships himself.” Scott also notes a line from Obama in India about the Mahatma, MLK, and, well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But here’s Scott: “Obama gives us history in the form of an arc bending inevitably toward himself.”

The Belmont Club’s Richard Fernandez also adds a much more literate and philosophical riff, contrasting Obama’s sense of self with that of Churchill, who was never bashful about his own merits:

Both men saw themselves as agents of greatness. Where they differed was where they ascribed its source.  That and the fact that Lincoln and Churchill have already achieved that mantle of greatness which Obama so confidently believes is his. In the case of Lincoln and Churchill their presentiments are confirmed by the fact that they fulfilled them. They have already walked the walk. And now we see the talk was true. In the president’s case his claims have not yet been confirmed by events. . . .

It may be that his presentiment will prove true, though perhaps he  should have waited until those events actually took place before claiming the due. But that would have been for lesser men, for minds less certain of their powers. And the central point of Jonathan Last’s entire essay was that for Barack Obama, destiny shone so clearly before him that he could touch it and hold it in his hand.  And therein lies the danger. For if fate can promise, it can also betray.  The three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth knew that some things should only be reckoned in the end.

And the great Jennifer Rubin teases out some of the implications of Obama’s vanity-driven administration:

the colossal failure of his international endeavors, specifically his Muslim Outreach, is traceable to the faulty notion that one can construct a nation’s foreign policy based on the persona of its president. It sounds daft — why would the Israelis and Palestinian simply reach a deal because Obama has arrived on the scene? Why would the mullahs be enticed to curb their nuclear and hegemonic ambitions because he allegedly ”understands” the Muslim World? The Ego has made hash out of foreign policy because he believes, as the saying goes, that the world revolves around him. He can’t imagine that rivals, foes, and allies are immune to his charms.

Among the anecdotes I left out was a scene I witnessed at an Obama campaign rally before the Nevada caucus in 2008. Michelle Obama was introducing her husband to a crowded school cafetorium (?) and she said made a very concerted point of the following: “Barack is one of the smartest men we will see in our lifetime.”

Now look, many (most?) wives have idealized visions of their husbands. This is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s quite good. And perhaps even necessary for the survival of the species. But it’s one thing to think that your spouse is better looking, or more charming, or more intelligent than he really is. And it’s another to insist–to a room full of people–that he’s a Stephen Hawking-level genius. Even if we were to stipulate that Barack Obama is really, really, really smart–maybe the smartest guy ever in American politics (which, by the by, is almost certainly not true), you could walk into the cafeteria at MIT right now, swing a bat, and knock over three people who have 20 IQ points on him.

Exit question: The piece came out online Saturday morning. What’s the over-under on the “uppity” charge? Tuesday?

PS: I may update this thread through the day.

Update 7:02: A reader passes along this fantastic bit from a 2004 Ryan Lizza profile of Obama in the Atlantic:

I couldn’t help noticing, when we sat down to talk in the dilapidated storefront that houses his Springfield campaign headquarters, that the blue-pen drawing he’d doodled on his newspaper during fundraising calls was a portrait of himself.

  1. Jason O. November 15, 2010 at 8:25 am

    POTUS seems to be the perfect “leader” as it becomes clear to everyone that we are “living at the end of Western pre-eminence.” (as Niall Ferguson says)

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  3. Jeff Singer November 15, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    You nailed it with this piece. Everyone and their brother is quoting and linking to you. Here’s Vox Day:

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  5. SkinsFanPG November 16, 2010 at 7:53 am

    When are we going to get a Vick/McNabb/Iggles/Skins post? Surely last night’s game warrants some commentary.

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