On February 7, 2004, Tim Russert interviewed President George W. Bush from the Oval Office for a highly-anticipated Meet the Press segment broadcast the following morning. The administration was politically wounded from Iraq and the powers that be at the White House thought or at least hoped that his appearance might stem the bleeding. It didn’t. Bush was blasted across the political spectrum for an inept performance full of bromides and short on coherency. And his approval ratings crept downward.
Most strikingly, the Meet the Pres appearance offered a stark illustration of a defining feature of the man_Bush has a narcissistic personality disorder marked with authoritarian instincts, surprising ignorance, and an anti-intellectual bent that create a figure inspiring revulsion and loathing among many Americans and most of the world, AKA Bush hating.
Note the following exchange:
Tim Russert: Are you prepared to lose?
President Bush: No, I’m not going to lose.
Most public officials would have made the American people the focus of the answer and replied with something like: “Should the American people decide to reelect me….” or “The American people believe in….” But not narcissistic George. It’s all about him and his internal world. The way he said “No, I’m going to lose” was weird. Bush was expressing his fervent belief he will win, period, any way, the electorate be damned. Would not a normal psychology offered in reply some nod that the decision is up to the electorate? And the way he said it was strange in tone, as though he were in touch with some force who assured him of his victory.
In another question, Bush was asked about the false statements the administration made regarding Saddam’s threat to America. The reply: President Bush: I think, if I might remind you that in my language I called it a grave and gathering threat, but I don’t want to get into word contests. But what I do want to share with you is my sentiment at the time. There was no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a danger to America. That is five mentions of “I” and three mentions of “my” in a too-brief response to a very important question.
One has to believe that most presidents would have made the facts of Saddam’s alleged threat to the American people the focus of the answer and presented the case. Not narcissistic George. He rambled on about his self-involved estimation of his sentiments and doubts in his own mind as though they were what is important and not external reality and facts.
You can get the same thing, the yuck-what-is-this-guy-thinking-reaction, from most of Bush’s unscripted public moments.
We are not psychological experts, but consider the leading indicators of a narcissistic personality disorder as derived from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:
* An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
* Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love * Believes he is “special” 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
* Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends
* Lacks empathy
* Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
* Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes
Do these indicators describe the idiotic decision to invade Iraq, the arrogance, political vindictiveness, sense of entitlement and moralizing religiosity of the militaristic, unilateralist, brought-to-you-by-God, with-me-or-against-me, my-enemies-are-assholes George W. Bush? They surly do. Most of us have met a narcissist at school or work. They are about the most annoying people one can deal with, creepy because no matter how hard you try to explain or communicate with them, you are still talking to this creature completely full of himself, delusional and self-important. No one likes these people. They are repulsive.
Despite the efforts of the White House image machine, George W. Bush the narcissist is coming through. That explains in part the visceral Bush-hating phenomenon, and also why the man is toast in November.
Forget his policies, if Bush were a enormously-warm, empathetic presence like Reagan or Clinton, he could get away with enacting a lot more of his hard-right policies in this depoliticized society.
You cannot talk to narcissists. You cannot talk to Bush, the man has a messiah complex who observes of himself that he has no self-doubt, cannot recall any mistakes that he has made and is in league with the supreme metaphysical force guiding his political decisions.
How does one suggest to a narcissist that he change his entire psychological view of the world?
MICHAEL LEON has been published in The Progressive, In These Times, WBAI News Website, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.