Commentary Magazine


Brooks: We Have a Narcissism Problem

David Brooks writes:

The narcissistic person is marked by a grandiose self-image, a constant need for admiration, and a general lack of empathy for others. He is the keeper of a sacred flame, which is the flame he holds to celebrate himself. … His self-love is his most precious possession. It is the holy center of all that is sacred and right. He is hypersensitive about anybody who might splatter or disregard his greatness. If someone treats him slightingly, he perceives that as a deliberate and heinous attack. If someone threatens his reputation, he regards this as an act of blasphemy. He feels justified in punishing the attacker for this moral outrage.

OK, Brooks is working his way around to discussing Mel Gibson, but, by golly, it sounds like… well, Obama. Now, stop. I’m not comparing the president to an abusive spouse. (Obama’s one indisputably good quality is that he seems to be a good husband and dad.) But the personality — super-sensitive and so very self-absorbed – is unmistakably familiar to those who have watched Obama in action.

Brooks’s description of our times (“we’ve entered an era where self-branding is on the ascent and the culture of self-effacement is on the decline”) beautifully sums up the Obama campaign. A man with virtually no public accomplishments (other than writing about himself) branded himself as a political messiah and entered office with the expectation that he would remodel not only America but the entire world.

Once in office, Obama has continued on his narcissism jaunt. The speeches are littered with “I,” and his tolerance for criticism, whether from voters or political opponents, is nonexistent. You don’t get to be president without a whole lot of self-confidence, but Obama stands out, and not in a good way.

I don’t think Brooks intended his column as an indictment of the president who was supposed to have such a superior temperament. Still.