Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Observation From A BHO Supporter

Today in the Washington Post, the day after BHO issued his most-strongly worded statement about the recent protests in Iran, Richard Cohen's column, "President Cool Plays It Right," has many words of praise for BHO's restraint with regard to those protests. Mr. Cohen, as usual, cites history as proof that BHO's restraint in his statements about the Iranian protests was the correct path for a President of the United States to take. In my view, many of the points in the article are well taken and deserve consideration.

Nonetheless, the next-to-last paragraph of the essay brings up an interesting point about BHO:
[I]f McCain, Graham and others have a valid complaint, it is not with Obama's words but with his music. The President of Cool seems emotionally disconnected from events in Tehran -- not unconcerned but not particularly upset, either. This is a quality that will cost Obama plenty in coming years. He can acknowledge your pain, but he cannot feel it.
I typed in "lack of empathy" for a Google search, and up came an article about Narcissistic Personality Disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, 1994, commonly referred to as DSM-IV, of the American Psychiatric Association. The article makes the following nine points about NPD:
1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3. Believes he is "special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

4. Requires excessive admiration

5. Has a sense of entitlement

6. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends

7. Lacks empathy

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him

9. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes
Each of those points has a "translation." Read the entire article HERE. For your convenience, the following is the translation for Point 7, "Lacks Empathy":
They are unwilling to recognize or sympathize with other people's feelings and needs. They "tune out" when other people want to talk about their own problems.

In clinical terms, empathy is the ability to recognize and interpret other people's emotions. Lack of empathy may take two different directions: (a) accurate interpretation of others' emotions with no concern for others' distress, which is characteristic of psychopaths; and (b) the inability to recognize and accurately interpret other people's emotions, which is the NPD style. This second form of defective empathy may (rarely) go so far as alexithymia, or no words for emotions, and is found with psychosomatic illnesses, i.e., medical conditions in which emotion is experienced somatically rather than psychically. People with personality disorders don't have the normal body-ego identification and regard their bodies only instrumentally, i.e., as tools to use to get what they want, or, in bad states, as torture chambers that inflict on them meaningless suffering. Self-described narcissists who've written to me say that they are aware that their feelings are different from other people's, mostly that they feel less, both in strength and variety (and which the narcissists interpret as evidence of their own superiority); some narcissists report "numbness" and the inability to perceive meaning in other people's emotions.
For additional reading, please see this essay (9/22/08), "Understanding Obama: The Making of a Fuehrer," by Ali Sina.

In my view, most political leaders are narcissists to some degree. That said, BHO seems to be more self-centered than most. Furthermore, I did note something disconcerting in yesterday's scripted press conference; please read Dana Milbank's "Stay Tuned for more of The Obama Show" — an article worthy of a separate post: BHO came most alive when (1) talking about his personal battle with quitting smoking and (2) when perceiving disagreement with his statements. Otherwise, his delivery and responses were flat and indeed evidenced a lack of empathy even as his words "appalled," "outraged," and "condemn" were strong.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 6/24/2009 09:06:00 AM