The Lonely Narcissist
What Obama’s self-love means for his political future.

The Daily, Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Last week I got an email from Barack Obama with the subject line "James, can we meet for dinner?" I was all set to write back that I was terribly sorry but really had to wash my hair, when a reader forwarded me an email she had received from Barack Obama with the subject line "Lyn, can we meet for dinner?" Then Ann Althouse blogged that she too had heard from the president. You guessed it: "Ann, can we meet for dinner?"

It turns out he says that to all the girls (and the boys). He's a cheapskate to boot. Not only were the email recipients asked to pay, by making a $5 campaign contribution, but only four of them, chosen in a sweepstakes, would actually get dinner. At least when the Dutch prime minister takes you out, you get to eat the meal you have to buy.

It wasn't the only time last week that Obama's re-election effort got creepily personal. At a campaign appearance in North Carolina on Wednesday, a man in the audience shouted: "I love you, Barack!" The president responded, "I love you back," then added: "If you love me, you got to help me pass this bill." That would be the American Jobs Act, affectionately known as Stimulus Jr., which comes with a price tag of $447 billion. I've heard of gold-digging, but this is ridiculous.

To NPR's Frank James, the exchange was a "moment reminiscent of a Bible story." He cited John 21:15, in which a disciple named Simon tells Jesus, "You know that I love you," and Jesus replies: "Feed my lambs." In verse 25 of the same chapter, John observes: "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." If only he were better at explaining his accomplishments.

Obama's first presidential campaign was in substantial part a cult of personality, with glassy-eyed followers chanting, "Yes, we can," and sometimes fainting as he spoke. Kathleen Geier, a Democrat who voted for Obama in the primary, observed in February 2008 that "Obama volunteers speak of 'coming to Obama' in the same way born-again Christians talk about 'coming to Jesus.' "

That worshipful attitude fed the ego of a man narcissistic enough to publish an autobiography at 33, roughly Jesus' age at the Crucifixion. Who can forget Obama's megalomaniacal declaration, upon clinching the nomination in June 2008, that "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal"?

Yet whether it's affection or adulation Obama seeks, these days he doesn't seem to be getting much. A New York Times/CBS poll released last Friday was the latest to find his job approval rating at an all-time low. The Times tried to find a silver lining, observing in a news story that "clear majorities support crucial pieces of his new job-creation program." But the proposal as a whole was poorly received, with only 12 percent saying they were "very confident" that it would work.

Not that it matters. Stimulus Jr. never had a chance in the Republican House, many of the members of which were elected in the tea party spending revolt of 2010. Obama's supporters keep invoking Harry S. Truman, which suggests the plan is not to enact legislation but to set up a "do-nothing Congress" as a re-election foil. As if seeking extra assurance that Republicans would defy his demand to "pass this bill," Obama has now proposed paying for it with massive tax increases, anathema to GOP lawmakers.

Yet Stimulus Jr. encountered opposition from the Democrats who control the Senate as well. Jim Webb of Virginia told Politico he thought the tax hike proposals were "terrible." Tom Carper of Delaware said: "The best jobs bill that can be passed is a comprehensive long-term deficit-reduction plan. That's better than everything else the president is talking about--combined." Even Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada wouldn't say when the chamber will get around to Obama's bill, though he's set votes on disaster aid, the Federal Aviation Administration and a short-term spending package. Apparently the Senate needs to wash its hair too.

News stories about Obama's declining job approval almost always mention that Americans still tell pollsters they "like" Obama "personally." Every man in America has heard that at some time or another--followed by those dreaded words, "as a friend."

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