Drudge Report the other day related how Obama was returning to campaign trail, apparently to help Democrats surge in the midterm elections. I found it interesting to see that one of the headlines to be, “Refers to himself 102 times. . .” Given that headline space on Drudge is highly selective, this choice must have some real import. But contemporary events really got me to thinking. . . .
We all know Obama’s well-documented problem of self-referencing in his speeches. It was standard news for us conservatives. It became nauseating, as narcissism usually does.
We are also well aware how silent the mainstream media was on this problem. They didn’t seem willing to acknowledge the narcissistic element of their leftist hero and comrade.
But after going on three years of Trump now (including his campaigning), I would have thought the mainstream conservative (and alt-right as well) media outlets may have stepped backed a bit and self-analyzed their own. What follows is a lesson in political hypocrisy and self-examination.
Obama vs. Trump: self-referencing
Judging by conservative news, we have little acknowledgment of this at all. They’ve adopted the very type of silence for which they criticized the mainstream and leftist media the prior eight years.
Worse yet, in at least one case from Fox News, there was an attempt to show how Trump was actually so much better. They compared Obama’s last State of the Union address with Trump’s first inaugural speech and found that Obama referenced himself almost 100 times compared to Trump’s mere 26. The conclusion for Fox was to get Obama, “Ego much?”
It apparently did not occur to them that they were comparing apples and oranges, and in too small a sample, and other common statistical fallacies.
I don’t think that by any metric Trump would not be the hugest instance of narcissism yet. Whether it is the constant huge, bigly, best, most excellent, so-much-winning-ness, or other self-praising appellative, even just by common experience we can judge this.
But thankfully we need not rely only on common experience. Someone actually did the work on this very subject, comparing apples and apples, and taking a large, homogenized, representative sample fair to each.
When the more controlled statistical analysis was completed, the result showed that, yes, Obama had been a whopping 69 percent worse than the average for modern presidents at making references to himself. Wow!
But then the study showed by the same measure that Trump was another 20 percent worse even beyond Obama.
This analysis included Trump’s rhetoric over 130 speeches of roughly 450,000 words. These were compared to a comparable body of post-war presidential speeches, including Obama’s, with a computer program that analyses random 500-word samples equally for all.
The results speak for themselves and confirm our common experience, if we will acknowledge it. Even if we include Obama’s great problem of self-referencing, Trump is still by far the biggest offender in this area. Which leads to the question:
Why haven’t we seen any headlines all this time on Drudge about Trump’s references to himself? He far exceeds Obama in this area. Yet there has been utter silence. Obama disappears for two years and the one time he pops back up, suddenly self-referencing narcissism is the very thing with which we seemed concerned.
It cannot be because we couldn’t have noticed the problem. It features in every tweet and speech and boast of the size of his hands we have heard from day one. The answer can only be a bare and simple hypocrisy.
But pointing out the obvious is not enough here. Our study of the presidential speeches helps us go a bit deeper.
An even deeper problem
The study not only assesses for self-references, but also for a measure called “tenacity.” This is an analysis of how often the presidents use words of moral necessity like “must” or “need.” These are words that “connote confidence and totality.” The results are startling.
Never before, again, have we seen a president as extreme as Obama. He is 45 percent higher that the presidential average. But, again, guess what? Trump is even worse here, too.
Why in 2008 and forward has there been a decisive spike in the desire for such strong, intense political leadership? The study opines, “Audiences across the political spectrum have craved a strong leader who will overcome Washington’s paralysis and address the nation’s challenges.” This is hitting on the truth.
The truth is that we are deeply polarized and Americans on each side of the political aisle are sick and tired of not getting their way. Progressives want their progress and Conservatives want their good old days, and both are sick of gridlock in congress. Both are willing to use power to shove their policies down the other’s throats at taxpayer expense. Both are willing to bypass congress more and more and use executive power if they have to.
Voter polls demonstrate this recent development. In 2007, a Gullup poll revealed that “honesty” was the single highest (by far) quality sought in a presidential leader. Being a strong leader came in distant second. In 2012, the highest quality was “shares my values.” See the polarization ascending? By 2016, “strong leader” had vaulted to the top spot with comfortable margins.
Both Obama and Trump come in considerably higher than previous presidents on this measure. Both assured everyone that they and they alone were the answer to the problem in America:
For all their differences, both Obama and Trump consistently presented themselves as the solution to the nation’s problems. Accepting the nomination at the Republican National Convention, Trump assured Americans, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” . . .
Obama too regularly invoked his unique personal story as the reason that Americans should place their faith in him. . . . “I’m the one who brings change. It is my vision. It is my agenda,” he told The Washington Post in January 2009. He saw other government officials as just “good mechanics.”
We can blame these developments on each other, but that only makes it worse. What we need is a solution to narcissism-fueled presidencies which includes in part checking the fear and lust for power in the desires of the voters. It is this sense that checks “yes” by autocratic leaders we agree with, while calling those we disagree with narcissists and devils.
This means, for one, that we need to check our rampant hypocrisy. We need some serious self-examination and discipline when it comes to magnifying the abuses of the left when we ourselves are guilty of the same. Need to hold ourselves accountable and fix the problem rather than pretend it doesn’t exist.
When we pretend something so obvious doesn’t exist, we can still be sure that everyone else in the world sees our hypocrisy clear as day. And when two sides entrench themselves in utter hypocrisy, both sides will see the only solution in raw power. That means both will be more and more willing to resort to executive power to advance their agendas. This is exactly what we see, and the voters are eating it up.
But the resort to what is rightly called “authoritarian” rhetoric means we may be only a few steps away from a dictatorship of some sort. I know that’s mind-blowing to entertain, but it is real.
Just the other day, for example, Trump said that if Congress will not fund and authorize the border wall he wants, he may consider using the military to do it. Yes, we know the Corps of Engineers et al have been build forts, bases, dams, etc. all these years already. But they have never been the final solution for carrying out such partisan domestic policy in this way (perhaps FDR, but that socialism is no excuse or goal!). Yet this is the danger of having power sitting right there at your fingertips to use when you need it. This is one danger of a standing army, but it applies to all executive agencies.
If Trump could bend the “faithfully executed” clause (or some other clause) to build a wall, a leftist president can do it for something else, or bend “general welfare” to mean socialism, as has already been done many times. Why not stop doing the same things the left does which we always claim to despise?
Narcissism in the president is a manifestation of voter desire. The reliance on self and executive privilege is narcissism manifested in civil government. It is the hallmark of dictatorship.
Do you think when the German people cheered Hitler that they would have believed you if you told them they had installed a dictator? Or would they have reminded you they had a vote, a democracy, a national assembly with representatives and parties, etc.?
So let’s be very careful here, shall we? Let’s focus on freedom and honesty, and forsake our politicians when they forsake liberty and honesty. I’m perfectly fine with calling out Obama; let’s just do it to ourselves equally, too. When morality is the issue, equality never looked so good. So why are we afraid of it?
The Bible says that judgment begins at the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17), and those entrusted with knowledge have greater responsibility and will be held to a higher standard (Matt. 12:20–24; Luke 12:48; Jas. 3:1). That’s us. If we can’t abide by that rule, don’t expect to be protected by your pitiful conservative media outlets, alt-right celebrities, and even your favorite presidents.
A horse is a vain thing for safety (Psa. 33:17).