“Probably a clinical narcissist.”

What is it that makes ordinary columnists decide to hand out medical diagnoses as if they were licensed practitioners? Lust for perpetual fame, no doubt. This week, Marty Peretz of The New Republic suspects that Obama is “probably a clinical narcissist.” Coming so soon after the death of the late William Safire — whose most famous moment came when he dubbed Hillary Clinton “a congenital liar,” prompting Bill Clinton to threaten to punch him in the nose — it’s hard not to wonder if Peretz is trying to get his name in the obituaries. Not his own, but the president’s: Mr. Obama’s first year in office was turbulent. One prominent publisher called him “a clinical narcissist.” Nice try, but it doesn’t pack the wallop of “congenital liar,” which may well wind up somewhere in the first three paragraphs of Clinton’s farewell.

Incidentally, reading that Safire column today — with its blizzard of now-incomprehensible references to Whitewater — is a surreal experience. No wonder politics in the ’90s seemed so boring. Every episode of “Meet the Press” must have sounded like this:

NELSON: My old man can’t get a beer because his old man won’t give a bear to another old man! Let’s get him!
JIMBO: Wait! Why are we getting him?

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2 Responses to ““Probably a clinical narcissist.””

  1. Ben Kalafut Says:

    Wasn’t this label last applied to Nixon? That’s a bit before my time…

    And can we trace the attempt to medicalize one’s opposition to the bizarre pseudo-psychiatric hit piece in “Fact” magazine about Goldwater? Or is there connection to the similar Soviet practice? Either way, it’s interesting to see a left-wing tactic being brought to bear against the left.

  2. Justyn Dillingham Says:

    Hunter S. Thompson used to call Nixon “criminally insane,” but that was more Mencken-esque invective than diagnosis. A couple of presidents have actually been (posthumously) diagnosed with some sort of clinical malady — Freud himself wrote an entire book about Woodrow Wilson — but I don’t know if they were ever brought up by the opposition.

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