Thursday Reads: The GOP Debate, Obama’s Narcissism, and Generations

Good Morning!! Last night we live-blogged the Republican debate, and it was borrrrrinnngggg! The less said about that debate last night the better. I can’t begin to pick the best or worst of that bunch. They were all horrible. For the media the big story in the debate was the conflict between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. From CBS News:

The sparks flew early at Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, with onetime frontrunner Mitt Romney and the man who has overtaken him in the polls, Texas governor Rick Perry, trading barbs over their respective records on job creation.

Romney was asked about the fact that Massachusetts was ranked 47th in job creation during his time in office. After making the case that he had improved a bad situation, Romney took a subtle shot at Perry, who has been in politics since 1984, saying, “Look, if I had spent my whole life in government, I wouldn’t be running for president right now. My experience, having started enterprises, having helped other enterprises grow and thrive, is what gives me the experience to put together a plan to help restructure the basis of America’s economic foundation so we can create jobs again, good jobs, and compete with anyone in the world.”

Pressed on his reference to spending a “whole life in government,” Romney, who touts his experience in the private sector, added: “It’s a fine profession, and if someone were looking to say how can we restructure government, and which agency should report to which other agency, well, maybe that’s the best background. If you’re thinking about what it takes to reshape and update America’s economy, and to allow us to compete with China and other nations around the world, understanding how the economy works fundamentally is a credential I think is critical.”

Perry countered by saying that while Romney had a good record creating jobs “all around the world” in the private sector, “when he moved that experience to government, he had one of the lowest job creation rates in the country.”

“So the fact is, while he had a good private sector record, his public sector record did not match that,” the Texas governor continued. “As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in the last three months in Texas than he created in four years in Massachusetts.”


I don’t expect the President’s jobs speech tonight to be much more interesting, but we will be live-blogging it anyway. I do expect that after the Obama has nothing new to offer in his speech tonight that he will have “crossed the Rubicon,” so to speak. He will have passed the point of no return. He’ll be done, finished, caput. I’ll say again what I’ve been saying for awhile now: this president needs to follow in the footsteps of that  other failed president, Lyndon B. Johnson. Realize it’s all over and withdraw from the race so someone else can try to beat whichever nutjob the Republicans nominate.

If Obama refuses to withdraw, I think the media should hold debates where the President debates candidate Obama from 2008. They could play clips of his campaign promises and then ask him to explain why he adopted the Bush policies instead. Now that might be an entertaining debate.

For a long time now, we’ve been seeing former Obot bloggers expressing their disappointment in the man they forced down America’s throat. Lately the disappointment and even disgust has been coming from more mainstream sources. It’s quite amazing really. Yesterday Richard Cohen, the aging WaPo columnist told the Villagers that Obama has lost the Hamptons.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I went to a number of events in the Hamptons. At all of them, Obama was discussed. At none of them — that’s none — was he defended. That was remarkable. After all, sitting around various lunch and dinner tables were mostly Democrats. Not only that, some of them had been vociferous Obama supporters, giving time and money to his election effort. They were all disillusioned.

Let me call the roll. I am talking about are writers and editors, lawyers and shrinks, Wall Street tycoons and freelance photographers, hedge funders and academics, run-of-the-mill Democrats and Democratic activists. They were all politically sophisticated, and just a year ago some of them were still vociferous Obama supporters. No more.

Frankly, I was surprised. The Hamptons are a redoubt of New York liberalism. It is to campaign money what the Outer Banks are to fishermen. I expected more than a few people to defend the president. No one did. Everyone — and I do mean everyone — expressed disappointment in him as a leader. In that area, they thought he was a bust. Some articulated detailed critiques — the nature of his stimulus program, for instance. They argued that more money should have gone into long-term infrastructure programs. Most, though, skipped the details and just registered dismay: Where had their “change” agent gone?

Today, Al Gore attacked Obama as anti-science and anti-environment.

Instead of relying on science, President Obama appears to have bowed to pressure from polluters who did not want to bear the cost of implementing new restrictions on their harmful pollution—even though economists have shown that the US economy would benefit from the job creating investments associated with implementing the new technology. The result of the White House’s action will be increased medical bills for seniors with lung disease, more children developing asthma, and the continued degradation of our air quality.

BTW, why hasn’t Gore been protesting outside the White House? Why hasn’t he been arrested? Wouldn’t that have a powerful effect? But I digress.

I want to highlight another elite critique–although this critic apparently saw through Obama early on. Yesterday, HuffPo published an outstanding post by Professor of International Affairs Michael Brenner, from the University of Pittsburgh: The Great Betrayal.

Barack Obama’s betrayal will resonate in history long after he has become just another name on the over-priced celebrity speaker circuit. It is a betrayal of far more than the youthful idealists and loyal progressives who put him in the White House. Obama has unmoored the Democratic Party from its foundations — philosophical and electoral. No longer is it an expression of the persons, programs and ideas that crystallized with the New Deal and which dominated the country’s politics for sixty years. Its future is that of ad hoc assemblage of hustlers and special interests whose sole claim to govern will be that it is not the amalgamated Tea/Republican Party. Obama, by this Oedipus-like act of patricide, has also betrayed the country that voted for an enlightened leader with a social conscience — a country in desperate need of the opposite to the fate he has laid on us.

Brenner argues that Obama’s extreme narcissism reflects our contemporary culture and that we’ll see more like him in the future {shudder}.

A narcissist has no convictions other than a total dedication to his own gratification. That gives him the freedom to maneuver without inhibition or conscience with the revered self as the only reference point. All expressions of ideals, of opinions, of intentions are implicitly so qualified. A complementary narcissistic trait is an ease with blurring the line between virtual reality and actual reality. Narcissists believe everything they say — at the moment they say it. Their declarations are sterile acts that have no pride of parentage nor can they expect honor from offspring. Witness Obama’s momentarily rousing support of a labor movement that he has scorned for thirty months. This is the same President who has launched an all-out campaign against public school teachers whose unions serve as the whipping-boy for all that ails American education. Narcissists take as given that they never dissemble or lie — because to do so is to acknowledge that reality has an intolerably constraining claim on them.

Of course, this last is a feature of contemporary American political culture in general. Facts are taken to be infinitely malleable, the very notion of truth is denied, speaking honestly is viewed as a lifestyle choice, and communication is more a matter of self affirmation than an attempt to convey knowledge, emotion or intention to somebody else. We have externalized navel gazing to a remarkable degree. One consequence is that public discourse is not anchored by common standards of honesty. It is a maelstrom of opinion, emotive outbursts, mythology and primal screams. Accountability, therefore, ceases to exist. There is accountability only where there are benchmarks of veracity, a reasonably rigorous monitoring of what is said and done, and a dedication on the part of some at least to ensuring that these requirements for a viable democracy are met. The abject failure of the media to perform these functions to any reasonable degree is a hallmark of our times. The think tank and academic worlds are little better.

This amorphous environment is narcissist friendly terrain. It is permissive of twists and turns, leaves no record of what was done yesterday or the day before — much less a year ago, and focuses only on the evanescent existential moment. Case in point is the remarkably uncritical coverage that Obama has received from the supposedly responsible media — especially those who claim to be upholders of the ideas and policies and interests that he has betrayed.

Wow! Can that guy ever write! As I said Brenner apparently saw Obama pretty clearly from the beginning. Here is an excerpt from a paper he wrote in October, 2008 Who is Barack Obama? In this piece, Brenner comments on Obama’s strange disdain for the political and cultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

Obama is not a philosophical progressive or a populist. Little if anything in the roiled public life of America seems to anger him or even irk him. At a time of multiple crises – constitutional, economic, and in the nation’s foreign dealings – he keeps his emotional distance. It is hard to imagine him getting worked up about any of the developments in American society or attacks on the body politic that so deeply dismay many others

In all respects, Obama is very much a man of his times. Weak or absent convictions, dispassion even about grievous wrongs, incapacity for moral outrage, quiet acceptance of the precept to put self first – if not quite the measure of all things, a natural egoism – all the hallmarks of contemporary American society. A man who amasses $10 million at a relatively young age after a late start and married to a woman with no inherited wealth whatsoever is a man who looks after himself. He has none of the idealism that exemplified his mother’s life, and for which she paid a steep price in comfort and security. Obama’s disparagement of the 1960s social movements that shaped his mother is revealing. It confirms the absence of serious interest in his own lineage. It hints at an introspection, such as it is, that has the instrumental needs of the present as its magnetic pole. It exemplifies a strongly ahistorical approach to the current world he occupies. Obama’s public remarks that the whole 1960s experience was a ‘psycho-drama’ is astonishing. He is what he is, where he is, as a direct result of the 1960s. The same holds for his wife and children. Indeed, he simply would not be were it not for the ideals and attitudes that became full-blown in the 1960s.

Perhaps at the root of Obama’s narcissism there is a sense of disgust about where he came from and who is is? Or maybe he disdains the movements of the ’60s and ’70s–the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s movement, the anti-war movement, the gay rights movement–because he has no convictions of his own and can’t understand why anyone would have convictions worth fighting for? I don’t know. I admit I simply do not understand the man. I just know he’s toxic for America and he was toxic for the Democratic Party, which, thanks to him, is now truly dead.

Interestingly, I came across another post at HuffPo today that address the issue of generational conflict: Generation X Simply Doesn’t Get it, by Joshua Grant. The post seems to have been written in reaction to the August unemployment numbers. Joshua longs for the days when America really was a great country that everyone could be proud of. His generation, Gen Y, has never experienced it, he says.

We, Generation Y, are a people who have lived through the need for “ADHD medicines,” “anti-depressants,” dysfunctional and broken families, a dot-com bust, financial collapse, failed government institutions, world hunger, terrorism, and international conflicts. Simply put, there has been little to celebrate in life since we’ve been around.

Some people think we are self-absorbed, concerned only with our interest, but can you blame us? The only glimmers of hope have been what personal achievements we have accomplished, of which we hang onto to for dear life. After all, in a country that is supposed to be so “great,” something doesn’t add up, and we want to know why? It’s not that we are conceited or don’t want to be a part of something better, but why get in the middle of a national mess that looks like a downward spiral?

Joshua is so young that lacks any historical perspective. He blames the problems he sees on Generation X. Poor Gen X! They grew up under Reagan and never experienced an America that produced prosperity for anyone but the rich. I’m not sure Joshua even knows about difficult passages that members of other still living generations experienced–like the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam, racial discrimination and segregation. He wants to know why things are so terrible in this country right now. And if Gen X-ers aren’t going to do anything about it, he wants them to get out of the way so his generation can. To his parents’ generation, he writes:

Let me thank you on behalf of my generation, Y, for all that you have done, and now I ask that you step aside, open your books, and let us, with all the right questions, begin to solve the problems you can’t seem to figure out. It all starts with Why/Y.

If you won’t ask, we will.

I don’t want to be too hard on Joshua, because he’s obviously very young. But what on earth is his generation waiting for? Why aren’t they in the streets protesting already? Why aren’t they out there demanding jobs and a guarantee they’ll get social security in their old age instead of complaining about being stripped of hope? Why aren’t they protesting the wars, torture, and domestic spying? Why are they waiting around for someone else to do it?

In the comments on Joshua’s article, everyone hammers the baby boomers and says it’s all our fault. At least we tried to fight the powers that be. Our generation didn’t sit around waiting for our parents to change things. We fought for change and we had a powerful effect on the culture even though we couldn’t stop the growing corruption and corporatization of the government. What are these kids waiting for? I admit I just don’t get it.

Well, this post has turned into a bit of a rant, so I guess I’ll wrap it up. What are you reading and blogging about today?

41 Comments on “Thursday Reads: The GOP Debate, Obama’s Narcissism, and Generations”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Romney campaign says “Perry has lost,” because of his desire to kill Social Security.

    • Woman Voter says:

      Everyday, I come across FORMER Obama supporters who are only now realizing he never had a record and feel lied to by the party and press that helped them project their ideas onto him. The environmental issues betrayal was/is the last straw for many and the shocker is he gave it away…if this isn’t a sign of things to come I don’t know what is.

  2. Pilgrim says:

    Your reflections are always so worth reading. Thank you.

  3. purplefinn says:

    Excellent round-up and excellent suggestion:

    If Obama refuses to withdraw, I think the media should hold debates where the President debates candidate Obama from 2008. They could play clips of his campaign promises and then ask him to explain why he adopted the Bush policies instead. Now that might be an entertaining debate.

    As for Gore risking arrest, I’m not too hard on him, because I am not doing it. These people are: “Hundreds arrested protesting oil pipeline Christian Science Monitor”

    I’m going to share your Michael Brenner quotes. Thank you.

    • dakinikat says:

      It’s a great suggestion but all we would hear is that the republicans made him do it. It is as bad as lessons of 911 was for bush. It is like a drinking game line now.

      • alibe says:

        I always say you can’t blame things on Bush if you have continued the same policies and wars of Bush. It is correct that Bush has a lot of blame BUT one has to have changed from what bush did to separate themselves from that blame. As it stands Obama has the same blame as Bush, maybe more because he pretended he was going to change what Bush did, not continue and enable Bush insanity forever.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        Here’s the theme for the 2012 election:

        GOP: Vote for us and we will continue to take everything from you!!


        OBAMA: Vote for me since I will ONLY help them achieve that end!

  4. joanelle says:

    BB, you just get better and better with each post. This is a superb roundup and commentary on your part.

    And after digesting all that you’ve given us I’ve come to the conclusion it is time to start the Hillary draft. It is time to actively market the idea of Hillary as president and more importantly it may be time to expose what happened in Denver, because there are millions of Americans who honestly don’t know they were duped and mugged in Denver – they think O really won the primaries. It’s time to move forward, not backward with O or a Republican.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I wish there was some way to revive the primary issue, but the media never wants to look back.

  5. Alibe says:

    This was the best post! Amazing. that Michael Brenner is spot on. A great writer… And intellectually mind-blowing. Terrific. I had to read and re-read much of it to savor the sentences and thoughts. WOW! I just wish it weren’t so true.

  6. mjames says:

    Great great post today. A pleasure to read, to understand that so many others out there get it, horrible as “it” is.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    I turned off the debate before Perry defended his views on Global warming by citing the Catholic Church’s treatment of Gallileo.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry clung to his skepticism of climate change science in Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate when he was asked if he believes man-made climate change is happening.

    “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is just nonsense,” Perry said. “Just because you have a group of scientists who stood up and said here is the fact. Galileo got outvoted for a spell,” he said.

    Perry was referencing the Galileo affair of the 1600′s when the scientist was accused of heresy for his scientific theories. Through his telescopic findings, Galileo offered support for heliocentrism, the scientific theory first developed by Copernicus that the sun is stationary and the planets revolved around it, but this was in direct conflict with scientific and philosophical theories of Aristotle and Ptolemy, who believed the Earth was the center of the universe, and the Catholic Church, which adhered to a literalist interpretation of Scripture, such as Psalm 104:5 which reads “the Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.”

    Galileo underwent a trial in 1633 for his book “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems,” which compared the theories of Copernicus and Ptolemy. Galileo was convicted of grave suspicion of heresy” and was sentenced to house arrest for the duration of his life.


    • Woman Voter says:

      That is funny considering the ‘FLAT EARTH’ candidate on stage… 😆 BB, we better be careful next time we fly.. 😆

    • Pilgrim says:

      I also noticed that Perry did not quite pronounce Galileo’s name correctly. That, in addition to a blatantly illogical misapplication of the reference to the argument being cited re current scientific theories.

    • Branjor says:

      What a stunningly precise reversal to use Galileo in defense of his anti scientific views on global warming.

  8. Pat Johnson says:

    Admittedly I am even more demoralized today than usual, watching those morons last night “debate” their ideas for the nation’s future and knowing that one of them could possibly become president of the US.

    Facing a supposed Democratic contender who has lost most of his base to his inability to lead, or stand up to the GOP, is depressing since whoever pulls it off in 2012 is not interested in the issues but in the power that comes with the office. None of these simpletons is even remotely interesting or capable of leading if we were being honest with ourselves.

    Who in their right mind would believe anything these people say when it is obvious that “saying one thing and meaning” another is exactly how these people roll? Obama is a prime example of this method as he has broken every campaign promise made during the last election and Mitt Romney has made it the hallmark of his own campaign as he shifts and wiggles in front of every crowd he addresses.

    Perry does not believe in the possibility of climate change yet his state is considered one of the dirtiest for air quality in the nation as he continues to hand over the environment to any major donor wanting to do business with Texas without restrictions. This is his idea of “job creation”

    Drill, drill, drill is all these people have for an independent energy policy which promises to do more harm than good. Even Obama seems to be onboard with this theory so it’s unwise to turn to the current occupant of the WH for protection.

    It’s probably a good idea to just get used to this assault on our lives as these pols area only interested in favoring those who can enrich their coffers with more and more tainted money working in their benefit.

    If these people are the best we can do we may as well just call it a day. We are in the grip of pygmies,

  9. paper doll says:

    great round up, per usual. Thanks

    Al Gore attacked Obama as anti-science and anti-environment.

    They bought Gore out of his hiding place in order to say that? Hmmmm.
    Very interesting

  10. Peggy Sue says:

    Even Matt Taibbi, Hillary-hater and sexist extraordinaire, wrote a blog post about his disappointment in The One, specifically stating he doesn’t believe the man anymore:

    Though I’m more than willing to give Taibbi credit for going after the financial industry, exposing the incestuous relationship between Wall St and DC [even with the purple prose], I have no sympathy for this ‘sudden’ realization that Obama is an empty suit. Even Taibbi’s last line about Obama being painful to listen to—Hello! The man was always painful to listen to because the words were empty, vacuous from the start.

    When this first round of Hillary rah-rahs started I was disturbed because it seemed the major portion was coming out of conservative quarters. But the howl now from Democratic quarters over Obama’s incompetence is pretty hard to ignore. Yet there’s still denial out there in Obamaland. I listened to a Dem commentator yesterday on the Dylan Ratigan show who insisted that Obama’s liberal base is still in love. I swear, they’ve all had lobotomies.

    The debates last night? It’s same old, same old but I think if anyone benefited it was Romney. He managed to look and sound presidential against the others. I do not understand the fascination for Perry. To me, the Texan Elmer Gantry pose is beyond off-putting. And what was that Galileo statement all about? Does the man even know who Galileo was? His insistence that SS is a Ponzi scheme and refusal to move off that comment just cemented for me that this is a diehard ideologue who will take orders from the neo-cons as if they were from God’s lips. Donald Rumsfield is already ‘advising’ Perry on foreign affairs. This would be Bush on steroids and super-fundie superstition.


    That being said, BB, I think you’re absolutely right. Obama’s speech tonight? Unless he does a major rewrite, this will be a stake in the heart. Voters have had it with the man. The best he could do for all of us is do a LBJ. Then I would applaud, loudly.

  11. Pat Johnson says:

    What Obama intends is to offer a package he knows damn well the congressional crooks will disapprove.

    This will create an opening to use in the upcoming campaign: “See, it’s not me it’s them!”

    The time to act was last year. Instead he bowed and genuflected to the GOP demands and turned the electorate off with the dithering and dancing around that became the norm. No one trusts him to act presidential or take the bull by the horns when necessary. Capitulation became the standard and he is left with egg on his face time and time again. Who can take solace in that? A “Super Congress”? Come on!

    Meanwhile the nation will be stuck with either a Romney or Perry as a choice.


  12. dakinikat says:

    Dick Cheney: Hillary Clinton should challenge Barack Obama

    Read more:

    I’m speechless on his one.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      The Crypt Keeper has spoken. Could it be that even he has cast his hooded eyes over the GOP contenders and cringed at the thought?

      We know he has no use for Perry and has taken Quiterella to task. That leaves Mitt. Hmmmm.

  13. Pat Johnson says:

    The simple fact that UHC would solve so many problems goes unheard.

    Mitt’s own “Romneycare” covers about 98% of MA residents and at a time when layoffs abound this is a godsend for many families. We could do better with UHC but in MA this is a close as it gets to ensuring people are able to obtain adequate care for as little as $40.00 per month.

    But then again, who cares about commonsense when some big corporation is waving money under the noses of our elected officials.

    Now if some judicial district would just declare these needless wars as criminal we may have found a jumping off point back to sanity.

  14. foxyladi14 says:

    good roundup.. 🙂

  15. Outstanding piece, BB.

    (waving to Sky Dancers)

  16. Sleepless in NJ says:

    Feeling somewhat ridiculous for commenting so late, but I had to thank you for this wonderful post! The Brenner quotes in particular are quite bracing!

    • Sima says:

      I’m joining you in the late commenting and thankfulness for this great post. I love reading Brenner and I’m glad to see a new piece out by him. And BB brought it together so well!