Saturday, July 04, 2009

Palin's Pathology

I have never been in the business of making political predictions, but here goes: Sarah Palin will run for President. I don't think she'll get very far, but I'm sure that this is her fixed intention.

I'm certain of this because I'm equally certain that Palin is a clinical narcissist. I've known a few, up close and personally, and once you've had your dearest dreams and your greatest projects trampled to smithereens by one of them, you start to pick up on the Red Flags. was easy to learn that there has always been a counter-narrative about Palin, and indeed it has become the dominant one. It is the story of a political novice with an intuitive feel for the temper of her times, a woman who saw her opportunities and coolly seized them. In every job, she surrounded herself with an insular coterie of trusted friends, took disagreements personally, discarded people who were no longer useful, and swiftly dealt vengeance on enemies, real or perceived.
The most important thing to understand about narcissists, beyond the fact that they literally Destroy Everything, is that they are perfectly capable of making monumentally stupid decisions--decisions that a retarded, violent sixteen-year-old boy in a state of hormonal overdrive would reconsider--despite their exceptionally high IQs. That is because their priorities are ordered so as to grab for the maximum ego gratification in every moment, regardless of the long- or even short-term consequences. Thus:
By all accounts, Palin was either unwilling, or simply unable, to prepare. In the run-up to the Couric interview, Palin had become preoccupied with a far more parochial concern: answering a humdrum written questionnaire from her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman. McCain aides saw it as easy stuff, the usual boilerplate, the work of 20 minutes or so, but Palin worried intently.
Can you actually imagine this? Imagine that you are about to be interviewed on national TV while running for Vice President of the United States, that you know next to nothing about the issues you are likely to be asked about, and instead of studying your a** off, so as not to humiliate yourself, you obsess about a tiny project that one of your aides could easily do FOR you?

But anyone who has ever tried to complete a major project on a deadline with a narcissistic colleague will recognize this scenario. The more urgently you have to focus, prioritize and work as a team, the more the narcissist creates dramas out of trivialities. It reaches the point where more than half of the group's energy is deflected into placating the narcissist's fears, obsessions and demands, when all of that energy is required to get the job done.

If you manage to successfully navigate the crisis, moreover, the narcissist will be sure to take the credit for it; if catastrophe results, they will loudly blame everyone but themselves. It doesn't really matter to them either way, because their primary objective--sucking all the focus onto themselves--has been met.

Narcissists do not care about Facts; they care about getting what they want, Right Now. Ergo the Odd Lies:
I should reiterate that Palin's lies are not the usual political ones. They are stark assertions of fact that are demonstrably and provably untrue...The point is not that this is a grave sin. It isn't. Most of her lies aren't (with a few exceptions). They are just a function of someone who makes stories up all the time, who says things that may momentarily impress but that are inconsistent with past statements and with, you know, reality.
I am a gullible person. It simply doesn't occur to me that people would lie to me. I take most statements utterly at face value, even when they are at flagrant odds with what I know to be true. I will stand there and wonder, "huh. I wonder why she would say that? Maybe I'd better reconsider my entire world view," before it will dawn on me that maybe she just MADE IT UP.

So when it finally sinks in that yes, your business partner DID just tell a blatant lie about you, in front of you, to a person who has the power to make or break your career, you tend to remember the moment. You tend to spend a lot of time analyzing the events that led up to that moment, and the motives of everyone involved. You do so because if it ever happens again, you will have to kill yourself.

And when you finally conclude that your partner's motives were nothing more than to 'momentarily impress,' you are impressed, all right. political principle or personal relationship is more sacred than her own ambition. To be sure, Palin is “conservative,” whatever that means, but she can be all over the lot in the articulation of her platform.
Most narcissists are incapable of listening, in any but the most superficial way. Other people's concerns don't really exist for them, except as possible levers with which to manipulate. They will appear to listen; they will earnestly tell you what you want to hear, then do exactly what they please, over and over and over again. And they will be genuinely surprised and betrayed when you get upset about it.

I read a lot of punditry by gullible people like myself--people who spend their energy worrying about Palin's political philosophy, her religious beliefs, her positions on abortion, taxes, big government and foreign policy, as though these were the most important things about her. I see people seriously speculating as to why she'd shoot her career in the foot by resigning her governorship if she really intends to run for President; I see them making prescriptions of what she ought to be doing and learning to prepare herself for the job. And I think these people are grossly overthinking it.

Because the answer is staring them in the face. Just being the Governor of Alaska is tedious and boring when, in your fantasy, you see yourself being addressed as Madame President, holding court to adoring foreign leaders, and orating in front of cheering crowds. That's it. That's all. That is the sum total of thought or motivation that has gone into Sarah Palin's decisions since she was cynically inflicted on the national scene in a moment of desperation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you worry that you might be a narcissist, does that mean that you're not one?