The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Newt’s Narcissism Problem (and Ours)

Posted on | February 5, 2012 | 91 Comments

“Gingrich should carefully play a tape of his post-Nevada caucus performance, and then he would quickly grasp that it was little more than a litany of excuses, whining, and accusations — characterized by stream-of-conscious confessionals and rambling repetitions. And, I think, will hurt him more than anything yet in the campaign.”
Victor Davis Hanson, National Review

Some commenters have been dogging me out over my negativity toward Newt’s campaign, but I insist that this is Newt’s fault, not mine — and I also say in my defense that Newt’s stunning meltdown in the past two weeks has vindicated my repeated warnings against climbing aboard the Gingrich bandwagon.

Let’s pause, my friends, to recognize that what I write on this blog, and what you reply in the comments, will never change anything about the Republican presidential primary campaign. And we would be guilty of exaggerating our own influence if we thought otherwise.

Narcissism is a phenomenon I’ve written about at length, in regard to the madness of Pentagon shooter J. Patrick Bedell: “Paranoia is rooted in the narcissist’s need to rationalize failure, to find scapegoats for his own shortcomings.”

The characteristic trait of the narcissist is his inability to accept responsibility for his own failures. Everybody likes to believe that they deserve credit for their successes, but no one wants to believe that they are at fault when they screw up. This is normal. Yet the damaged ego of the narcissist makes it impossible for him to acknowledge his own contribution to his failures. He cannot even admit to himself that he is at fault, which is why he attempts to focus blame on scapegoats.

And so when Newt starts pointing the finger, blaming others for his failures, portraying himself as the victim — of Goldman Sachs, “money power,” George Soros, “the elite media,” Mormons (!) and a “blatantly dishonest” opponent — even his supporters ought to recognize these unseemly eruptions as symptomatic of Gingrich’s narcissistic tendencies.

Why do you think I warned you against jumping onto his bandwagon?

For all his excellent qualities — abilities that no one can deny — Newt also has this personality defect, a tendency to think of himself as a person so transcendently important that the rules which govern the behavior of normal people don’t apply to him. And when those insignificant Lilliputians (as he regards them) insist that the Great Man must account for his transgressions, Newt angrily lashes out at the scapegoats he blames for his failures, because he is incapable of accepting the blame himself.

One might have thought that his experience as Speaker of the House, of being tossed aside by his own Republican caucus and forced into more than a decade of political exile, would have taught Gingrich a lesson about the need to rein in his ego. But his resort to scapegoating (see my Tuesday column, “Fear and Loathing in the Sunshine State“) would seem to indicate that he has learned nothing, and Ed Morrissey comments on Newt’s Nevada tantrum:

If people thought that the lack of graciousness after Gingrich’s loss in Florida was a careless mistake, this press conference dispelled that notion and made Gingrich’s speech in Florida look courtly by comparison.

Indeed. And there is a danger that those who believe so fervently in Gingrich’s conservative message that they are willing to overlook the flaws of the messenger will be sucked into the vortex of Newt’s narcissistic meltdown.

This was what disturbed me about his speech to that rally in Fort Myers: Gingrich was inviting his supporters to share his paranoid conception of himself as the innocent victim of a malign conspiracy. If you RSVP to that invitation, accepting Newt’s own self-justifying rationalization of his failures, then you will be consigned to the same kind of impotent rage that Gingrich is himself now acting out.

Look, I’m not exempting myself from the criticism I apply to Newt, because I have at times struggled against the temptation to blame others for my shortcomings. But I recognize this urge as a weaknesss.

If Tabitha Hale thinks of me as “Not Good Enough for BlogCon,” for example, I confess that I alone am at fault. Either my blog sucks, or else recognition as BlogCon-worthy requires more than merely having a good blog. What made me angry at Tabitha, however, is that she publicly claimed to admire my work while simultaneously excluding me from the BlogCon agenda, and then publicly denounced me as a “liar” for being offended by the exclusion.

(Aside: Which is more insulting, to be deliberately excluded or to be overlooked as too insignificant to deserve consideration?)

No one, however, can be expected to feel my wounds as personally as I do, and when people accused me of indulging in “self-pity” for having transparently exposed my own humiliation — an accusation that added insult to the original injury — I accepted that this, too, was my own damned fault. If I had so obviously deserved to be included as a BlogCon participant, my complaint would have elicited sympathy, rather than contempt. Thus when my friends told me I was wrong to feel that Tabitha had purposefully humiliated me, the only possible conclusion was that I was not only unworthy of recognition, but was furthermore guilty of an unjust vanity in imagining myself to be so worthy.

“Not Good Enough for BlogCon,” therefore, is a judgment I have somehow deserved, a permanent stain I can never hope to expunge.

Mea culpa. Mea magna culpa.

OK, so where is the similar confession of fault by Newt Gingrich? And where, for that matter, is the admission by his supporters that Newt is now auto-destructing just as I warned weeks ago he would?

But of course, this is not about me, and it’s not about you, either. So you can rage at me in the comments all you like, but don’t imagine that you’ll thereby prevent Newt Gingrich from being Newt Gingrich. He will lose, and he will embarrass himself and his supporters in the process of losing, and nothing you or I say about it can change the outcome.

Lashing out at scapegoats is as futile as it is foolish. None of my friends who attended BlogCon complained of my absence. Most didn’t even notice. I’m simply too insignificant — “A Venn Diagram Might Be Helpful” — and this is nobody’s fault but mine.

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Comments

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     Bullshit, you whine and bitch every time anybody criticizes Mittens for anything. I’m not in the tank for anybody, I just have my preferences. I’m damn sure not in the tank for Newt, I recognize his down sides and won’t shy away from discussing them. But hell, who needs my voice added to the chorus? It’s fine to criticize a person and point out his negatives, but the shit I read here is really piling on sometimes. This is a man who accomplished quite a hell of a lot for the GOP in my opinion. All the Newt haters just want to chuck that out the fucking window. Why? For Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum? Bullshit. I wouldn’t act like that if Sarah Palin was running.

    There’s two kinds of difference between you criticizing Newt and me criticizing Mitt.

    One, I’m fair. I didn’t and will not jump on the fucking latest “I don’t worry about the poor” bullshit against Mitt, because I know that’s what it is, bullshit that was taken completely out of context. 

    But if Newt said the same damn thing I’d bet money you’d jump all over it, and god damn it I don’t even bet. I’m sorry, I don’t like that shit.

    Every god damn thing I’ve ever said about Mitt I come by my opinion honestly, based on fucking facts. Facts that is as opposed to jumping on these bandwagons fueled by media bullshit.

    The only other difference is you claiming you’ll vote for whoever the GOP nominee is, and me saying I won’t. Yeah, we’ll see if you sing that tune if Newt somehow pulls it out. It’s easy to crow when you think your man is a sure bet.

    And for what its worth, I probably will vote for Mitt, but it will make me sick to my fucking stomach if I do so.

    One thing I won’t do, actually several things. I won’t make phone calls and knock on doors for him or contribute money, but then again I am not likely to do that for anybody, though I would have for Palin, maybe Bachmann. Santorum I’d think about. But Mitt? HaHaHaHa hell fucking no.

    And another thing that’s even more out of the fucking question is spending a whole lot of time, or for that matter any time, apologizing for and explaining his past record and his flip flops. I’m sorry, I’m not making myself look like a fucking fool, any more than I already have with certain people.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

     Following close behind Hubris is always Nemesis.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemesis_(mythology)

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     Maybe if Dole had been a decent Minority Leader he could have led the Senate GOP into the majority. You know, sort of like Newt did with the House Republicans.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

     Dead solid perfect.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

     Willard certainly has earned the right to crow about his managerial talents, but I would agree with smokedaddy that he is a nine on the Narcissism Scale.  How else does one explain that he keeps thinking conservatives will accept him for any other reason than that they get worn down or buy into the ‘he’s most electable argument’. 

    We don’t want him; he’s not a conservative.

    We like him as a man and probably would be very happy to have him as a neighbor, but he is not the person to lead us into battle.  SecTres, yes.  SecInt, sure.  Leader Of The Free World, no.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MJGP4QXZ5PRW2MFA5E25CV2WNU rosalie

    I wonder which one was the worst?

  • A Stephens

    Agree.  People continue to underestimate the passion of Paul’s support.  Gingrich might have cleaned O’s clock but he seems to be done in by his own vanity.

  • http://2012.ak4mc.us/ McGehee

     44. They count Cleveland twice, remember.

  • Finrod Felagund

     Gee, Santorum supporters at the time were saying that Iowa was Santorum’s time at the top.  Were you and them lying then, or lying now?

  • http://twitter.com/BatesLine Michael Bates

    I was at both BlogCons and I don’t remember Friedersdorf or Weigel on a panel, or even in attendance. Weigel was covering the 9/12 March and rally that happened right after BlogCon 2010, but other than that, I don’t recall seeing him.

  • A Stephens

    “he is not the person to lead us into battle”

    Bingo!

    Romney’s fundamental lack of core principles will “lead” us into a trap which has already been set and baited by the enemy.  It’s why they are foaming at the mouth to see him in the general.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    I agree.

    One quibble: The Bolshes always foam at the mouth – it’s a habit.

  • Anonymous

    Fine blog.  I have been trying in my own way to get the conservatives to recognize this huge and disqualifying flaw in Newt for months now.  Romney is not a movement conservative.  He did not read John Locke and Edmund Burke in his formative years.  He likely knows Milton Friedman, but hasn’t internalized any of his key messages. That is frustrating to us movement conservatives who want this election to be a philosophical battle royal.  Newt is seductive, because we see him as the person to take on this debate.  It is frustrating to us that he is so flawed.  We try to see past it.  But increasing numbers of us are seeing the light.  His narcissism makes him a loser. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DAEPYO6POGHXOWYXLVLDMHGJVM john s

    Strangely common, politicians not from where there from so to speak.  Like Bush the elder running as a Texan, born in one of them yankee places i ferget which.

  • http://jiujitsutalk.com/ wannabe

    He’s also a pathological liar.  That whole Freddie Mac “historian” nonsense is simply pathetic.  Just how stupid does he think we are?

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  • http://www.planetpeschel.com Bill Peschel

    I don’t know. In a country in which the equivalent of the nation’s population moves every 4 years, the trick is finding someone who has stayed put.

  • http://www.planetpeschel.com Bill Peschel

    I’m amazed that anyone took Newt serious in the first place. The man had been out of Congress since the 20th century and has accomplished little else except to co-write a bunch of books and rake in the fees for being NG.  

  • melanerpes

    The sooner Newt completes the destruction of his own campaign, the sooner Santorum can pose a grave threat to Romney’s.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UNZU74NIXQBSAAC5PR2B36VMWM Edward

    1. You know this indenting blog comments thing is going to get very odd.

    2. IMO I discount the lack of support for the same reason I discount any support given by former colleagues.  It makes no difference.

    The reality is that most of the people named are professional policy wonks, politicians or others that routinely suck at the government teat.  And when your career consists of latching onto the nearest taxpayer nipple then you’re not only beholden to whomever is in power but also obliged to make certain that you communicate that.

    It’s little more than a hooker walking around in hot pants.  A form of advertising.

    Not that I’m a proponent of the Clintons but you saw the same process occur when Das Wonder Boy took off compared to The Hillary.  Suddenly just about every Clinton supporter or alum was transformed into an Obama supporter.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UNZU74NIXQBSAAC5PR2B36VMWM Edward

     -or- the GOP could have participated because Newt made enough enemies that they enjoyed taking him down and letting the Democrats leave the fingerprints.

    Which isn’t precisely the first time something like this has happened in politics.

  • SarahW

    Yeah, Stacy,  tell supporters of Newt something they don’t already know.   I’ll take everybit of that self-serving  rat bastards weakness (which works to our advantage now) over the oh so sincere Mitt, who is about to on the one hand lose (most likely) or in the alternative, ruin America and with the brand stamp of the GOP.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UNZU74NIXQBSAAC5PR2B36VMWM Edward

    You’re trying to impute that I think Newt is competent simply because I omitted that specific adjective (incompetent) in describing him?

    Do you really want me to (rhetorically) slap you around over this?  You know better than that Adjoran.

    I called Mitt an incompetent jackass because, and I’m repeating myself here, he has been RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT FOR ALMOST A DECADE.  And yet he is hardly stellar in debates.  Folds like a cheap suit under any kind of pressure.  Says really idiotic things on camera.  And has the rhetorical flourish of wallpaper paste.

    Maybe I’m expecting too much.  But I figure when someone is supposed to be a serious candidate and has been a serious candidate for almost a decade then perhaps they’ve put in the effort to be … a better candidate.

    If Mitt hasn’t then that doesn’t redound to his benefit.

    If Mitt HAS put in the effort then … what?  This is as good as it gets?

    Generally speaking for someone to be skilled in something requires approximately 2,000 hours of experience using that skill.  It’s easily argued that Mitt is far past that mark and so he should clearly show that level of skill.

    Has he?

  • SteveM

    >>” there is a danger that those who believe so fervently in Gingrich’s
    conservative message that they are willing to overlook the flaws of the
    messenger”

    Newt himself claims to be “the conservatives” in the race, and does so repeatedly, but if you look at his actual policy proposals – he’s for amnesty, for instance – it’s hard to see just how that claim has any foundation.

  • Finrod Felagund

    Your usual line of crap about how Gingrich exited the House has been smacked down by someone who was there and was against Gingrich at the time:

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/newt-did-not-resign-disgrace_620900.html

    Some quotes:

    Newt Gingrich was hardly a perfect speaker of the House, but he did not
    resign in “disgrace” as has been repeatedly claimed by Mitt Romney. I say this as a former member of Congress who was part of both the “coup attempt” against him and the subsequent successful effort to remove him
    as speaker after the 1998 election. There is a distinct difference between removing someone from a position because of ineffective management, as, say, Bain Capital regularly does, and resigning in “disgrace.”

    As a condition of releasing the information, the Democrats demanded not
    only that the House “reprimand” Gingrich but that he pay $300,000 toward the cost of the investigation. It is important to note that even with the incredible leverage that the Democrats had, the wording is to “reimburse” and not “fine.”

    Upon reading the released documents I was appalled. Not by what Newt had done but rather that he had been held hostage over this flimsy of a case. It is not that Newt wasn’t “sloppy.” I think that is his middle name. However, anyone involved in politics knows that the fundamental issue being debated was what could be fairly described as confusing and inconsistent distinctions between what is considered “educational” and what is considered “political,” with the former being tax-exempt.

    Whatever else, and I say this as both an ally and a tormentor of Speaker Gingrich, he did not resign in disgrace. His leadership was key in getting us to themajority. His inspiration helped keep us there: twice. But after the 1998 midterm election, with a presidential campaign approaching and Governor George W. Bush emerging as our likely leader with a real chance to regain the presidency, we needed a speaker who could manage the House not an idea leader. So like a business changing direction, we changed leadership.

    There are plenty of reasons to oppose Newt Gingrich. I happen to support Rick Santorum. But the speaker has been unfairly maligned by Mitt Romney, and the full story needs to be told.

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  • K-Bob

    Juuuust a bit of a broadbrush, there.

    Obviously Newt made some enemies.  But he’s got a cadre of folks from back then who counter that claim.

  • K-Bob

    “better” conservative than Romney…

    A rotten apple is at least an apple.

  • K-Bob

    That is totally at odds with Byron York’s reporting on it.

  • K-Bob

    Most of Newt’s negatives seem to fall in two categories: 1) the problem with the ladies, and B) people he’s angered in Washington.

    The arguments over his position on the issues and his votes always trail off in details, and Santorum is mostly in the same boat as Newt over those details.  So those two guys are tied in that area.

    Newt  could easily beat Obama.  Santorum less easily, but still a solid win. Paul, a long shot “maybe.”

    Romney will struggle hard to eke out a win over the worst President in generations.  He could lose, thanks to Romneycare.

  • K-Bob

    You are mistaking Republican fecklessness, by way of  supporting Romney, for opinion regarding Newt.

    Not all of those folks have said much about Newt, so let’s not presume.  Besides, Santorum has the same problem there, so it’s not much of an argument.  Especially since Newt has his own list of supporters (which you did not name) to counter it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Govett/100000633498801 David Govett

    Which begs the questions:
    How is one to remain humble when one is so much more intelligent—and others prove it every day?

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  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

    How many of his fellow congressdrones from back then have endorsed him?

  • K-Bob

    Not many. Same with all the other candidates. Of course, Romney has the edge on endorsements, including the coveted Lisa Murkowski and Scott Brown nods.

    You can check ‘em out here and here.

    Obviously, most serving and former members are not making endorsements.

  • dmpward

    “Indeed. And there is a danger that those who believe so fervently in Gingrich’s conservative message that they are willing to overlook the flaws of the messenger will be sucked into the vortex of Newt’s narcissistic meltdown.”

    As opposed to overlooking Romney’s lack of seriousness concerning conservative values.

  • dmpward

    PS. And now the Romney/Coulter/GOP juggernaut (ably backed up by the MSM, including FOX, and eggged on by the Obamites) will slither out to crush Santorum.

  • dmpward

    “Expand I’m amazed that anyone took Newt serious in the first place. The man had been out of Congress since the 20th century and has accomplished little else except to co-write a bunch of books and rake in the fees for being NG. “Accomplished little else – It is one thing to be educated, it is another to use your education to stay informed.  In July 2002 Gingrich and Christopher Hitchins discussed the war on terror.   Hitchins and Gingrich showed a depth of knowledge of  Islamic terrorism and its origins not seen in most of the Bush Administration or Congress (http://youtu.be/OET1UGhJIYI ) Indeed, even today the ignorance continues.  Lets see –  Designed the Contract with America which helped elect a majority Republican Congress for the first time in 40 years. As Speaker Gingrich worked with a Democratic President to impliment financial and social reforms that led to budget surpluses (Well on the surface anyway). The Social Security reforms alone revolutionised welfare and had many people back in the work force.I would suggest the above gives Gingrich a reasonable claim to being the most conservative person of the current crop. Remember, it is one thing to be part of the pack, as admirable as that is. It is another to get out in front and put your head on the chopping block.  Gingrich was  a marked man in Congress, not so much because the Democrats blamed him for the downfall of Speaker Wright * but because he was effective first in opposition then in a leadership position in the majority.*(  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/frenzy/wright.htm )

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