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Guest Column

'Capital Crimes'
By William Fankboner
May 1, 2011 - 12:13:36 AM

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Is President Obama a Hypocrite or a Cynic or (dare I ask) a Psychopath? Arrogant or Just Plain Stupid?

Let me begin by confessing I know how provocative this question is: calling the President names can get you in hot water. Just ask Glenn Beck. This question, I hasten to add, comes not from a fire-breathing, reactionary conservative, but from an Independent who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and whose eyes misted over as he listened to the 44th President's Inaugural Address promising a new day in American politics. At last, I thought, here is the long-awaited messiah who would lead us out of the wilderness. This Obama fellow is the real thing, he'll get the country moving again. Now that the mists have cleared, I have begun to wonder how many others feel as duped and betrayed as I do.

Last week America witnessed an act so unbelievably, shockingly and stupidly self-serving that we are only now beginning to absorb its true implications. After inviting Representative Paul Ryan to take a front row seat at his speech addressing the country's debt crisis, President Obama launched an orgy of class warfare, declaring Paul Ryan and his plan "un-American." I had the eerie feeling I was back in the 1920s listening to a radio address of Huey Long. This from the candidate who promised America he would eliminate petty partisan bickering from politics and government.

You don't have to be a radical conservative to feel something is dreadfully amiss at la Casa Blanca. What is wrong with this man? Is he a cynic or a hypocrite or a psychopathic con artist? Is he arrogant or just plain stupid? Is he all of these things? First let's define our terms.

Hypocrisy comes from a Greek word, hupokrinesthai, meaning play-acting. Insofar as we are human we are all hypocrites. But etymologies are often misleading. Play-acting implies conscious deception, but true hypocrisy is unconscious, a symptom of incomplete memory integration. For example, when trying to explain some disgraceful or unworthy act we often say, "I forgot myself." I.e. we forget who we are, or who we'd like to be. The Devil tempts us, and some renegade doppelganger of the psyche goes on a tear and forgets our New Year's resolution to stop drinking so heavily and hitting on the girls in the typing pool. Hypocrisy must be unconscious, for if we were conscious of self-contradiction we would be overcome with shame and desist at once. To violate one's own rules of conduct with conscious intention is not strictly speaking hypocrisy, but cynicism.

Like many English words 'cynic' has a complicated history. It comes from the Greek word for dog (don't ask). The Greek Cynics were actually stoics, not cynical at all. More recently a cynic is a person who finds fault. A fault-finding person is liable to take a rather dim view of human nature, hence the word has come to denote someone who thinks all human behavior is motivated by self-interest. Since such a person is convinced everyone else is driven by self-interest, it is that much easier to yield to temptation and break faith with the community of mankind. At first glance Obama appears to fit this template: if we are to credit his biographical writings, he began his career with lofty ideals, but over time concluded that to succeed in his profession he would have to descend to the lowest common denominator, which in Chicago politics means double-dealing, deceit and demagoguery.

But a true cynic arrives at this philosophy of life reluctantly and with lingering regret. Before submitting to the laws of opportunism he wistfully remembers a time, usually in his youth, when he was guided by a belief in virtue and the eternal verities: Truth, Beauty and Goodness. This is the origin of the "guilty Liberal." And this is where Mr. Obama departs from type. He feels no regret, no remorse. Many in the press have remarked upon his professorial detachment and lack of passion. This absence of affect is also characteristic of the schizoid personality. We typically think of psychopaths as criminal types who perpetrate heinous crimes. But as anyone who has spent time on the factory floor or in an office will tell you, there is nothing exotic about schizoid personalities. You are just as likely to encounter a psychopathic personality clerking at the DMV as running a Ponzi scheme like Berni Madoff, or condemning half the population of Cambodia to extinction like Pol Pot.

While one should be suspicious of facile check-off lists, psychoanalyst Robert D. Hare's checklist for symptoms of psychopathology and antisocial personality disorder is generally recognized as authoritative.

Personality "Aggressive narcissism"

Glibness/superficial charm
Grandiose sense of self-worth
Pathological lying
Cunning/manipulative
Lack of remorse or guilt
Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
Callous/lack of empathy
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Remind you of a politician you know?

It might be in shocking bad taste to use a word like psychopath and the POTUS in the same sentence; name-calling is juvenile, and rightly regarded the last refuge of the simple-minded. Indeed, for calling President Obama a 'racist,' Geico pulled its sponsorship of Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, prompting the defection of several other major advertisers. For what it's worth, President Obama is not a racist. Racism implies some firmly-held beliefs, however noxious and misguided. Obama has no convictions at all. He believes in nothing but himself. He is a narcissist and an opportunist who dreamed of becoming President. To achieve this he campaigned as a centrist and in the post-election emerged, willy-nilly, a Leftist. This shift surprised many, but should have been foreseen: Liberalism is a tidy package of ready-made doctrines of visceral appeal that require little thought, and less imagination, and that present irresistible opportunities for populist demagoguery.

Obama belongs to a class of men who, to use Dostoevsky's words, 'have only to feel the faintest stirring of some kindly and humanitarian emotion...to persuade themselves that they stand in the foremost rank of culture.' If the talking heads of the press seemed puzzled by Barack Obama's philosophy of life, his worldview, it is no wonder: he has none. He is simply a cipher, a man devoid of principle. There is something wanting in Mr. Obama, that essential, indispensable component of humanity that separates leaders of flinty integrity from ordinary politicians. Who would have guessed that beneath all his magnificent rhetoric and electrifying eloquence he was hollow to the core?

The first sign that things might not be pure and principled in Obamaland was his failure to honor his pledge to use federal campaign funds. Okay, everyone is allowed a few missteps in life: politicians are only human. But this reversal was a betrayal not only of his adoring constituency and his stated campaign principles, but an abandonment of core philosophy. The most revealing thing about it was that Obama didn't bat an eye: he didn't think it mattered. It was all part of the rough and tumble of Chicago politics.

Psychopaths are nihilists and only kept in line by peer pressure. They seldom show their true colors unless they think themselves free to do so, without fear of recrimination. Obama is surrounded by so many doctrinaire sycophants it would be easy for him to conclude that there are no critical eyes watching him. Thus his repeated acts of blatant dishonesty and betrayal of his promise to end partisan politics:

1. The stimulus package, a timid capitulation to House leadership and shameless handout to his free-spending Democratic political base, in a time of dire economic crisis.

2. Cap and Trade legislation, an extravagant tax on America's business community when it was teetering on the brink of insolvency.

3. Caving ignominiously to international pressure to end aggressive interrogations and close down Gitmo.

4. Dignifying a notorious war criminal and terrorist by attempting to try him in federal court.

5. Filling important government positions with ideological extremists like Van Jones.

6. Prosecuting the CIA and criminalizing the preceding administration's anti-terror policies.

7. Turning over health care legislation to a couple of partisan hacks like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who promptly delivered a half-baked, incoherent bill that would bankrupt the country.

8. Refusing to introduce tort reform and extend private health care across state lines (then accusing conservatives of obstructing health care reform).

9. The Cairo speech, reassuring the Muslim world at the expense of Israel. (The speech was tissue of historical fallacies, suggesting the Israeli homeland was created as a reparation for the holocaust (one of Ahmadinejad's claims), when in fact large numbers of Jews migrated to Palestine in response to the 1911 Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate. His speech writers seem to have forgotten that the entire Middle East was up for grabs following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.)

10. Failed to give credit to Bush Administration for its part in running bin Laden to ground, and continues to prosecute the very CIA officers who conducted interrogations that extracted information essential to the success of the operation.

This is the short list. I will leave his personal foibles, e.g. arrogance, indecisiveness, dithering incompetence, narcissism, self-pity and his insufferable sanctimony, etc., for others to explore. Indeed, in the interests of brevity, I have omitted a number of other egregious policy issues in this stark litany of political expediency, but you get the picture. In his detached and casual reversal of his promise of a post-partisan Presidency, Mr. Obama betrays the distinct traits of a psychopathic con artist.

William Fankboner

Wm. B. Fankboner's Website


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