More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin’s extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders— “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy”— and thought it fit her perfectly. When Trig was born, Palin wrote an e-mail letter to friends and relatives, describing the belated news of her pregnancy and detailing Trig’s condition; she wrote the e-mail not in her own name but in God’s, and signed it “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.”
— Todd Purdum, It Came from Wasilla, Vanity Fair
Richard Perle is said to have remarked that George W. Bush would be the perfect president in 2000 because he was “an empty vessel.” What made W the ideal empty vessel was his low IQ, incurious nature, a paucity of experience with the world’s diverse peoples and cultures, and most importantly to the ruling class, an easily manipulable psychological makeup– all traits that Sarah Palin shares in spades.
Prior to running for president, W. had only been out of the country twice– once a few miles south of the Texas border, and once to Israel as part of an evangelical group sponsored tour to the Holy Land. Prior to being named John McCain‘s VP candidate, Palin’s international travel was limited to a single visit to a contingent of Alaskan National Guard troops based somewhere in the Middle East.
W. has an IQ reported to be in the high double digits, while Palin can’t manage simple syntax and apparently limits her general reading to what magazines she finds are lying around her dentist’s office. When asked last year about how she would approach her duties as vice president, she replied she was excited by the prospect of running the day to day operations of the US Senate. Just yesterday, when asked by an ABC reporter how, if she couldn’t handle the political heat of being a state governor how she would be able to manage the political bloodsport of DC as president, responded that “The White House Office of Law” would see to that.
Shouldn’t political candidates at all levels of government be required to pass a simple civics course?
As for their psychological similarities, both seem to suffer from narcissistic personality disorder [NPD], as described above. Bush was grandiose enough to believe that God called on him to run for president, told the Amish that God spoke through him, and told Palestinian leaders that Gold told him to strike down bin Laden and Saddam.
Sarah, trying to explain her bizarre behavior surrounding her secret pregnancy and subsequent birth of Trig, posted an apologetic email to family, friends, and staff and signed it: “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.” Was this— hossanah in the highest!— a miraculous birth of which even Todd was unaware? Or just a clever ruse to obscure the identity of a secret lover? Tune in next season for the exciting conclusion to As the World of Palin Burns.
(Recall that the first clue that she was even pregnant occurred during a political event in the lower 48. As she was giving a speech, her water broke. Excusing herself, she left the room but returned to the podium shortly thereafter. Eventually she left the event, but instead of going to a local hospital or even to the hotel to await the imminent birth of her child, she went to the airport, got on a plane and took the long, long trip back to Anchorage. She further endangered herself and her child by driving to Wasilla, an hour away not counting traffic that is often horrendous. Fortunately, she made it to the local clinic there in time to give birth, all on the QT.)
So, what makes extreme narcissists like Bush and Sarah Palin tick? Referring to Palin’s resignation speech, Jane Shure, a clinical psychologist writing at Huffpo, provides some insights:
In clinical language we refer to Palin’s move as narcissistic — self-promoting regardless of her impact on others. Like a true narcissist, Palin once again acted with a grandiose sense of self-importance, claiming that while she “promised efficiencies and effectiveness… that’s not how I’m wired. I’m not wired to operate under the same old politics as usual.” Correct, she’s not. She, like most other narcissists, are above the standard for reasonable behavior, important enough that she gets to make her own rules — rules that serve her, in spite of how they affect others. Palin categorizes herself as a maverick, thereby framing any of her actions in a positive light. But that needs to be questioned rather than merely accepted.
It is quintessential for a narcissist to be self-assured, and full of herself, and for that fullness to be filled with hot air, compensating for a deeper sense of shame. Yes, I know that it may seem difficult to comprehend how someone who seems so arrogantly confident can have an internal structure of insecurity and fear of being inadequate, but that’s the way it is for those whose personas are built on distortion and illusion, on smoke and mirrors.
As I have written before,there’s an entire division within the CIA dedicated to studying the psychological makeup of world leaders. Knowing how leaders might act in a crisis or pursuant to a treaty negotiation has obvious national security ramifications. Because certain personality types are generally incompatible with sustained political leadership, e.g., avoidant, dependent, and schizoid personalities, the CIA only focuses those most commonly found among political leaders: paranoids, obsessive-compulsives, and narcissists.
Recall that Bush’s inner circle (where seldom was heard a discouraging word) consisted of sycophantic yes-men like Karl Rove and Andy Card, and yes-women like Condi Rice and Karen Hughes. They supplied the day to day emotional reinforcement that fed his narcissism. This psychological crack helped W. keep his demons at bay, and protected him from the horrors of self-doubt and, God forbid, self-reflection– all dynamics that made him an easy mark for Darth Cheney‘s deft policy manipulations. (An example of how paranoids can be manipulated is found in the relationship between Joseph Stalin and his security chief Lavrenti Pavovich Beria, who exploited Stalin’s psychological weakness to eliminate his own political rivals.)
For an example of just how destructive a US president suffering from NPD can be, see How George W. Bush Fucked Up The World: Geopolitical and Economic Events, 2001-2008, Encyclopedia Urantica, 2009 edition.