Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Meism of Hillary Clinton

All my life I have known a certain type of person who does not live in quite the same world as me. They lack irony and everything they say sounds slightly false, a little too transparently self-promoting and often quite unbelievable. I suppose it's narcissism. I was going to call them Narcs, but this has other overtones, and egotist isn't quite right, so let's call them Meists. Meism need not be a terrible thing. I like some of these people, some have been my friends. But always, when I am with them, I am aware of having to falsify myself in order to get on their wavelength. Basically, as is usual with narcissists, one has to accept their self-estimation otherwise one will simply be rejected. I sense that Hillary Clinton is one of these people, though not Bill. When I interviewed him, he seemed full of irony and a sort of grand insouciance; he was an egotist but not really a meist. I have always been fascinated by meists - at one end of the scale this explains my obsession with Jeffrey Archer, one of the most outrageous meists in the business. And so, at the moment, I'm fascinated by Hillary, in particular by the criticism and abuse her increasingly obvious meism is attracting. I linked to this David Brooks column earlier, but also here is Maureen Dowd who suggests Hillary wants McCain to win so she will have another shot in 2012. Most scathing of all there is Andrew Sullivan - a self-confessed Hillary-hater - who, in post after post, takes the woman apart. The commentary indicates that people now see that Hillary's is not the harmless, garden-variety meism that afflicts many politicians (and journalists); it is the more dangerous type in which the survival of the meist's self-image is a value that trumps all others and which requires the destruction of anybody who does not subscribe to that self-image. Allowing for the fact that I don't know her, I suspect this is right. The way she is now tossing any abuse she can in Obama's direction and the increasing transparency of her lies suggest she is in an acute meist phase in which the self thrashes around and clutches any available weapon to sustain its coherence. One shudders at the onset of such a phase in the Oval Office. All of which is to say - Obama or McCain, but, please, under no circumstances Hillary.


  1. Seems like classic narcissism to me, to the point of it being a major disorder. Is there any one of the nine NPD criteria that isn't a perfect fit?

    Her self, as you describe it, looks committed to destroying the Democratic party itself if necessary, if that's what it takes to sabotage Obama's chances.

    Anyone but Hillary, for sure.

  2. Following on from the BBC story you link, this is amazing.

  3. Johnny, how does La Clinton differ from most of the population of modern Britain and America in the nine NPD criteria?

  4. Thanks for that, Johnny. It is amazing - so blatant. The fantasies of a narcissist

  5. I used to puzzle over Christopher Hitchens and Bill Clinton. I thouhgt he was obsessed with the story of Ricky Ray Rector and Clinton's 92 campaign. Only now, after observing Hillary, do I understand that with regard to the Clinton's cynical opportunism, he was onto something. I also recall misgivings about Blair and New Labour in the mid 90's. The 'weak, weak, weak' line used by Blair on Major at PMQs made me recoil. Of course, Clinton's campaigns were a model for Labour back then. There are parallels.

  6. Philip - I see what you're saying, but it's all in the extremities of her behaviour when viewed in context. It's far from everyday self-obsession and conceit.

  7. Public prominence tends to exaggerate narcissistic traits; when you add political power to the mix, soulless beasts like the Blair & Hillary are unsurprising.

    Many people have narcissistic traits; but some such folk have reserves of irony or real intelligence, which countervail the narcissistic impulse.

    i was interested in Hillary's shameless "I misspoke" - i think it's fair to say that in her mind that doesn't mean "I lied", it means just "I used language incorrectly: instead of using it to manipulate my audience I merely revealed that I am constantly trying to manipulate you. I misspoke. Had I spoken correctly my ratings would have gone up."

    These people inhabit their own special bubble in which language has no truth value at all; its only function is to make people do what you want.

    I heard, a year or two ago, some staffer say Hillary is totally lacking in empathy. That, allied to the habitual manipulativeness, suggests the word 'sociopath' may be appropriate.

  8. Honestly, is there such a thing as a politician who is NOT a narcissist? Nope, didn't think so. Now, a charming narcissist -- that's someone we can enjoy. Bill Clinton, such a man. The world itself was his cathected object, part of his being, so he loved it as anyone would love a limb, and he was always going out on limbs to save it. I miss big Bill. Even with that appendage (I daren't call it a limb) that got him into so MUCH trouble.

    Then there's Hillary. It's weird: I know she's smart, she's experienced, and I do think she's a decent person *and yet*....I just can't warm to her. Obama had me at "hello" -- or, practically, anyway. See his "Dreams of My Father." This man is so disarmingly honest and he embodies the problem that's dogged America almost since its beginning: Racism. He is large. He contains multitudes. I'm votin' for the dude.

    PS: Years ago, when Bill was in his first White House term, someone told me I resembled Hillary. I thought I would be sick and the woman who'd imaged the resemblance (the mother of a friend) was amazed that I didn't like the comparison. (Well, for starters, Hillary's got a good decade on me.....)

  9. Everyone keeps throwing this word "experience" around with Hillary but I don't get it. What exactly is her "experience"? She was the First Lady for 8 years and a crappy Senator for 8 years. How does that trump Obama's experience? Or is "experienced" just another word for "old"?

  10. Susan, if you think Clinton is decent you should read the book "the Clintons in the Whitehouse". She set up an assembly line for stabbing her friends in the back.
    If she becomes president the worlds safety rating will fall by 500%.
    And as for Bill, are you saying that it`s ok to be a lying cheat who, out in the real world, would have been on the sex offenders register, as long as you are good looking, charismatic and intelligent ?

  11. Malty, monogamy is rare, and among powerful men, it's rarer still! Didn't you see all the articles about such studies when Eliot Spitzer went down for his prostitute proclivity, yea on a fortnight ago? I think Bill had a zipper problem, but I'd sure as hell rather have him as president than a guy who can keep his Davy Jones in his pants but can't resist putting his finger on the War button and then pushing it -- hard.

    As those Sgt. Rock comics I loved years ago always said, "Make War NO MORE!" Get us outta there.....

  12. Many politicians are what one might term 'successful psychopaths'. The unsuccessful ones are in prison or psychiatric hospitals.

  13. What I find somewhat puzzling about all of this is how a great and powerful country like America can so often fail to produce presidential candidates who appear both substantial and charismatic. Since JFK, that combination just never seems to have reached such heights again.

    But then again, does his rampant sex life mean he was a narcissist too?

    Of course, not all presidents since him have been complete flops; but the candidates which both sides routinely come up with just seem so obviously flawed in one respect or another.

    Whatever Kennedy's personal flaws, I would still stick up for his record as a truly inspiring President of substance any day.