It is no secret that Republicans are worried about attacking President Obama personally. He still enjoys a high likability rating and some GOP strategists fear that any personal attack on him would backfire. President Obama, on the other hand, has no problem with attacking Mitt Romney’s character and impugning his motives. Republicans are backed into a character corner, an easy target and willing punching bag for Team Obama. But a recent viral ad by Veterans for a Strong America points to an opening for the GOP.
The hard-hitting ad reminds voters of something that has long plagued President Obama: the perception that he is a narcissist. In September of 2011, George Marlin, author of the book “Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative,” claimed that “Obama uses the ‘I’ word more than all the presidents have used it collectively in the 200 and some-odd years of our nation.” Whether or not that’s accurate, Obama does seem to use the word “I” in his speeches quite frequently.
The narcissist label seems to stick even more because of Obama’s own words. Back on December 9, 2011, President Obama was asked during a “60 Minutes” interview about his accomplishments. President Obama said:
The issue here is not gonna be a list of accomplishments. As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln.
And remember, in December 2009 President Obama told Oprah Winfrey that he would give himself a “good, solid B-plus” for his first year as president.
The rumors around Washington reinforce the image that Obama is a narcissist. In Jodi Kantor’s “The Obamas,” a picture of Obama the man begins to come into focus:
Obama had always had a high estimation of his ability to cast and run his operation. When David Plouffe, his campaign manager, first interviewed for a job with him in 2006, the senator gave him a warning: “I think I could probably do every job on the campaign better than the people I’ll hire to do it,” he said. “It’s hard to give up control when that’s all I’ve known.” Obama said nearly the same thing to Patrick Gaspard, whom he hired to be the campaign’s political director. “I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Obama told him. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
Jim Geraghty reminds people that this was not a “momentary lapse into egoism.” Prior to Arkansas Democratic Rep. Marion Berry’s retirement in 2010, Berry recounted meetings between himself and White House officials:
“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good [the midterm election] was going to be. The president himself, when [the possibility of a Republican landslide in the 2010 midterms] was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.”
By highlighting Obama’s narcissism, Republicans may be able to chip away at Obama’s personal popularity. Americans might still see “a loving father with personal values they admire and an attractive wife and children,” but they also might see a narcissist, a man consumed with his own abilities and perceived talents.
Thomas Grier is a third-year law student at The Ohio State University. A graduate of Arizona State University, Grier writes on constitutional law, politics and pro-growth policy.