Danger: Narcissistic Political Class

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Who would you rather have run the country?

The Library of Congress has a wonderful Veteran’s History Project with interviews and other materials from veterans of every war since World War I.

I looked up interviews from people from the Marine unit my Uncle served in during World War II and found several.  It makes for interesting, if horrific, listening. I worked and listened, but at several points, I just listened.

One Marine talked about his harrowing trip in to the beach at Peleliu.  His Amtrak almost sank, which would have been a blessing actually, but it made  it in. As they jumped out, 19 went over the left (beach side) and 4 – including him – went over the right side. The 19 were machine gunned and killed almost immediately, the 4 made it onto the beach.  He then describes his hours on the beach before he finally was blown up, paralyzed, harrowingly transported out to the medical ship, where he eventually recovered.

He never received an award or medal beyond service medals.

Slightly earlier in the war, Lyndon Johnson, a Congressman, but commissioned as a Lt. Commander in the Navy, flew to the South Pacific on a “fact finding” mission.  A flight he was scheduled to take, but missed, was attacked by Japanese Zero’s.  Gen Douglas MacArthur awarded him the Silver Star, our nation’s 3rd highest award for bravery, for missing a plane ride.

Johnson, narcissistic to the core, wore  – with pride – the Silver Star he had not earned on his lapel the rest of his life.

Intersecting both LBJ and the marine’s life is Douglas MacArthur.  MacArthur had political ambitions from an early age. He wanted to be in charge of the Army, and after that, well, President, or higher.

So it was natural that MacArthur give a Congressman a medal, he might be useful later.  Never mind that awarding the medal in such a fashion cheapens it for all who’d validly earned it before and following – including MacArthur himself (twice).

But what about the Marine?  His life was irrevocably altered because MacArthur was slightly worried about his right flank in an assault on the Philippines. Any chance of failure, that might be attributed to MacArthur, must be prevented.  In reality, Peleliu was no threat. It was effectively bottled up by American air power. It didn’t need to be taken. But, heck, they weren’t MacArthur’s troops, so he demanded Peleliu be seized as part of his plan to re-capture the Philippines. The result was the highest casualty rate of any action in the Pacific – with 6,500 Marine and 3,000 Army casualties. The island was taken, and then never used again. It’s airfield never supported any actions in the Philippines. Thousands died and suffered only so MacArthur could be slightly less worried about his plans.

LBJ, career enhanced by MacArthur’s narcissism, went on to inflict his own ambitions on the nation, tearing it apart and setting it on a path to financial ruin.

The point… narcissism in our leaders hurts regular people. We are just pawns in their self-centered plans.  Do you know anybody who might be guilty of that now?   Who do you think they will end up hurting?

A lot of people talk about Constitutional amendments to get rid of this tax, or that policy. But ultimately, I think that unless you get rid of our dangerous narcissistic political class, any Constitution will be ignored (like ours is now).   I’m interested in amendments that will clip their wings.

Term limits might help. I like the idea of a Random House added to Congress and filled with randomly selected Americans.  Anyway, we need to do something, before their conniving kills us all.

P.S. This tribute to those who fought at Peleliu lists those who really earned their Silver Stars.


  1. You’ve put into words much of my fears regarding the current occupier of the White House, even though you didn’t mention him by name.

    His narcissicism is positively astounding and seems to know no bounds. Everything comes down to him, and nothing is his fault. It’a all about whether he’s personally liked or not. (Yeah, the tea party protestors don’t like HIM. Fox News doesn’t like HIM. Anyone who disagrees with him doesn’t like him. *rolls eyes*) How terribly simplistic his view of the world is… Any failing is really just a result of someone not liking him.

  2. I think each member of Congress and Senator should be Constitutionally limited to one term.

    Career politicians would still exist, but they’d only have 8 years of national office, unless they got to be President or Vice-President.

    Because the only one third of the Senate is elected at one time, there would still be a role for experience. The House would be full of new people every time, and maybe the districts might get less gerrymandered as a result.

  3. thomas hazlewood

    April 30, 2009 at 1:53 am

    And, let us not forget that MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor, after losing his fleet, his air force, his army, and the Philippines. That he, warned by the attack
    on Pearl Harbor, locked himself in his office for 3 hours, refusing any contact. That he allowed his planes to be smashed on the ground, hours after learning he was at war, and that he rejected Plan Orange, which would have stockpiled supplies in the Bataan Peninsula for a long siege, yet, wound up there, after all, with no supplies for his army.

    That arrogant ass got the Medal of Honor?

  4. Right on point! Narcissism is the worst of human psychological pathologies. Unfortunately, the worst chapters in human history were written because the weak, the doubtful and the credulous looked to the narcissistic for deliverance.

  5. Ken

    April 30, 2009 at 6:23 am

    #3 – Thomas – there can be no question MacArthur took personal risks in World War I, and also World War II. The points you bring up are quite valid. His Medal of Honor in WW II, IMHO is a reward for failure. He probably earned a Medal of Honor in WW I, but it wasn’t awarded (nominated twice).

    In another culture, he would have been a dictator. In fact my first serious introduction to him came in William Manchester’s book “American Caesar”

    Thanks for commenting.

  6. Ken

    April 30, 2009 at 6:26 am

    #1 – Elaine…. Certainly Obama fits the bill. But so does Arlen Specter. So does Orrin Hatch. So does Lindsay Graham, and Robert Byrd. And dozens, or hundreds of others. Narcissists gravitate to politics. We could improve our situation and our Constitution by further limiting the power of our political class.

  7. Ken

    April 30, 2009 at 6:28 am

    #2… Gabriel, an interesting variant would be one term of political office at the Federal level period. A career as a Congressman, into Senate, into President – not an option. That would nip the narcissists in the bud. Politics would no longer be a decent outlet for their psychosis, they would move to greener pastures.

  8. Eugene Sledge has a magnificent memoir about his World War II experiences, in part dealing with Peleliu, “With the Old Breed.” Well worth reading.

    No one gets to be president who is modest about himself but Obamaq seems to be overdoing it–disclaiming any responsibility for anything the United States has done before his election, for example. And although I am not an admirer or George Bush, it is worth noticing that although he was subjected to the most vile imaginable vituperation in eight years I don’t recall him once lashing out at the people who were comparing him to Hitler, saying he was a deliberate murderer, and so forth. Obama held off on reacting to much milder criticism for a couple of weeks.

    Term limits are not a good idea. We have them in Michigan and the effects have not been good. For one thing, especially at a national level, it would tend to increase the average wealth of congressmen, since a lot of people who might otherwise run simply cannot afford to take a couple of years or longer away from their jobs and careers.

    Second, since we no longer have state legislators who can over time acquire expertise in various areas, the influence of the lobbyists has increased. Lobbying is a part of the democratic process but when legislators need to rely on lobbyists’ expertise rather than their own or fellow legislators, the lobbies’s influence becomes undue.

    Also, I doubt whether term limits have brought a lot of new people into the process. What we get is musical chairs…a state representative who is term-limited runs for county commissioner or state senate, etc. I don’t know any studies on the issue but I’d be curious to see from the county commissioner level on up to the state senate how many actual individuals are involved in the process compared to the days before term limits.

    We already have a mechanism to get rid of politicians who aren’t doing a good job. It’s called “elections.” I grant that this isn’t always true due to gerrymandering, which seems to be worse on the national than on the state level.

    It seems to me that rather than term limits a better idea would be to establish set guidelines and non-partisan district delineation, which would make more competitive elections.

  9. Ken

    April 30, 2009 at 7:06 am

    #8 – I recently re-read “With the Old Breed” – excellent. Note that Sledge received nothing more than service medals for service infinitely more valorous than Lyndon Johnson.

    Bush had his flaws, definitely. His turning the other cheek was impressive, but he probably should have fought back a little. The lack of response turned off his base.

    Your concerns about musical chairs are why I’m curious about a “One office” term limit. Pick one. That’s it.

    The mechanism, elections, is now hopelessly flawed due to gerry mandering. Also, the ability to spend other people’s money by incumbents makes elections bought, not won.

    I don’t see set guidelines and non-partisan districting every happening, lacking gunfire.

    When elections no longer work, only force fixes it. I think, unfortunately, that is where we are heading. Not my preference by any means, but when voting no longer works, what else can an oppressed minority do?

  10. no2easyanswers

    April 30, 2009 at 7:33 am

    #2 So who would then watch over the narcissists and those with agendas among the career bureacrats in the executive branch?

    The proponents of term limits conveniently forget they have been in effect for 20 years now in California, the poster child for out of control government. The term limited legislator has turned out to be no match for career civil servants and career ‘public interest’ advocates.

    I have no problem with a 10 or even 15 terms if the legislator remembers why he was first sent to Washington and who he represents. One term is too many of they can’t wait to get away from the voters in Podunk and on to Washington.

  11. Ken

    April 30, 2009 at 7:47 am

    #10… the issue isn’t how many terms, but that people make a career out of allocating other people’s resources. I favor restricting their ability to do that. The Random House, with random normal people, would address that. As would just banning careers in politics.

    I’m all in favor of trying something, what we have now clearly ain’t working.

  12. I would take the idea of term limits further. I think the very idea of “career politicians” is contrary to the spirit of the republican vision that the Founders had for America, where the government would be by “citizen legislators” – i.e., by ordinary regular people who spent a short time in government. I think that the way to achieve this would be to ban anyone from running for re-election to any political office, and to require a certain period of time (say two years) to elapse from the time that they leave office until they are allowed to run for another office in government. This would also ensure that our politicians spend a lot of their time working in the private sector, in a career outside of government. So if you have a seat in the House of Representatives, when your term ends you have to go find a real job for two years, before you can try to get elected to some government office again.

    Of course it will never happen. But I think that something like this is necessary if we really want to bring government back under the control of the citizenry.

  13. Ken

    April 30, 2009 at 11:29 am

    #12… I like it. It could happen, in the laboratory called the states.

  14. When they do get voted out or term-limited, they become lobbyists and make 5 times as much money, then they get to “serve” in the administration. Narcissism is too mild a word!

  15. lol,I had a desire to ride a bicycle across the country.

  16. helpful Post. thank for information.

  17. I’ve been reading “Social Intelligence” by Goleman.and today began to gather thoughts on ‘why’ these guys are narcissists. Look at their Mothers. I’m sorry but Barbara comes across as a tough old bird kind of Mom and we all know how George fares in that department…I’m the decider !!! I am also worried about the current guy. I have found him to show signs of excessive training in schmooze speak. There are varying degrees of style and likely, upbringing, especially birth to three or so. It’d all be fascinating if it wasn’t creating such a horrible mess.

  18. jovalyn alcantara

    February 18, 2011 at 12:27 am

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  19. Ken

    February 18, 2011 at 12:57 am

    Sorry Jovalyn… not me. Best wishes on the search.

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