Olympic-Sized Ego

I haven’t had much to say about the Olympics, because I was rather ambivalent about the whole thing. When I was living in New York City during the 2012 bidding process, I was adamantly opposed to it getting the Olympics because I didn’t want my tax money to finance corrupt government-financed construction projects, not to mention the endless congestion it would cause in a city that was already a nightmare to move around in. Therefore, if I lived in Chicago, my guess is I would have also been strongly opposed to it getting the 2016 Olympic games, but not living there, I couldn’t really care one way or another. Yet in all of the controversy surrounding Obama’s trip to Copenhagen, the thing that stood out for me most was this part of President Obama’s pitch to the Olympic Committee:

“Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night, people from every corner of the world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch the results of the U.S. Presidential election. Their interest wasn’t about me as an individual. Rather, it was rooted in the belief that America’s experiment in democracy still speaks to a set of universal aspirations and ideals.”

“Their interest sprung from the hope that in this ever-shrinking world, our diversity could be a source of strength, a cause for celebration, and that with sustained work and determination, we could learn to live and prosper together during the fleeting moment we share on this earth.”

It struck me that Obama actually seems to think that the whole world is intimately familiar with this moment in Chicago a year ago, and that they were all moved by it, and that somehow it inspired everybody in “every corner of the world.” In other words, it’s pretty obvious that he’s bought his own fawning press coverage.

But it took this post from Marty Peretz to really hammer home the risk of having a man like this in the White House:

So this question arises: If Obama could not get Chicago over the finish line in Copenhagen, which was a test only of his charms, how will he persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear weapons capacity or the Arabs, to whom he has tilted (we are told) only tactically, to sit down without their 60 year-old map as guide to what they demand from Israel.

What I suspect is that the president is probably a clinical narcissist. This is not necessarily a bad condition if one maintains for oneself what the psychiatrists call an “optimal margin of illusion,” that is, the margin of hope that allows you to work. But what if his narcissism blinds him to the issues and problems in the world and the inveterate foes of the nation that are not susceptible to his charms?

Chicago will survive its disappointments and Obama will, as well. It is the other stage sets on which the president struts–like he strutted in Cairo and at the United Nations–that concern me.

One of the central criticisms of Bush’s foreign policy was that he believed that the projection of U.S. military force abroad would convince other nations to accede to his demands. Obama’s belief in international institutions is quite typical of liberalism, but what gives his approach a twist is the additional belief that the power of his sheer awesomeness alone will convince other nations to remake the world in accordance with his administration’s goals.

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