Newt Gingrich and Narcissism (part two)

[–Part one.]

Slate posts Newt ‘Gingrich’s Doodles.’ These are a group of notes Newt wrote to himself back in 1994 that ended up part of his 1997 House ethics investigation. And if you’re interested in the current Republican frontrunner, maybe you take notice. You click over to the post and see this:

. . a diagram of Newt’s world. That’s him in the center, the “system designer.” Gingrich inhabits the middle of the universe while lesser citizens populate ever-further, bucolic concentric neighborhoods. Reality eventually terminates in our far-flung address: “the public.”

You can see that Newt views himself as an uncommon man. And for folks like me, who have seen debilitating narcissism close up, this is a familiar sight. People like Newt make these little scribbles to exercise the disease in their brain. They do it to remind themselves who they really are. Having done that, they then go out and act the part: I am the center of our universe. A cross between Oliver Cromwell and Will Durant, I am thee Newt Gingrich.

So he’s grandiose, overblown. Everyone already knew that, so what? He’s leading in the polls – that’s so what. This would be a catastrophic U.S. President, that’s what. And the possibility has serious consequences for our lives; you recall that the George W. Bush administrations killed thousands of Americans.

Well, I’m here to tell you he’s not likely to win the whole thing. He’ll have a very hard time just taking the Republican nomination. Narcissists do very poorly managing responsibility, and fewer things are more difficult than successfully carrying something as large as an entire campaign for a year. Great men regularly fail at this. Flawed men almost always fail at it.

The interesting thing for us with regard to Newt the Great is that narcissists are utterly predictable sorts. While he’ll likely fail, we can make some pretty fair predictions about how he’ll do it. Starting with this:

1.) Newt will eclipse his own campaign. The need to impress upon you his greatness will kill the campaign’s messaging. Gingrich has surely been telling his staff that talking about himself is the same as talking about the campaign (it isn’t). And the ways Gingrich will hype himself will come twofold: bragging and gargantuan ideas. Method one:

At the Reagan presidential library this fall, Gingrich boasted of how “I helped Reagan create millions of jobs while he was president.” And after modestly acknowledging his own less significant role than Reagan’s, added, “We helped defeat the Soviet empire.”

This is pretty preposterous stuff — Reagan was president 30 years ago. This self-stroking doesn’t really do much in the eyes of coveted swing voters other than make Gingrich seem weird and old, which he is. It’s also a crock of shit: Newt routinely ripped Reagan because that’s what narcissists do, read Mark Shields for the details. Method two:

. . Gingrich indicated that it was in the president’s power as commander-in-chief to deem any Supreme Court ruling irrelevant if he or she in the White House disagreed.

. . “A commander-in-chief could simply issue instructions to ignore it, and say it’s null and void and I do not accept it because it infringes on my duties as commander-in-chief to protect the country.”

This is the dismantling of the Constitution’s separation of powers, a critical feature of the Founding Fathers’ government. Still, Gingrich has been going on and on about it for days. Why? Because it’s a winner with voters? Because it’s vitally necessary at this time? Because this is what leaders do? God, no. Because it’s HUGE. Pulling the Constitution apart at the seams usually is. But then you see how gigantic old Newt is? No one else has the balls to propose this, for good reason. He can’t resist.

This is how you eclipse a campaign. What should he be talking about incidentally? Are you kidding? The economy, stupid. That’s how you beat a vulnerable incumbent. America’s seething anger sits right there, just below the surface, waiting to be tapped. Haven’t seen him bother with it, though, have you?

2.) Newt will not be prepared. Narcissists are some of the spottiest workers you have ever seen. They are long on grand designs and short on carry through. They are great dictators and horrible managers. Don’t expect Newt to be any good at anything other than standing in front of people and talking.

In an embarrassing display of organizational weakness, for example, Gingrich recently failed to qualify for the ballot in Missouri’s primary. The campaign structure, such as it is, simply didn’t follow through. Similarly, the Gingrich team was supposed to provide New Hampshire officials with a list of 40 committee volunteers who would represent the campaign as Republican National Convention delegates — but Gingrich’s staff couldn’t track down 40 willing supporters. Instead, they submitted a hand-scrawled, typo-ridden list of 27 people.

Steve Benen mentioned this 17 days ago. As of now, the Gingrich campaign have barely gotten a ground game going in any of the primary states. They’re months behind in mounting a serious effort. Newt will tell you it’s because he’s so ground-breaking. But that’s just narcissism 101 — recall Sarah Palin’s excuses for being quintessentially incompetent. And there’s no excuse for this:

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich explained on Sunday that his policies would require up to 9 million undocumented immigrants to return to their home nations — and he predicted that they would do it voluntarily . .

“There are 11 million of these people,” Schieffer noted. “I mean, what are you going to do with them?”

“My guess is that 7 or 8 or 9 million of them would ultimately go home, get a guest-worker permit, come back under the law,” Gingrich replied.

That is honestly hilarious. Millions of people would shut down the lives they’ve created here, and move their families to some place that isn’t home, for what reason? To begin a strange new life, in order to wait for years, for what? A chance to come back and start again? Newt hasn’t actually thought about this for a second, his take’s a joke. Conservatives hate ‘amnesty,’ and reality hates fools. He’s winning nobody over with this absurdity.

3.) Newt will not carry the banner. Narcissists live to separate themselves from the crowd, so they’re horrible at being conventional leaders. You won’t see him being a Republican’s Republican. You can’t get him to play nice with others for more than a few difficult moments. This is why he attacked Paul Ryan just when Paul was becoming the Baby Jesus of entitlement reform:

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich scoffed in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” . .

Gingrich later called the [Ryan] reform plan “too big a jump,” adding: “I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.”

It wasn’t supposed to be “social engineering.” It wasn’t supposed to be “radical change,” it was supposed to be a “common sense approach” to a pressing problem. Why couldn’t he just toe the party line? Because Gingrich couldn’t resist putting the pretender in his proper place: below Newt the Great. Get away kid, you bother me.

This need to be awesome, to be transcendent, is a serious problem. That’s why you can dig into Newt’s past and produce brain-scratching clips like this:

Is there anyone more despised by conservatives than Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Can you imagine another politician going out of his way to speak glowingly of an accursed enemy? It’s stunning.

But FDR’s accomplishments are just too staggering not to covet. All narcissists are obsessed with recruiting greatness to their cause and shunning equals. It’s just in Newt’s software: Gingrich is desperate to make him a friend.

Flipping that baffling script, can you imagine a Democratic presidential candidate in awe of Ronald Reagan? Can you see how bizarre that would be? I can’t imagine it. You couldn’t put a gun to my head and get me to vote for that guy.

But that guy is now leading the Republicans polling. That guy is also messed up. So don’t expect him to become president. I wouldn’t even bet on Newt winning the party nomination. The poor guy just isn’t built to pull it off.

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