The New York Times, as part of their on-going effort to show that they have completely abandoned journalism for advocacy, ran the transcript of President Trump’s RNC Convention speech. But their in-house photographer Doug Mills was allowed to add a little caption underneath his photo. “Giving a speech in turns self-congratulatory and alarmist, the president said that if given the chance, Joe Biden would be ‘the destroyer of American greatness.’” Interesting choice of words for a mere photo that should speak for itself. “Self-congratulatory”? “Alarmist”? This is not a presentation of facts, rather this is opinion. And it is one of the many examples of how obsessively anti-Trump bias seeps into the non-editorial sections of once great and trustworthy newspapers.
Considering the source, one should not be surprised at Mills’ choice of words. The “self-congratulatory” label especially is in line with the media narrative that Trump is a “narcissist. I’ll save everyone the suspense: he is. The Donald would have admitted it himself years ago, when he was still the toast of the media/entertainment circles who so despise him now, well before being elevated to the loftiest office on the planet by doing it his way.
I’m not excusing his arrogance, but, at least knowing myself, I must say I’d be pretty hard-pressed to not like what I see in the mirror after my first run at public office resulted in being elected President of the United States while defeating the-well organized and over-capitalized Bush and Clinton family machines in the process, not to mention experienced and able Republican hopefuls.
So, yes. Donald Trump is a narcissist. But he is not the first narcissist to sit in the Oval Office. In fact, the man he replaced was perhaps even more so…although he kept it cloaked in a veil of cool and protected by a Praetorian Guard media.
To illustrate the point, here’s some contrasting analysis. You can draw your own conclusions. Let’s compare their two re-election bid convention speeches. Obama’s in 2012 vs. Trump’s just last week. If one does a deep dive into the transcripts some interesting and revealing findings emerge. Here is some data.
Obama’s 2012 acceptance speech ran around 4,600 words, whereas Trump’s was longer at roughly 6,700.
What is interesting is the number of times the first person singular, each President’s references to himself, was used. For example, even though Trump’s speech had 2,100 more words in the text, Obama used the word “I” 59 times, compared to Trump’s 46 times. And he used the word “me” nine times compared to Trump’s three. So Trump’s speech was 45 percent longer, yet it was Obama who seemed enamored with himself, deploying the first-person singular 68 times to Trump’s 49. I omit the word “my” as both men used this word in the context of “my wife,” “my children,” “my grandfather,” “my brother,” so that may be forgiven. But the prevalence of “I” and “me” is telling.
As I said, Trump is indeed a narcissist. After all, who would enter the rough-and-tumble arena of national politics for the first time, facing a viciously hostile media and skilled, well-organized and funded, and take-no-prisoners opponents, with an inferiority complex? Paul Begala once described politics as “show business for ugly people” and there is indeed an element of celebrity to being on the political stage as it has never existed before given this is such a media-driven pursuit. It tends to attract the egotistical. But just because one has a high opinion of himself doesn’t necessarily mean he is unaware or dismissive of his role as a public servant. And this is where I find the language of each man’s last signature speech particularly revealing.
Consider their usage of the first person plural, which is an inclusive reference to not just the self but the group. Looking again at the two speeches, Trump uses the term “we” 140 times to Obama’s 80. He uses “us” 11 times to Obama’s 15. So given the comparative lengths of each speech, they both try to be inclusive in their language, which one would expect from those seeking to be the President for all the people.
But what struck me was the ratio of self to group. Obama mentions the group only 27 more times than he refers to himself. Whereas Trump refers to the first person plural a whopping 102 more times than he does the singular. In short, Obama includes the people in his speech only 39 percent more than he does himself in the exclusive. Trump, on the other hand, refers to the people 208 percent more than he does himself.
I began taking note of these presidential first person references after the astute Stanford classical historian Victor Davis Hanson pointed out that one of Trump’s appealing characteristics (yes, he does have some) is that he is indeed inclusive in his language when speaking. Said Hanson: “He has a strange way that nobody detected, except the people who voted for him, of conveying empathy. He says ‘our’…‘Our vets’, ‘our workers’ ‘our farmers’. I can’t imagine [this from] Mitt Romney or John McCain, who were supposed to be far more empathetic.” And Trump often phrases policy agendas as what “we” plan to do. And how it is up to “us.” Beyond empathy, it shows a respect for the fact that he sits in “the People’s House” (a phrase he also used in his speech) in a way I think can only come from his being an outsider and not a seasoned Beltway or machine party man.
I bring up Obama not because of any obsession with him. (Allowing politicians to rent space free-of-charge in one’s head is the hobby of the hard Left these days.) Rather, I do so because Barack Obama was, along with Trump, the most self-centered president in my lifetime. However, unlike Trump, his vanity was masked, protected, and even encouraged by a shamelessly fawning media class. But the data shows who is the narcissist…at least where these most important speeches are concerned.
Although a mere two speeches obviously do not represent their entire public record, they are the most similar in their occasion, their importance, their meaning, and ultimately their insight into the minds of the men delivering them. One man is an admitted egotist. The other a closeted one. For Obama, such “self-congratulatory” language, to coin the NY Times photographer-turned-opinion columnist, is par for the course. During a ninety-minute town hall address in Germany in 2017, the Washington Times reported that, according to Grabien News analysis, the former-president Obama referenced himself an eye-popping 467 times. The story noted he “used just the word ‘I’ more than 300 times “with dozens more references to ‘me’ and ‘my’ among the myriad ways a person can refer to himself.”
Obama, the darling of a media that relentlessly accuses Trump of egotism, has never shrunk from making whatever occasion in which he participates ultimately about himself. Example: I have stood at the Berlin Wall just after its collapse. It was a surreal experience. At the time I was there it was still up in many places and the deleterious impact of communist oppression was evident in the contrast between the bright, vibrant streets of West Berlin, and the dark, gloomy world I entered when I passed under the Brandenburg Gate into the East. It really brought home to me the triumph of the ordinary Berliners, people leading difficult lives, under the jackboot of an authoritarian regime, who at a crucial moment in history said enough was enough and, at great personal risk, defied their Soviet-sponsored puppet overlords and tore the Wall down. That is what November 9, 1989 was all about.
And yet, in 2009, in a video address to the people of Berlin to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Wall’s collapse, Obama somehow managed to spin the occasion to make it also about his favorite subject. “Few would have seen on that day that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg, and their American ally led by a man of African descent.” Er, no, Mr. President, they wouldn’t have. Because they weren’t thinking of you or the pigment of any future American president. In fact, their story had nothing to do with you at all. They were more concerned about whether the ranks of East German troops with guns lowered at the crowd were going to open fire and massacre them or not. As Mark Steyn would ask: “Is all of human history just a colorful backdrop for the Barack Obama biopic?”
Trump, a Queens native, entered the White House with no such pretense other than his own inflated ego that was, at least, based on a tangible, demonstrable record of achievement — billionaire, real estate mogul, best-selling author, top-rated television producer and star. But in the end, as his speeches reveal, as do his actions, he views himself as one of many. Not The One. An elite, yes, but without being elitist. As such, one could never imagine a Donald Trump saying to the people of Berlin, “Who could have foreseen, when you were defying the Russian military machine and risking your lives and those of your family just to aspire to a life that the West took for granted, that a builder from Queens and reality show TV star would one day be the President of the United States.” Not even The Donald would view such a sublime anniversary as anything but a day that belonged to the people who made the history. Perhaps herein lies the difference, and the key to Obama’s many uses of “I” versus Trump’s affinity for “we.”
Such self-centeredness as displayed by Obama and others of his class is emblematic of a deep strain of elitism within the halls of power in the United States, on both sides of the aisle, albeit more brazenly arrogant and off-putting on the Left. Nancy Pelosi’s blatant flaunting of the very same Covid lockdown rules she has vociferously advocated, despite the damage being visited upon small businesses in her district, is a prime illustration of this insular mentality wherein the self matters first among all things. It is the conceit of the hyper-educated, overly-credentialed, and fabulously wealthy. And as their power and influence grows hand-in-hand with the metastasizing expansion of the power of the federal government and coastal technocracy, such elitism will only fester and grow.
Obama, a Harvard man who, when you strip away the veneer of cool and smooth, really accomplished very little of any substance before being wafted upward by those assuring him he was the smartest man in the room until he came to believe it, is the epitome of this cult of the smarter-than-thou self. And the contrast between their “I” mentality, and Trump’s “we” goes a long way to explaining the surprise results, at least to the “I” crowd of the 2016 election. But as is so often the case with the elitist Left, they are adept at accusing others of the very sins they routinely commit themselves, and without a shred of embarrassment over the irony, hypocrisy, and outright mendacity of their moral dissonance.
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Brad Schaeffer is a commodities trader, columnist, and author of the acclaimed World War II novel Of Another Time And Place.