Okay, it’s a given that anyone who runs for president of the United States has to have a healthy ego; you’re in essence saying you’re the best person to do the most difficult job on the planet. But never, ever, do I think it would occur to any of the presidents from Washington to George W. Bush (1) to insert himself into the official biographies of his predecessors.
That is, not until Barack Obama:
Many of President Obama’s fervent devotees are young enough not to have much memory of the political world before the arrival of The One. Coincidentally, Obama himself feels the same way—and the White House’s official website reflects that.
The Heritage Foundation’s Rory Cooper tweeted that Obama had casually dropped his own name into Ronald Reagan’s official biography on www.whitehouse.gov, claiming credit for taking up the mantle of Reagan’s tax reform advocacy with his “Buffett Rule” gimmick. My first thought was, he must be joking. But he wasn’t—it turns out Obama has added bullet points bragging about his own accomplishments to the biographical sketches of every single U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge (except, for some reason, Gerald Ford) (2).
Here’s one example from the article:
President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare signed (sic) into law in 1965—providing millions of elderly healthcare stability. President Obama’s historic health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, strengthens Medicare, offers eligible seniors a range of preventive services with no cost-sharing, and provides discounts on drugs when in the coverage gap known as the “donut hole.”
Given that Medicare costs are one of the problems that threaten to eat our economy alive, I’m not sure a sensible person would want to take credit for it.
But most people don’t apparently have narcissistic personality disorder, either. Unlike a certain president.
And yet, as worthy of mockery as this is, there’s a serious side. The Examiner’s Philip A. Klein calls this vandalism:
Obviously, as president, Obama can use the tools of the White House to advance his goals. But at the same time, all presidents are to some extent guardians of the institution. Sure, a lot of the White House website is naturally going to be used to promote Obama, but there are some areas that should be considered neutral ground — one of them being the history sections. White House presidential biographies are the type of thing that school kids read and they should be able to do so without being bombarded by propaganda for whoever is in power.
Obama should get beyond his own narcisism and realize that, win or lose in November, he’s just a temporary part of something that’s bigger than himself.
The best presidents –in fact, I’d say most, to a greater or lesser degree– have a sense of history, that they are only the custodians of an office and a tradition. They have healthy egos, but even those with the (heretofore) biggest, such as LBJ, know they stand in the shadows of the men who came before.
But not Barack Obama. He can’t get beyond his narcissism, as Klein says, because, trapped within it, he can’t see it for the self-absorption it is. Instead, it is a simple fact: All His 43 predecessors are merely His heralds, lighting the way to Him.
November can’t come fast enough.
UPDATE: The RNC has set up a very funny satirical site of Obama’s great moments in history.
(1) As a friend pointed out, Bush had trouble even defending his own policies, let alone taking credit for those of anyone else.
(2) I’m not sure if Ford’s shade should feel insulted or grateful.