'I'm Just a Soul Whose Intentions Are Good': Obama, Bergdahl and Moral Narcissism

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In 1979, Christopher Lasch published The Culture of Narcissism warning of the normalizing of pathological narcissism in our society.  Considering events since then, he was evidently on to something.  Now, some 35 years later in the Obama era, with the Bergdahl incident only the latest in a parade of endless scandals, we have arrived at a  full blown era of what has lately been called Moral Narcissism.


Moral Narcissism is an evocative term for the almost schizophrenic divide between intentions and results now common in our culture.  It doesn’t matter how anything turns out as long as your intentions are good.  And, just as importantly, the only determinant of those intentions, the only one who defines them, is you.

In other words, if you propose or do something, it only matters that you feel good or righteous about what you did or are proposing, that it makes you feel better personally.  The results are irrelevant, as are how the actual activity affects others.

Also, although it pretends (especially to the self) to altruism, moral narcissism is in essence passive aggressive, asserting superiority over the ignorant or “selfish” other. It is elitist,  anti-democratic and quote often, consciously or unconsciously, sadistic.

The Obama administration is loaded with moral narcissists, including, obviously, the president himself — Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton etc.  The media and Hollywood are also clearly stuffed to the gills with moral narcissists.

Obamacare is a perfect example of moral narcissism in action.  Never mind that the public didn’t want it. Never mind it was an atrociously planned bureaucratic mess (in fact that comes with the territory).  It was what Barack Obama wanted — for himself.


Moral narcissism creates an atmosphere of dishonesty bizarrely similar to Islamic taqqiya.  In Islam, the believer is permitted to lie to the non-believer because the believer has the greater truth.  For the moral narcissist, lies becomes truth in almost the same manner. Some like Dan Rather (a moral narcissist par excellence) could thus pronounce the Bush National Guard papers real when anyone with an IQ in triple digits could see that they were fake.  They felt real to Dan. And, crucially, that made him feel good about himself.

In the Bergdahl affair, what really was operative in the prisoner swap was Barack Obama’s feelings about himself.  Never mind that Bergdahl may have been a deserter whose sympathies were with the enemy.  Never mind that many U.S. servicemen had already been killed attempting to rescue him. Never mind that the five released prisoners were all likely to resume their lives of terror as soon as possible, murdering who knows how many more people.  And never mind that the release of the terrorists would only encourage the Taliban to kidnap more hostages. What mattered was how Barack perceived himself.

Moral narcissism has become a virus infecting our  society from the high levels of the POTUS to the man on the street.  Where did this all begin?  My generation, as usual, had a lot to do with it.  In the words of “The Animals”:


Baby, do you understand me now
Sometimes I feel a little mad
But don’t you know that no one alive
Can always be an angel
When things go wrong I seem to be bad
But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood


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