The Plank

Fred Thompson, The Real Narcissist

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One of the strangest symptoms of conservative distaste for government is a fondness for politicians who display absolutely no ambition or drive in trying to attain higher office. A case in point would be this Andrew Ferguson piece in The Weekly Standard. Ferguson writes:

It's bad, apparently, not having fire in the belly. The premise seems to
be that vein-popping ambition, unrestrained avidity, is a necessary if
not sufficient quality for someone who wants to hold the highest
political position in a democratic country.

And:

[T]he modern campaign excludes anyone who lacks the narcissism,
cold-bloodedness, and unreflective nature that the process requires and
rewards. In his memoir -Greenspan remarks that of the seven presidents
he has known well, the only one who was "close to normal" was Jerry
Ford. And, as Greenspan points out, Ford was never elected.

Fred Thompson probably feels terrible at the moment, but he should be honored to be in Ford's company.

Ferguson, I think, has things completely backward. As he sees it, people who are willing to go along with the daily rigors and humiliations of modern presidential politics are narcissists with "cold-bloodedness,  and [an]unreflective nature." And people like Thompson are the normal folks who never get elected. But isn't it really Thompson who is displaying narcissism and selfishness? Think of it like this: You are Fred Thompson. You enter the GOP race with a really good shot at capturing the nomination. Your opponents are weak, and you have a certain movie-star aura. The conservative establishment is ready to unite behind you. You believe that you would be the best person for the job (because why else would you be running?). And...you are unwilling to take photographs at local fairs and campaign more than semi-regularly. Who, exactly, is the narcissist? Who is the selfish one? What kind of person is not willing to sacrifice just this much in service to his country? And, a better question, why are these traits appealing?

See Crowley for another take on Thompson's laziness.

--Isaac Chotiner 

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