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The worst quality a president can have and how it affects us

US Presidential Narcissism: the most narcissistic American presidents were six times more likely to initiate a dispute with another great power.

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Kuldeep Singh
Kuldeep is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. He writes about topics such as Apps, how to, tips and tricks, social network and covers the latest story from the ground. He stands in front of and behind the camera, creates creative product images and much more. Always ready to review new products. Email: kuldeep (at) revyuh (dot) com

Lyndon B. Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon scored highest in narcissism, a trait that increases the likelihood of conflict.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon had one trait in common: narcissism. The proper question: did they know? The answer is only one: the reflex is excessive complacency in the consideration of one’s own faculties. 

The term refers to the mythological character Narcissus, in love with himself (he drowned when trying to kiss his image reflected in the water). But if we talk about this personality disorder in people who exercise power, the consequences are amplified.

Without going any further, science itself through the magazine ‘PLOS ONE’ gives us a clear example. 

Donald Trump’s leadership style was characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a disregard for others, two key characteristics of narcissism. While many psychologists have pointed to the narcissistic traits of Trump’s personality, little research has considered whether his supporters could have similar tendencies, according to the study.

The same author Matthew M. Yalch, from the University of Palo Alto, suggests that people with an exaggerated image of themselves combined with susceptibility to feeling undervalued could be attracted to Trump’s great personality. 

In other words, people with narcissistic tendencies could be seduced by Trump’s narcissistic personality, seeking to defend his worth by identifying with his authoritarian and aggressive ways.

According to a professor of Psychiatry, being “pathologically narcissistic is living devoted to the enhancement of one’s own image before others and before oneself. This is not the same as having ambitions or wanting to develop with excellence the task that one has been assigned. In reality, it is quite the opposite. For the narcissist, the important thing is not the mission but your own success.”

“They are distinguished because they do not show a genuine appreciation for others or their needs, although they can often adopt speeches of enchantment and imposed affections.”

Conflicts

Now comes a new study that finds that the most narcissistic American presidents since 1897 preferred to instigate conflicts with other great-power countries without seeking the support of allies. The results showed that of the presidents, the highest in narcissism, including Lyndon B. Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, as we have listed above, were approximately six times more likely to initiate a dispute with another great power in a given year than a president with average levels of narcissism.

The inclination to ‘do it alone’ in international conflicts dovetails with the desire of those with a high level of narcissism to enhance their own reputations and self-image and appear tough and competent to others, said John Harden, author of the study and student of PhD in Political Science from Ohio State University (USA). 

“The most narcissistic American presidents differentiated themselves from others in the way they approached foreign policy and world politics,” according to Harden.

And he insists: “They were more likely to weigh their personal wishes over political survival or the interests of the country when it came to how they handled some disputes.” 

Assessment

Harden studied presidents from around 1897, when the United States became a great power in the world, through George W. Bush in 2009. 

To measure presidential narcissism, he used a 2000 data set created by three researchers to assess the personalities of the presidents. These researchers tapped into the knowledge of presidential historians and other experts who had written at least one book about a president. They each completed a personality inventory with more than 200 questions about the president they studied.

Other research has had people fill out the same poll used by historians on behalf of an acquaintance. The results showed that these people answered the personality questions in much the same way as their acquaintances.

Using the results of the personality test for the 19 presidents from 1897 to 2008, Harden analyzed five facets that relate to a common measure of grandiose narcissism: high levels of assertiveness and thrill-seeking, and low levels of modesty, compliance, and directness.

Harden determined that those five factors are correlated with narcissism in a separate analysis using a general population sample.

Willing to lie

“These facets describe people who want to be in charge of everything, seek the center of attention, boast of their achievements and are willing to lie and flatter to get what they want. They would certainly also be willing to insult others,” highlights the expert . 

“So that’s a pretty good description of a narcissist,” he continues.

Based on these results, Lyndon Johnson was the president who scored the highest in narcissism, followed by Teddy Roosevelt and then Richard Nixon. The president who scored the lowest in narcissism was William McKinley, followed by William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge.

“The results are in line with the common evaluations of the presidents,” he explains. 

“Ethically principled McKinley, sensitive and often overwhelmed Taft and taciturn Coolidge are at the bottom of the list. Meanwhile, self-absorbed and image-conscious figures like Johnson, Roosevelt and Nixon are at the top.”

To see how narcissism related to international conflict, Harden used another data set, called ‘militarized interstate disputes’. These data include all cases in which one country threatened, displayed, or used force against another from 1816 to 2014.

Harden specifically analyzed disputes unilaterally initiated by the United States against other great powers, such as the Soviet Union and China. 

Any conflict in which the United States sought support from allies was not counted as a unilaterally initiated great-power dispute. 

Many of these conflicts are not well known to the public, according to Harden, but they created a lot of tension among world leaders.

Operation Giant Spear

For example, Nixon started Operation Giant Lance in 1969, which sent a squad of nuclear-armed B-52s to patrol the ice caps near Moscow. Johnson launched the so-called Lightning Bug War in 1964, sending drones on missions to the interior of China.

In his study, Harden took into account and controlled for a wide range of factors, in addition to the president’s narcissism, that may have played a role in these conflicts, including but not limited to the president’s political party, if the president was in his final term and if he had military experience if the country was tired of war or in recession, if the Government was unified under a single party, and if the incident occurred during the Cold War.

After taking all of these factors into account, the results showed that the probability that the United States would unilaterally initiate at least one major power dispute in a given year was about 4%. For presidents with the most narcissism, the probability was around 29%, more than six times higher. For presidents at the lower end of the narcissism scale, the probability was less than 1%.

“The raw data speaks for itself. The three most narcissistic presidents had unilaterally initiated great power disputes that represented between 33% and 71% of all those that started. Meanwhile, the last three had none,” says Harden.

There are several reasons why more narcissistic presidents would be more likely to start fights with other great-power nations without the support of their allies, Harden notes.

Center of attention

“Why would a leader who concentrates on his image and historical notoriety ‘waste time’ with powers of lesser status?” Asks the principal investigator. They would also work without partners because they do not want to share the spotlight and do not believe that others would have something to contribute.

Leaders with a high level of narcissism also behave in ways that increase tensions, such as taking actions to project strength. They are willing to take risks. They also perform dramatically and send out unclear signals, Harden adds.

While the public and some political scientists may believe that US presidents act with the best interests of the country in mind, this study provides evidence that some use their office to feel powerful and important:

“Leaders with a high level of narcissism don’t want the same things from their position as everyone else.”

According to some experts, “in the social sphere it is very common for them to adopt populist discourses that simulate a concern for the good of others that in reality hides an exclusive interest in their own self-enhancement.”

“The narcissist seeks power and lacks scruples. That is why he tends to reach positions of power more frequently than others. But, for the narcissist, no power is enough, he always lives in fear that it will be taken from him. For this reason he tends to be very distrustful and insensitive. The risk posed by the narcissist with power is very high. Because ultimately he prefers the ship to sink rather than lose power over it.”

Image Credit: Getty

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