Professor Hanson on the narcissism and the "presidential survival" instinct of our recent crop of so-called "leaders".
I think, though, what the Professor has missed -- and he's not alone in this regard -- is that we aren't being led astray so much by defective personalities, as we are being deliberately hijacked by a professional class of Managers; the sort identified by James Burnham in his 1940's books The Managerial Revolution, and The Machiavellians.
If this is true, then it is not so surprising that the Professor can dissect the administrations of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and not only find startling similarities, but also a hollowness of character, and shallowness of personality.
In The Managerial Revolution, Burnham postulated that democratic capitalism was dead (or at least dying slowly), but, as was hoped by many at the time, Socialism was not going to be replacing it. Here it is necessary (again) to lay out the basic premises underlying Burnham's theory of Managerialism. You can read them here, and I won't go into them at any great depth. George Orwell vividly showed us all what might happen when Managerialism is attached to a political theory in his great novel 1984.
(Note: We can, for the time being, pass on examining Burnham's theory of emerging super-states. It's not exactly pertinent to the main thrust of this screed, which is that a certain type of personality is at work, rather than a particular sort of political theory).
Basically, Managerialism is a theory which postulates that the world is really run by mostly-anonymous technicians: academicians, lawyers, technical specialists, politicians, media-savvy people, professional administrators and bureaucrats, and so forth, who would suddenly recognize the power they had over society and culture, and then manipulate the levers of power for their own gain. They aren't interested so much in wealth (although they won't pass on it, should it come their way) as they are in transferring to themselves the power to control society, and to force others to live and think in ways they approve of.
This caste of managers is only interested in the efficient and subtle use of power for it's own ends, and reserves to itself the right to govern by whim and convenience. Checks-and-balances are to be thrown away; ethics are an anachronism, political theories are largely rubbish, but can be mangled to serve a particular end. The proof of ultimate power is the replacement of the common culture with a newer version which is largely the fantasy wish list of a few, self-appointed Elites.
Burnham's "proof" of his theory was that Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy seemed poised to win the Second World War. Being states addicted to "modernity" and "efficiency", geared towards a program of conquest and national aggrandizement, possessed of the realistic and rational frame of mind to dismiss petty politics in favor of the strong Leader Principle, it was only a matter of time before Managerial Fascism reigned supreme, according to Burnham. After all, the old-style democratic capitalism of France had left it ultimately defeated; it had left Britain on the edge of conquest by Germany; it had left the United States largely disarmed in the looming shadow of the Axis powers.
Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Stalin, et. al. were simply the spokesmen for a system of the Elites, by the Elites, and for the Elites. Politics, in terms of what political theory ruled at any given time, was not as important as who wielded power and what they did with it.
Democratic Capitalism was dead, declared Burnham, but Socialism would not replace it, because even the managerial Class recognized true Socialism was little more than an occasionally-useful pipe dream.
It was also just a matter of time before "Democratic Socialism" of the sort Burnham surmised was being practiced by the Soviet Union was, likewise, tossed upon the scrap heap of history. In that Soviet-style "democratic socialism" and German National Socialism were reflections of one another was an error that Burnham could not recognize until 1944 -- when he updated his theory in The Machiavellians -- where he basically said "scrap everything I said before, because Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo turned out to be the wrong sort of managers, but mark my words: managerialism is still the wave of the future!"
What would rise from the Managerial Ashes of the Second World War was a more refined, more patient, less obnoxious form of Managerialism; it would pay lip service to capitalism (when that was required), but simultaneously spout the sort of Socialist claptrap that would have warmed the cockles of Marx' heart. It would take the best of both systems, mix and match as needed, and then forge a new way ahead, but always with the same goal:
The acquisition of ever-subtler power by a mostly-anonymous Elite.
And he was right. However, it turned out that Managerialism was far easier to foster and conceal in a democratic, capitalist state than it ever was in a totalitarian regime. Go figure! The history of the West, post- WWII has been a tour de force of rampant Managerialism of multiple sorts: Managerial Capitalism, Managerial Socialism, Managerial Internationalism. The particular type of Managerialism we get changes from time-to-time as political habits and cultural practices change, but it does all seem to work in a cyclical pattern: when things seem "bad" we get more Managerial Capitalism and Conservatism; when we're comfortable again, we get more Managerial Socialism and Liberalism.
It is largely this cyclical, and seemingly incomprehensible, action that has brought us all sorts of chaos: World Trade Organizations, European Unions, World banks and IMF's, The United Nations, A "Global" Economy, NAFTA, the whole Global Warming/Ice Age brouhaha, Islamic Fascism, a dialectic of Interventionism/Non-Intervention which is hardly intelligible nor equitable.
The world has been purposely-not-on-purpose designed this way. And no, there is no conspiracy that meets in darkened, smoky rooms in exotic locations under a volcano in a super-secret complex ruled by a commission of criminal masterminds; it's all happened this way largely because the competing types of Managerialism require -- even subconsciously -- that things run or are organized in this fashion. The real problem is that the Managerial Elite are themselves disorganized, and competing with one another, leaving behind a mish-mash of uncompleted programs, theories that haven't been taken to their logical conclusion, regimes that rise and fall by the need to pivot, the building up of one dialectic by one regime and the rapid tearing down of same by the next regime to find it's way to power.
Things are bound to become frayed, erratic, disjointed, disorganized, in that sort of environment. And the managers, truth to tell, actually like it that way; it makes it so much easier to do the things they need to. When people are frightened, confused, ignorant, it is so much easier to manipulate them.
Which brings us to Clinton and Obama, two men, apparently, without any anchors, whatsoever, eager and willing to do and say whatever they feel they must to stay in power just one more day. It is Managerialism that mostly explains why the Clinton and Obama machines operate on the mentality of the War Room, Managed Expectations, Press Manipulation, Divide-and-Conquer-Identity-Group Politics, Pollsters, and Micromanagement of the Everything Within an Inch of It's Life.
Managerialism in media is why your television screens are flooded, 24/7/365, with "experts" of all sorts, pollsters, "spinmeisters', public-relations types, "political strategists", commentators of a thousand hues. Managerialism is the reason why your media is biased one way or the other as the Managers who run the outlets struggle to find ways to influence the culture and thought processes of millions so as to win them over to their worldview, emulate their habits, behave as The Elite Caste wishes them to behave, but always, preaching to the same, small, self-selected choir.
Our own political system isn't broken, per se; it's only been waylaid by a nameless, faceless mass of people who see some things a bit clearer and who are truer to themselves about their real motives. It's because of people like these that we wind up electing Clintons and Obamas, and truth be told, why Reagans and Nixons get elected, too, and why others who may have the ability -- but not the critical mass of managerial caste support -- get shunted aside; The Managers exert their influence on everything, and do so mostly invisibly.
Still the greatest danger of the Managerial mindset is not so much their ability to manipulate systems of government, law and culture, so much as it is their complete disregard for ethics, truth and justice. If you think that American Society has tilted too much one way or another politically or culturally, you're probably right. However, the real problem is not who happens to be occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at any particular point -- that Guy is often simply the pustule that is the first visible symptom of the underlying disease -- the real issue is the people who have infiltrated our institutions with the not-even-hidden goal of changing them according to their own, often demented, point of view, whether Left or Right. These folks are simply too dangerous to be left anonymous, these days..
It's the Kennedy School foreign policy expert, the Harvard "Global Economy" MBA, the "Think Tank" pontificator, the organized Religious nut, the NGO kumbaya turd, the "Radical" Professor, the politically-motivated Journalist, the Trade Union leader, all with an agenda, that must first be identified, then marginalized, and eventually purged from The System if we're to return to a true democratic republic where the Good of the Nation is elevated above the Good of the Caste.
What is needed is a Managerial De-volution in which Bill Clintons and Barack Obamas are never allowed anywhere near a position of responsibility.