New For DSM-V: White House Press Personality Disorder

Two days ago, NBC News White House correspondent Chuck Todd was whining to the Washington Post that Barack Obama doesn't talk to the press enough. Yesterday, Obama talked to the press. Today, Todd whined about Obama talking to the press.

The point has repeatedly been made that the men and women who cover the White House are a needy, preening, insecure, irrational, and emotionally unstable pack of professional stalkers whose confused feelings of adulation, jealousy, covetousness, and hatred for the man whose decisions and behavior govern the contours of their careers has corroded into an indecipherable slurry of rage and bottomless longing.

But it bears repeating! The sheer clueless gall of the reporters, including Todd, who whined to the Post's Howard Kurtz on Monday about Obama's unavailability to the press was astonishing enough given the long and documented history of complaints as recently as six months ago that Obama was "overexposed." But for Todd to wonder aloud today whether Obama erred in doing precisely what he demanded that Obama do just 48 hours ago has to be some sort of cry for help—a howl of pain from a troubled man in the grips of affliction that we'll call White House Press Personality Disorder.

Here's Todd on Monday, complaining to Kurtz about being cut off from Obama's inner thoughts and deepest desires:

NBC White House reporter Chuck Todd calls the situation a "shame," saying the administration is trying to control the message rather than allowing Obama to be seen "unscripted."

Here he was this morning, on his MSNBC show, complaining to former Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart about Obama being too omnipresent:

I'll be honest—it felt like he didn't have a lot of news to announce.... Is it good to put the president out on a day like that, when you don't have a lot of news to announce?

UPDATE: Todd jotted us a note. "Saw your shot today. Curious, ever heard of being a devil's advocate? Lockhart was in the room when decisions were made to send presidents out to do a mini-news conference. So framed the question to get him to make a case about when it is a good time to send a president out in that setting." Watch the video and judge for yourself whether Todd was playing devil's advocate in an argument that no one was having before he raised the question, or was—as is often the case after people deploy the verbal clue "I'll be honest"—offering his opinion on whether it was a mistake for Obama to cave in to his demands.

This rapidfire and profoundly irrational vacillation between spurned desire and outraged rejection is characteristic of White House Press Personality Disorder, a variant of borderline personality disorder unique to the hothouse environment of the D.C. press corps, where the intense pressures to both love and hate, protect and attack a single powerful father figure whom reporters are endlessly charged with thinking and talking about deforms fragile psyches every day.

The National Institute of Mental Health's analysis of borderline personality disorder can be transferred quite cleanly to its White House cousin:

People with BPD often have highly unstable patterns of social relationships. While they can develop intense but stormy attachments, their attitudes towards family, friends, and loved ones may suddenly shift from idealization (great admiration and love) to devaluation (intense anger and dislike). Thus, they may form an immediate attachment and idealize the other person, but when a slight separation or conflict occurs, they switch unexpectedly to the other extreme and angrily accuse the other person of not caring for them at all.

That sounds very familiar. The "Obama never talks to us" complaints came on the heels of a universal round of "Obama's performance in from the of the Republicans was awesome" hallelujahs, which came on the heels of an unrelenting barrage of "Obama's lost his mojo" analyses, which came on the heels of a round of "Obama's State of the Union speech was a powerful performance" reports, and on and on in a ceaseless up-and-down series of "stormy attachments" and sudden "devaluations."

White House Press Personality Disorder is also characterized by obsessive nitpicking and a tendency to impute significance to objectively meaningless data, which can be seen in today's Politico story discerning a troubling decline in the number of times the word "[LAUGHTER]" appears in transcripts of the White House press briefings:

In the first six months of the Obama administration, briefings produced an average of 179 laughs per month. Over the past six months, the average has dropped down to 89.

[snip]

"There definitely aren't a lot of laughs around the briefing room these days," says Washington Examiner White House correspondent Julie Mason. "Robert's little digs and evasions have lost their power to amuse - particularly since we haven't had a presser since July."

The piece was published at 4 a.m. today—early bird WINS THE DAY!—so we can presume that Politico's Patrick Gavin, who chronicled the death of laughter, interviewed Mason yesterday, which means that she uttered the words "particularly since we haven't had a presser since July" on the day that Barack Obama held a presser.

What's unclear from Gavin's account of the mirthless briefing room is whether the missing "[LAUGHTER]"s are due to Gibbs attempting fewer gags or getting fewer laughs for the gags he attempts. But whatever: We know that the briefings are now morose and somber affairs owing to Obama refusal to talk to the press except for yesterday.

This is what these people make us think of: