The Clintons suffer from the delusional state known in psychology as "feelings of reference."

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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, May 23, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

The 'Tragic Fallacy' that the World Revolves Around the Clintons

Hillary Clinton, in presenting her argument for why her campaign should continue in the face of overwhelming statistical odds, noted that Robert Kennedy was assassinated at a point later in the 1968 presidential campaign than the current date.  She later apologized for the insensitivity of her comment - looking stricken as she did so.

The remark prompted revulsion on the parts of some - particularly African Americans who thought Clinton meant to indicate that Barack Obama could be assassinated - and bewilderment for many others. Why would she draw such an ugly analogy? To understand how such a smart, savvy, and campaign-seasoned person as Senator Clinton could miscalculate so badly, we need to understand her and husband Bill's world view.

For the Clintons, all things relate back to them, and to their current effort to regain the presidency. One critic, commenting on the frame of reference of a writer detailing her efforts to become famous early in the last century, noted that she saw World War I primarily as an interruption of her career - as though the entire world existed to provide a set and characters for her life story.

In literature, viewing all events as centering around your own life is called the "tragic fallacy." The scientific/religious equivalent is the view that the universe revolves around the earth and human beings. In psychopathology, this way of interpreting the world is called "feelings of reference," as in the paranoid delusion that people on television are talking about you.

For the Clintons, Robert Kennedy's death on June 6 "proves" that Hillary should keep running until at least that date. That others attach different meaning to Kennedy's life and death - and the sensitivity of African Americans to the idea that a black candidate like Obama might be assassinated - simply wouldn't occur to them. Why would it? They're running for the leadership of the free world, for God's sake!

It is comforting to assume that only the Clintons could be so egocentric. Really, they just offer the most naked expression of a way of viewing the world that is probably typical of people who run for president and other political offices. But most of those people are in better touch with reality than the Clintons.