Rupert Murdoch reported that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of President Obama: “I never met in my life such an arrogant man.”
One is mildly surprised to find Bloomberg’s judgment confirmed in a New York Times profile of Barack Obama.
I say “mildly surprised” because, as well as I can discern, Times reporting on this year’s election campaign has been reasonably fair and balanced.
One still expects that a front page Jodi Kantor profile of President Obama would read like a puff piece. It is anything but. It sheds such a harsh light on the president’s character flaws, to the point where you end up asking yourself how anyone could have been fooled by the man.
If you believe, as I do, that Barack Obama was largely a blank canvas on which the media drew its idea of the perfect man, then clearly he has disappointed their expectations.
Kantor reports facts about Obama. She offers both sides of the issue. As she portrays him, Obama seems confused and lost in the White House. Lacking leadership skills, being in over his head, Obama seems to have channeled his competitiveness into golf, basketball and bowling.
When you finish reading you agree with Rich Karlgaard’s reaction to her article:
Imagine, for a minute, that you are on the board of directors of a company. You have a CEO who is not meeting his numbers and who is suffering a declining popularity with his customers. You want to help this CEO recover, but then you learn he doesn’t want your help. He is smarter than you and eager to tell you this. Confidence or misplaced arrogance? You’re not sure at first. If the company was performing well, you’d ignore it. But the company is performing poorly, so you can’t.
With some digging, you learn, to your horror, that the troubled CEO spends a lot of time on — what the hell? — bowling? Golf? Three point shots? While the company is going south?
As depicted by Kantor Obama thinks that he is the best at everything. He tells people that he is better at their jobs than they are; he is fiercely competitive in matters of little consequence.
In Kantor’s words:
As Election Day approaches, President Obama is sharing a few important things about himself. He has mentioned more than once in recent weeks that he cooks “a really mean chili.” He has impressive musical pitch, he told an Iowa audience. He is “a surprisingly good pool player,” he informed an interviewer — not to mention (though he does) a doodler of unusual skill.
She continues that Obama possesses an: “… obsession with virtuosity and proving himself the ….”
What does it say about a president if he is hard at work trying to be the best at reading a children’s book.
Kantor reports on the scene:
In 2010, he began by announcing that he would perform “the best rendition ever” of “Green Eggs and Ham,” ripping into his Sam-I-Ams with unusual conviction. Two years later at the same event, he read “Where the Wild Things Are” with even more animation, roooooaring his terrible roar and gnaaaaashing his terrible teeth. By the time he got to the wild rumpus, he was howling so loudly that Bo, the first dog, joined in.
What do we learn when we read that Obama suffers from what Kantor calls “a fixation on prowess?”
Of course, Obama lacks humility and modesty. And, anyone who is that self-involved does not really care about what happens to other people.
His primary task is the care and tending of the mirage that is his public persona.
Obsessed with perfection and fixated on his own prowess Obama is suffering from vainglorious self-puffery, self-esteem to the nth power.
He is the reductio ad absurdum of a culture of self-esteem that does not reward achievement but that teaches people to keep telling themselves that they are the best, regardless.
When the most powerful leader of the free world needs to compete and win at making chili or playing pool he is trying to find a sliver of evidence that would protect him against the encroaching suspicion that his greatness is just a bunch of media-drive hype.
For Barack Obama the presidency has been the ultimate test. It risks becoming his ultimate nightmare.
Could it be that all those people who told him that he was the greatest and that he could master any skill by applying himself were lying to him?