Sunday, October 9, 2011

Obama's People Problem

Barack Obama has a people problem. So writes Scott Wilson in the Washington Post.

In the onrushing stream of analyses of what is wrong with Obama, Wilson’s strikes a resonant chord. For me, at least.

Apparently, Obama does not know how to relate to people.

I suspect that he is quite good relating to “the people” in the abstract. He falls down when he has to deal with actual human beings.

Obama does not have good friends, and he does not like what are called retail politics. He does not have much of a feel for the real problems of real people.

Wilson sums up his insightful point: “This president endures with little joy the small talk and back-slapping of retail politics, rarely spends more than a few minutes on a rope line, refuses to coddle even his biggest donors. His relationship with Democrats on Capitol Hill is frosty, to be generous. Personal lobbying on behalf of legislation? He prefers to leave that to Vice President Biden, an old-school political charmer.

“Obama’s circle of close advisers is as small as the cluster of personal friends that predates his presidency. There is no entourage, no Friends of Barack to explain or defend a politician who has confounded many supporters with his cool personality and penchant for compromise.

“Obama is, in short, a political loner who prefers policy over the people who make politics in this country work.”

From the gregarious George Bush we have moved on to the isolated loner Barack Obama. From someone who tried to fit in everywhere he went, we have moved to someone who does not seem to want to fit in anywhere.

Of course, Obama’s enablers are always ready to cast this flaws as a strength.  They see Obama as a man of such towering intellect that he simply cannot be bothered with minor details or lesser mortals.

What people problem, they say? He is so completely absorbed in policy issues that he has no time for people.

It is a convenient falsification, one that ignores the distinction between policy wonk and ideologue.

It’s one thing to get down and dirty with the details that go into formulating and implementing policy. It’s quite another to hold yourself above the hard work because you have a grand ideology that solves all problems and answers all questions.

A real policy wonk is detail oriented and experience driven. A leader who lacks experience cannot get absorbed in policy at the presidential level. If he tries, he will be totally lost. Worse yet, he will know it.

An ideologue compensates for his lack of experience by moving into the kind of fictional world that defines ideology.

An ideologue does not care about people. He does not adjust or re-adjust policy according to the effects it is producing on the real lives of real people.

When his ideas fail to produce the right results, he embraces them even more strongly, more fervently. He is much more likely to take to the streets than to go back to the drawing board.

An ideologue will demagogue issues to stay in power.

As Wilson and many others have noted, Obama sees everything in first-person terms. It is all about him, personally.

Wilson explains: “On the stump, Obama is often the star of his own story, preferring a first-person identification with nearly any issue.”

Of course, true confidence is manifested by humility. People who lack confidence need constant self-puffery.

At one point, Wilson gets closer to the truth. He writes: “The president’s supreme confidence in his intellectual abilities and faith in the power of good public policy left the political advisers and policymakers in his White House estranged. The initiatives that have emerged have often been unpopular and unsatisfying — too small, too big, too beside the point — to a country consumed by economic uncertainty.”

This is the behavior of an ideologue, not someone focused on good public policy.

Wilson accepts the general opinion that Obama has “supreme confidence in his intellectual abilities.”

The evidence suggests otherwise. Withdrawing from human contact, failing to lead, failing to accept the verdict of reality, and failing to propose new policies are not signs of supreme confidence. They signal a supreme insecurity.

I see Obama living in constant dread that people will find out that he is not nearly as smart as he is portrayed, that he is completely overwhelmed by his job, that he has no idea what he is doing.

He needs enablers, sycophants, and flunkies to give him constant ego boosts. Behind the inflated ego is a timid individual, frightened that one day someone will pull back the curtain and show the world that there is no there there.

The lack of confidence translates easily into being alone and isolated. The less you deal with real people the less you risk being found out. The less you deal with policy the less you risk being exposed for the fraud that you are.


Dennis said...

Obama exhibits all the signs of a really insecure individual. He cannot abide criticism and attempts to destroy anyone or thing that might challenges his suppositions.
I see nothing that demonstrates intellectual excellence. Once Obama is off the teleprompter he looks and sounds as if he is lost. Obama rarely explains the underpinning of his ideas or actions. I do not think he has ever extrapolated an idea to its ultimate conclusion or for that matter even looked at the various paths an idea can take both positive and negatively. " What if" is a foreign concept to Obama.
The only things Obama has done in the best interest of the country is for political expediency otherwise he would have let the terrorist run rampant.
I disliked Clinton, but at the very least he is a intelligent man and would do no harm to this country on purpose. Clinton just lacked the wherewithal to use his skills. The same cannot be said of Obama. He and Michelle are the Duvaliers.
People are to be used to glorify Obama and other than that they are expendable.

David Foster said...

There is much psychological similarity between Obama and Woodrow Wilson. In neither the case of Obama nor the case of Wilson does there appear to be any serious interest in analysis and problem-solving. Everything is viewed through the lenses of (a)rhetoric--how will it sound in a speech? and (b)an attempt to prove to himself that his own view of himself is correct.