The Psychological Foundation Of Obama’s Political Problems
In June 1985, Flora Lewis wrote in the New York Times that then-President Ronald Reagan said he had pounded the walls in frustration over the hostage crisis in Beirut. Given what we know about Reagan, it’s not hard to believe that he would resort to such measures to express his rage.
Now try to imagine Barack Obama similarly venting his frustration at the Republicans taking his agenda hostage for political gain. Hard to visualize, isn’t it?
That’s no accident. Since being elected president, Obama has consistently displayed a cool demeanor, one that has confounded many of his former supporters. His detachment has led many to think that he is oblivious, disinterested, even frightened of direct confrontation. The latest instance has been his passive observation of the failure of the Super Committee, which has spurred pundits and politicians from both sides of the aisle to accuse him of lacking the fire to be president. MSNBC news host Chris Matthews, once one of the president’s biggest fans, recently placed direct blame for the country’s malaise on the President’s lack of emotional leadership. “There’s nothing to root for,” he complained.
The fact that the President has failed to address, hands-on, such a critical problem should make us realize that his reluctance to take charge is not a cognitive issue, but a psychological one. It’s not that Obama doesn’t understand what he ought to be doing—it’s that the structure of his personality won’t allow him to constructively address the problem.
This is where psychoanalysis can be of benefit. By recognizing Obama’s behavior patterns we can illuminate the unconscious thought processes that might be influencing them. Fortunately, one needn’t treat Obama as a patient to undertake a thorough analysis of him. After all, there is plenty of public material available—not least, his autobiography Dreams From My Father—from which to sketch an outline of the President’s personality using a technique called “applied psychoanalysis.”
First, some psychological preliminaries. The President’s detractors are suggesting that he doesn’t feel enough passion or emotion. But a basic tenet of psychoanalysis is that everyone has rage. The question is what one does with that rage, and why.