Personality and Politics: Obama for and Against Himself
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Presidential Character: An Introduction
- A Disciplinary Dilemma
- Character and Its Derivatives
- Organization of the Book
- Chapter 1: Character Development
- Race and Roots
- Ambition and Politics
- Adaptation and Approval
- Ego Checks and Guilt
- Chapter 2: Basic Beliefs
- Commonality as a Value
- Church and Community
- Government and Society
- Progressive Pragmatism
- Chapter 3: Operating Style
- Decision Making
- Chapter 4: Character-Based Tensions
- Idealism versus Pragmatism
- Direction versus Delegation
- Vision versus Compromise
- Rationality versus Empathy
- Boldness versus Caution
- Chapter 5: Political Impediments
- Transitioning from Campaigning to Governing
- The Limits of Presidential Power
- Public Attitudes toward Government
- Chapter 6: Leadership Dilemmas in a Democracy
- Obama's Theory of Democratic Leadership
- The Bully Pulpit and Its Limits
- Obama's Practice of Democratic Leadership
- Chapter 7: The Interaction of Personality and Politics: Three Case Studies
- Stimulating the Economy
- Reforming Health Care
- Winning the War in Afghanistan
2300 N Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 202-729-1900; toll-free, 1-866-4CQ-PRESS (1-866-427-7737)
Copyright © 2012 by CQ Press, a division of SAGE. CQ Press is a registered trademark of Congressional Quarterly Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Cover design: Anne C. Kerns, Anne Likes Red, Inc.
Cover photo: AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
Composition: C&M Digitals (P) Ltd.
The paper used in this publication exceeds the requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Printed and bound in the United States of America
15 14 13 12 11 1 2 3 4 5
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Wayne, Stephen J.
Personality and politics: Obama for and against himself / Stephen J. Wayne.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-60871-694-4 (pbk.: alk. paper) 1. Obama, Barack. 2. Obama, Barack—Psychology. 3. United States—Politics and government—2009–4. United States—Politics and government—2009—Psychological aspects. I. Title.
Dedicated to Cheryl with Love[Page vi]
Boxes, Figures, and Tables[Page ix]Tables
- 5-1 Normative Perceptions of the Power of Government 103
- 5-2 Normative Conceptions of the Government's Regulatory Power 103
- 5-3 Public Concern about Obama's Use of Government 104
- 6-1 Public Views on Obama's Domestic Policy 114
- 6-2 Public Views on Obama's Foreign Policy 114
- 6-3 Recent Presidents’ Personal Traits 120
Presidents have mystiques. They are created by their achievements; enhanced and projected by their campaigns; and enlarged by the status, responsibilities, and powers of their office. At times presidents appear to be larger than life, depending on the perception, sometimes awe-inspiring and sometimes terrifying, sometimes inspirational and sometimes mundane, sometimes strong and other times weak, even infirm.
The office of the presidency envelops the person in it. It can highlight strengths of character, but it can also magnify personal frailties. At times it may be difficult to discern the person from the office; the human dimension is often obscured by the institutional protections and majestic qualities Americans desire and perceive in their presidents.
Much of the political science literature focuses on the institutional influences on presidents: the roles they are expected to perform, the authority they have to exercise, the political clout they can exert, the decisions they must make, the relations they have with others in positions of power, and the images they try to project of themselves and their administrations.
But presidents influence the presidency as well by the words they use, the roles they emphasize, the decisions they make, the actions they take, all of which in turn are affected by what they believe and how they go about their work.
This book focuses on that human dimension of the presidency. It examines how President Barack Obama's character, beliefs, and operating style have affected the first two years of his presidency. Obviously, personal attributes cannot be examined in isolation. They must be viewed within the context of the constitutional, institutional, and political systems as well as the events and environment with which presidents have to contend. Much of my discussion occurs within this framework.[Page xii]
My objective is to paint a character portrait of the man and use that portrait to help explain his decisions and actions as president. I do not contend that everything Obama says or does is driven by his personality, but I do believe that personality matters and has an impact on many of the most important decisions presidents make and actions they take.
I begin my study by looking at character development: how Obama sees himself. He eloquently (and with considerable literary license) wrote about his identity search in his book, Dreams from My Father. I am interested in what he found in that search that has enabled him to understand who he is, what he desires, enjoys, and excels in doing, and how that understanding has shaped his personal quest, political ambitions, and ultimately, his actions as president.
I argue that Obama's values and beliefs are a product of his identity search, the opportunities he has had to pursue a career in law and public service, and the people he has encountered who have helped him to achieve personal and social goals. I am most interested in his beliefs about government that have shaped his political vision and policy positions as candidate and then as president.
I also believe that presidential style, the way in which a president goes about the work of the office, has an impact on that president's decisions and actions. In Obama's case, I believe that his style is distinguishable by how he interacts with three sets of people: those whose support he needs to gain elective office, those whose analyses and advice he relies on to make sound policy judgments, and those whose approval and friendship he craves for any number of personal reasons.
The relative stability of character, beliefs, and style results in patterned behavior. That behavior, in turn, facilitates the psychological dimension of explanation, and to some extent, anticipated behavior. I examine these behavioral patterns throughout this book.
Nonetheless, there can also be character-based inconsistencies that create tensions for an individual. I discuss some of these tensions that have affected Obama in the presidency as well as the major political challenges he has encountered, challenges to which his 2008 presidential campaign contributed. I also examine Obama's theory of participatory democracy and his actions as president that seem to conflict with that theory. My objective throughout is to provide a critical but not hostile evaluation of the Obama presidency, one that uses the prisms of personality and politics to explain President Obama's performance in office.[Page xiii]Acknowledgments
I wish to thank the many people who have helped me with this project.
- The reviewers of my initial book proposal to CQ Press: Holly Brasher (University of Alabama), Fred I. Greenstein (Princeton University), and Lauri McNown (University of Colorado).
- Colleagues who have read and critiqued presentations and papers that evolved into this manuscript: Thomas E. Cronin (Colorado College), Fred I. Greenstein (Princeton University), James Pfiffner (George Mason University), and Stanley Renshon (CUNY-Graduate Center).
- The editorial and production staff at CQ Press: Charisse Kiino, editorial director; Debbie Hardin, freelance copyeditor; and Belinda Josey, production editor.
Most of all, I want to thank my wife, Dr. Cheryl Beil, for her unrelenting encouragement and support as well as for relieving me of my family responsibilities so I could work alone during the summer of 2010 at our retreat in Vermont. It was Cheryl's work in social psychology, and particularly her practice of our family psychology through the years, that has fueled my interest in the personality dimension of presidential leadership. It is to Cheryl with love and gratitude that I dedicate this book.[Page xiv][Page xv][Page xvi]
Bibliography[Page 149]In His Slow Decision-Making, Obama Goes with Head, Not Gut.” Washington Post, November 25, 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/24/AR2009112404225.html?hpid=topnews.. “Rating Obama's Promises at the 1-Year Mark.” http://PolitiFact.com, January 14, 2010. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2010/jan/14/rating-obamas-promises-1-year-mark/., and . “The Promise. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010..How Obama Came to Plan for ‘Surge’ in Afghanistan.” New York Times, December 6, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/world/asia/06reconstruct.html.. “The Presidential Character. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1972..Obama to CBN News: We're No Longer Just a Christian Nation.” Christian Broadcast Network (July 2007). http://www.cbn.com/CBNnews/204016.aspx.. “How They did It,” New Republic (June 10, 2010): 14–25.. “How Obama Revived His Health Care Bill.” Washington Post, March 23, 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/22/AR2010032203729.html?hpid=topnews.. “Great Expectations.” American Prospect, January 16, 2006. http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=10828.. “Fox News. “Transcript: Obama on ‘FNS.’” (April 27, 2008). http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/04/27/transcript-obama-on-fns.Jackson Apologizes for Crude Remark About Obama.” Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2008. http://www.seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2008043111_campobama10.html.. “Obama on Zionism and Hamas.” http://TheAtlantic.com, (May 12, 2008. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2008/05/obama-on-zionism-and-hamas/8318.. “The Presidential Difference. New York: Free Press, 2000.[Page 150]Checking Up on Obama's Campaign Promises.” http://PolitiFact.com, June 25, 2010. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2010/jun/25/checking-obamas-campaign-promises., , and . “Tracking Obama's Promises: One Step Forward, One Back,” http://PolitiFact.com, November 12, 2010. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2010/nov/29/tracking-obamas-promises-one-step-forward-one-back.. “Teaching Law, Testing Ideas, Obama Stood Slightly Apart.” New York Times, July 30, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/30/us/politics/301aw.html.. “A President as Micromanager: How Much Detail Is Enough?” Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2009. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125003045380123953.html., and . “The Full Obama Interview,” Time, October 23, 2008. http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2008/10/23/the_full_obama_interview.. “Reading Obama; Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.Obama Pressed for Faster Surge.” Washington Post, December 5, 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/05/AR2009120501376.html., , and . “60 Minutes.” CBS News September 17, 2008. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/09/24/60minutes/main4476095.shtml.. “Interview of Barack Obama on “60 Minutes.” CBS News March 20, 2009. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/03/24/60minutes/main4890684.shtml.. “Interview of Barack Obama on “Transcript of Obama Interview on The Tonight Show.” NBC March 20, 2009. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123752189482892841.html.. “After the Great Recession.” New York Times Magazine, April 28, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/magazine/03Obama-t.html.. “Inside the Crisis: Larry Summers and the White House Economic Team.” The New Yorker, October 12, 2009, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/12/091012fa_fact_lizza#ixzz0tVIkhe15.. “Making It.” The New Yorker, July 21, 2008, 48–65. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/21/080721fa_fact_lizza.. “The Conciliator.” The New Yorker, May 7, 2007, 46–57.. “Obama Interview.” Politico February 12, 2008. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0208/8457_Page2.html.. “Transcript of Obama Interview.” Newsweek, September 1, 2008, 32.. “How He Got Here: The Ghost of a Father.” Washington Post, December 14, 2007, A13.. “Obama Forgoes Public Funds in First for Major Candidate.” New York Times, June 20, 2008. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2007/12/13/ST2007121301893.html., and . “New York Times. “Interview with Barack Obama” November 1, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/01/us/politics/02obama-transcript.html.[Page 151]The Audacity of Hope. New York: Crown Publishers, 2006..Dreams from My Father. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1995..Inaugural Address” January 20, 2009. http://www.whitehouse.gov.. “the Daily Show with Jon Stewart” October 27, 2010. http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/10/27/president-obama-daily-show-with-jon-stewart.. “Interview onInterview with NPR” June 1, 2009. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104806528.. “Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention” July 27, 2004. http://www.barackobama.com/2004/07/27/keynote_address_at_the_2004_de.php.. “Remarks by the President in a Youth Town Hall” October 14, 2010, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/10/14/remarks-president-a-youth-town-hall.. “Speech on Racial Relations” March 18, 2008. http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2008/03/18/text-of-obamas-speech-a-more-perfect-union.. ““Obama's Media Image—Compared to What?” Center for Media and Public Affairs, Press Release, January 25, 2010. http://www.cmpa.com/media_room_press_1_25_10.html.The Audacity to Win. New York: Viking, 2009.Q & A: Barack Obama,” Christianity Today, June 2, 2008. http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/2008/januaryweb-only/104-32.0.html., and . “Raising Obama.” Vanity Fair, March 2008. http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/03/obama200803.. “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/10/30/061030on_onlineonly04..Testing the Waters.” The New Yorker, October 30, 2006. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/10/30/0610300n_online.. “The Psychological Assessment of Presidential Candidates. New York: Routledge, 1998.A Rising Political Star Adopts a Low-Key Strategy.” Washington Post, October 17, 2008, A1, A6, A7.. “The Story of Obama, Written by Obama.” New York Times, May 18, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/us/politics/18memoirs.html.. “Barack Obama: Portrait of a Pragmatist.” Chicago Tribune, March 30, 2007, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0703300121mar30-archive,0,5213128.story., and . “Transcript of Obama Interview.” ABC This Week January 11, 2009. http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/Economy/story?id=6618199&page=2.. “Health Vote Caps a Journey Back from the Brink.” New York Times, March 20, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/health/policy/21reconstruct.html., , and . “Biden's Description of Obama Draws Scrutiny.” CNN February 9, 2007. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/978364/barack_obama_introduces_joe_biden_pg2.html., and . “[Page 152]David Axelrod. Auto-Bailout, Torture Memos Among Obama's Toughest Decisions.” U.S. News & World Report, June 10, 2009. http://www.politics.usnews.com/news/articles/2009/03/11/david-axelrod-auto-bailout-torture-memos.“Obama Defends Waiting on Afghanistan Decision.” U.S. News & World Report, October 27, 2009. http://www.usnews.com/.../articles/2009/10/27/obama-defends-waiting-on-afghanistan-decision.html.“Confidence, Openness Mark Obama's Decision Making Style.” News Hour September 23, 2008, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec08/obamacloseup_09-23.html.. “A Conversation with Barack Obama.” Rolling Stone, July 10, 2008. http://www.jannswenner.com/Archives/Barack_Obama.aspx.“Obama in Command: The Rolling Stone Interview” (October 15, 2010). http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/209395.““White House Watch: Obama's First Year.” Media Monitor24 (Quarter 1, 2010). http://www.cmpa.com/pdf/media_monitor_q1_2010.pdf.Obama's Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010..Obama Adding Detail to His Oratory.” New York Times, February 17, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/us/politics/17obama.html.. “A Delegator, Obama Picks When to Take Reins.” New York Times, June 16, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/16/us/politics/16manage.html., and . “