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The Psychology of Obama

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.

He wrote a fascinating article entitled, “Obama isn’t an Introvert, He’s a Narcissist.” [Published at FrontPageMag.com 6/21/14]

Greenfield writes: That undertone of irritation comes into his voice when he’s challenged or question or even asked for something. Then he becomes surly.

I have noticed this about Obama since he first came on the national scene. It’s one of the reasons (just one) why I almost always cringe when I watch Obama attempting to explain himself. Regardless of anyone’s political views, it’s painful to watch a man so uncomfortable with himself hold such a powerful and prominent position over world affairs.

The irritation in his voice is not an indication of inflated self-esteem. First of all, there’s no such thing as inflated self-esteem. Self-esteem refers to one’s inner conviction that one is fit for existence, and that one’s mind is capable of, and competent at, mastering reality.

A self-confident person cannot have “too much” of such a quality. It’s possible that someone might think they’re better than they really are. But this isn’t an indicator of “too much” self-esteem. It’s simply a distorted self-image.

When somebody gets sharp or nasty because they’re questioned or criticized, this is an indication of insecurity — probably deep insecurity.

Obama may be wrong about many things, and he’s not nearly as intelligent as the Einstein-like status to which some have elevated him. But he’s not unintelligent, either. I suspect he’s smart enough to know that the fawning and unearned status and expectations heaped upon him from the first moment of his presidential campaign is more than he deserves.

If my theory is right, it makes complete psychological sense that he’d be sharp whenever criticized. Criticism, to such a person, is a painful reminder of how inflated others’ expectations are of you, and something in the mind has to react or rebel against it. That’s probably what happens when — again and again — he becomes testy or arrogant-seeming whenever anyone questions him, on the few occasions it actually happens.

Greenfield goes on to write:

Obama doesn’t hate politics. He likes power. He hates compromise. That’s not idealism though, it’s ego. He wants everything his way. And he can’t stand even the slightest challenge.

It’s clear that Obama does not like compromise, since he has never engaged in it since becoming president. He’s the perfect President for the era of entitlement. “I shouldn’t have to lower myself to addressing people with a different point-of-view.” The humble Republicans — acting like the losers they believe they are — feed this mentality by failing to ever take him on in any principled way. That’s why the Obama years have resulted in trillions more dollars of spending and debt — despite Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives, without whom Obama would not be able to spend a single penny.

However, Obama’s recalcitrance has nothing to do with “ego.” Ego refers to a rational orientation towards objective reality. Obama’s policies are nothing more than kick-the-can-down-the-road, head-in-the-sand evasion of what we’re doing to our federal government, our national debt, and the very fabric of society by making more and more citizens dependent on the government dole. Yes, this is precisely the same policy as the Republicans. I’m not defending Republicans here; I’m simply pointing out that Obama is no different. He’s not special. But he acts like he thinks he is.

Obama, at least on a good day, suffers from an inflated sense of self-esteem. He thinks he’s more than he really is. Yes, he is the President. But study your history. There were mediocre or bad Presidents back in the 19th Century, during the relatively early decades of the Republic, particularly in the years leading up to the Civil War. Nearly everyone has heard of Abraham Lincoln. Almost nobody without a fetish for American history has heard of James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce or Millard Fillmore. There’s a reason for this, and if you study history, you’ll see why.

Obama, when he’s not cranky, acts and speaks as if he believes he’s Abraham Lincoln. In reality, he’s more like Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan or (closer to our own time), Jimmy Carter. Or George W. Bush, if you prefer. These presidents did not represent America’s finest hours.

Obama’s psychology — as it appears to me — is one racked by a combination of (1) inflated self-image, fueled and supported by a fawning media and academic establishment, combined with the most hapless and self-effacing of opponents, the Republicans; and (2) an intellect and self-awareness strong enough to recognize that he’s propped up as greater than he really is, or perhaps anyone could be, given the grandiosity of early expectations foisted on him.

This is what results in the type of behaviors — arrogant, cool, cranky when questioned, refusal to compromise, determination to bypass Congressional oversight in favor of executive orders — we have come to associate with this President. Yes, on the surface he’s an arrogant guy. But it’s all fueled by a pervasive cluelessness about what to do, since his philosophical and political premises are completely wrong, and his most fervent supporters expect the impossible of him while fear criticizing him lest they be seen as “not cool.”

For an indication of what I’m talking about, consider Obama’s own words after being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize only months after entering office, back in 2009:

I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize — men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

I don’t see these comments as false humility for the sake of applause. I suspect he really meant them. That’s the frightening part. This is the side of Obama who realizes he’s being praised not for his merits, but for something else — perhaps something else his most fervent supporters (or opponents) would never dare name. When he gets sharp, defensive or testy, he’s quite possibly trying to shut down this recognition. You’re seeing the public spectacle of a man struggling not to know what’s self-evidently true: He’s simply not up to this job.

When you give someone more power and credibility than they deserve or merit, it’s always a recipe for psychological conflict or even disaster. This plays out in families and business every day. With Obama, it’s the fate of the world at stake. The ramifications of his policies, particularly in health care, regulation and foreign policy, will be with us for years to come.

Insecure people, once given power, will use it as a wrecking ball to reduce the anxiety they inevitably feel for being placed in a situation where they’re fundamentally incapable of performing. This is probably why Obama comes across with such an arrogant, quasi-dictatorial sense of entitlement.

In that respect, perhaps we should be grateful that Obama has not done more damage to the nation than he already has. But we’ve still got a couple of years to go.

  • mkkevitt

    But maybe Obama is completely up to the job he has cut out for himself to do, and maybe he knows it. Maybe he just needed the position of the U.S. presidency to do it, since that gives him the power. In 2008 he said he wanted to bring about change, and he said he wanted to fundamentally transform the country. And everybody cheered with elation.

    So, when anyone does question him, he knows it’s about the job he’s supposed to be doing, not the one he is doing, not the one he cut out for himself to do. So he responds the way he does, and those who would cheer him keep quiet, instead. Mike Kevitt