Sunday, June 16, 2013

"The character called Barack Obama"

There are a lot of people who are trying to get in President Obama's head these days to interpret his motivation for deciding to supply the Syrian rebels with small arms and ammunitions. As is often the case, Maureen Dowd demonstrates the most noxious element of that genre. Of course she, like some others, thinks the "boy" Barry needed to be "schooled" by the man Clinton (yes, its just that obnoxious).

Folks who aren't into assuming these kinds of decisions resemble a sixth grade playground altercation know that when it comes to Syria - there are no good options. And so I began to think about what I knew about how the President tends to handle those kinds of decisions.

I immediately thought of the article by Michael Lewis published in Vanity Fair back in October 2012 titled Obama's Way. At one point in the article, President Obama comments on the kind of analysis people like Dowd are engaged in.
One of the things you realize fairly quickly in this job is that there is a character people see out there called Barack Obama. That’s not you. Whether it is good or bad, it is not you.
Lewis' article is also helpful in describing the President's decision-making process in a similar situation - whether or not to intervene in Libya. If you're interested in that, I'd suggest you go read page 6 of this rather lengthy article. To summarize, President Obama had a meeting with all "the principals" on his national security team. They presented him with a binary option of either a no-fly zone (which obviously wouldn't work) or doing nothing.
The idea was that the people in the meeting would debate the merits of each, but Obama surprised the room by rejecting the premise of the meeting. “He instantly went off the road map,” recalls one eyewitness. “He asked, ‘Would a no-fly zone do anything to stop the scenario we just heard?’” After it became clear that it would not, Obama said, “I want to hear from some of the other folks in the room.”

Obama then proceeded to call on every single person for his views, including the most junior people.
And then Lewis makes this fascinating observation:
His desire to hear out junior people is a warm personality trait as much as a cool tactic, of a piece with his desire to play golf with White House cooks rather than with C.E.O.’s and basketball with people who treat him as just another player on the court; to stay home and read a book rather than go to a Washington cocktail party; and to seek out, in any crowd, not the beautiful people but the old people. The man has his stat­us needs, but they are unusual. And he has a tendency, an unthinking first step, to subvert established stat­us structures. After all, he became president.
So if Dowd and others think that President Obama bent to the desires of his "daddy" Clinton on the issue of Syria, I'd suggest they're reacting out of their own projection onto a "character called Barack Obama." Reading Lewis will give you a small window into how the man actually operates.


  1. Thank goodness for you, Smartypants! You and a few others help keep me sane :)

  2. You know I don't think very much of people like Maureen Dowd, so I don't read her crap.

    1. For me this wasn't just about MoDo. She represents the worst of thinking that's traveling around out there.

  3. Per others' comments, thanks for reading MoDo so we don't have to.

    I have no idea how so many on the left manage to cling to this idea that Obama is 'pushed around' by circumstances (or by public opinion, or scandals du jour, or strong personalities on his staff, or by former Presidents named Clinton). To me, this President seems to be the least reactionary chief executive we've had since, probably, Eisenhower. Combined with that cautious and inclusive process as chronicled by Lewis, it's difficult to believe there's ever a singular overwhelming outside influence for any of Mr. Obama's decisions.

    Other than adherence to clearly stated moral imperatives and circumstantial pragmatic requirements, I don't perceive that the man puts any ideological or political constraints on the options he considers. That's precisely what I like about his leadership style, and it's precisely what progressives should demand of any politician.

  4. As an AA female I think I recognize the self-loathing white women experience when they find themselves VERY attracted to an awesome AA male. Maureen is evidencing such self-loathing and has been since at least 2007! When coupled with her racism and elitism it is ghoulish to watch. Michelle has everything to which Maureen cannot even aspire, thus the need to be vicious.

    Sorry for the psychoanalysis but that is how I see it & I have seen a LOT of it.

    1. You may have a point here. When you look at her constant ragging on the President (much of it pretty ridiculous); you've got to wonder?

  5. Maureen Dowd's attacks on President Obama are like Sarah Palin's, only with better vocabulary and writing skill.