Obama Just Does Not Like People Very Much
Many Americans find repellent a president who condescends to them, patronizes them, scolds and berates them. Such a president does not show that he cares about them. Despite hagiographic media coverage in the 2008 campaign and beyond, Barack Obama is being perceived as such a man by a large number of Americans.
When candidate Barack Obama spoke about "the bitter clingers" (or dismissed farmers' concerns about their livelihood by suggesting that they grow arugula -- a modern-day "let them eat cake"), these were not mere gaffes.
Even when he tried to pantomime empathy, he fell flat.
Neera Tanden, former aide to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama: "Obama doesn't call anyone, and he's not close to almost anyone. It's stunning that he's in politics, because he really doesn't like people."
Journalist John Heilemann: "I don't think he doesn't like people. I know he doesn't like people."
Washington Post political reporter Scott Wilson in "Obama, the loner president": "Obama is, in short, a political loner who prefers policy over the people who make politics in this country work."
Liberal New York Times columnist Roger Cohen on the disappointing Cabinet Obama assembled: "Nixon, like Obama, was a loner, but he had Kissinger generating ideas[,]" but, for Obama, "there is only one star in the galaxy at this White House and his name is Barack Obama."
Barack Obama in his autobiography Dreams from My Father: people are an "unnecessary distraction."
Why should it matter to Americans casting votes that Obama does not like people?
Americans want to feel that the leader of the country cares about them. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was peerless in reaching out and touching Americans' hearts. He was a patrician, true -- the type of person that Barack Obama might castigate today. But FDR, perhaps because he was crippled by polio, spoke genuinely and movingly about the struggles of his fellow Americans. His Fireside Chats brought his reassuring voice and warm words into people's homes. He spoke from on high but did not speak down to them. People felt he cared and gave him their votes -- over and over.
Sam Youngman of The Hill wrote about Obama's attempt to connect with struggling Americans -- back in 2008:
President Obama told a small crowd in Fairfax, Va., on Monday that he would stand in the hot sun with them and "feel their pain."
He was meeting with a Fairfax family for a backyard discussion on the economy in an effort to improve voter perceptions about his empathy with ordinary people.
"The problem is he doesn't seem like he's always trying to be empathetic," said one Democratic strategist.
"They have been missing the need for the emotional connection people need in times like this - but they've needed
He started clinging to his teleprompter and sought crowds to speak down to -- not individuals or small groups to socialize among.
Then he became president.
Emboldened and unleashed, time after time, he expressed how little he thought of us and how much he thought of himself. Away from his handlers, triumphant in his victory, the true Obama emerged. And he is just not that into us.
Kirsten Powers wrote about "Obama's Empathy Deficit" in 2010:
Does Barack Obama suffer from an "empathy deficit?"
Ironically, it was Obama who used the phrase in a 2008 speech when he diagnosed the United States as suffering from the disorder. In a plea for unity, candidate Obama said lack of empathy was "the essential deficit that exists in this country." He defined it as "an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother's keeper; we are our sister's keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny."
Yet, as president, Obama has demonstrated an almost pathological incapacity to connect with American's fear and despair over the future. Whether it was the Gulf oil spill or a woman's heartbreaking pleading at a recent town hall meeting, Obama's much ballyhooed coolness seems more icy than reassuring.
Nobody is asking Obama to have a meltdown. That would hardly be presidential. What Americans need is, yes, for Obama to feel their pain.
Not only is Obama insulated from our pain (the golf trips, the vacations, the private concerts in the East Room), but he seems to express disdain towards Americans who feel pain. He cannot relate.
Powers points out that even early in his presidency he was cold to those who needed warmth.
Nothing brought this problem into relief like the two Obama supporters who confronted the president at a recent town hall meeting expressing total despair over their economic situation and hopelessness about the future. Rather than expressing empathy, Obama seemed annoyed and proceeded with one of his unhelpful lectures.
He ridiculed a man who expressed anxiety regarding his gas bills (he has ten kids so drives an SUV) by saying he needed a hybrid van.
He used Special Olympics contestants for humor. Meanwhile, "third stage Romnesia" is not witty -- especially because Ann Romney is a cancer survivor (did Obama not even care that his own mother died from cancer?).
When a person at the recent town hall admitted he was worried about his future, Obama just repeated hackneyed talking points.
The Keystone XL pipeline project was killed off despite the thousands of high-paying jobs that were lost so as to satisfy Obama's environmental donors -- and boost the financial prospects of his green-energy donors. Did Obama care about the jobs lost when he not only killed Keystone, but derailed energy development across America? He proudly boasted to a friendly group of San Francisco journalists that he planned to cause bankruptcies among those who base their livelihoods on tapping our coal wealth. That is one promise he seems to have kept. Does he feel for the coal miners of Appalachia -- as Robert Kennedy so movingly did in the '60s?
How did Obama react to the Fort Hood massacre that his administration characterized as workplace violence?
When he told the nation about Ft. Hood, he first took two full minutes chatting with an audience and reporters at the White House and gave a "shout-out" to someone he knew -- and then he worked his way around to dealing with the massacre.
He said of the beheading of Daniel Pearl by Islamic terrorists that it "'captured the world's imagination" and then added insult to injury by denying Pearl's father a chance to speak. As Tim Pawlenty said, the issue is not what country Obama is from, but what planet he is from.
Did he express revulsion when his pastor, "his moral compass," Jeremiah Wright, Junior, all but celebrated 9/11, since "God Damn America" was finally seeing its chickens coming home to roost? Did he pull his impressionable daughters from the pews?
He dismissed legitimate Israeli concerns regarding a nuclear holocaust as "noise."
The murders of Americans in Libya were not "optimal" (the original words were those of the "comedian" Jon Stewart, but a president who cared about Americans would have recoiled at that characterization). The mayhem sweeping through the Arab world -- including multiple attacks on American embassies and diplomatic outposts that the media refuses to report -- are not "bumps on the road."
Are there any acts of personal kindness that Barack Obama has displayed in his life? Michelle Obama says in a fundraising letter that Americans should support his candidacy because he will show them the same commitment he showed her when he shoveled the driveway during Chicago winters.
How does that compare to the many acts of personal kindness Mitt Romney has undertaken over the years? Deroy Murdock has culled some of these examples in his superb column "The Decency of Mitt":
- After Joey O'Donnell, 12, died of cystic fibrosis in 1986, Romney built a playground in his honor. "There he was, with a hammer in his belt, the Mitt nobody sees," the boy's father and Romney's neighbor, Joseph O'Donnell, told Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, authors of The Real Romney. A year later, Joey's Park needed maintenance. "The next thing I know, my wife calls me up and says, 'You're not going to believe this, but Mitt Romney is down with a bunch of Boy Scouts and they're working on the park.' . . . He did it for like the next five years, without ever calling to say, 'We're doing this,' without a reporter in tow, not looking for any credit."
- Ellen Hummel's father worked with Romney at Bain Capital, but died when she was just 5. She later asked Romney to help her attend Columbia Medical School. He loaned her tuition money. Just before graduation, Hummel received a Christmas letter from Romney. "It was something caring," Dr. Hummel, now a Michigan general practitioner, told TheDaily.com. "It was something saying, 'This is a gift.'" Romney forgave Dr. Hummel's loan.
- In 1995, Romney heard about the Nixons, a family who moved to Boston. Soon after, a car wreck left their sons paraplegic. Romney called and asked if they were available on Christmas Eve. Romney, his wife, and his sons arrived with a stereo and other gifts for the crippled boys. Romney offered to put them through college and supported them through numerous fundraisers. As their father told Kranish and Helman, "It wasn't a one-time thing."
Beyond generosity, Romney has demonstrated organizational leadership and personal courage while aiding others:
- Melissa Gay, Bain Capital partner Robert Gay's daughter, vanished while visiting New York City in July 1996. Then-CEO Romney closed Bain's Boston headquarters and jetted to Gotham to find the 14-year-old. Romney flew in his private-equity company's 50 employees and transformed a Marriott Hotel into a command post. He consulted the NYPD and recruited private eyes. He dispatched staffers to enlist Bain's business associates. Bain's printer, R. R. Donnelly, produced 300,000 missing-person fliers. Bain's CPAs at Price Waterhouse placed the handbills all over town. Duane Reade, a Bain-portfolio company, stuck leaflets in shopping bags at 52 local outlets.
Five days after Melissa disappeared, someone rang Bain's tip line to ask about a reward. The NYPD traced the call to a New Jersey home, where a 17-year-old had, unbeknownst to his parents, hidden the disoriented and drugged child.
Romney's focus and management saved Melissa. She now is a happily married mother who teaches fourth grade.
Does a man who helps people care about and like them?
There are more examples of Romney's generosity and largeness of spirit -- of the heart he does not wear on his sleeve.
Then there is Obama. He shoveled snow for his wife. Almost enough said -- for Barack Obama seems to enjoy putting down people to their faces.
Maybe even his supporters are beginning to see the man behind the grin (smirk?) since his popularity has been plummeting.
As liberal columnist Richard Cohen wrote in the Washington Post, it is "hard to care about someone who seems not to care in return."
Obama supporters might counter that ObamaCare shows that he cares. However, ObamaCare was more a Frankenstein-like creation of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and other liberal powers in Congress than Obama's work. He needed it as a campaign prop to induce voters to support him in 2008.
The social activist Mother Mary Jones reportedly said that her job was to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Her quote has driven liberal activists for years. But Obama seems interested more in afflicting the comfortable than in comforting the afflicted. Hence his language regarding "fat cat" bankers, greedy doctors, and insurance companies; "I do think at a certain point you have made enough money"; trips to Vegas; not being "born with a silver spoon in my mouth"; and other derisive comments to people who have earned their success ("they didn't built that"). Hence his 2008 promise to raise taxes even if it led to less revenue for the government to spend. His animus towards businessmen may reflect ideology absorbed by his mentors, or the typical academician's disdain towards the wealthy, who, in their view, are not nearly as smart or deserving of wealth as the professoriate.
Of course, Obama's aversion to dealing with people has led him to run an almost one-man show in the White House. As Roger Cohen noted, he ignores his Cabinet -- chosen less for their ability and merit than their willingness to be Obama's Team of Idolizers. He all but stopped holding Cabinet meetings.
He trolls websites for advice from the likes of Andrew Sullivan -- who was obsessed with spreading the absurd myth that Trig Palin, Sarah's son, was actually the child of her daughter, Bristol (and that is merely a fragmentary look into Sullivan-world, a place swirling with conspiracy theories). Or he could be less narcissistic and stop contemplating in his solitude his supremacy. (Barack Obama: "I can do any job better than the people I hire to do it." Think that will be on any monuments or plaques at his presidential library?)
He refuses to meet with highly paid and qualified experts who have the duties of compiling and delivering daily intelligence briefings -- he skipped half of them until Benghazi made his truancy a campaign liability. The daily economic briefings disappeared long ago -- despite the economic problems impoverishing Americans. He won't even meet with Democrats (let alone Republicans) to solve problems and develop policy.
If Obama cared about Americans more, he might be inclined to overcome his aversion to people and learn how to be a good president. He would not rely on Valerie Jarrett when making decisions -- as he admits he does (Jarrett is "The Worst White House Aide" who has a perfect record of giving bad advice).
Mitt Romney, conversely, would never have achieved the successes he achieved as a businessman, governor, and rescuer of the Olympics had he not developed these skills, had he not been able to tap the expertise of others, if he did not like people.
In a few days, Americans will have a chance to express their feelings for a man who has so little feeling for them.
(Drawing by Otto Veblin.)