Barack Obama, Adult Child of an Alcoholic

Shirley Sherrod's hair-trigger firing is merely the latest in a long line of dysfunctional responses by the president that may indicate that he's out of control. How many incidents does it take to make a pattern? How many times does the president have to show his propensity for paranoia, projection, and blaming others before his team arranges for an intervention?

In 12-step recovery programs, Obama would be called an ACoA, an adult child of an alcoholic. His father, Barack Obama, Sr., was the typical, garden-variety chronic alcoholic. But according to a 2008 article in the Boston Globe, as Barack Sr.'s disease progressed, he became a very dangerous man.

He began to drink more heavily and had a series of alcohol-related accidents, one of which resulted in the death of another driver. Shortly before his death, a colleague from the Harvard Institute for International Development working at the ministry in Nairobi saw Obama Sr. "staggering'" through the hallways.

"I asked someone next to me, 'What is the matter with that guy?'" said Gray. ..."He said, 'He is always very intoxicated and unable to do his job.' It was very sad."

According to former U.S Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who knew Obama, Sr., he was "self-involved and egotistical" with "big unrealistic dreams."

Obama met his father only one time after he was an infant. When Obama was ten years old, and his father visited for a month, little Barry "'began to count the days until my father would leave and things would return to normal." Barack Obama's father died at the age of forty-two while driving under the influence.

Obama's exposure to the destructive effects of alcoholism continued when he accompanied his grandfather on visits to the home of the hard-drinking communist, Frank Davis. Later, in high school and beyond, Obama himself had trouble with drinking and drugs. These days though, the president's behavior during the campaign-that-never-ends offers textbook proof of his being an ACoA.

In a July 23 interview with "Good Morning America," correspondent Elisabeth Leamy asked the president about the Sherrod mess. Obama replied, "He [Tom Vilsack] jumped the gun partly because we now live in a media culture where something goes up on Youtube or a blog and everybody scrambles."

A typical response for an ACoA is to blame others. Obama calls everybody else out, but he's the one who "scrambled." His inability to admit his character defects except when the din becomes so loud that he needs to shut people up is classic. He waited six weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil explosion to answer critics' charges that he wasn't doing anything. Obama stated, "I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this thing down."

His words drip with the narcissism of adult children of alcoholics. Having been abandoned by both parents, Obama sees himself as alone in the world. He doesn't have to consult the experts; in his grandiose way of thinking, he's the expert on everything.

The ACoAs, with their deep mistrust of people, have no loyalty to anyone. They are master manipulators. They live by the mantra, "What's in it for me?"

Dr. Tian Dayton wrote a great piece in the Huffington Post in September of 2009, nine months after Obama took office. She analyzed some of the major mechanisms ACoAs use to survive in a hostile world inhabited by Sean Hannitys, Glenn Becks, and Fox News.

Hyper Vigilance/Anxiety ... ACoAs tend to scan the  environment and relationships for signs of potential danger ... or insults and ruptures. We constantly try to read the faces of those around us so that we can protect ourselves from perceived danger ... we may perceive danger when little exists.

Hyper Reactivity/Easily Triggered ... we may respond to stressful situations blowing conflicts that could be managed calmly out of proportion.

Emotional Constriction ... those that have experienced relationship trauma have a restricted range of feelings.
Obama said this last year in a CNBC interview, "I've got one television station that's entirely devoted to attacking my administration. That's a pretty big megaphone. You'd be hard pressed if you watched the entire day to find a positive story about me on that front."

By Dr. Dayton's analysis, Obama probably does watch Fox News all day.

When asked a question at a town meeting in Indiana about his cabinet appointments not paying their own taxes, Obama told the woman, "I'm one of those that think you need to have a beer with Sean Hannity."

The President's reference to Hannity on an unrelated topic offers stark proof of hyper-vigilance and fear of the media in general.

His hyper-reaction to his friend Professor Henry Gates' arrest in Cambridge last year -- saying that the "police acted stupidly" -- cost him dearly. His beer summit apology to Officer Crowley mirrored his phone call to Sherrod this past week. Like the alcoholic who needs to get out of hot water with his wife or boss, "I'm sorry" works wonders until the next blunder. And last, but hardly least, was the president's strange, emotionally constricted reaction to the terrorist massacre at Ft. Hood. Even an NBC local affiliate in Chicago had a hard time understanding Obama's detached, bizarre behavior when learning of the deaths of innocent military men and women. The title of their story, "Obama's Frightening Insensitivity Following Shooting," reveals:

... instead of a somber [sic] chief executive offering reassuring words and expressions of sympathy and compassion viewers saw a wildly disconnected and inappropriately light President making introductory remarks ... the president thanked various staffers and offered a "shout-out" to "Dr. Joe Medicine Crow."

If we follow Dr. Dayton's guidelines, Obama's frightening behavior falls within the clinical definition of an ACoA. As long as ACoAs don't actively work on changing their behavior patterns, they will add more names to their list of casualties. Sherrod came out of the debacle unscathed, but other victims caught in the dysfunction of an ACoA president may not fare as well.
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