Editor’s note: Chuck Norris’ weekly political column debuts each Monday in WND and is then syndicated by Creators News Service for publication elsewhere. His column in WND often runs hundreds of words longer than the subsequent release to other media.
I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I’m intrigued by their work, especially when it accurately explains why people do what they do – or can’t do what they would like or are expected to do. Case in point, President Barack Obama.
In 2008, I wrote the column, “A personality profile of Barack Obama’s leadership.” The warnings of mental health professionals then have come to fruition today. And other brain and personality experts, many of whom cast their vote in Obama’s ballot box, have since learned the nation appointed a man to the highest position in the land who cannot lead in or out of crisis, especially in the face of opposing forces.
Six years ago, I pointed to the research of St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics in the Department of Psychology, did a professional personality profile “for anticipating Obama’s likely leadership style as chief executive, thereby providing a basis for inferring the character and tenor of a prospective Obama presidency.” The study concluded:
The combination of Ambitious, Accommodating, and Outgoing patterns in Obama’s profile suggests a confident conciliator personality composite. Leaders with this personality prototype, though self-assured and ambitious, are characteristically gracious, considerate, and benevolent. They are energetic, charming, and agreeable, with a special knack for settling differences, favoring mediation and compromise over force or coercion as a strategy for resolving conflict. They are driven primarily by a need for achievement and also have strong affiliation needs, but a low need for power.
Samuel Barondes, M.D., a leading psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and Jeanne and Sanford Robertson professor and director of the Center for Neurobiology and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, explained in his 2011 exposé of President Obama:
Obama’s temperament, his combination of dispositional traits, is emphasized in [psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi’s [professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston] essay “Maybe Washington Needs More Craziness.” As Ghaemi puts it in his opening sentence: “If President Obama stumbled in his handling of the debt crisis, in my view, it was because he is too normal: too rational, willing to compromise, a rule follower, conventionally wise.” And he then goes on to contrast Obama with Franklin D. Roosevelt whose greater success he attributes, in part, to Roosevelt’s “hyperthymic temperament … such people have very high energy levels, and are extroverted, talkative, sociable, humorous, charismatic, productive, libidinous, and workaholic.” To Ghaemi the more moderate temperament of “no-drama-Obama” keeps him from confronting his adversaries in the manner of FDR.
Drew Westen, a psychologist with interests in both personality and politics, emphasizes Obama’s sense of identity. In “What Happened to Obama’s Passion?” he raises the possibility that Obama hasn’t figured himself out yet: “Perhaps those of us who were so enthralled with the magnificent story he told in ‘Dreams From My Father’ appended a chapter at the end that wasn’t there – the chapter in which he resolves his identity and comes to know who he is and what he believes in.” Later Westen suggests that Obama is conflicted about his identity and “ran for president on two contradictory platforms: as a reformer who would clean up the system, and as a unity candidate who would transcend the lines of red and blue.” But in the end he concludes that Obama is really most comfortable “consistently choosing the message of bipartisanship over the message of confrontation.” This, then, appears to be an essential element of what Obama stands for.
Obama’s glaring and greatest weakness – namely, his inability to make hard decisions in crisis and especially lead opposing forces through or out of them – has cost America on every front. It has further divided Washington and our nation and jeopardized our standing with the global community and even our allies, leaving us in a much more unstable place in our world.
While most in 2008 seemed to laud Obama’s personality as a needed polar-opposite to G.W. Bush, especially in an era of required international relations repair, I posed to readers that Obama’s personality pendulum swing was way too far to the other side. An “accomodating-agreeable-conciliator-favoring compromise” type of personality might be good for closing a used car deal when all parties are amicable, but not the one that can lead our country through war, decisive and divisive crises, or emergency conflicts that often require unpopular actions.
It wasn’t a coincidence that Obama’s voting record as an Illinois state senator proved his inability to take a stand in crisis. His own Democrat colleagues couldn’t understand how or why he voted “present” (instead of “yes” or “no”) 129 times, including a number of noncommittal tallies on issues like gun rights and abortion.
Gone are the days when strong leaders and personalities like Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan reached across the aisles to lead our country. En vogue today are pitching polarities, demonizing your opposition and casting blame to justify one’s own divisiveness and inability to bridge gaps. But what we need like never before are leaders like those three decades ago who knew how to agree to disagree agreeably, confronted tough challenges together, and advanced our nation forward despite their differences. That is particularly true of our president.