No remotely objective person would pretend that Barack Obama is a humble man. So the challenge for the O-faithful is to spin his prodigious ego as a positive. Jodi Kantor, author of The Obamas, has a piece in the New York Times this weekend which acknowledges the president's robust self-esteem but considers the possibility that Obama is merely a fierce competitor, a confident perfectionist "obsessed with virtuosity," a gifted man striving for excellence. Kantor:
He has also turned out to be a voraciously competitive perfectionist. Aides and friends say so in interviews, but Mr. Obama’s own words of praise and derision say it best: he is a perpetually aspiring overachiever, often grading himself and others with report-card terms like “outstanding” or “remedial course” (as in: Republicans need one).So maybe he's just an over-achiever? Nah. The details Kantor provides undercut that theory:
Even by the standards of the political world, Mr. Obama’s obsession with virtuosity and proving himself the best are remarkable, those close to him say. (Critics call it arrogance.) More than a tic, friends and aides say, it is a core part of his worldview, formed as an outsider child who grew up to defy others’ views of the limits of his abilities. When he speaks to students, he almost always emphasizes living up to their potential.
“He has a general philosophy that whatever he does, he’s going to do the very best he can do,” Marty Nesbitt, a close friend, said in an interview.
As Election Day approaches, President Obama is sharing a few important things about himself. He has mentioned more than once in recent weeks that he cooks “a really mean chili.” He has impressive musical pitch, he told an Iowa audience. He is “a surprisingly good pool player,” he informed an interviewer — not to mention (though he does) a doodler of unusual skill.Perhaps he might publish a volume of his artwork for our edification?
All in all, he joked at a recent New York fund-raiser with several famous basketball players in attendance, “it is very rare that I come to an event where I’m like the fifth or sixth most interesting person.”Not surprisingly, this kind of thing rubs some people the wrong way:
Mr. Obama’s fixation on prowess can get him into trouble. Not everyone wants to be graded by him, certainly not Republicans. Mr. Dowd, the former Bush adviser, said he admired Mr. Obama, but added, “Nobody likes to be in the room with someone who thinks they’re the smartest person in the room.”I enjoy being in the same room with people smarter than I am, which happens every day. It's the self-absorbed egomaniacs who tend to grate:
Even some Democrats in Washington say they have been irritated by his tips on topics ranging from the best way to shake hands on the trail (really look voters in the eye, he has instructed) to writing well (“You have to think three or four sentences ahead,” he told one reluctant pupil).Of course, he hasn't really tried to do those things. Those were "just words." (Missing from Kantor's piece is acknowledgment of Obama's tendency to demagogue and, well, lie.)
For another, he may not always be as good at everything as he thinks, including politics. While Mr. Obama has given himself high grades for his tenure in the White House — including a “solid B-plus” for his first year — many voters don’t agree, citing everything from his handling of the economy to his unfulfilled pledge that he would be able to unite Washington to his claim that he would achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Kantor includes this well-loved Ego-bama classic:
Those were not the only times Mr. Obama may have overestimated himself: he has also had a habit of warning new hires that he would be able to do their jobs better than they could.He's LeBron, baby!
“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Mr. Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign, according to The New Yorker. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
Cut to Thomas Sowell for a reality check. No spin or nuances here: Obama's 'Confident Ignorance' At Root Of His Failure
After reading Barack Obama's book "Dreams from My Father," it became painfully clear that he has not been searching for the truth, because he assumed from an early age that he had already found the truth — and now it was just a question of filling in the details and deciding how to change things. [. . .]Bingo. As you may have grown tired of hearing me say, it's the arrogance that makes the ignorance possible, if not impregnable. And yes, it's a dangerous thing.
There is no hint of the slightest curiosity on his part about other visions of the world that might be weighed against the vision he had seized upon. [. . .]
Barack Obama is one of those people who is often wrong but never in doubt. When he burst upon the national political scene as a presidential candidate in 2008, even some conservatives were impressed by his confidence.
But confident ignorance is one of the most dangerous qualities in a leader of a nation.
If he has the rhetorical skills to inspire the same confidence in himself by others, then you have the ingredients for national disaster.
Many thanks to MichelleMalkin.com for the link.
Update: I can't believe I left out one of my favorite details from the NYT story. Remember the candidate's bowling disaster in '08? He wasn't about to let that happen again:
His idea of birthday relaxation is competing in an Olympic-style athletic tournament with friends, keeping close score. The 2009 version ended with a bowling event. Guess who won, despite his history of embarrassingly low scores? The president, it turned out, had been practicing in the White House alley.So. Our president has applied his laser-like focus to bringing up those numbers and he has succeeded. Just one small way in which America is better off now than four years ago.
Many thanks to Creative Minority Report for linking to this post.
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