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Obama’s Presidential Character

Friday, 18. October 2013 9:25

Angry Obama

When examining the nature of the presidency, we have discussed the importance (or lack there of) of presidential character — the personal and psychological characteristics of the men who have served in the office. In the course of that discussion, we assessed and criticized the most famous (infamous?) effort in that vein: James Barber’s “Presidential Character,” which schemes presidential character in a two-dimensional (four category) typology. One dimension is active/passive, assessing essentially whether they are looking to use the office to accomplish political goals, and the other dimension is positive/negative, essentially refering to their personality (dour and tending toward paranoia versus optimistic and cheery). One of our criticisms of the application of this scheme to presidents by Barber is that it suffers greatly from confirmation bias –tending to rate presidents in the ‘good’ categories based on partisan disposition rather than an objective assessment of their character. See, for example, John Dean’s effort to place Mitt Romney in the Active/Negative category along with George W. Bush. The scheme also suffers from “backfitting” — i.e. identifying bad characteristics with failed presidencies (Nixon) or those which ended badly (LBJ) and identifying good characteristics with those that were successfull (FDR).

All that said, a new article at the National Interest looks at President Obama’s presidential character and attempts to place him in the typology based on his behavior in office over the past five years. In the author’s view, President Obama belongs in the Active / Negative category — the ‘worst’ category for presidents.

Here he makes the case that Obama belongs in the Active category:

He took office with big ambitions and a manifest resolve to change American society in very significant ways. This was manifest particularly in his Affordable Care Act, designed to transform the way we dispense health care in America and increase federal intrusion into a sixth of the current economy (projected to be 20 percent of the U.S. economy by 2020). And he was willing to do this without a single opposition vote, which reflected an almost breathtaking political audacity. His energy bill represents another reflection of his ambitions, and multiple actions in the regulatory realm (some of questionable constitutional validity) reflect also Obama’s preference for America as a European-style social democracy. Since the country has generally shunned such a course since the early years of the New Deal and a brief spurt of federal activity under Lyndon Johnson, Obama’s presidential temperament clearly falls into the Active category.

And here he makes the case he belongs in the Negative category:

But is he a Negative or a Positive? The Positive presidents relished the job and the grand necessity to move events by persuading, cajoling, bargaining with and perhaps occasionally threatening other players in the political arena. The great Active-Positive presidents all had fun in the job. They showed a zest and enthusiasm that was infectious, not just with the American people but, more significantly, with members of Congress.

We sure don’t see any of that with Obama. Edward Klein, a former New York Times Magazine editor and author of a book on Obama called The Amateur, has written that Obama “doesn’t learn from his mistakes, but repeats policies that make our economy less robust and our nation less safe.”

Do we see any presidential zest or political joy in this chief executive? Hardly. He seems always stern, beset, frustrated and angry. It’s as if he expects the opposition to join him in whatever he wants to do for the simple reason that they should want to make his life easier. After all, he’s the president.

Here’s how Barber describes the Active-Negative: “…relatively intense effort and relatively low emotional reward for that effort. The activity has a compulsive quality…His self-image is vague and discontinuous. Life is a hard struggle to achieve and hold power, hampered by the condemnations of a perfectionistic conscience. Active-negative types pour energy into the political system, but it is an energy distorted from within.”

Nothing illustrates this more starkly than Obama’s insistence on shirking his responsibility as president to lead the way out of Washington’s increasingly dire fiscal deadlock, with the government partially shut down and a possible financial default on the horizon. His political petulance is so far from the Positive traits, as defined by Barber, that his categorization as an Active-Negative is unavoidable.

What do you think? Does President Obama belong in the Active/Negative category?

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Obama’s Job Speech

Friday, 9. September 2011 11:26

Keynes Flipping in Grave

President Obama gave a speech presenting his new jobs program, called the American Jobs Act (AJA), to a joint session of Congress last night. Here is a round-up of the reactions to the speech. The price tag for the bill comes in at about $447 billion.

AP’s fact checkers rate President Obama’s claims that the AJA is paid-for, bipartisan, deficit-neutral and immediately effective as false.

Critics of the president have made much of the fact that Obama repeatedly called for them to “pass the bill” in his speech. The count? See for yourself:

Captain Ed over at Hot Air notes the curious absence of any mention of “energy” in President Obama’s job proposal. Meanwhile, Robert Reich, Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor, gives the speech two cheers and one jeer. Reich believes it was a step in the right direction, but not bold enough.

Elanor Clift, a liberal supporter of the president, argues Obama made a clear and compelling case for his new jobs program. She argues it is a “common sense” mix of bipartisan proposals that amount to a sound program to stimulate the economy.

If President Obama’s speech were only about economics, its proposals would pass easily in both chambers of Congress. Though bigger and bolder than expected, it is still at its core a common-sense mix of ideas that both Democrats and Republicans have supported.

Jay Cost argues that the AJA is Stimulus, part deux.

Much of Obama’s speech from last night was directly imported from other addresses. It was full of his usual tropes – strawmen characterizations of his opponents, a soaring paean to American greatness that only ever mentioned big government, and the typical denunciations of “politics as usual,” implicitly defined as everything that hurts his political prospects in 2012.

John Podhoretz, a critic of the president, agrees and is underwhelmed. Podhoretz argues that Obama’s “jobs” plan is no different from his original stimulus bill in 09, which did nothing to “stimulate” the economy or help with unemployment.

But Obama’s fetishistic invocation of the glory of infrastructure projects is directly related to his unyielding certitude — a certitude unaltered despite the failure of his last stimulus — that the federal government needs to take a lead role in thecountry’s employment crisis by employing people directly itself.

Whatever the merits of Obama’s job proposal, the politics are clear. Given the failure of the first stimulus to actually stimulate the economy and the continued threat of a double-dip recession, Obama’s re-election bid is in serious jeapordy. The below graph, which shows the actual unemployment rate versus the post-stimulus projections of the Obama administration in 09 illustrate why many congressional leaders have either dismissed Obama’s new plan or are highly skeptical of it. Obama’s credibility on the economy has taken a serious hit and it may be too late for him to do anything about it:

Obama vs. Reality

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Sunday, 1. May 2011 20:52

Osama Bin Laden - Former Member of Living

Awesome. Osama Bin Laden is dead. OBL = room temperature. Bin Laden was killed by an American bomb, reportedly, a week ago [DG: See Updates Below]. They waited to conduct DNA tests to confirm before reporting.

UPDATE: I have this running through my head. [WARNING: EXPLICIT LYRICS]

Also this:

UPDATE: As I noted on Twitter, early reports (as they usually do) have turned out to be inacurrate. It happened today, not last week. It was a covert ground attack by elite special forces of the US military. Best info at this point, per Obama’s annoucement: The US developed intelligence locating Bin Laden in a compound near Islamabad. Obama gave the go, and US special forces attacked the compound…delivering special forces into the compound through 4 helicopters (one of which crashed). No US troops were injured. In the firefight, 3 combatants were killed, including Osama Bin Laden and, reportedly, his eldest son. The US has Bin Laden’s body in custody and, apparently, have confirmed his identity through DNA tests.

UPDATE: Here is a transcript of President Obama’s address confirming the death of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of U.S. forces.

UPDATE: Here is video of Obama’s Address…it’s a bit shaky as someone just recorded their TV set but its the only video of the address I’ve been able to locate [BETTER VIDEO ADDED – DG]:

UPDATE: Assuming the details I reported above are true, the second day story is the implications this has for the Pakistani-US relationship. Bin Laden wasn’t holed up in some cave in the outlying tribal areas. He was in a massive compound, apparently constructed just for him, in the open and right next door to the Pakistani capitol. According to President Obama, Pakistan was not consulted with on the assault nor where they informed of it beforehand. A lot of questions are going to be asked.

UPDATE: FOX News reporting Navy Seals were involved in the operation (no surprise there). There is celebrating in Times Square and outside of the White House.

New Yorkers Celebrate Bin Laden's Death in Times Square

UPDATE: Cool. This IT guy apparently and unwittingly live-blogged the assault on Twitter.

UPDATE: President Bush on OBL Death

Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda network that attacked America on September 11, 2001. I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude. This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.

Didn’t happen on Bush’s watch. But there’s no question he deserves credit tonight along with President Obama. Bush paved the way and Obama took up the baton (or should I say he layed up the Bush bounce pass, given Obama’s love of B-Ball?). Well done, both presidents.

UPDATE: More information coming in. Apparently Bin Laden was fairly brazen here. This compound he was in stuck out like a sore thumb. A million dollar compound in that area? With that much security? US got wind of his possible location through intel obtained from detainees. 2 brothers owned compound – were part of the Bin Laden courier group. Evidently OBL had more operational control over AQ than was previously thought. Another tidbit – reportedly the Seals gave OBL a chance to surrender. He declined and they obliged him.

ABC News reports:

The U.S. had been monitoring the compound in Abbottabad for months after receiving a tip in August that Bin Laden might be seeking shelter there. He had long been said to be in the mountainous region along the Afghanistan, Pakistan border, hiding in a cave as the U.S. sought to kill him with drone strikes from above. Instead, he was in a house eight times larger than its neighbors, with a seven-foot wall and valued at $1 million.

The house had no phone of television and the residents burned their trash. The house had high windows and few points of access, and U.S. officials concluded it had been built to hide someone.
According to U.S. officials, two U.S. helicopters swept into the compound at 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Twenty to 25 U.S. Navy Seals under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command in cooperation with the CIA stormed the compound and engaged Bin Laden and his men in a firefight, killed Bin Laden and all those with him.

UPDATE: Some reports suggest OBL has already been buried at sea. I tend to doubt that’s happened yet…more likely that represents current US plans [SEE Update below – DG]. No desire to create a shrine, of course. The closet historical parallel would be the body of Hitler. Which was reportedly taken by the Soviets, hidden for a number of years in a secret grave…and eventually destroyed and scattered to points unkown.

UPDATE: Pic of the Year?

NY Firefighters Celebrate OBL Demise

UPDATE: Marines celebrate in DC:

UPDATE: Confirmed. OBL’s body has been buried at sea. Reportedly Muslim burial rites were followed. Muslim tradition is that a funeral must occur w/n 24 hours of death, so that undoubtedly played into the decision to do the burial immediately. The problem will be in squelching rumors that this was all a hoax. The body, of course, was indisputable evidence it was not. Will the evidence the US collected b/f the burial be enough to stave off conspiracy theories? Given the resistance to compelling evidence most conspiracy theories involve, I doubt it.

UPDATE: Fans at Mets-Phillies game react to the news:


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