August 28, 2008

Obama has "developed a self-discipline so complete... that he has established dominion over not only what he does but also how he feels."

Jodi Kantor writes in a long NYT piece about Obama's superhuman transcendence of emotion for the sake of political triumph:
He does not easily exult, despair or anger: to do so would be an indulgence, a distraction from his goals. Instead, they say, he separates himself from the moment and assesses.....

But with Barack Hussein Obama officially becoming the Democratic presidential nominee on Wednesday night....
Wow, the NYT used the middle name. Can we say Barack Hussein Obama now without raising the presumption that we're out to get him?
There is little about him that feels spontaneous or unpolished, and even after two books, thousands of campaign events and countless hours on television, many Americans say they do not feel they know him. The accusations of elusiveness puzzle those closest to the candidate. Far more than most politicians, they say, he is the same in public as he is in private.
This is the real Obama, then. There is no other. Some will say: Aha, I told you: empty suit. But I'm thinking: The 20th century is over. No more Freud and hippies. No more contempt for the repressed and delving into the subconscious and imprecations to let it all hang out. There is no subconscious. There is no it to hang out. The 21st century man has arrived. Reorient yourself for the future.
Starting in law school, Mr. Obama began pulling together a large cast of mentors, well-connected and civic-minded friends who rose in Chicago and Illinois politics along with him, including a spouse he thought was ideal.

“He loved Michelle,” said Gerald Kellman, Mr. Obama’s community organizing boss, but he was also looking for the kind of partner who could join him in his endeavors. “This is a person who could help him manage the pressures of the life he thought he wanted.”
No, no, don't speculate about the substance of his marriage. That would be too 20th century. What you see is what it is.
If there is one quality that those closest to Mr. Obama marvel at, it is his emotional control. This is partly a matter of temperament...
I told you: he's phlegmatic.
...they say, partly an effort by Mr. Obama to step away from his own feelings so he can make dispassionate judgments. “He doesn’t allow himself the luxury of any distraction,” said Valerie Jarrett, a close adviser. “He is able to use his disciplined mind to not get caught up in the emotional swirl.”
No vortex for him.
It is not that Mr. Obama does not experience emotion, friends say. But he detaches and observes, revealing more in his books than he does in the moment. “He has the qualities of a writer,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I get the sense that he’s participating in these things but also watching them.”...

As a campaigner, Mr. Obama had to learn to sometimes let simple emotion rule. When Mr. Axelrod first devised “Yes We Can” as a slogan during Mr. Obama’s Senate campaign, the candidate resisted: it was a little corny for his taste. “That’s where the high-minded and big-thinking Barack came in,” said Peter Giangreco, a consultant to the Obama campaign. “His initial instincts were off from where regular people’s were.”
Odd that the crowd got so emotional, when he was aloof. What were they looking for in him? And why did they think they saw it?

IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian writes:
It's funny how the New York Times seems to think this article makes Obama look good, when it actually makes him sort of seem like a sociopath.

Or like Mr Spock.

But then, Mr Spock would never become a Democrat. Illogical, Captain.

MORE: I've set up a new post on the Obama's-a-Vulcan theme, so comments on that theme would be better over there.

Also in the comments, Amba writes:
You're so 20th century you can't help analyzing him even while commanding us to get over analyzing him.
Ha ha. Yes. I will never get out of that place.
Me too. I found a Jungian twist that kind of fits (it's down at the end of this post.... What's interesting is that the "negative puer aeternus" has trouble ever making commitments. Obama made commitments to his family and (for a while) to his black and Christian identity, as if he knew he needed to be "grounded" even if it did not come naturally.
Fascinating. Go over there and read the whole thing. Snippet:
John McCain, by contrast [to Obama's puer aeternus], is senex, the archetype of the "old man." A Jungian would say (annoyingly) that they "constellate" each other, that is, whenever one shows up it invokes the other.
Spooky!

46 comments:

Meade said...

"Can we say Barack Hussein Obama now without raising the presumption that we're out to get him?"

Sure you can, Ann Hussein Althouse. Says so right there in the New York Hussein Times.

Ann Althouse said...

I would like my initials to be: AHA.

Palladian said...

It's funny how the New York Times seems to think this article makes Obama look good, when it actually makes him sort of seem like a sociopath.

Or like Mr Spock.

But then, Mr Spock would never become a Democrat. Illogical, Captain.

Palladian said...

"I would like my initials to be: AHA."

Or you could be Ann Barack Althouse and be ABA.

EnigmatiCore said...

Barack Obama: Master of His Own Domain?

bleeper said...

Be the ABA. There is no try.

So, if Hussein feels nothing, why is his skin so thin?

Host with the Most said...

I actually tried this morning to read the New York Times stories about Obama, but the pages were all stuck together.

Ben (The Tiger) said...

AHA!

MadisonMan said...

I would like my initials to be: AHA.

Then you could sing catchy 80s songs like this.

PatCA said...

A psychologist once wrote that the strongest bonds are created by a mixture of positive and negative conditioning. A rat gets tired of cheese if it's at the gate every time; he gives up in despair if the gate is always empty. But a rat will come back again and again and again if the cheese is there some of the time. He will be obsessed with the cheese!

Obama is a little aloof, a little "I don't really care." People can't get enough.

Lawgiver said...

Dammit, you beat me to it Palladian.

Obama = Spock.

He's a Vulcan, no doubt about it. Now the question arises, do we want a Vulcan for president? Are we ready for a Vulcan president?

Ron said...

If your initials were AHA, then would "Take on Me" be the main Althouse theme song/meme?

Perhaps with Obama, a blank canvas has the virtue that any paint you put on it, in any way, is yours, so you can say, "My, how clever I am!"

Quayle said...

His self discipline is so complete that he smokes 2 packs a day.

Ron said...

if Obama=Spock, does that make Bill Clinton=Kirk and McCain=Bones? "I'm a former POW, damnit, not a MySpace junkie!"

Ron said...

Are we ready for a Vulcan president?

Hey, as the Vulcans say, "Only Nixon can go to China!"

Bissage said...

[S]uperhuman transcendence of emotion for the sake of political triumph . . .

Well sure, but that’s what they say about ALL the lizard people.

former law student said...

palladian, lawgiver

Correct that Obama is a Vulcan. However, as I've said before. Obama's Tuvok, not Spock

http://www.startrekdb.se/multimedia/bilder/voy_tuvok/tuvok-3.jpg

Palladian said...

I would love to have a Vulcan for President. But Obama can't be a Vulcan because, as I said, a Vulcan would never be a Democrat (or a Republican as currently configured). Liberalism (the "Progressive" kind) is illogical.

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amba said...

You're so 20th century you can't help analyzing him even while commanding us to get over analyzing him.

Me too. I found a Jungian twist that kind of fits (it's down at the end of this post, although the pain-in-the-ass terminology may make you roll your eyes. What's interesting is that the "negative puer aeternus" has trouble ever making commitments. Obama made commitments to his family and (for a while) to his black and Christian identity, as if he knew he needed to be "grounded" even if it did not come naturally.

P. Rich said...

Why do I hear strange kissy-kissy smacky-smacky snuffle-snuffle sounds whenever Althouse uses NY Times and Obama in the same sentence? Maybe there's a plague rat in its dying throes behind the virtual wainscoting.

Don't forget to wash up afterward, AA.

rhhardin said...

As a campaigner, Mr. Obama had to learn to sometimes let simple emotion rule. When Mr. Axelrod first devised “Yes We Can” as a slogan during Mr. Obama’s Senate campaign, the candidate resisted: it was a little corny for his taste. “That’s where the high-minded and big-thinking Barack came in,” said Peter Giangreco, a consultant to the Obama campaign. “His initial instincts were off from where regular people’s were.”

Lautreamont:

``The writer who is taken in by feelings must not be placed on a par with the writer who is taken in neither by feelings nor himself. Youth intends sentimental lucubrations. Maturity begins to reason without confusion. He was only feeling, he thinks. He used to let his sensations wander: now he gives them a pilot. If I liken humanity to a woman, I shall not expatiate upon her youth's being on the wane and the approach of her middle-age. Her mind changes for the better. Her ideal of poetry will change. Tragedies, poems, elegies will no longer take precedence. The coolness of the maxim shall prevail!''

former law student said...

Liberalism (the "Progressive" kind) is illogical.

Illogical to believe that social creatures like human beings "have duties to one another, and that government should be taking active steps to provide equal opportunity and to help those who need help," as Prof. Sunstein said?

The two defining characteristics of mankind are cooperation and competition. Right-wingers emphasize competition; left-wingers emphasize cooperation. But just as no bird can fly on one wing, people cannot operate solely in one mode. Obama sees this.

Simon said...

At what point does the MSM's hagiography of the Democratic candidate become actually embarassing? The fawning line "Mr. Obama has trained himself for competition, he can sometimes seem as much athlete as politician" is written with such disregard for the pretense of neutrality that it's hard to see how they can maintain the claim to professional disinterest even in their own minds (everyone else stopped believing it long ago).

Palladian said...

"The two defining characteristics of mankind are cooperation and competition"

Compelling people to do things under the threat of loss of liberty and violence (which are the tools of government power) is not cooperation. It's forced compulsion. That is illogical. Somewhere along the line so-called liberals confused cooperation and compulsion.

carly said...

I "diagnosed" Barry with Asperger's Syndrome a long time ago; this article "confirms" my diagnosis.

Joan said...

Carly, that's way off base.

I have no fondness for Obama whatsoever, but I have never gotten an Aspie vibe from him. I live with an Aspie and work with others. For an Aspie, a career in politics would be torture.

BJK said...

Detached observation is the new compartmentalization.

Obama is the new Clinton.

Palladian said...

"Obama is the new Clinton."

We'll see come November because Clinton, you know, won.

Balfegor said...

Haha -- he's the Soviet New Man.

I shouldn't admire it now. I should find it absurdly personal. Don't you agree? Feelings, insights, affections... it's suddenly trivial now. You don't agree; you're wrong. The personal life is dead in Russia. History has killed it.

The private life is dead - for a man with any manhood.


I do have to say, though, when you frame it like:

Obama's superhuman transcendence of emotion for the sake of political triumph

He really does sound like a sociopathic monster.

Balfegor said...

We'll see come November because Clinton, you know, won.

Yes, with what, 43% of the vote? His opposition was divided between two wealthy, conservative Texan oilmen. Even if one of them was the WASP elite incarnate in one man. I don't think I'm going out on a limb here when I predict that both Obama and McCain will do better than Clinton did in 1992.

Palladian said...

"He really does sound like a sociopathic monster."

And the funny part is that the New York Times thinks this is appealing, because if they didn't, they wouldn't print it.

William said...

"Don't let Harvard change you," was, according to the article, the refrain he preached to fellow black students. But isn't that the whole point of the process....In the 19th century there was a great deal of distrust and suspicion of Irish politicans. The Nast cartoons of the Tweed gang portrayed them as Irish and simian. This distrust no longer exists. It is not so much that Americans become more tolerant but that the Irish became more American. (Thomas Nast was himself an Anglicized German immigrant.).....A similar process has happened within my lifetime to the Italians. Whatever the imperfections of Nancy Pelosi, no one would suspect her of being a Mafia stooge or of being in the Pope's pocket. Andrew Cuomo will never attract the whispers that surrounded his father. If I wished to stereotype Alioto I would call him a nerd and not a wop....I would have hoped that a Harvard graduate would have viewed the preachings of the Rev. Wright with more scepticism than Obama demonstrated. It is not just white people who have to overcome their prejudices. I think Obama's detachment comes from having feelings that he does not wish to own.

Palladian said...

OK, I'll amend my statement:

"We'll see come November because Clinton, you know, won. Twice.

Balfegor said...

And the funny part is that the New York Times thinks this is appealing, because if they didn't, they wouldn't print it.

In fairness, that's the way Ann has framed it, not the way Jodi Kantor has framed it. It's possible to see that kind of detachment as quite admirable. It's when you frame it as a man who has remoulded himself to that extent in the ceaseless, unsleeping pursuit of power, above all, that it becomes monstrous.

EnigmatiCore said...

He's a rebel and a runner.
A signal turning green.
A hopeless young romantic.
Wants to run the big machine.

He's a radio receiver
Tuned to factories and farms.
He's a writer and arranger
And a young boy bearing arms.

He's got a problem with his power,
With weapons on patrol.
He's got to walk a fine line,
And keep his self control.

Trying to save the day for the old world man.
Trying to pave the way for the third world man.

He's not concerned with yesterday.
He knows constant change is here today.
He's noble enough to know what's right,
But weak enough not to choose it.
He's wise enough to win the world,
But fool enough to lose it.

He's a new... world... man.

carly said...

Joan, it depends on the "Aspie". I know one who's heavily involved in both theater and politics. With massive amounts of help from parents and teachers he learned how to act his way through life. I see tremendous similarity between him and Barry. In fact, it was this "whoa, Barry's just like J" --more so than DSMIV--that made me think of this.

Joe said...

According to his wife, Barak is a lazy ass useless turd with no self control whatsoever. Who you going to believe? (She's changed her tune since speaking to women's groups last fall, but her contempt for her husband is loud and clear.)

Joan said...

Carly, I yield to your more relevant experience. The Aspies I know are far more comfortable alone or in small groups of people they know well, and have no desire whatsoever to perform theatrically or politically.

Methadras said...

I'm not sure how to even stomach this article. On the one hand, the NYT is lavishing it's knee-pad praise for someone they have deemed a sociopath, but at the same time have described his sociopathy in such a creepy way as to make one think if they actually intended to do this as an affirmation of how Mr. Barely represents them.

Revenant said...

The two defining characteristics of mankind are cooperation and competition. Right-wingers emphasize competition; left-wingers emphasize cooperation.

As Palladian already pointed out, left-wingers emphasize compulsion, not cooperation.

The notion that right-wingers somehow disdain cooperation is also pretty damned silly. You could argue that *libertarians* disdain cooperation, and indeed many do, but conservative ideology is heavily community- and tradition-oriented and frowns on the huge focus on individualism in modern society.

blake said...

Ah, but conservative cooperation comes through the Church and is therefore tainted. It's only the State that is pure.

(Unless, apparently, you're a minority.)

Luckyoldson said...

Gosh, sounds a lot like George W. Bush, you know, except for the intelligence and self-discipline parts.

JAL said...

I don't know about how well he controls his emotions... on more than one occasion he has gotten snippy with reporters.

rhhardin said...

Jungian

Jungian is the analysis of soap opera, basically.

blake said...

Well, yeah, if the soap opera is "Dark Shadows".