Maureen doesn't answer those questions. She merely murmurs "he seemed to have come through exceptionally well adjusted. " She quotes an Obama hagiographer's dubious quotation:
“His aides from the Senate, the presidential campaign, and the White House routinely described him with the same words: ‘psychologically healthy,’ ” writes Jonathan Alter in “The Promise”...Isn't it funny that Alter put "psychologically healthy" in quotes when referring to the words of what appears to be a large crowd of individuals? If anything, that large crowd of individuals sounds a bit deranged, if they were really all mouthing the same mantra about their leader.
So it’s unnerving now to have yet another president elevating personal quirks into a management style.We thought he was so normal that now we're unnerved — we're so unstable! — to find out that, like all those nutty other Presidents — Dowd cites Bush, Clinton, LBJ, and Nixon — Obama's got his quirks too.
Hey, Maureen, how about peering into the complexities of the appearance of normal? Whenever I hear the word "normal" used to gloss over things, I think of one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies, Kubrick's "Lolita." It's the one where Peter Sellers, as Clare Quilty, is pretending to be a cop and inquiring into what Professor Humbert is doing at a hotel with that "pretty, tall, lovely little girl":
I said to myself when I saw you... there's a guy with the most normal-looking face I ever saw in my life... It's great to see a normal face, 'cause I'm a normal guy. Be great for two normal guys to get together and talk about world events, in a normal way....
What was the matter with your wife?... She had an accident! That's terrible! Fancy a normal guy's wife having an accident like that! What happened to her?... I get sort of carried away, being so normal and all....
I could easily have a word with George Swine. He's a really normal, nice sort of guy and I've only got to have a normal word in his ear and you'd be surprised what things could happen.... It's his job to fix you up with something nice. He gets paid for doing that and when he sees a guy like you, all normal... I think you're really normal.... Before you go, I was wondering whether maybe in the morning, you know... me being lonely and normal....I'm sorry. The word "normal" has had extra texture to me since I saw that movie about 40 years ago.
But Dowd says "normal" and moves on. She describes the emergent quirkiness of the man whose normality supposedly impressed us so much we made him President. (Here's another Peter Sellers movie you need to see, by the way, if you want to fully experience the political chatter around Barack Obama.) Dowd, then:
How can a man who was a dazzling enough politician to become the first black president at age 47 suddenly become so obdurately self-destructive about politics?Oh, but isn't it so much more likely that we were the ones whose vision was obscured? We need to take responsibility. In the end the story of Barack Obama will make perfect sense. It will all fit together. The lonely man — raised by wolves — swept up into our American psychosis.
President Obama’s bloodless quality about people and events, the emotional detachment that his aides said allowed him to see things more clearly, has instead obscured his vision.
“Even though I’m president of the United States, my power is not limitless,” Obama, who has forced himself to ingest a load of gulf crab cakes, shrimp and crawfish tails, whinged to Grand Isle, La., residents on Friday. “So I can’t dive down there and plug the hole. I can’t suck it up with a straw.”We need to suck it up. We need to see what we've done. We've elected a man, and we need to cast aside our silly illusions and see what we've done. He's not the essence of magical "normal." He's a particular man with skills and limitations, and he is our President for the next few years. Now, shape up, see clearly, and deal with it.