May 5, 2008

So now Obama's supposed to be the hothead?

Give me a break. I'm seeing tons of links to an article headlined "Michelle Obama: Barack has hit boiling point." But read the text people. Michelle Obama didn't say "Barack has hit [the] boiling point." That's some headline writer's (successful) attempt at eyeball-grabbing.

But did she say anything that deserved a paraphrase like that?
Michelle Obama lifted the lid on the irritation felt by the leading Democrat candidate for the White House at the way anti-American outbursts by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, have dogged his campaign.

He is said to be itching to turn all his fire on John McCain, the Republican candidate, who is benefiting most from Mr Obama's protracted tussle with Hillary Clinton.
Irritation... dogged... itching... fire... tussle... None of these are quotes.
Mrs Obama told a rally in Durham, North Carolina, on Friday that only her husband's desire to change US politics had helped him to control his feelings: "Barack is always thinking three steps ahead – what do we need to do to make change."
Control his feelings... Again, it's not a quote. And it's only an oblique reference to some feelings, but what feelings? Where does she say he's an angry guy? From what I've seen, he's bland and unemotional. I've been wanting to see more fire. I consider him phlegmatic.
Her husband was thinking "I can't let my ego, my anger, my frustration get in the way of the ultimate goal," she said.
So there it is: He has "ego," "anger," and "frustration" as he looks at his problems with Jeremiah Wright, but he's the sort of person who looks ahead and doesn't let these justified emotions trouble him. I'm glad to hear he has any strong emotions at all. Rather than see a wife's revelation that he's secretly an angry guy, I tend to think that she's saying this by design to try to humanize him and make him seem less impassive. The Americans let him know we expected him to be angry at Wright and that we weren't satisfied with his professorial musings in the general area of Wright. So now his campaign is using Michelle to appease us with some evidence of appropriate — but perfectly controlled! — anger. And frankly, even this is hardly anything.

The article also quotes "a senior Democrat strategist privy to Obama's campaign":
"He's sick of the battle against Clinton. He wants to get stuck into McCain. His people have had to remind him that this thing isn't over yet and he needs to focus and put her away."
Sick... Eh. Who isn't sick of the dragged-out primary/caucus season? Get stuck into McCain... That sounds violent, but it's none too articulate, and it's some unnamed insider. And so what? Of course, Obama wants to get past Hillary — "put her away" sounds violent too — and on to McCain. That's a giant so what? in my book.
Mr Axelrod said Mr Obama had been using games of basketball to let off steam.
Let off steam.... Is that supposed to mean he was steamed up? Again, there is nothing here. The man played basketball for the cameras.
In contrast with the Clintons, Mrs Obama said: "We were taught that you don't rip your opponents to pieces, you don't leave them on the roadside."
Do you read that to mean that their niceness is merely superficial and inside they are aboil? There's nothing to support that.

To everyone who's taking the bait and linking to this article to mean Obama has a problem with excessive emotional intensity: You seem like the one in thrall to emotion. Calm down and read the text.


memomachine said...


For my response I can only quote Michelle Obama:

"You know, this conversation doesn’t help my kids."

Yes that's an actual quote.
Used in an interview to change the subject.
By Michelle Obama.

Amazing. Brazen. Goofy. Strange. Thin skinned. Vaguely Hillary-like. Excessively insulated from reality.

Palladian said...

"Barack is always thinking three steps ahead – what do we need to do to make change."

Sigh. "Make change"? Really, these people have been repeating meaninglessness so long that they don't even try to pretend it's other than meaninglessness anymore. Pretty soon they'll just randomly pepper the words in the midst of normal sentences.

"Hope Barack change is always change thinking hope three steps change hope ahead. Change."

PatCA said...

"...he's the sort of person who looks ahead and doesn't let these justified emotions trouble him."

This is what bothers me about him. He's just like Jimmy Carter: "tolerate" any atrocity, any evil person, for the sake of unity. Suspend your moral judgment and everyone will get along. I want my president to stick up for what is right!

Meanwhile, another friend is not helping him out today, either.

Chet said...

It's the steely gaze. You can tell when he seethes with rage.

P. Rich said...

excessive emotional intensity

Excessive is in the eye of the beholder, as in, Obama clearly did not judge Wright's emotional intensity to be excessive. And further, intensity implies some external indication of underlying feelings, i.e. behavior and not the feelings themselves. About the latter we can only speculate regardless of what a person allows to be seen. In Obama's case, what we see might only reflect a lifetime of practiced control and not provide a valid indicator of what he is actually feeling.

Clinton (v) has morphed into the happy, smiling, cheerful, friendly Clinton (v) because her handlers told her that persona would play better with the public. It's a mask, as is Obama's public persona. Deep down underneath in both is possibly, or likely, something quite different.

rhhardin said...

she's saying this by design to try to humanize him and make him seem less impassive.

Lautreamont :
The feelings express happiness, make one smile. Analysis of the feelings expresses happiness, all personality aside; makes one smile. The former uplift the soul, dependent upon space, upon duration, up the conception of humanity considered as itself, in its celebrated constituents! The latter uplifts the soul, independently of duration and space, up to the conception of humanity considered in its highest expression, the will! The former are concerned with vices and virtues; the latter only with virtues. Feelings do not know their marching order. The analysis of feelings teaches how to reveal it, increases the strength of the feelings. With the former, all is uncertainty. They are the expression of happiness, grief, two extremes. With the latter, all is certainty. It is the expression of that happiness which results at a given moment from knowing how to restrain oneself in the midst of good or evil passions. It uses its calm to render the description of the passions down to a principle ... The feelings weep when they must, as when they need not. Analysis of the feelings does not weep. It possesses a latent sensibility which catches one off guard, prevails over miseries, teaches how to dispense with a guide, provides a combat weapon. The feelings, sign of weakness, are not feeling! The analysis of feeling, sign of strength, generates the most magnificent feelings I know. 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!


Pogo said...

Obama is Chauncey Gardner, all vague metaphors and manipulable innocence.

Richard said...

By golly, Ann, I do believe you've discovered biased journalism. It's not just for lefties anymore ... and never has been.

bearbee said...

Both Obama's are angry. Read Cone's "Black Thelogy of Liberation." Both must have read it.

Plus Obama abandonment by his father.

I can identify.

re: 3 steps ahead, if he does so, would he now be so on the defensive?

garage mahal said...

Sick... Eh. Who isn't sick of the dragged-out primary/caucus season?

What the hell does this even mean? The voters aren't sick of it. They're registering in record numbers.

Embarrassing elitist hogwash Ann, sorry.

SteveR said...

Basketball is a poor substitute for cigaretes and bowling.

john said...

"Barack is always thinking three steps ahead – what do we need to do to make change."

I thought this was just a Saturday quote from Guam, but now it's being repeated by the future (she hopes) first lady. I'm glad to see that lots of people now are now realizing that making change is a real problem in America. I blame our school system.

And the overuse of debit cards.

Wurly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George said...

"Historians are generally ambivalent over whether hot-tempered leaders have fared any worse than the placid. Harry S. Truman once threatened bodily harm in a letter to a reviewer who wrote disparagingly about the musical talents of his daughter. Richard M. Nixon ranted, and so did Bill Clinton. George Stephanopoulos once described Clinton's "purple rages," which left Stephanopoulos, often the subject of Clinton's private lashings, so shaken that he broke out in hives, sunk into depression and began taking an antidepressant."


"Some day I hope to meet you," [wrote Truman], ignoring the fact the critic Hume had called his daughter "extremely attractive." "When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!"

“Dad discussed the letter with his aides and was annoyed to find that they all thought it was a mistake. They felt that it damaged his image as president and would only add to his political difficulties. ‘Wait till the mail comes in,’ Dad said. ‘I’ll make you a bet that 80 percent of it is on my side of the argument.’

“A week later, after a staff meeting, Dad ordered everybody to follow him, and they marched to the mail room. The clerks had stacked up thousands of ‘Hume’ letters received in piles and made up a chart showing the percentages for and against the president. Slightly over 80 percent favored Dad’s defense of me. Most of the letter writers were mothers who said they understood exactly how Dad felt and would have expected their husbands to defend their daughters the same way.

“‘The trouble with you guys is,’ Dad said to the staff as he strode back to work, ‘you just don’t understand human nature.’”

I'd be worried if Obama did not have a temper. Anger can be useful. Depends on whether you use it or it uses you.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

What kind of newspaper is The Telegraph? This is the same paper that put out that ridiculous list of "Top 50 Pundits" last week, with Karl Rove at #1 and Drudge also in the top 10 (neither of them are really pundits in my opinion). There were also over a dozen typos in the article.

Now they put this out? This paper is a joke.

TROBlog said...

Her husband was thinking "I can't let my ego, my anger, my frustration get in the way of the ultimate goal," she said.

I don't know . . . sounds pretty much like he is trying to keep from boiling over and saying something he will regret to me.

Hope and change doesn't come across as well when steam is spouting out of those ears of his.

Triangle Man said...

TROBlog: As is apparent from comments, it's the kind of quote you can make sound pretty much any way you want in your own mind. Like Obama? Then he's showing fire and gumption, but has the cool head and self-control necessary to apply his feelings constructively. Dislike Obama? Then he's a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, not to be trusted with important decisions. Or at the very least, Obama's temper makes it OK for McCain to have one too. So, all in all, an article unlikely to convince anyone of anything.

knoxwhirled said...

Her husband was thinking "I can't let my ego, my anger, my frustration get in the way of the ultimate goal," she said.

barf. I don't get the hothead thing at all; to me this sounds like just another bald attempt to portray Obama as impossibly, perfectly noble and selfless. All politicians do it, they just lay it on extra thick in the Obama camp, IMO.

vbspurs said...

Vaguely Hillary-like

No, she's a different animal altogether. The first is venal and cynical. This newest incarnation is envenomed and territorial.


Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

The shrill demonization members of this or that candidate's family members is sad to witness. The candidates themselves provide enough fodder for discussion without stooping to such tawdry tactics.

blake said...

Honestly, when I saw that quote, I was reminded of all the firebreathing mothers I have known who had this threat of "Just WAIT till your father gets home!" (It was even a cartoon series a la "Flintstones", before my time.)

And then Dad gets home and says, "Meh." or "I did the same thing when I was his age" or "Way to gO!" Only acting disciplinary when forced to by the chagrinned (new word!) missus.

Maybe Obama is a seething cauldron of bubbling fury. Or maybe Michelle is the real terror and Obama only disciplines when he has to....

George said...

I think one of the world's 100 top thinkers, Mr. Hitchens, has answered your question, Professor:

"I direct your attention to Mrs. Obama's 1985 thesis at Princeton University. Its title (rather limited in scope, given the author and the campus) is "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community." To describe it as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be "read" at all, in the strict sense of the verb. This is because it wasn't written in any known language."

Revenant said...

Sometimes Obama is just so focused on being totally awesome that it makes it hard for him to think all the awesome thoughts he needs to think. For change.

I think that's the message here.

Maguro said...

The shrill demonization members of this or that candidate's family members is sad to witness.

I agree only to the extent that said family members stay out of the campaign. Michelle has been pretty outspoken campaigning for her husband and criticism comes with the territory.

vbspurs said...

Mindful of Randy's timely comment, I still don't think candidates' wives are outside the province of commentary.

I'll try to keep it civil, but when they are participants, more than partners in a campaign, they're fair game in my book.

Having said that, George linked to Hitchen's piece which was not one of his best. But in it, contained the direct link to Michelle Obama's Princeton thesis.

I already know people are asking themselves, "How is this relevant?" or "Would you like to be judged on your 23 year-old writings?", and the answer is no. I think I was writing about what I did for my summer vacation then (for Mrs. Carol Baker, w00t!).

But as a Historian today, I find reading her thoughts as a young woman fascinating.


"I have found that at Princeton no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong. Regardless of the circumstances underwhich I interact with Whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be Black first and a student second."


"At the same time , however, it is conceivable that my four years of exposure to a predominately White, Ivy League University has instilled within me certain conservative values. For example, as I enter my final year at Princeton, I find myself striving for many of the same goals as my White classmates--acceptance to a prestigious graduate or professional school or a high paying position in a successful cor-poration. Thus, my goals after Princeton are not as clear as before."

(Pp 15-16/225)

Conservative values.

Not only does this suggest that the natural state of mind of a black person is to have liberal values, but that striving for good jobs which pay well, and the rest, are not taught to or expected of blacks in America.

I'm fairly sure that's not the case, but I do think she's making a proto-argument that in future, due to Princeton, she won't be "keeping it real".


dick said...

Bambi's a little late at trying to get into McCain. The Biden campaign and the Huffington Post have already tried and didn't do so well.

What I find interesting is that he is having all his emotions passed arouund by his campaign. Then if it takes, he accepts it; if it doesn't take then he says that he is not involved and that someone must have misunderstood what he meant to say.

In the meantime all we get are soft messages about what he wants to do and nothing about how he is going to do it except tax the rich and raise the limits on social security taxing. That will do a lot to make more money as we watch all the financiers move their accounts offshore and stop investing in the companies to create jobs since that would raise their taxes. What a great policy!

titusislookingforabeautifulstranger said...

As well as the rest of us republicans here I am absolutely furious at Obama and hate him.

What awful thing has he done today to outrage and disgust us.

Let's get this party started.

My life sucks and I am ready to rip that liberal elitist Obama and Michelle to pieces.

titusislookingforabeautifulstranger said...

Fellow republicans and lovers of the Bush Doctrine we need to focus.

No matter what defeatcacarats say we neeed focus on how great this country is as a result of George W's leadership.

bearbee said...

This link makes the Princeton thesis an easier Internet read and also does not muck up the Appendix tables and questionnaire:
Michelle Obama thesis was on racial divide