FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

New York Times Misses The Debate

by NORMAN POLLACK

The Times’s coverage of Mr. Obama’s performance in the first debate, which supporters and opponents alike have characterized as ill-prepared or lackluster, and which he in his Denver speech and his staff sought to excuse as the surprising persona of Mr. Romney, misses a central point.

Focusing not on which candidate, if either, I may prefer, but on Mr. Obama’s personality traits, I find the debate revelatory: Mr. Obama cannot take criticism; he surrounds himself with staff designed to bolster a weak ego-structure; his vigorous nodding in the debate indicated not so much sulking as it did a deflation, a drawing inward; he is not used to going man-on-man with another, as was the case with Mr. Romney. If I am correct, several questions arise. Why the closing down within himself, his intolerance toward personal criticism, his thin-skinnedness–all in contrast to Mr. Romney’s evident comfort in feeling at one with himself, directness, looking Mr. Obama in the eye?

I mentioned weak ego-structure, itself taking greater significance by the way Mr. Obama has thrown the cloak of the state secrets doctrine around his government and employed the Espionage Act against whistleblowers. Transparency in government is at a new low. Defensive walls, personal and structural, have been erected, and on the former, which concerns us here, explanation has to lie in family circumstances and Mr. Obama’s clear difficulties in relating to authority.

More than any president, Republican or Democrat, perhaps throughout American history, Mr. Obama gravitates to men of power and, equally significant, thrives on becoming immersed in the trappings of power. Harding, Hoover, Reagan, Bush Two, have all enjoyed closeness with business leaders, yet none via ambiguous psychological attachments. Obama has not been so fortunate. And what passes for bipartisanship in the political realm and accommodation in the economic is the steady need for reassurance, of being praised and even liked. Mr. Romney had a more supportive upbringing.

These traits do not necessarily have a one-to-one correspondence with ideology. Human personality is not politically coded; those with solidary family ties may become social Darwinists, those poorly resolving intrafamilial ties may be highly compassionate. But in Mr. Obama’s case it is imperative that, absent Axelrod’s manipulations and Rhodes’s crafting of liberal rhetoric, we see the man removed from the artificial pedestal on which he has been placed in order to evaluate his record dispassionately. This is hardly a plea for Mr. Romney’s election, but it is to say that because to his base Mr. Obama can do no wrong, his policies, such as on banking regulation and job creation, may have discrepancies equal to or greater than those charged to his opponent.

At least in Mr. Romney, you get what you see–and one is then free to make a determination.

Norman Pollack is a Harvard Ph.D. and the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

More articles by:
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail