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Right Turn
Posted at 08:30 AM ET, 04/27/2011

Is Obama too smart for his own good?

I leave open the possibility that Dana Millbank is kidding. (He’s known for that, you see.) But I’ll take him as sincere when he proclaims:

Seeking a template to understand the enigmatic president, I consulted three leading academics in the fields of psychology and behavior. With their help, I put Obama on the couch and came away with a reasonably coherent diagnosis: There’s too much going on in the poor guy’s head.

Citing a University of Virginia professor, Dana declares:

Obama’s strengths and weaknesses come from his high degree of “integrative complexity” — his ability to keep multiple variables and trade-offs in mind simultaneously. The integratively simple thinker — say, George W. Bush — has one universal organizing principle that dominates all others, while the integratively complex thinker — Obama — balances many competing goals.

I hate to be prosaic about this, but what is the evidence that Obama is a complex guy? ( None of the three gurus have met or actually diagnosed him, of course, and I’d bet, just a wild guess here, that they are liberal Democrats who just think he is swell.)

After all, Obama has not blazed new political or policy trails as Bill Clinton did. He’s written no scholarly books (sorry, memoirs don’t count). His understanding of the Middle East has been so slight and his strategy so misguided that there are no Israeli -Palestinian peace talks, and we have been spectacularly unsuccessful in stopping the hegemonic aspirations of Iran. I mean, isn’t it just as likely that Obama’s a garden-variety liberal with poor decision-making skills?

Dana’s column reads like the classic interview scenario.The recruiter asks, “What’s your biggest weakness?” The desperate job applicant waxes lyrical. I work too hard. I am too thorough. I put myself last. Only the most naive or desperate interviewer would buy that hooey.

In Obama’s case we’re told similar lines. He’s so darn smart. He’s such a detailed-oriented guy. He’s really too complex for his own good. Come to think of it, this is what they said about Jimmy Carter. Could it be that it wasn’t too much intellect but not enough smarts (street smarts, people smarts, executive smarts) that’s the problem?

By  |  08:30 AM ET, 04/27/2011

Categories:  President Obama

 
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