March 16, 2010

"Obama's Happiness Deficit"

Fred Hiatt, the op-ed editor of the Washington Post, writes:

Here's a theory about why President Obama is having a tough political time right now: He doesn't seem all that happy being president.

I know, it's the world's hardest job, and between war and the world economy collapsing, he didn't have the first year he might have wished for. And, yes, he's damned either way: With thousands of Americans risking their lives overseas and millions losing their jobs at home, we'd slam him if he acted carefree.

Still, I think Americans want a president who seems, despite everything, to relish the challenge. They don't want to have to feel grateful to him for taking on the burden.

I started thinking about this a few weeks ago when Obama confidant David Axelrod, noting that the president always makes time for his daughters' recitals and soccer games, told the New York Times, "I think that's part of how he sustains himself through all this."

Really? Is the presidency something to sustain yourself through? ...

Less lugubriousness wouldn't necessarily buy him a health-care bill. But in the long run, Americans might find it easier to root for or with Obama if he'd show us, despite everything, that he's happy we hired him.

Obama is psychologically fragile, and thus self-medicates a lot with cigarettes, golf, and exercise.

He has gone through depressive periods in his mood cycle before, such as in New York in the early 1980s (when his sister worried about him winding up a homeless lunatic) and in Chicago in 2000 after his rejection by black voters.

The flip side of his mood swings is that when he's not feeling blue, he has feelings of grandiosity, such as running for the U.S. Senate or running for the White House.

How'd that work out for him?

Pretty good!

So, Obama's rivals should not assume that just because he's down now, that he'll stay down. He could come back very strong.

My pet theory of history is that the big names in the history books are largely the guys whose Up periods happened to coincide with big opportunities in their lives and whose Down periods came at harmless points.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

52 comments:

RandyB said...

I'm sure every President is a much more complex person than his public face.

Anonymous said...

Its funny, you write about Obama and other with such authority and a sense of conviction--how do you do it??

How do you know these people so well?

I suspect you don't know them as well as you think.

Steve Sailer said...

From Francis Ford Coppola's screenplay for "Patton:"

Patton: [referring to Rommel's book, 'Infantry Attacks' or 'Infanterie greift an'] Rommel... you magnificent bastard, *I read your book*!

Enoch Was Right said...

C-SPAN had a funny non-political interview with "W" where he said that life in the White House bubble is extremely comfortable, what with all the staff waiting on you hand and foot. This B.S. about the poor president struggling to cope with his troubles is a fairy tale.
http://whitehouse.c-span.org/Video/ByPresident/Intv-Pres-Bush.aspx

PTS said...

"I suspect you don't know them as well as you think."

And you? Don't kid yourself, you don't know these people either. At least Sailer (as his jest points out) read Obama's books. Give some credit where credit is due.

Brad said...

Steve Sailer on Obama: I made it through your book!

Luke Lea said...

Then you think it is "his book"? Do you still think he is race obsessed?

Chicago Correspondent said...

Don't worry about him, he's living a narcissistic dream come true. The question is, are we happy?

Whiskey said...

Except Steve, Obama cannot run for another office.

He HAS to deliver. Or realistically, face at least impeachment. Don't think for a moment that a Republican House will not call on sworn testimony for ALL the corrupt deals Obama has been making, and will not compel all of his cronies to testify.

Conviction is another matter, but just trundling along with 10% official, and about 20% unofficial, unemployment, the health care disaster (immediate spoils fights over your Doctor must be Black rather than competent) threaten his natural base of White women.

Who are all for affirmative action unless it means a total masectomy at best, and worst -- death by breast cancer.

Obama is down due to events. What's going to turn up for him? How is he going to run for world president? He's hosed, and things will only get worse. He might even get convicted if the Senate flips, which is not out of the question.

Anonymous said...

Is he bi-polar, perhaps? Gawd, just what we need.

Anonymous said...

That article is ridiculous.

The fate of the nation is more important than some stupid flute recital.

He can have all the time in the world to "spend more time with his family" after the presidency is over.

Of course the more Obama slacks off, the better off the US is...

Anonymous said...

Politics is the art of convincing your opponents and your friends that they are needed to build something with you.

The former Big-O has certainly demonstrated that he lacks any political skills and he surely isn't a stateman, something I think the American public thought they were getting since he sounded so purdy.

I can't even call him a novice since he seems not to care to learn political skills. All he relies on is the sheer power of the office and the control of the DNC.

If he had any political smarts at all, he would have known that he needed to include some important GOP ideas. Then, losing a 60th Dem vote in the Senate wouldn't have mattered.

However, his lack of smarts/skill showed itself months and months ago before the Senate ever crafted (poor word, indeed) its own bill; the mess was created the minute he let Pelosi and the crazies in the House throw everything into the bill. That in itself was a poor decision and one I don't think Rahm suggested.

I was truly amazed to learn that he doesn't invite GOP leaders into his office to gab and build a relationship with them. In fact, I get the idea he doesn't build relationships with members of his own party.

The guy is just not a natural politician nor a leader. He is (or rather was) a speaker, that's all, and dammit if he isn't out there again this week acting as if his speaking means anything any more to most of the country.

No surprise, I guess, since Chicago is hardly the place where one learns political skills that go beyond bullying and since he wasn't in the US Senate long enough to learn any legislative skills. My guess is he never cared to.

If the recalcitrant Dems in the House are really smart during this whole mess this week, they will plot to undermine Pelosi by not giving up their vote to her, for if this total mess of a bill fails once and for all as it should, they can run her up the flagpole and we'd all be better off.

All this was so very unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

Did Rommel have a ghostwriter?

ckiemojff said...

The news article kills me. We got big big troubles in the US, yet the dumbass white liberal journalist worries about Obama's thenthitive feelings. Oh boo hoo hoo.

It's like all the poor slobs across America who worry about Oprah. Ohh, is she okay? Oh boo hoo, I hope she's not feeling down. Oh, I wish I could send her flowers and chocolates.

GOSH!!!!!

anony-mouse said...

His sister may end up being right.

Look what happened to another WH denizen, Mary Todd Lincoln.

jody said...

he's unhappy? he spends most of his time playing basketball badly, sucking at golf, and watching bulls and white sox games. he smokes his cigs, has chefs make anything he wants for food, and gets to tell "bitter" red staters what to do. he's the happiest half african man in the world.

let's cut the BS about how this guy is unhappy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Whiskey, there will be no impeachment. Juan McCain and Friends were frightened to broach the subject of Jeremiah Wright during the campaign. They do not have the testes to even think about an impeachment.

An impeachment may cause alot of our cities to become smoldering ruins as well.

Larissa said...

Bill Clinton was the opposite, he seemed to love being the president.

OneSTDV said...

"Is he bi-polar, perhaps? Gawd, just what we need."

I imagine asking such a question would be racist.

mark said...

Usual correlation causation confusion. Obama unhappy + Obama unpopular = Obama unpopular because he is unhappy.

Obama is unpopular because despite all the incessant happy talk by the Fed, Govt officials and media about the nascent economic 'recovery' conditions on the ground in the real economy continue to deteriorate the effects of which are keenly felt by the general public. As we know presidents are held responsible for the economy.

My guess would be that if indeed a causal connection does exist that it would most likely run the other way - i.e. obama is unhappy because he is unpopular.

Given my prognosis for where the economy is headed I'm willing to predict that Obama is likely going to get a whole lot more depressed.

Whiskey said...

McCain is facing the first serious primary challenge in years. He's also an old man whose time has passed. Meanwhile the Tea Partiers are taking over the Party apparatus from below, very smartly.

Here in California, Steve Poizner is running ads against RINO Meg Whitman stating his support for ending social spending including health care and education for illegal aliens!

THAT is a sea change.

Put health care in Government hands, and suddenly White women (the swing vote to Dems) want their mammograms and competent Doctors, not some guy forced through to meet quotas. White women suffer breast cancer far more than other groups, and its always a concern, so it's a powerful incentive.

Its not 1991 anymore. No one cares if Blacks burn out cities -- not when your entire health and life are at stake. That was the predictable stupid move by Obama ... raising the ante beyond where he can bankrupt the opponent.

An impeached Obama causing Black riots would simply result in the National Guard being called out. The "nice White Ladies" who make up the swing vote don't want to die from a botched hysterectomy or misread mammogram or a million other things.

I cannot tell you as a Californian born and bred, how simply shocking it is to hear Poizner come out against spending money on illegal aliens. It took bankruptcy by California to do it, but its here. [I'd refer you to his site but its down.]

l said...

"My pet theory of history is that the big names in the history books are largely the guys whose Up periods happened to coincide with big opportunities in their lives and whose Down periods came at harmless points."

That's true of history's big bipolar winners. Down periods for history's big bipolar losers meant catastrophe.

dearieme said...

"He doesn't seem all that happy being president" BECAUSE it's the first real job he's ever had.

P.S. Is it a US Constitutional requirement to write drivel like "it's the world's hardest job"?

Le Mur said...


White House Reveals Obama Is Bipolar, Has Entered Depressive Phase


How do you know these people so well?

Steve's probably one of the few people who's actually read Obama's "The Big Book of Wonderful Me!" series of story books.

MQ said...

Obama in his public affect is unusually even keeled. All the reports on his campaign had him calming down overeager or nervous staffers -- hence his nickname, "no drama Obama". Hiatt's article is pure speculation, as is this post.

Obama is also unusually personally popular given the level of unemployment. He's consistently maintained 50 percent approval ratings, which is more than Reagan managed to do under similar circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Its not 1991 anymore. No one cares if Blacks burn out cities -- not when your entire health and life are at stake.

Bingo.

Give credit where credit is due - Whiskey has his finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist.

Folks are getting very close to the breaking point.

Mr. Anon said...

"He has gone through depressive periods in his mood cycle before, such as in New York in the early 1980s (when his sister worried about him winding up a homeless lunatic) and in Chicago in 2000 after his rejection by black voters."

Steve, could you elaborate on this? Did Obama come close to becoming one of those "Spare Change?" guys living in a door-way?

Dutch Boy said...

Dang! I knew it! My psychological equanimity has kept me from rising to the top.
BTW, Whiskey - Whitman is miles ahead of Poizner in the polls. He is a geeky, open borders, policy wonk type (she's no prize either).

Kylie said...

Steve said: "He has gone through depressive periods in his mood cycle before...in the early 1980s... and in Chicago in 2000 after his rejection by black voters."

Didn't those depressive periods have to do with unhappiness and uncertainty over his black identity?

He became sufficiently black to become the first black POTUS so surely he's silenced those nagging inner voices questioning whether or not he's black enough.

I think his current dissatisfaction is from trying to absorb the shock of realizing that the same American people who applauded, lauded and voted him into the highest office in the land no longer applaud literally every little thing he does, from droppin' his g's (to keep it real) to walking bare-chested in public to catching flies with a casual swat of his hand.

Apparently, he thought we were going to worship him even more once he was our leader. Instead, for probably the first time in his life, he's now expected actually to do something besides being a charismatic black man pushing a socialist agenda.

No wonder he's depressed. He's discovered that trying to do something in the face of stiff opposition is not nearly as gratifying to his gargantuan ego as trying to be something with the encouragement of clueless whites overly invested in seeing a black man succeed.

If it weren't for the fact that he has to occupy the White House to undergo this, I'd be loving it.

Anonymous said...

Whiskey said,

"Here in California, Steve Poizner is running ads against RINO Meg Whitman stating his support for ending social spending including health care and education for illegal aliens!"

Not so fast. Whitman started running radio ads about two months ago pointedly asking this question (and she speaks these words herself rather than relying on a voice-over by someone else): "Do you know that CA spends five times as much on welfare as NY when it's only twice as large in population?" (Actually, I can't quite recall if she says "five times the cost in welfare" or "five times the people on welfare".

Nonetheless, I about lost control of the steering wheel when I heard that ad since it's been years since anyone of note running for office brought up such a non-pc topic. (It's so depressing that such an issue is thought of as non-pc as if we now believe that lazy people just can't be criticized.)

Good for her. I don't think it's fair to call her a RINO, at least not yet. She's been very clear that she's a businesswoman and that government needs to look more to the principles of business to learn something about cost containment and management and innovation.


A Rasmussen poll today has Whitman and Moonbeam Brown in a virtual tie, not that it means much right now. But were I her advisors, in gearing up for my run against Brown (Poizner has no chance in the GOP primary--got too late a start and hasn't the money), I'd have cameras follow me into the mean and dirty streets of Oakland. Film the empty storefronts, the graffiti. Over this, I'd run audio of Brown's campaign speeches telling all of what he would do were he mayor of Oakland." Let Oakland be the a metaphor for the whole of CA. Hell, it IS the metaphor for the whole of CA.

Brown, searching for some office, any office in which he could park his lazy, never-had-a-real-job ass, carpetbagged his way into Oakland since SF's mayoral seat was occupied by perrenial gadfly but Pol Supreme, Willie Brown.

I've learned never to underestimate Brown. He re-invents himself each decade and there are millions of CA voters who only vaguely know him as they weren't around during his first incarnation and second incarnations.

Anonymous said...

"Evidence of infection with Borna disease virus has been found in about 60 percent of patients with these two diseases (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) by research groups in Japan and Germany. Similar evidence of infection has been found in less than 5 percent of subjects who do not have either disease." - Plague Time p. 155 Paul Ewald.

You and most of your readers willingly accept the notion that IQ has a hereditary component. Not to do so is to be in the thrall of some quasi-mystical environmental explanation. But as yet quasi-mystical explanations of mental disorders are still ascendant here.

There is a straightforward non-mystical explanation as to why Obama might be unhappy - he's not very competent. He is rather like John F. Kennedy, another politician who presented well (a dog show term).

JFK and BHO never had any executive experience nor were they leaders in their respective legislatures. Neither had any legislative accomplishments at all. Both had a long list of issues they intended to enact when they became President but both were remarkably unsuccessful at actually pushing them through.

By the time of his assassination JFK was being seen as a failed President. The most favorable representation of his foreign policy was that he was "rolled" by the Pentagon over the Bay of Pigs. Unlike Eisenhower who knew how to deal with generals and their advice, poor naive JFK for the first time in his life had to actually deal with a crisis. So too is it with Obama. He was so disconnected from legislative process that he hardly ever even voted much less forged alliances and build coalitions.

Some conservatives like to criticize Obama for leaving his legislative agenda to Pelosi and Reid. But what choice did he have? He had zero experience with managing a legislature. He didn't have any friends or allies much less any who were afraid of his wrath.

JFK's legislative agenda was only passed after LBJ took over. Conservatives like to damn LBJ for all his social legislation but it was JFK's agenda, not his. JFK too was unhappy. He worried about being impeached for sex scandals. Everyone around him considered him ineffective at the time he went to Dallas.

Let's all pray that the Secret Service is up to the job of protecting Obama, lest another failed President is canonized as a martyr.

Grumpy Old Man said...

Kay Redfield Jamison's Touched With Fire suggests that some bipolar people are especially creative.

Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Dostoevsky were all epileptic.

The variety of personality types we have is probably an adaptive polymorphism--different types serve different functions. Obama's problem isn't so much his personality, as his lack of "one big thing" as an idea or goal. He's a fox, not a hedgehog.

Paul Mendez said...

An impeachment may cause alot of our cities to become smoldering ruins as well.

My thoughts, exactly!

The same thing may very well happen if Obama is defeated in 2012. (Assuming he runs.)

Anonymous said...

"Here in California, Steve Poizner is running ads against RINO Meg Whitman stating his support for ending social spending including health care and education for illegal aliens!

THAT is a sea change."

Another thing, Whiskey,

The Court has already ruled that we cannot deny an education to the illegals so while I agree with his sentiment, unless Poizner offers a way of dissuading illegals from coming here in the first place, like getting rid of the welfare state, his statement is empty of any substance that matters.

He knows that most voters don't realize .

Polistra said...

Steve's pet theory is a bit too toss-of-the-dice for me. I'd say the successful ones know how to use both the Ups and the Downs to advantage. Turn the Down periods into grim determination. Think of Churchill's "We shall nevah, nevah, nevah..."

alonzo portfolio said...

In 1973 the caddymaster at the San Francisco Golf Club sent us kids to haul an insanely obese guy out of his car. He had to be 350, and turned out to be President of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Halfway down the 1st fairway he couldn't stop coughing. He says to me, "people who get things done are always sick."

josh said...

I am still ruminating over Karl Rove's description of his first meeting with W. More charisma tham allowed by law?? Eeeeeeww. Sounds like Maureen Dowd meeting Castro or something. As for Obama maybe he is angry. He is trying to "fix" America and make blacks equal to whites forever...and yat people have the gall to resist him. Maybe he is not used to being defied.(Well,'cept for Michelle! But white people ususally defer to him.)

Melykin said...

Obama is unpopular with the people who elected him because he hasn't ended the wars and especially because hasn't brought in universal health care. He seems to have caved in to whatever pressures want to maintain the status quo. I would think this would make him MORE popular with people who don't want universal health care. (which seems to be most people here)

David Davenport said...

Did Rommel have a ghostwriter?

One historical view of Rommel is that he wasn't a sooper-dooper general. However, the American and British press and War Dept. spokesmen over-hyped his reputation as an excuse for Allied ineptitude in North Africa in the earlier stages of the war there.

Howeard Viet mentioned this in his Oraculations blog a couple weeks ago.

Rommel's big mistake was similar to the error of Von Paulus and the other German generals at Stalingrad: failure to withdraw to fight another day when advised that his lines of communication and re-supply were being cut off.

Kylie said...

Melykin said: "He seems to have caved in to whatever pressures want to maintain the status quo. I would think this would make him MORE popular with people who don't want universal health care. (which seems to be most people here)."

I'm supposed to like someone more because he's trying and failing to do something I don't want him to do? I may like the circumstances of his failure but that doesn't make me like him any better. His intent is still to do something I don't want him to do.

I couldn't possibly like Obama less than I do yet paradoxically, this fathomless dislike means that I couldn't like him more, either. I will never forget my shock and revulsion when I heard that infamous Chicago Public Radio interview of 2001 in which he said, "...the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of basic issues of political and economic justice in this society and to that extent as radical as people try to characterize the Warren court it wasn't that radical; it didnt break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution at least as it has been interpreted and the Warren court interpreted it generally in the same way that the Constitution is a document of negative liberties..."

After hearing that, I could not possibly like Obama more than I already do, which is to say, not at all.

Anonymous said...

Grumpy Old Man, the theory you cite from Kay Redfield Jamison's "Touched with Fire" is much, much older. Marsilio Ficino suggested that genius was associated with melancholia (i.e., manic-depressive or bipolar disorder) in "De vita" (1489).

I do not think Obama is particularly melancholic. His problem is that he was elected because he was a good campaigner, particularly good at motivating the left-wing base. He never really had done anything but campaign before becoming president - including his 2 years in the U.S. Senate, which were just about all speechifying and posturing. Now he has to govern, and even members of his own party are questioning his capacity for that task. See, for example, the blistering criticism meted out to the Obama White House by Doug Wilder.

Unhappiness and pessimism are not always pathological conditions. Sometimes people have rational grounds for being unhappy; being 'in over your head' and knowing it is one of them.

Helene Edwards said...

Last anonymous, I believe you're wrong about Kennedy & the Pentagon re the Bay of Pigs. At least according to Harris Wofford's account, the conception was all CIA affair, with the the military was either opposed or frozen out completely. Doesn't detract from your larger point about Obama, but still.

Mark said...

Well, from what I've read Lincoln would see to be a big name that was pretty down most of the time. Exception that proves the rule?

kudzu bob said...

>Well, from what I've read Lincoln would see to be a big name that was pretty down most of the time. Exception that proves the rule?<

Father Abraham confessed to his former law partner, William Hearndon, that he was likely a syphilitic. He passed on the gift that keeps on giving to poor Mary Todd Lincoln, who ended her days mad, blind, and paralyzed; and through her to three of his four children, who never survived to adulthood. (Read all about it in Gore Vidal's superb novel, "Lincoln.")

His disease obviously affected his behavior and judgement, rendering him deeply depressed much of the time, but fortunately for America he was able to pull himself together in time to avoid blundering into a needless war of secession that would surely have led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of-- Oh, wait, never mind.

Whiskey said...

Obama in his Brett Baier interview said that ObamaCare would help with "the earthquake in Hawaii."

WHAT Earthquake in Hawaii?

Obama is possibly the stupidest President to hold the office.

To be fair to both Rommel and Von Paulus, both wanted to retreat to fight another day and were repeatedly over-ruled by Hitler. Rommel did manage a fighting retreat for about 1200 miles, no mean feat, after El Alamein.

Too true on the Supreme Court decision, but that too can be over-turned. In fact the budget crisis makes it mandatory. We don't have the margins anymore, the idea we can educate Mexico's kids and provide Mexico welfare is simply not possible, a $20 billion deficit not possible. So there's that.

Anonymous said...

Robin of Berkeley has a new essay on the Obama psyche, and they're eating it up over at Lucianne.

It draws on some themes similar to Spengler's Obama's Women and America's Special Grace [which built on the work of Steve Sailer].

Anonymous said...

Obama is possibly the stupidest President to hold the office.

Right - I think that much of what people mistake for a cool, calm, detached demeanor in Obama is, in reality, a Chauncey-Gardiner-esque near-catatonic stupidity.

[Possibly enhanced by mood-altering drugs and/or the after-effects of years of abusing mood-altering drugs...]

Anonymous said...

I have seen this movie before and it is called Vince Young, buncha white guys (Jews, actually) desperately want a black guy to succeed in a white guy field, moreso than the black guy in question.

"Bill Clinton was the opposite, he seemed to love being the president."

Yeah, he would be the Peyton Manning to Obama's Vince Young.

Regarding Rommel, Churchill once chewed out a smack talking general for berating his adversary; making Rommel out to be a mythic figure made England's victory more glorious and any defeat more palatable. Seems a great general, but much of his reputation consisted of Churchill blowing smoke up his ass.

David said...

> Don't think for a moment that a Republican House will not call on sworn testimony for ALL the corrupt deals Obama has been making, and will not compel all of his cronies to testify. <

Yeah, like the Dems were going to put Bush in prison and "frog-march" Rove and put Cheney on trial, etc.

Yawn.

They're all on the same side, testy.

David said...

My favorite.

Anonymous said...

"WHAT Earthquake in Hawaii? Obama is possibly the stupidest President to hold the office."

Jeez, talk about stupid. There is really no excuse for your ignorance and silly pretentiousness seeing that you are on the internet where information is seconds away. Obama was talking about the 6.7 earthquake in Hawaii in 2006.

Obama was the President of the Harvard Law Review and graduated Magna Cum Laude from that elite Law School. He won every debate with McCain and takes on hordes of Republicans simultaneously and makes them look like stupid schoolboys when they try to argue with him. Kind of ridiculous to see all the irrational ignoramuses on the right mocking his intelligence.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Obama was the President of the Harvard Law Review and graduated Magna Cum Laude from that elite Law School. He won every debate with McCain and takes on hordes of Republicans simultaneously and makes them look like stupid schoolboys when they try to argue with him."

Barry.....is that you?