Peter Baker writes in The Education of the President in the NYT Magazine:
Insulation is a curse of every president, but more than any president since Jimmy Carter, Obama comes across as an introvert, someone who finds extended contact with groups of people outside his immediate circle to be draining. He can rouse a stadium of 80,000 people, but that audience is an impersonal monolith; smaller group settings can be harder for him. Aides have learned that it can be good if he has a few moments after a big East Room event so he can gather his energy again.
I'm like that. I get worn down by human contact, too. But, then, I haven't wanted to be President of the United States since I was nine years old.
Unlike Clinton, who never met a rope line he did not want to work, Obama does not relish glad-handing. That’s what he has Vice President Joe Biden for.
I knew Biden had to be good for something.
When Obama addressed the Business Roundtable this year, he left after his speech without much meet-and-greet, leaving his aides frustrated that he had done himself more harm than good.
Obama is not a large man. Most people aren't. But, still ...
If you can divide people up into Morning People and Night People and High Energy and (relatively) Low Energy (all celebrities are above average in energy), then Obama is a Low Energy Night Person. That seems kind of odd in a President. Clinton was a High Energy Night Person, Bush II a Low Energy Morning Person. I would guess that most CEO's tend to High Energy Morning People.
The President's great-uncle was the deputy head librarian at the University of Chicago's giant library: a worthy career, and one that Obama seems roughly cut out for.
On the other hand, Obama seems to like meeting people who tell him he's great:
But as Obama gets back on the campaign trail, aides have noticed his old spirit again. He particularly enjoys the so-called backyard sessions on the lawns of supporters. “That’s the happiest I’ve seen him in a long time,” an aide said.
He sounds a little depressed. If the economy turns around, though, he could come back strong in 2012.
Late in the article there's a doozy of a clause inside a sentence:
One prominent Democratic lawmaker told me Obama’s problem is that he is not insecure — he always believes he is the smartest person in any room and never feels the sense of panic that makes a good politician run scared all the time, frenetically wooing lawmakers, power brokers, adversaries and voters as if the next election were a week away.
Wait a minute? Did that just say "he always believes he is the smartest person in any room?"
Obama is a smart enough guy to be President -- he's good at explaining both sides of a problem -- but I can't recall any anecdotes about him ever thinking up the solution to any problem. Are there any?
If Reagan or FDR or Washington ever caught themselves thinking "I'm the smartest guy in this room" their immediate reaction would have been: "Uh-oh, I'd better get some smarter guys in here, pronto!"