Plenty of brains, not enough gut

Obama’s never had that gene, visible in other politicians, that allows him to convey the public’s pain. Not in the deft sense of Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton. Last month, it was telling that Joe Biden, not Obama, took up Reagan’s line that, “when you’re out of work, it’s a depression.”

During the campaign, there were clues that this professor carried some of the baggage common to his breed. That reference to Whole Foods arugula prices to Iowa farmers. Obama’s remark to a group of liberal donors in San Francisco that small town folks in places like Pennsylvania “cling to guns or religion.”

Pundits did reach for adjectives like “aloof” or “professorial” to describe Obama. And even The New York Times took up the discussion after the market collapse. “In a Time of Crisis, Is Obama Too Cool?” read the Times’ headline. But running in the wake of Bush’s presidency, against John McCain’s mercurial campaign and amid the financial crisis, Obama need only appear steady to be just cool enough.

But distance from the previous president allows more consideration of the professorial presidency, including its negatives.