But is he a Negative or a Positive? The Positive presidents relished the job and the grand necessity to move events by persuading, cajoling, bargaining with and perhaps occasionally threatening other players in the political arena. The great Active-Positive presidents all had fun in the job. They showed a zest and enthusiasm that was infectious, not just with the American people but, more significantly, with members of Congress.
We sure don’t see any of that with Obama. Edward Klein, a former New York Times Magazine editor and author of a book on Obama called The Amateur, has written that Obama “doesn’t learn from his mistakes, but repeats policies that make our economy less robust and our nation less safe.” That’s a classic Active-Negative trait, according to Barber. Indeed, as Barber predicted in 1969, shortly after Richard Nixon’s election, “The danger is that Nixon will commit himself irrevocably to some disastrous course of action. This is precisely the possibility against which he could defend himself by a stylistic adjustment in his relations with his White House friends.”
That is another knock on Obama—that he surrounds himself with like-minded and sometimes sycophantic underlings who reinforce his actions rather than testing his thinking against those who may harbor differing thoughts and perceptions. Vernon Jordan, the big-time Washington lawyer (and a solid Democrat), tells the story of a golf game in which Obama was partnered with New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also is in a very select group of true experts on the financial markets. Afterward, Bloomberg remarked that, through four hours of riding the cart with the mayor, Obama asked his golf partner not a single question about anything.
Do we see any presidential zest or political joy in this chief executive? Hardly. He seems always stern, beset, frustrated and angry.
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