Obama did not understand why his stinginess with expressions of gratitude and phone calls could sting, or fathom the thrill of letters from the president.

“He fundamentally doesn’t relate to their impact because he wouldn’t particularly care if he got one,” the Obama adviser Pete Rouse explained to Alter.

At East Room events, Alter writes, Obama’s vibe was clearly: “I’ll flash a smile, then, please, someone get me the hell out of here. It wasn’t that he had to be back in the Oval Office for something urgent. He just didn’t want to hang out for an instant longer than he had to, even with long-lost Chicago friends.” The president sometimes “exuded an unspoken exasperation: I saved Detroit, the Dow is up, we avoided a depression — I have to explain this to all of you again?” That attitude caused him to tank in his first debate with Mitt Romney.

David Plouffe told Alter that Obama was “better suited to politics in Scandinavia than here,” meaning, Alter writes, “that he was a logical and unemotional person in an illogical and emotional capital.” Ironic, given that it was Obama’s emotional speeches that precociously vaulted him into the Oval Office.