Obama’s supporters seem surprised and perplexed at his growing isolation, even from them.
Or maybe, especially from them:
Nearly six years into his term, with his popularity at the lowest of his presidency, Mr. Obama appears remarkably distant from his own party on Capitol Hill, with his long neglect of would-be allies catching up to him.
In interviews, nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers and senior congressional aides suggested that Mr. Obama’s approach has left him with few loyalists to effectively manage the issues erupting abroad and at home and could imperil his efforts to leave a legacy in his final stretch in office.
But what did they expect? Even before Obama’s first term, it was known that he had a famously cool style, few friends, and a history of being emotionally removed. His allies may not have done their homework on the character of the man they were electing, but his personality was no secret whatsoever.
One of the few people who knew him during his Harvard Law Review president days and was willing to speak out about it in 2008, Carol Platt Liebau, said [emphasis mine]:
I knew him reasonably well — as well as most people knew him, if not better — because quite in contrast to this image that Barack tries to project, as someone who is warm and all-embracing and all that kind of stuff,” Liebau said…
“Quite in contrast to this all-embracing kind of ‘earth father’ image — this sort of messianic blaze of glory with which he’s deemed to envelope our television screens — he was a pretty cold fish,” she said.
“He was not a warm person. He was not the type of person that gave you a warm and fuzzy [feeling]. And you got the sense that he even wasn’t even terribly fixated or focused on what he was doing.”
Liebau also describe Obama as a guy “whose eyes were always looking over your shoulder to see if anyone more important is in the room” and that he was always looking for “bigger and better things.”
There was also this lengthy article that appeared in the NY Times in July of 2008. It featured Richard Epstein, who was a colleague at the University of Chicago Law School during Obama’s teaching days there.
Even the headline tells the tale: “Teaching Law, Testing Ideas, Obama Stood Slightly Apart.” Everything Epstein says about Obama dovetails nicely with what Liebau said, and what we know about Obama today. The operative word is “removed.”
It’s not that lots of people other than Liebau and Epstein were talking about what a warm and friendly man Obama was, either. They were not. They were talking about how brilliant he was, how “presidential” he seemed.
I will never understand those who perceived Obama as “likeable,” as anything other than a cold guy. And I don’t think his high likeability scores were merely a function of people giving him the benefit of the doubt because of his race; I know plenty of people who really, really liked him. I am better able to understand those who didn’t know he was a leftist (despite all the “tells”), or who thought him so very brilliant (despite his failure to demonstrate anything special in that regard), than those who thought him warm or friendly or engaged with people in the way we’ve grown used to in presidents such as LBJ and Clinton and George W. Bush. Obama’s demeanor has always seemed chilly, offputting, and angry to me, with a thin veneer of affability covering it up.
There was also no evidence whatsoever, pre-election, that Obama would be able to work effectively with people, and certainly none about his warmth or liking of people. The thing was, his supporters either imagined it was there when it was not, or somehow thought its lack wouldn’t matter. His brilliance would override everything.
Well, we’ve seen how that’s worked out.