Friday, July 31, 2009

Well adjusted

I take most presidents, even the good ones (maybe especially the goods ones), to be kinda messed up on a personal level. Lincoln was chronically depressed. Kennedy was a pill-popping philanderer. Clinton was a non-pill-popping philanderer. W was a dry drunk. Etc. Not that this is necessarily bad. The job itself is ridiculous in terms of its powers and responsibilities. We wouldn't expect sane people to take the job, nor to remain sane if they took it.

This is what makes Obama stand out. He seems almost disturbingly normal. Check out his little bit of self-analysis in Balz and Johnson's new book The Battle for America 2008 (via Ezra):
I'm pretty well adjusted. You know, you can psychoanalyze my father leaving and this and that, but a lot of those things I resolved a long time ago. I'm pretty happy with my life. So there's an element, I think, of being driven that might have operated a little differently with me than maybe some other candidates. The way I thought about it was more of a sense of duty, in this sense. I thought to myself: There aren't that many people put in the position I'm put in. Some of it's just dumb luck. Some of it maybe has to do with me embodying some characteristics that are interesting for the time that we're in. But when I made the decision to do this, it wasn't with the certainty that I was the right person for the job. It was more the sense of, given what's been given to me, I should probably just give it a shot and see whether in fact there's something real there.

But I went into it with some modesty, thinking to myself: It may be that this really is all hype, and once people get a sense of my ideas and what's going on there that they think I'm some callow youth or full of hot air, and if that turned out to be the case, that was okay. I think for me it was more of a sense of being willing to do this, understanding that the odds were probably -- I gave myself 25 percent odds, you know, maybe 30 -- which are pretty remarkable odds to be president of the United States, if you're a gambling man.
It's possible he's just a really good politician who does a great imitation of a well-adjusted person. But, of course, the easiest way to be thought of as well-adjusted is to actually be that.

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