Sunday, December 28, 2008

Presidential Personality

Is there an ideal one? Nixon was kind of dark and secretive, at least he came off that way to the public. JFK, Clinton and Bush 43 could reasonably be considered "people persons", guys who never meet strangers. Bush 41 and Carter were more reserved and consequently didn't win a second term.

Barack Obama comes across to me as a tweener--at times a people person, instinctively connecting with crowds at rallies and during meet and greet events, but at times showing a need to be alone.

Amazingly, the same media who helped crown him are now beginning to see his other side:
Obama even took the unusual step Friday morning of leaving behind the pool of reporters assigned to follow him, taking his daughters to a nearby water park without them. It was a breach of longstanding protocol between presidents (or presidents-elect) and the media, that a gaggle of reporters representing television, print and wire services is with his motorcade at all times.
It’s been a progression. And Obama’s frustration shows in waves. On Halloween, Obama grew testy with a Polish media crew as he took his daughter Sasha to a party at his campaign treasurer Marty Nesbitt’s Chicago home.

"All right guys. That's enough. You've got a shot. Leave us alone. Come on guys. Get back on the bus,” Obama said before breaking into a trot with Sasha still holding his hand.
His quest for privacy won't hurt him with the public, who instinctively understand how claustrophobic it must be to operate in that situation, many seeing the media as a bunch of jackals anyway. But if the past is prologue the media has the power to make or break presidential legacies, meaning he'll eventually have to resign himself to his new press prison as did Clinton and Bush (two previous presidents operating in the new internet and 24/7 cable news era).

But what if he refuses? What if he stubbornly insists on keeping some of his freedom of family movement (not from the Secret Service, but from the press)? Will they continue to fawn or turn on him like a woman scorned? And if they do, will it matter? Reagan was successful despite a hostile press, using his sunny charisma to mute the cloudy media. So there's precedent. The big difference with Obama is that Reagan came to power despite the hostile press, while Obama is in power largely because of them. It'll be interesting to watch.

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