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Drew Westen on The Psychology of Obama's Failure

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyAugust 8, 2011 3:17 PM


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President Obama is, unfortunately, shaping up to be yet another liberal leader who suffers from Enlightenment syndrome--the idea that if you just offer enough facts and reason, everyone will come to see things your way and you'll solve problems. It doesn't work this way--and psychologist Drew Westen, in The New York Times yesterday, explains why. Elected at a critical time, Obama didn't tell a compelling story about how he was going to rescue the country, Westen explains. Nor did he realize what he was up against, and how to face it:

The president is fond of referring to “the arc of history,” paraphrasing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous statement that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But with his deep-seated aversion to conflict and his profound failure to understand bully dynamics — in which conciliation is always the wrong course of action, because bullies perceive it as weakness and just punch harder the next time — he has broken that arc and has likely bent it backward for at least a generation.... THE real conundrum is why the president seems so compelled to take both sides of every issue, encouraging voters to project whatever they want on him, and hoping they won’t realize which hand is holding the rabbit. That a large section of the country views him as a socialist while many in his own party are concluding that he does not share their values speaks volumes — but not the volumes his advisers are selling: that if you make both the right and left mad, you must be doing something right.

You should read Westen's full assessment--the author of The Political Brain is, unfortunately, harshly accurate. Perhaps, heeding the stunning chorus of critics right now, Obama will finally recognize that he has to stop being indecisive, stop trying to compromise, and lead.

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