President Obama’s competitive, boastful nature and condescending advice rubs even loyal Democrats the wrong way, a new profile alleges.
The New York Times‘ Jodi Kantor airs complaints from “loyal” Obama associates — not as a buried lede but explicitly in her introduction:
He has mentioned more than once in recent weeks that he cooks “a really mean chili.” He has impressive musical pitch, he told an Iowa audience. He is “a surprisingly good pool player,” he informed an interviewer — not to mention (though he does) a doodler of unusual skill.
The article reports Obama’s associates characterize this bluster and political zeal as “cockiness.” Further, Washington Democrats say he is all too eager to offer unsolicited advice — on handshakes, writing, and parenting, among other topics.
For those activities at which he feels inadequate, Obama reportedly dedicates considerable time to practice, no matter how trivial the pastime:
He has played golf 104 times since becoming president, according to Mark Knoller of CBS News, who monitors his outings, and he asks superior players for tips that have helped lower his scores. He decompresses with card games on Air Force One, but players who do not concentrate risk a reprimand (“You’re not playing, you’re just gambling,” he once told Arun Chaudhary, his former videographer).
His idea of birthday relaxation is competing in an Olympic-style athletic tournament with friends, keeping close score. The 2009 version ended with a bowling event. Guess who won, despite his history of embarrassingly low scores? The president, it turned out, had been practicing in the White House alley.
Kantor’s piece carries a long-running theme that Obama easily — perhaps even uncontrollably — rates and ranks others around him. A 2008 debate gaffe found him flippantly calling Hillary Clinton “likable enough.” Of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, he asserted, “We’re the Miami Heat, and he’s Jeremy Lin.” Even his own staff are subject to criticism:
“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Mr. Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign, according to The New Yorker. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
Despite a strong push to negatively define Mitt Romney, Obama finds himself neck and neck with the Republican presidential candidate two months before the election — even falling behind in some polls. As the November ballot draws nearer, he will need to rely heavily on his personal likability to draw independent voters. The New York Times and allied Democrats airing these grievances, which may reinforce Republicans’ charges against Obama as vain and out of touch, is a serious problem for the embattled incumbent.