Electing An Introvert

Sep 10 2012 @ 1:17pm

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In an interview scanning the entire electoral season, John Heilemann draws a key contrast between Obama and Bill Clinton:

JH: Obama is an unusual politician. There are very few people in American politics who achieve something — not to mention the Presidency — in which the following two conditions are true: one, they don’t like people. And two, they don’t like politics.

KC: Obama doesn’t like people?

JH: I don’t think he doesn’t like people. I know he doesn’t like people. He’s not an extrovert; he’s an introvert. I’ve known the guy since 1988. He’s not someone who has a wide circle of friends. He’s not a backslapper and he’s not an arm-twister. He’s a more or less solitary figure who has extraordinary communicative capacities. He’s incredibly intelligent, but he’s not a guy who’s ever had a Bill Clinton-like network around him. He’s not the guy up late at night working the speed dial calling mayors, calling governors, calling CEOs.

People say about Obama that it’s a mistake that he hasn’t reached out more to Republicans on Capitol Hill. I say that may be a mistake, but he also hasn’t reached out to Democrats on Capitol Hill. If you walk around [the convention] and button-hole any Democratic Senator you find on the street and ask them how many times they have received a call [from the President] to talk about politics, to talk about legislative strategy, I guarantee you won’t find a lot of people who have gotten one phone call in the last two and a half years. And many of them have never been called.

I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know what the root of that is. People have theories about it. But I know in practice he is a guy who likes to operate with a very tight circle around him, trusts very few people easily or entirely. He ran his campaign that way in 2008, he runs his White House that way, and he’s running his campaign that way in 2012.

This is the gist of MoDo’s frustration with the man. But it also helps explain my own visceral affinity for him. I’m an introvert with good communications skills. I took one long look at a political career and realized I simply don’t have the social skill-set for it.

(Photo: President Barack Obama addresses a campaign event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center September 9, 2012 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Working with the momentum from this week’s Democratic National Convention, Obama is on a two-day campaign swing from one side of Florida to the other on the politically important I-4 corridor. By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)