. . . Because my take on Obama, based on conversations with him and his team stretching back more than four years and extending into the White House, is that he has a firm grasp of the psychological and substantive challenges of the presidency. Equally important, his 2008 campaign proved that he possesses a superior sense of timing. He knows that now is not the moment to cheerlead, not when the financial players are lying dazed on the field. There will be time for that, when the banks have been "restructured" (see, that sounds better than "nationalized") and the credit starts flowing again.
. . . It's early yet and much can change, but the new president is showing signs of carrying himself in a more naturally confident way, with the right blend of traits. He's bold enough to add a couple of zeroes to the conversation about spending, but humble enough to utter those three most unpresidential words: "I screwed up."
Obama's confidence is the product of an unusual combination of good early parenting by his mother and grandmother and his own search for racial identity. "The earth shook under my feet, ready to crack open at any moment," he writes in "Dreams From My Father" of a moment of painful clarity when he was in high school. His white relatives, he now realized, could never understand him. "I stopped, trying to steady myself, and knew for the first time that I was utterly alone."
After this confusing period, raising himself—and learning who he was—became an enormous source of self-confidence. Faced with fitting in nowhere, he learned to fit in everywhere, or at least make an attempt to understand whatever new context presented itself. One critical inheritance was his mother's anthropological eye (she studied Indonesian culture). This open and nonjudgmental frame of reference—and his own writerly detachment—give him a rare mental buffer zone that is a great asset in the hurly-burly of the presidency.
. . . At a stop in Florida in mid-February, Obama said publicly what he has confided to aides since early in the 2008 campaign: he could be a one-term president. "I'm not going to make any excuses," he told the crowd. "If stuff doesn't work out and people don't feel like I've led the country in the right direction, then you'll have a new president."
This is an inspired psychological game because it doesn't sound like a game. It sounds like real accountability for results. . .
. . . Obama has the chops to sell that approach, starting with his already-proven ability to be the nation's teacher in chief. This was FDR's secret weapon on the radio, and it can be Obama's on TV and the Web. He's the smart, cool instructor, trusted by the class to explain something important even if a little complicated. All that's lacking is a bit more humor and a few catchphrases to simplify the message.
Speaking of simplified messages, the mainstream media inundate us with the view that Obama knows what's best for us and we should all strongly support his policies because - altogether now - if he fails, so does the United States. Columnist Alter has been in the Obama tank for a while, contending last year, as noted at the time by NewsBuster Senior Editor Tim Graham, that only racism would keep his favorite out of the White House.
Still, the current pro-Obama bias is breathtaking. But now we don't have to worry. Our therapist-in-chief, as Newsweek deems him, is doing all the emotional heavy lifting for us. He will, we are assured, "talk us out of a depression."
Feeling better now?