AP Writer: Is Obama Too Spock-like?

December 1st, 2009 6:18 PM

Have Associated Press's Seth Borenstein and Chris Matthews had a Vulcan mind-meld? Two weeks ago, you may recall, the MSNBC "Hardball" hosts wondered if the president was just "too darned intellectual."

Today, AP's Borenstein wondered, "Is Obama another Mr. Spock?":

WASHINGTON -- He shows a fascination with science, an all-too deliberate decision-making demeanor, an adherence to logic and some pretty, ahem, prominent ears.

They all add up to a quite logical conclusion, at least for "Star Trek" fans: Barack Obama is Washington's Mr. Spock, the chief science officer for the ship of state.

"I guess it's somewhat unusual for a politician to be so precise, logical, in his thought process," actor Leonard Nimoy, who has portrayed Spock for more than 40 years, told The Associated Press in an e-mail interview. "The comparison to Spock is, in my opinion, a compliment to him and to the character."

Until now.

Obama's Spock-like qualities have started to cause him political problems in real world Washington. Critics see him as too technocratic, too deliberative, too lacking in emotion.

Obama's protracted decision-making on a new war strategy in Afghanistan, for example, prompted criticisms that he's too deliberate. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and other conservatives faulted Obama for "dithering."

Yet Obama's "egg-headed" nature on foreign policy was not really Borenstein's concern in this article. Instead, the AP writer set out to paint Obama as a very science-friendly chief executive, although Borenstein noted an expert who argued that Republican presidents in general  have been "good to science" and cited a Bush science advisor and registered Democrat, to imply that the media didn't prefer to paint the 43rd president as intrigued by science.

As Borenstein noted towards the end of his 32-paragraph article:

Obama's science emphasis often is contrasted with his predecessor's perceived treatment of science, especially when it came to global warming.

"The current administration seems to be more science-friendly than the immediate past," said Alan Leshner, director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest science society in the country. "That's not a statement about Republicans and Democrats. Republicans have been very good to science over time."

That's not fair, said former Bush science adviser Jack Marburger, arguing that Bush did much of what Obama is doing.

The trouble is the media "simply didn't see Bush as the kind of president who did these things, and his many science and tech related activities were not covered and not well-known," said Marburger, a Democrat.

"The Obama campaign played the science card superbly and the Obama administration continues to do so," Marburger said. "I don't see anything wrong with that. ... It may encourage greater public appreciation for the importance of science, and that is good."