Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) October 19, 2011: When I listened to Candidate Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign, he sounded as though he was going to be Superman if elected. According to one count, he made 500 campaign promises regarding legislative and policy initiatives that he would undertake if elected. Of course he campaigned on the promise of change and hope. But did he actually believe his own rhetoric? Did he have any doubts that if elected he might not be able to deliver all that he seemed to be promising? Did he consider that he might be raising expectations that he probably could not fulfill if elected? Did he give any thought to how his supporters might turn on him when he predictably failed to fulfill their expectations based on his rhetoric about change and his promises? Or did he actually expect that his supporters to know how to downsize his big talk and thereby not have big expectations for him if elected?
Conversely, what about his supporters? Did they buy into his big talk, or did they understand that they were not supposed to have big expectations of him if elected, because his big talk was just so much talk to get them to vote for him? A politician will tell the voters what they want to hear to get their votes, eh?
With these and other questions in mind, I decided to read Dr. Justin Frank's new book OBAMA ON THE COUCH: INSIDE THE MIND OF THE PRESIDENT (Free Press, 2011). Dr. Frank is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who uses a Freudian model heavily influenced by the work of Melanie Klein. Dr. Frank himself has never met or interviewed President Obama. Nor has Dr. Frank interviewed people who know Obama and/or have worked with him. All of Dr. Frank's information regarding President Obama comes from the public domain, including of course Obama's two autobiographies, two biographies of Obama, and numerous books and articles about Obama.
It turns out that Dr. Frank, an enthusiastic supporter of Candidate Obama, does not discuss in detail the questions above regarding the expectations that Candidate Obama raised and the predictability of the likelihood that he would not live up to the expectations he raised, because no mortal could. Arguably not even Superman could have lived up to the expectations that Candidate Obama raised.
But Dr. Frank does make an observation that is relevant to considering the questions above when he describes one of Obama's big-sounding speeches envisioning some hypothetical rhetorical healing of the country as involving "more manic than genuine" healing (page 34). But here are my questions regarding Obama's healing shtick: Whatever put it into Obama's head that this country is in need of some kind of healing and that it is his mission in life to work toward healing whatever it is in the country that needs to be healed? What exactly are we as a country in need of being healed of? In other words, what exactly is the problem?
Next, why does he think that he is the one who is supposed to exhort us toward being healed of whatever ails us as a country?
I know, I know, he is the first African American to be elected president. But does he imagine that he is called upon to exhort us to some kind of healing of anti-black racism, for example? He does not explicitly thematize anti-black racism as the problem that cries out to be healed in this country. Even if he did, does he claim to know how anti-black racists should go about healing themselves of their racist attitudes toward blacks?
Or is the problem for Obama that we have red states and blue states, which is to say that we have our political differences? If this is the problem for Obama, does he fear that we are on the brink of another civil war? But if he does not fear that we are on the brink of another civil war, then what exactly is the problem with having red states and blue states?