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Is Our President a Bit of a Jerk?

At law school, few people knew Barack Obama really well, and I wasn't one of them, although we did have some dealings when we overlapped The Harvard Law Review.

But in the run up to the convention, it's clear that there are people who have had extensive dealings with him -- and they don't like him very much.  Two themes have emerged from news coverage in the last two days, and they are revealing:

(1) He's selfish:

   The President does almost no fundraising for Senate or House candidates and     hasn't transferred money to other party election committees.  His numerous     campaign offices rarely coordinate with local candidates or display signs for anyone     but Mr. Obama.  At rallies, Mr. Obama seldom urges supporters to volunteer -- or     even vote -- for other     Democrats running for office. . .. He rarely shares the stage     with other candidates.

   The sense that Obama simply won't sacrifice his brand, or his image as a winner, for     the greater Democratic good is widespread in Democratic circles . . . .[T]here's a     nagging sense among some headed to Charlotte that Obama is an enthusiastic     Democrat who remains oddly unenthusiastic about other Democrats.

    Be it Democratic politicians or members of Congress, campaign contributors or     business leaders, there is a common refrain: Obama doesn't much identify with us,     or even much respect what we do.   His relationship with most Democratic members     of Congress lies somewhere between correct and cold. They believe that political     loyalties are not an Obama priority.

Not too flattering, is it?  What comes through clearly is the portrait of a guy who doesn't much care about anyone but himself.  Had Bill Clinton done so little to build relationships, he'd likely have been forced to resign from office in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky/perjury scandal.

But what's above sounds like a valentine compared to Jodi Kantor's piece in today's New York Times.  She wrote a book about the Obamas and seems to have a bead on them as people.  The overwhelming theme of her piece today?

(2) He's arrogant

I know, I know.  It's hardly a news flash, right?  But still, get a load of some of this -- and read Kantor's whole piece for yourself:

Even by the standards of the political world, Mr. Obama's obsession with virtuosity and proving himself the best are remarkable, those close to him say.  (Critics call it arrogance.)

[E]ven those loyal to Mr. Obama say that his quest for excellence can bleed into cockiness and that he tends to overestimate his capabilities.

For someone dealing with the world's weightiest matters, Mr. Obama spends surprising energy perfecting even less consequential pursuits.  He has played golf 104 times since becoming President . . ..

When he reads a book to children at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, Mr. Obama seems incapable of of just flipping open a volume and reading.  In 2010, he began by announcing that he would perform "the best rendition ever" of "Green Eggs and Ham."

Even some Democrats in Washington say they have been irritated by his tips on topics ranging from the best way to shake hands on the trail (really look voters in teh eye, he has instructed) to writing well ("You have to think three or four sentences ahead," he told one reluctant pupil).

This is remarkable.  Frankly, the take-away from all this "personality" coverage is that the President sounds like a bit of a jerk.  At the law review, he had the same preternatural confidence in his own powers, but few of us ever worked closely enough with him to know whether it was justified by the results.  The only people in a position to know were those likely to assure us it was.  (In some ways, Obama's aloofness has served him well -- and many, including me on occasions in the past, have been naive enough to accept Obama's self-puffery at face value.)

Could this dynamic still be at work? Allen and Thrush report: "Democrats have long complained that Obama just doesn't stick his neck out politically for anyone who hasn't been part of -- or loved by -- his inner circle."  In other words, unless you are part of a close circle of kool-aid sipping sycophants (or buy in to their view of Obama), the President really couldn't care less about you . . .

It's tempting to blame the press for not having reported this stuff in 2008.  But how could reporters have known?  The only people who could claim close relationships with Obama were those who tended to worship him . . . and the MSM gladly joined in.

Now, it seems that at least some -- on the Hill or elsewhere -- who have come into contact with Obama are considerably less enchanted.

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