The Ungrateful President

Presidents who don’t need people are the loneliest presidents in the world, especially come election time.

Comments: 189

  1. The detachment and pursing about Barack's engagement is distracting! In the middle of a global economic crisis and fish going belly up as oil poured from the depths of the Gulf on a mini-camera that riveted all views, Barack forgot that the President wasn't supposed to have time to contemplate his decisions. There were two live wars, and decisions to be made on cyberspace and outter space. No, he didn't farm them out as Bush did. No, as he opened up the White House to America, setting records for visitors, as he faced scorn and insults, slights and lies, stereotypes and perceived shortcomings, he let go phone calls to people who think the President should fawn over them. Bad Barack!

    Beyond his conduct, is there a place on his report card for achievements and merit? For stability and decorum? For dignity and helping his kids with their homework? For the obvious love for his wife? (For having Stevie Wonder at the White House!)

    I guess he should have planned more sleep-overs. The narrow standard displayed here bottles American leadership the same as money. Heel, not excell. The drip by drip polite denigration, this tsk-tsking of minutiae, the asides of people who offer friendship and shackles, the subtle dissatisfation, the cuts and claims of friends do remind me of something Sammy Davis, Jr. once said. As soon as you are on top, they start to tear you down.


  2. Reading this Maureen Dowd column made me like and respect President Obama even more. So he doesn't enjoy kissing up to rich people. Good for him!

  3. It is a tough job description - President, Leader, Policy wonk. politician - head in the clouds and feet in the mud. Don't look for that to change. Money is simply power in liquid form.

  4. The tragedy is not that the president fails to send thank-you notes to his mega-donors. (he doesn't thank the little people, either.) The tragedy is that this whole campaign revolves around money -- the relentless getting of it, and the obscene spending of it. It's an election of, by and for the 1%. Regular people are admitted to meet-and-greets only occasionally, purely by the luck of the draw. Even monarchs and popes hold regular audiences for the hoi polloi without holding lotteries or charging admission.

    Romney made his own fortune through his skill in getting investors to part with their money. So canoodling with fellow elites comes more naturally for him, robotic though he may seem. The fact that Obama is deemed unsociable is actually a mark in his favor. That wealthy people are willing to keep giving and giving to such an ingrate could mean several things: they're abnormally slavish panderers themselves; $35,800 is just a drop in the bucket to them; they love to see and be seen at political fund-raisers; they're in a contest to see who can be first to melt Barack's heart -- and most likely, they're banking on a sleepover and some swag during a second term.

    Meanwhile, all but lost in this demeaning race for cash are any public discussions of climate change, the budget, the social safety net, the wars, health care, and the humanitarian crisis of chronic unemployment. Press conferences? Forget it. Money rules, the public drools.

  5. I recall he chose to decline Public Funding while McCain did not- an early glimpse into character.

  6. And what does it say about Mitt's character that a man with enough wealth to fund his own campaign grovels before oligarchs and is willing to prostitute himself to the highest bidder? The same thing can be said about a man who refuses to release more than one year of his tax returns and will stop at nothing to weasel every penny for himself by using every tax loophole in the tax code to his advantage? Character? Give me a break.

  7. great post Karen, you captured the sad state of affairs very well

  8. What this piece brings out for me is how much a politician is expected to meet others' ego needs. We decry excessive lobbying and cronyism but apparently we require in politics something close to the dynamic of those kinds of symbiotic relationships nevertheless. Maybe President Obama's style is more compatible with the kinds of politics we say we want, and maybe the truth of the matter is that we don't really want what we say we want, that we prefer things as they are.

  9. "Maybe President Obama's style is more compatible with..."

    There's your problem right there, Diana. This isn't supposed to be about style, but policy. And based on policy alone, there isn't much daylight between Obama's policies and those of the last administration.

    Goldman Sachs-loving, drone-sending, EPA-busting President Obama. A stealth Republican, if ever there was one.

  10. President Clinton is a very likable man. He learned how to make people like him because of his dysfunctional childhood. He learned to cope. He also took dumb risks and survived a spectacular fall from grace. President Obama's childhood was also not ideal, but he received love from this mother and his grandparents. He has a lovely family and a close circle of friends. His job is look out for all of us, not just the wealthy, including his wealthy donors. And I think he does just fine in that category. I do not expect him to ring my doorbell and thank me for my $10 on line contributions, any more than the big bundlers and donors should expect favors and thank you notes. Those of us to support the President do so hoping to make our lives and the lives of our families better.

  11. Your last sentence is dead on, Diana. The sad reality is that we're still a sibling society like we were back in the civil war days, and we're not evolved enough yet to truly appreciate and utilize the strengths of a president like Obama. It's progress that he was elected and has a fair chance at re-election, but I think that by and large, we will look back at his presidency as a lost opportunity, and not through any fault of his own. In fact, he is very much the man he said he was in his books, and he is attempting to govern almost exactly like he said he would. We're just not letting him succeed.

  12. President Obama reminds me of another politician who was also a lawyer and a self-made man. That man was also born in another state and lost his mother at a young age. That man wound up in Illinois and served in the state legislature for a number of years and then one term in Congress. That man came to prominence after giving a famous speech at a political gathering in which he sought to remind his opponents that we are one nation and it would be suicide to split the Union in half. That man was a cautious liberal, cooling off his more radical rivals and eventual loyal supporters. That man hated not the art of politics, of which he was a natural, but rather hated the constant stream of citizens seeking patronage jobs via the spoils system embedded in the body politic. That man also steered our country during its darkest hour, when brother fought brother (in many cases literally) over states' rights and a peculiar institution where the Bible was used as justification to deny other human beings the basic rights guaranteed not in the Constitution but, arguably, a more important document. Just as today, the average citizens of rebellious states were unduly influenced by the wealthy elite who controlled the local governments and took advantage of peoples' love of country to pervert that patriotism for their own selfish economic greed. That man saved the Union but at a terrible price to the nation, and, finally, to himself.

  13. Yeah but THAT man shouldn't have bothered to save the Union in the first place. Once the slaves were freed THAT man should have told the Confederacy to go f*** itself, in which case its descendants wouldn't be creating so much trauma today for THIS President and for those of us who support him.

  14. Lincoln was only nine years old when he lost his mother; Obama was 34, married, and practicing law when Ann Dunham died. He was hardly an orphan. The narrative that he was raised in poor circumstances, a child of neglect who miraculously achieved greatness in a vacuum, is simply not true. He was a middle class child with a loving extended family who saw to it that he received a most excellent private education. Lincoln, on the other hand, was almost entirely self-taught.

  15. You jest. Barack Obama has borne trouble but to compare a him to Abraham Lincoln, either in skill or temperament or that he leads a country in the midst of a true and deadly civil war, is fatuous and imprudent.

  16. Obama has the right idea of what a President should be, but he has the wrong idea about what every politician is in our system.

    That condemns the system more than it does him. We need more of what he is, and far, far less of the grasping, pandering politicians we get with our system.

    It is fundamentally about the role of money in politics. This is one more thing that highlights what is wrong in our system.

  17. I agree. I think we should be thankful that the President isn't falling all over himself to fawn over one of his financial backers. For someone like Rmoney to bring his largest donor along on a trip and lick his boots, and with shallow and reckless abandon profess fealty to that donor's expectations on a matter as weighty as war with Iran, should make the American public want to retch.

    Sure, a thank you note would be nice, but I hardly believe that President Obama does not do one better, a 'thank you' in person where possible. If he is introverted (the type who characteristically feel drained by interpersonal relationships) and is able to pretend well enough that he is an extrovert to accomplish what he has been able to thus far, more power to him. It is an impressive feat, speaking as someone who is introverted and struggles to summon the will to be at all sociable.

    I get the impression that Ms. Dowd did not get a thank you note somewhere along the way, because it seems to be a recurring theme that she writes about, almost like a jilted lover. - sean

  18. " He is a politician" Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. on then candidate Senator Barack Obama.

    POTUS Obama is a politician which means that he will compromise enough to keep getting elected. He is no saint nor savior. The lesser of two evils is still evil. From Washington to Jefferson to Lincoln to FDR to today we are electing flawed human beings.

    As voters we too must compromise and vote for the candidate who imperfectly best matches our own views. Obama by that measure was better than McCain. And he is better than Romney.

    But he gets no pass when he fails or betrays the things that he has promised or compromised too much. Or become too hypocritical.

  19. Politics is largely about power - getting it, distributing it, rewarding it, etc - which Obama understands intellectually but not emotionally. I think he will win the next election, but this will always be a weak point for him.

  20. I donate to the president and don't care if he sends me a thank you note.

    In fact, if my president is sending me thank you notes I'll stop donating. He better have more important things to do than send me a thank you note or he shouldn't be president.

    This isn't the God business. People send prayers to God and they hope for a reply. Even desperately hope for a reply. Presidents are not God. If we aren't sure we're hearing from God why would we expect to hear from a president?

    Anyone who's hoping for a reply from a president, or expects or relies on getting a reply, falls in my opinion into one of a few classes.

    1. The Koch brothers
    2. Sheldon Adelson

    If you don't fall into those two classes then don't expect a reply. Don't even think about a reply. You either agree that Barack Obama is the best thing right now for the nation, or you don't.

    But I guarantee you that if Mitt's your man, and gets your money, you won't hear from him, either, including not receiving a thank you note.

    He'll be far too busy sending thank yous to the Kochs and Adelsons of the world. And they will, I guarantee, expect far more than just that.

    Don't we have something better to do with our time than subject ourselves to a self-esteem group session disguising itself as a Maureen Dowd column?

    p.s. I did get a thank you note in 1970 from the Nixon White House. I carried it in my helmet in Vietnam. It's in a safe deposit box.

    I like to think Tricia signed and sent it.

  21. Do you prefer ingratitude in an employer as well?

  22. Sorry to disappoint, but every donation, regardless of how small, and mine are...are followed by a thank you letter from Gov. Romney...every time!

  23. To Mare: I'd wager the thank you note is from Mr. Romney's staff, not from him personally (though he originated the order.) There in's the rub about thank you's, for the vast majority of us.

  24. Are we so shallow that when we contribute or participate in an election we need a pat on the back to placate a pathetic urge to feel more secure, or stoke an ego?

    Maybe Barack Obama is driven entirely by his beliefs; beliefs that are motivated by what he thinks is best for the country and the world. This is what he's running on, and this is what (I think) motivates him. If the electorate can see this, and if they share a similar vision of the future, they can vote for him. This is what Barack Obama is "giving back" -- his ideas, who he is, and maybe just as important: the fact that he's not Mitt Romney (ironic isn't it).

    Besides, do we really want a President, the person we task to lead the country, to become pliable and artificially sentimental, pretending to be a friend in front of every person with a thick check book?

    I want a leader who accepts contributions only if they are unconditional. Contributions that seek to contribute to an idea, a cause, an honest vision for the future of America that serves to maximize our potential. Not a buddy system where favors are given to the highest bidder.

    Maybe my assessment of Barack Obama is a bit too generous. Maybe. But, I do trust him, and that's a heck of a lot more than I can say about Mitt Romney.

  25. "Maybe Barack Obama is driven entirely by his beliefs; beliefs that are motivated by what he thinks is best for the country and the world".

    I think you are a tad bit generous.
    Excelon, Monsanto, Big Pharma, the health insurance industry, and Wall Street, all seem to have benefited quite well in this presidency.

    Ironically, Wall Street has chosen to shun him; same game with the Israeli Right and its American boosters.

  26. "Besides, do we really want a President, the person we task to lead the country, to become pliable and artificially sentimental, pretending to be a friend in front of every person with a thick check book?"

    No, but that's not the question raised by Dowd's article. Can't the appreciation of supporters -- people who have entrusted you with a shared vision -- be genuine and appropriate? Do you typically admire ingratitude?

    "I want a leader who accepts contributions only if they are unconditional. Contributions that seek to contribute to an idea, a cause, an honest vision for the future of America that serves to maximize our potential."

    Me too. But why can't that leader be appreciative of his or her supporters? And wouldn't that be likely to make him or her more effective?

  27. People seem to find this to be about campaigning, but it is NOT, really. Politics inherently is as much about relationships with elective peers as anything. They are the pathway by which consensus on policy and strategy can actaully get built and put into motion. Glad-handing is not simply about a politician being 'NEEDY'; that's not the point. It's about being accessible and open to building an ever expanding network of functional relationships. It is clear now that the thing that may separate Obama from being the great president that many had hoped for and the quite respectable, but less than great one that he seems to be settling into being, is his inherent disdain for expanding and deepening his relationships among peers. To a degree Maureen is kind in not noting that the source of the disdain is a certain kind of self-absorption that has always been in plain sight with the President, though few have dared to say so. It is pretty evident even in all of the presidential language that makes heavy reference to 'I' this and 'my' that, and quite little to 'we' and 'our'. It would be nice if the president more viscerally acknowledged that 'We' is a critical concept for governing, not just for getting elected, and that it diminishies him not a bit to allow that to get to 'We' he personally needs to step outside of the self that he would be if he were just any old executive. As POTUS it's a different occasion and, yes, new duties are called for. Legitimately.

  28. I'd much rather have a President who pays attention to the job he's been elected to do than one who thrives on being "admired" by people, or one whose ego is tied into their approval.

    He's the right man for the job, all right. Focus, focus, focus.

    Now if we can just get him a Congress with the same work ethic........

  29. Agreed and if I am giving money to such a person because I consider him to be the most worthwhile for the presidency, I must be objective enough to realize that the money is supporting the principles I feel strongly about and not simply to assuage my ego.

  30. Point taken, but ingratitude is not good politics and you can't make policy without politics.

    Did you read Michael Barbaro's article for the Times' series The Long Run, "Legislators Recall Governor Who Didn’t Mingle", about Romney's impersonal governing style? It makes an interesting companion to "The Ungrateful President" and I wonder if you and others defending Obama from Dowd's criticism were so admiring of the offending qualities when some of them were ascribed to Romney.

    Interpersonal skills are not necessarily sleazy and while that may be obvious I notice that often that's forgotten by supporters of a candidate who lacks them. Used wisely and well they are an important component of effective leadership. To dismiss them is to dismiss the value of persuasion. Can't Obama be sufficiently independent and at the same time gracious?

  31. The vast majority of Americans are confused, scared, and simply don't know what happened to the Leave-It-To-Beaver country they thought they knew.

    In it's place is a winner-take-all gambling casino where celebs of every description are fawned over, and it's every man or woman for themselves.

    So political charlatans who can effectively assign "blame" rise in the nation's conciousness to seats of power they have no business ascending to.

    This President has eschewed one of his most important jobs, telling us who we are, where we are, and how we're going to get to the place he thinks we ought to go.

    Oddly, this is something he could achieve with very little effort.

    It is an enormous political opportunity that has been lost.

  32. Ungrateful or grafeful, aware or unaware, but be aware there are two kinds of people. Givers, and takers. Not feeling obligated to serve a donor in a political campaign for his contribution is neither, it's smart politics. By in large Barak Obama is more of a giver than a taker. Yes academics came easy so did college and Laws School. But with a Law Degree, top of his class, President of the Law Review he choose to go to work as a community ogranizer after graduating. That is a giving person. Takers, would have taken the money and run to a highly paid prestigious law firm with a starting salary well into six figures. A President who saw fit to work and possibly sacrifice himself so all Americans would soon be covered by health insurance, that's a giver, selfless in grace. Aloof, sometimes but what else can the White House do to a person ?? Down to earth ?? More so than any President I can remember , save Jerry Ford. Barak Obama better than our choice now forward, forward being the key word. We chart into new unseen territory economically or we go back to what got us to the morass we're in. Supply side, trickle down economics of the last thirty years that has seen 30 trillion dollars trickle up to the less than top 1 % . Givers and takers, all those billionaires, taking as much as the law allows, what a country !!

  33. Obama was a community organizer within Chicago's poorest communities before, not after, Harvard Law.
    No president has had so much direct contact with America's poorest. And given his experience, he has not done much for the poorest as president.
    He seems most comparable in temperament to Canada's Pierre Trudeau, another brilliant legal scholar who had an extraordinarily self-contained personality, an intense inner discipline leading him to eschew almost all political glad handling. As with Obama, he spent little time stroking people.
    But he did serve as prime minister from 1968 to 1984 with a brief hiatus of Tory government in 1979. However, big money never was a factor in Canadian politics with its strict election rules.

  34. Let's talk about the last 4 years. What has he improved with all of the money spent? Unemployment, the debt, housing prices, health care costs, gas costs, etc. are all worse. What has he given but pain and suffering?

  35. In addition to thank you notes and sincere acknowledgements of aid and comfort proffered and received, the give and take in life, business and most certainly in politics, has always required the ability to simply make people, most especially those who are ones financial bread and butter feel needed and appreciated. The President has been criticized in the past along these lines Maureen and it was surprising to me that he also has a hard time relating to the very politicians, his own side and the opposition, who make the system work in Washington.

    In the Edmund Morris three volume biography of Teddy Roosevelt, Mr Morris makes clear that Teddy, having come through a tough succession of government jobs enroute to the White House was aware that he had to reach out to all the parties from the donors to the politicians to enable the system to function smoothly for his benefit.

    He routinely invited politicians of all stripes, tycoons of the day, bankers, and supporters, as well as those who opposed his point of view, to dine with him at the White House, so as to stay informed and attempt to influence the affairs of state as he led the country into the new century and the booming economy of the day.

    My understanding is that President Obama does not participate in such person to person politics at any level outside of his close knit personal staff and aides.

    People react positively to appreciation at every level. Who knows why President Obama does not understand this? Any ideas?

  36. One might be tempted to ask whether the problem is a lack of understanding or merely a difference in priorities. The White House of TR's day was, though far from idle, far slower in pace than today's; in the constant press of political combat and media campaign that has become the new normal, important tasks of some stripe are certain to be left by the wayside. If thank-yous to donors and allies - however well-deserved and useful - are the worst of the casualties, I can't say I mind too much.

  37. Here's an idea why -- he's a classic introvert. Introverts, of whom I am one, can handle crowds and intense socializing for a while, but then they simply have to have alone time to recover, to recharge. Because introverts are very independent and self-sufficient they do not appreciate how others may have needs they simply do not have. Obama probably doesn't need or want autographed photos of celebrities or other politicians so he doesn't see why they're important to other people, and doesn't place the importance on them that he probably should. It's not so much selfishness or self-centeredness, it's the way his mind works -- or doesn't work. Like extroverts who can't fathom why a person would need to spend much of their time alone, introverts may not get that the "meaningless" gesture of a note or signed photo or backslap makes all the difference to people, because it wouldn't mean much to them.

    The world needs us introverts, it's part of what makes Obama a good president -- not one who's biggest motivation is simply being the center of attention all the time.

  38. Maybe because some people are always asking to see his birth certificate.

  39. You might recall that Jimmy Carter was accused as president of displaying the same selective insensitivities as the current occupant of the Oval Office: would invite the more athletically inclined pols in the Senate and House to play tennis, but not a drink (non-alcoholic, of course) afterwards to cool off while they shot the breeze; was abrupt with a lot of people and didn't praise easily; liked to stand alone on stages. About the only thing not (known to be ) similar between the two is that Mr. Obama probably doesn't chew with his mouth open.

    Bill Clinton was a decided exception to the general rule that self-sufficient, self-contained and highly intelligent men don't need a lot of validation from others; and, as a consequence don't develop the kinds of skills normally needed to attract validation. The Billster, of course, is a more complex man along a number of different axes.

    Need I point out that Mr. Obama needs to think carefully about these similarities to Jimmy Carter?

  40. President Carter is not as feckless as he is often portrayed. He is a man of high moral standards, thoughtful positions and the backbone to stand by his beliefs. His record as a contributing human being is more than admirable.

  41. To jokah2000:

    Wasn't aware that President Carter had been attacked in a way that required defense: I certainly didn't attack him. While I've always believed that he distinguished himself more after he left office than he did while in it (as did Madison, before as well as after), achieving the presidency and serving for four years is hardly chopped liver.

  42. Bill Clinton is a very emotionally needy man. He wants everyone to like him. He wants to be everyone's buddy. In that way, he's like LBJ.

    Barack Obama grew up being an outsider in one way or another; he survived by being self-reliant. He is perfectly friendly and pleasant. People do like him but for whatever reason he is wary. Seems like a good approach to the viper nest of WDC.

  43. I would rather have a wary, Newman-esque guy in the White House than a guy with ice water in his veins and blinders limiting his world view. Nor do I want one who sets his own hair on fire for every blip on the radar screen. What makes Barak Obama attractive to me, the voter, is exactly that which you mentioned: he is cool and deliberate and a non-grand-stander.

    I _want_ a cool hand and a steady eye on the wheel of this racing car of state; a guy who knows how to size up reality and then deal with it. At the same time, I want him to buckle his seat belt, make sure the kids have car seats, and watch where he's going. ....sans the dog on top of the car.

    Americans who want a billionaire president think by having one they're going to get a piece of that pie. Sure. Right. Whatever. Just don't ask Mitt to help you when you've got no job, no insurance, and no money left to pay for food or housing and your kid or your wife or your father needs an appendectomy. The only piece they're gonna get is mud pie because that'll be all they can afford.

    What will save President Obama (besides muzzling Harry Reid) is to let the Republicans self-implode. Just sent Mittens overseas again. That should do the trick.

  44. Agreed. Lewis Carrol put it this way:

    I passed by his garden and marked with one eye
    How the owl and the panther were sharing a pie,
    The panther got pie crust and gravy and meat
    While the owl got the dish for its share of the treat.

  45. Good post, WP. Let's see, if President Obama is Butch, then VP Biden is Sundance (a stretch but not much of one, really) and Romney is...the least proficient ("Who is/are this/those guy/s?) Pinkerton ever.

  46. I love Harry Reid! He is way above the politics of the Republicans and they are calling him all sorts of names, screaming liar! when he might just be telling the truth. Bullies are always surprised when some little guy stands up and whoops their behinds. They spew hate and lies and fear every day and the people who believe them may cost this election - so why is Harry Reid being admonished - I think they all know what's in Romney's tax returns and I think it's why even his own party doesn't like him. Romney is trying to make this campaign all about the failure of Obama's policies, thinking his possible no tax returns are none of our business. It is about time someone from the Dem party stood up for themselves. I'm hoping others will follow!

  47. I am getting from Obama what I need...a president with integrity and smarts.!!

    He represents me with grace and aloha....

    I send contributions every week..will send more. Obama is my man!!

  48. For those of the rest of us who aren't looking for a pat on the back for our support, Obama's persona is still attractive. If sincerity is the measure of the man, the comparison with the robotic Romney is stunning.

  49. So why were the good citizens of Westport paying $36,000 to have chicken in the same room as Barrack?
    Wasn't this against their own self interest (you know, Maureen: "What's the Matter with Kansas")?
    Oh, wait...Obama only wants to raise INCOME taxes on the high earners, like your doctor, lawyer and accountant. He won't raise CAP GAINS taxes on the enlightened brokers, investors and arbitrageurs of Westport.

    Even Romney would find that persuasive.....

  50. America desperately needs President Obama to be our president through a second term of office, desperately so as to continue to help America to transcend its preponderance of greed, selfishness and its vanity, so that our nation can become a compassionate and altruistic, and thus populate by a truly democratic people. President Obama is a wonderful man with exceptionally helpful ethics and policies.

  51. We all loved Paul Newman. We depend on Barack Obama. The world is no movie theater. We live in hard times and a difficult to discern future. Thank you Maureen for entertaining us. Should Obama lose, and Republicans retain Congress, or gain in the Supreme Court, God help us, for no one else will!

  52. What's the point, Maureen? You've written this column a dozen times before. There is no politically-aware person in the country who hasn't already figured this out.

    His "supporters" will support him and his donors will bankroll him because the alternative is too terrible to consider.

  53. And this is why, even if he wins the election, he may lose his second term. Presidents need to be able to bring senators and congresspersons along at critical moments, as well as opinion leaders and the media. So far, the president hasn't shown he can do that. It's very unfortunate.

  54. You are absolutely correct. Every great president this country has had has been a person who understood human psychology and how to relate to it to get major issues solved. I plaude Maureen for writing this opinion. But furthermore, I hope President Obama reads it and takes it seriously. If he doesn't, then he will have made a personal choice to shoot himself in the foot and consequently abandon all of us who need him to act on our behalf.

  55. Yes, so the president is an introvert. Big deal. Quit making us sound like weirdos. Keep up the good work Mr. President.

  56. I don't care if the president isn't needy. The majority of people in this country are needy enough as it is, and Obama is the only one in the presidential race who is likely to fulfill those needs.

    Romney is needy, but in a different sort of way. He has wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, but he seems to need more. He needs to hide some of it in offshore accounts, and he needs to shield it from the taxes that we all need to pay. He needs to build extravagant houses while many Americans are being thrown out of theirs. He needs to send jobs abroad even though we need them here. He feels the need to talk, even though he has nothing much to say. His aides then need to explain what he meant and try to undo the damage he caused. He needs to learn diplomacy and tact.

    While Americans need a lot right now, there is one thing we don't need, and that's to elect Romney as president. Need I say more?

  57. So, Mr. Obama is not a phony schmoozer. Yet another reason he will get my vote.

  58. People who support Obama should do it for their own self interest and not for a pat on the back. Although a pat on the back would not hurt either.

  59. I think President Obama is grateful he's just not a glad hander. I like the fact that he's focused and serious about the job.

    I'll take someone who is stoic about donations over somebody who's for sale to the highest bidder.

  60. Maureen, you really need to get over the fact that Obama beat Hillary. Your transparent and on-going grudge against Obama is old and stale. Fine, Obama's not perfect, we get it. Fine, Hillary would be a great president, I hope she runs in 2016. But, for goodness sake, let the 2008 primary go Maureen!

  61. Come what may, it can be argued that on November 8th, Barack Obama will be as free as he has ever been in his adult life.

    Win, lose or have the Supremes appoint someone, the man should be proud. For a mixed race fellow, in ever racist America, raised by a single mother and good as gold grandparents, the man, with grace, class and shrewd determination climbed the highest mountain.

    Unlike his inept, criminally stupid predecessor and the current not much brighter presumptious plutocrat he's running against, nothing was ever handed to the President.


  62. I would really hate to think that the fate of our country depends upon people feeling praised, thanked, doted-upon enough. It never fails to astound me how much emotions trump reason. That said - come on, Obama! Make people feel appreciated. This is politics!

  63. American's get the politicians they deserve. We are the needy ones.

  64. He doesn't send thank you notes? I find that hard to believe. He takes time to email me at least twice a week.

  65. Maureen,

    I get that you feel it is important for Obama to be all warm and fuzzy if he is to win this upcoming election. However, I think people should realize the huge importance of what is at stake in the upcoming elections and they should move past their disappointment and gripes about him.

    There is so, so much at stake and we will truly get what we deserve if we let our disappointments (that you have so eloquently listed) cause us to be lukewarm in our support.

    Obama is not perfect, but at least to this voter, he is truly the only bulwark against the right wing agenda of back to the future. A future with more appointments to the SCOTUS, more tax breaks for the wealthy with less and less for the rest of us, with Judge Bork and John Bolton lurking in the wings!

  66. Do you want the rich to rip you off and rip off your children and their children? Vote for Romney and you will be a slave to the 0.001% that rule the world. The corruption that is politics has to be stopped! Obama, may not be the answer, but he is definitely better than the alternative.

  67. First, what's with this headline? This column makes me think Dowd threw a couple of ingredients into a bowl--namely celebrity movie stars and 2 bit Obama psychoanalysis. then mixed them a few times, threw them into her word processor, hit the pulse button, then clicked the Send button.

    This is a piece of writing with no real content that trivializes the serious issues we’re going through. Not just serious, momentous. And it trivializes and hardly does justice to the authors who put plenty of effort and thought into their books on Obama.

    What a week we've been through on many fronts. This stuff is the last thing I want to read in the Times op ed now, after death and tragedy has stalked the nation and our empty, clueless Gop candidate is getting more insulting to the voters than ever.

    Of course a little light fare can be a welcome entertainment relief, but this isn't it. I expect the next column will manage to mix politicians’ personalities and boring, irrelevant celebrities. Or sex and the church. And mix them into a stew of cute sarcastic barbs.

  68. No man is an island. The President said so himself in his famous "you didn't build that" speech. I have fallen into the ungrateful trap myself at various times. Many people do stop helping until you acknowledge them in some way.

  69. If you have never heard him say "I wouldn't be here without your help" you haven't been listening.

  70. Reading your article Maureen was like taking a deep breath. Thanks. Nice one.

  71. Obama is an introvert. Fortunately, Biden is an extrovert, and therefore complementary to Obama in that respect.

    However, if politics in 2012 wasn't so much about fundraising in order to win, Obama's introversion would not be such a liability.

  72. Former president Reagan, when asked if an actor could be president, supposedly answered how could one not be an actor and still be president. Successful presidents have always employed what were essentially acting skills when they needed to get their ideas across to the public or to make an important point. It's interesting to note that Franklin Roosevelt loved acting in amateur theater productions when in college, and he undoubtedly made good use of his acting experience during his presidency.

    But unlike FDR, Johnson, Reagan, and Clinton, all extroverts on a national stage, using theatrics to sway popular opinion doesn't come easily to President Obama, introvert that he is, and coming from a scholarly background. Like Wilson and Nixon before him, communication is not one of his strengths. But even Obama must be realizing by now that sound bites and simple emotional messages will carry the day compared to erudite speeches. He needs to become a political thespian if he is to prevail. He may be up against a condidate that is even more poorly suited to campaign for the presidency, but that other candidate is backed by a flood of corporate and billionaire money, so Obama must speak out strongly, clearly, and -- dare I say it -- dramatically on the issues.

  73. Obama is the Carey Grant of Presidents, a Super-man whose actions and appearance seem almost effortless perfect-while he still manages to juggles the worst set of problems in modern American history. The fact that he is admirably uncomfortable pandering as Celebrity in Chief behind the scenes shows he has a core sense of himself that Romney the Robot will never possess.
    The president may need to develop more awareness of his affect on others, but overall, his unwillingness to sell his soul is a testament to character in an age where narcissism is rewarded and character is all but ignored. He knows he has to live with his real self and that we don't. And us mere mortals can't even begin to imagine what it's like being him.

  74. I couldn't agree with you more. I am very proud of this president, especially the demeanor he shows with foreign leaders. I think he might have been a great president if the obstructionist GOP hate, lie and fear propaganda machine hadn't effectively brainwashed a good portion of our voting population. I miss Mollly Ivins, I think all the recent earthquakes in TX might just be caused by her spinning in her grave, well, that and fracking disposals.

  75. During my son's years playing ice hockey, I'd occasionally remind him: Was his goal to be a team leader or team idol? Team leaders use the whole team and let others share in the scoring and attention.

    During the 2004 Presidential campaign, leading a county political organization, I applied that advice when making publicity decisions. My face was seldom seen. We got a maximum number of our members faces pictured representing their support and communities. We raised a record amount of money and had no shortage of volunteers on street corners waving placards during early morning traffic, knocking on doors, and making phone calls.

    In Megatrends 2000, one trend Naisbitt highlighted was followers now create leaders as opposed to leaders being dictated by backroom politicians or the well-connected. In return, followers want to feel helped achieving their own goals.That autographed photograph with the Prez hanging on a wall is a source of energizing pride, helps the recipient achieve his own goals with his own following, and builds even more followers for the President.

    Not sending out thank you notes is absurd. No one is that good and it also makes enemies for free.

    Truth is, wealthier supporters don't need President Obama. They're isolated from economic deprivation. They support Obama because their principles about community and the future match his. His acknowledgement reassures them about their principles. It's not kowtowing to their wealth or political following.

  76. Thank you. This is right on the mark.

  77. Obama doesn't fawn over donors who expect him to be at their beck and call because they wrote him a check? This only makes me like the man even more. It's too bad more politicians aren't like him.

  78. I like the president just the way his is. We don't need a BFF in Chief. Obama is who he is, not who we want him to be. Or think we want him to be.

    And yet, have you ever watched some of videos of his periodic informal dinners with regular people? Have you noticed how he actually listens to these people? Have you noticed the warmth of these interactions? I suspect he learns more and gets more from these events than any amount of celebrity glad-handing.

    The Republicans gave us Reagan the Entertainer in Chief and W the Frat Boy in Chief. We had Clinton the Good Ol' Boy (and although I liked him well enough then, I like him better now.) Americans say they don't like clowns and typical pols in office but they manage to find fault with the opposite characteristics.

    We're going to have to vote for the best person for the office. I think that person is Barack Obama. His incredible dedication to his job is thanks enough for me.

  79. Paul Newman was an actor first and a movie star secxond. In each of his juicy roles - "Cool Hand Luke," "Road to Perdition," "Somebody Up There Likes Me" to name just three - you paid your money to watch a guy having an absolute ball at what he was doing.

    You saw the same of Clinton and LBJ because he had partners with whom he could work, as Newman did in each of his movies. From Day One, Obama was met by total resistance from both across the aisle and from within his own party. Biden, for all his supposed gaffes and a number of reasons I don't like his politics, bounces around like a pol who can't get enough.

    It all makes sense.

  80. Barack Obama was greeted as "The One" by Democrats. And the idea that Bill Clinton, who was subject to tens of millions of dollars of investigations and finally impeached on ridiculous charges, had partners across the aisle with whom he could work sounds like the musings of an amnesiac.

  81. How utterly rare to have an adult in charge of the country. Not a needy child, desperate for everyone's attention...not a rebellious teenager out to prove he knows everything when he doesn't. He is deliberate and pragmatic. It's too bad there's a sizeable part of the electorate too ignorant to fully grasp what being an adult is all about.

  82. Common decency says, "say thank you" whether you want to or not. It says, share the glory, it says, take time to acknowledge others' contributions. This isn't about politics, it's about humanity and humility. Every business book tells you, be sure to say thank you and mean it and you will keep your customers. It's not pandering, it's part of building and maintaining relationships. Any kind of relationships.

    I don't think the President has learned much in his nearly four years. He doesn't understand that you have to be in the game to win the game. Romney is so dis-likable that he has to try hard just to come across as being human. Obama is human, he's just not emotionally astute. That's a bad personality characteristic.

    Ronald Reagan was a grade B actor who convinced the world that he was a great statesman -- a performance worthy of an Oscar. Barack Obama could use a little of old Ronnie's skills to be ever so appealing. Not likely to happen before November. Oh dear.

  83. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear what a shame his acting and people skills are not drawing room perfect. Personally I would rather have a real guy with real feelings and shortcomings who gets the job done right even under a constant barrage of hate and threats than some one who is know for his table manners at dinner with those who wish to bask in his presence for their own purpose. And, by the way, Reagan was never considered a great statesman by anyone who really understood what he was doing. He was an actor, and followed the script.

  84. By now, Obama knows the right will spin every move he makes into something only they are capable of. I think this may very well just be a statement to show the public and the right that he will not be showering his donors with favors. This man has walked a very tight rope his whole time in office. I don't think he's for sale and he's likely showing this thru his actions. This president is smart. It's probable that this is a well calculated move, not an ettiquette oversight. Besides all that I think this president really hates taking money from rich donors. I think he was happy with his grass roots movements in '08.

  85. This increased my respect for Obama. I don't think we've ever had a harder working president than he - full concentration on the job and athletic stamina. I shudder to think of someone with less of either manning the rudder these last 3 years. The donors and pols may be disappointed in not getting stroked, but hopefully they also are glad that he's too busy and too honest to be distracted by it. I would note that the same goes for his family, from the mother in law to the lovely daughters. Have we ever had a first family so beyond reproach? The only time I can think that the smallest tort was made was when Michelle hugged the Queen of England -- who seemed to love it anyway! They have never embarrassed me. Serious times call for a serious leader, and that's who we got. (I didn't vote for him, by the way. Just grateful enough of you did.)

  86. at least, unlike Romney, you don't have to worry about what Obama will owe to others once reelected. and his donors know not to expect anything from him.

    if Romney wins, I shudder to think what he would have to pay back to say, adelson.

  87. He's barely competent, and I'm not talking about Paul Newman.

  88. Are we back to whom you would rather drink a beer with? Aloof, ungracious and competent is OK by me. Beats a schmoozing doofus every time.

  89. You can talk all you want about the man's psychology, but I won't believe any of it unless I talk to the man and hear him myself. I know this from my own personal experience. I am rather inwardly directly, probably mostly due to shyness, and I've been accused of many things about my psychological inclinations which I know, from knowing myself, are simply not accurate. It's just how I come across on the outside. But, I don't fret over this stuff. Another aspect of my inner directed-ness. I therefore, respectfully disregard all that you say in this article (and others that have preceded, not only about this president, but others as well).

  90. I think you have a valid point. But remember this, before Derek Jeter came along the Yankees hadn't won a pennant in 19 years. Some athletes aren't just talented they are champions, natural born leaders that make a difference. You could argue about the degree of change Barak Obama has enacted since he became president but you would lose. For all his warts, and to me, there aren't many, he has the quality of being a great leader. So really, when you think about it, we are lucky to have him. All you have to do is compare him to either Bush or Romney. Good luck with them. Both have the leadership quality of apple sauce. I thought the "Romeyhood" appelation was pretty funny. Didn't you? I definitely can imagine Romney running around his house in green tights. Cheerio everyone, tut tut, and all that. Who hid the coco-crispies?

  91. Dear Ms. Dowd:

    Since this is one in a series of columns you've written decrying President Obama's personal style, perhaps you might want to read Susan Cain's "Quiet," which explains to extroverts and external processors (who form a large majority of the world and dominate our personal and cultural expectations, and who you must be) the ways of introverts and internal processors, like President Obama (and me).

    This column is a virtually stereotypical demonstration of the extrovert's incomprehension of and discomfort with the introvert. Is it really so entirely unacceptable for extroverts to tolerate, let alone appreciate, people who are not like them? Is it really disqualifying for a President to be an introvert, even if in every other respect he may be an exceptional person for the job? Are extroverts really so juvenile that they are personally offended when an introvert's style and ways of expressing himself differ from their own? If I contributed $35,000 toward the President's re-election, what I'd want in return is for the guy to continue running the country with the skill and ability he's demonstrated, not a thank you note or an autographed photo. Are the folks you're referring to really that shallow? And do you really think they have a point?

  92. had exactly your same thought about extroverts and introverts. The key sentence that conveys this refers to how being around a lot of people depletes Obama: the primary characteristic of an introvert/internal processor.

    However, I think his failure to thank folks for their time and money is just rude. At the very least, his handlers should know better!

  93. You're absolutely right! Obama is a contradiction is terms- a non-political politician. Too, you're making the case that style often wins over substance, it's connectedness that many people want. Unfortunately this is paradoxically human strength and weakness.

    We survive well when making good connections: Friends, spouses, work partners & etc. But our need to connect can be exploited by anti-social types. Some of us like, Paul Newman develop a penchant to be wary. But, I believe that this is more of a male issue than a female issue, in our culture. Boys are raised to be "tough" and "stand on their own two feet". Obama has done remarkably well at that, and as a politician despite his engineer, Spock like exterior.

    To my mind he exudes more than enough warmth and authenticity to overcome the superficial, flip-flopper, "Malarkey Man Mitt", this November.

  94. Definitely authenticity, (being genuine) can more than make up for a lack of warmth!!!

  95. "I interviewed Paul Newman. I knew Paul Newman. Paul Newman was an acquaintance of mine...One thing, though: Paul Newman sent thank-you notes."

    So apparently Ms Dowd thinks the President owes her a thank you note.

    What is must be to have a column in the Times to send personal messages...

  96. If this line of thinking is correct, I would push it further and hazard a guess that the columnist thought she was promised more, something like access, for example.

  97. You know, when I saw the headline, I thought you were talking about Obama's "not needing" the Progressive party--those of us, and there were a great, great many, who knocked on a lot of doors and made a lot of calls to get him elected (or, to be fair, shared that effect with a number of other groups). And then, once elected, he promptly turned around and snubbed us, or so it seemed to many of us. He seemed to bend over backwards to make it clear he felt no particular loyalty to us, he was not playing favorites with us. I could understand it if that sentiment was reflected soley in his policies, as he never said he was a progressive, despite what we hoped he would be, and he must ultimately be true to what he perceives as the greater good. But he didn't stop there. He described us condescendingly as "getting a little overexcited", when we raised legitimate upsets with the direction he seemed to be--and was, ultimately, it turned out--headed in. And yet he, himself, had promised before the election to do what he was now dismissing. And he largely excluded leaders of the important voices in the party from his various roundtables.

    Will I vote for him again? Certainly. Will I campaign for him? Probably not. I should; the stakes are just as high as before, whether I am upset with him or not, and there is no question we DO NOT want President Romney. But I probably won't. And I'm guessing that he will find the same in most of the ranks of his former "army".

  98. I wish Barack would read Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" before it's too late.

  99. President Obama shuns big donors - and now the little guy has to pay for his campaign! He's saying tax the rich when it comes to pay for the government, but has no problem asking the poor to get him reelected. All he has to do is sign a few pictures and shake a few hands - but he'd rather email his working class supporters 8 times a day.

  100. Everyone needs to have skin in the game. Everyone.

  101. In this, Obama is very much like FDR was.

    FDR was a loner who liked crowds. And FDR was incapable of saying "thank you." So, gratitude was not his strong suit. He was, however, willing to let others gratuitously share in the trappings of his success, but little else. He was a stranger to most who knew him.

  102. Thank goodness Romney is even more tone deaf and flat footed.

  103. I sent a couple hundred dollars to the Obama campaign in 2008. I did not receive a thank you note, I didn't get invited to the White House, I didn't even get a call from the Prez. I did get the Affordable Health Care Act, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor and Kagan, a healthier auto industry, justice for 9/11, a more stable economy, withdrawal from Iraq, and a few notes of Al Green's Let's Stay Together. I'm happy.

  104. If this is a close election, it is because Obama for most of his presidency has done more reaching out to his enemies than to all those who worked so hard to elect him in 2008.

  105. Usually you are right on but a President is a 24/7 job and if you want him to do it then you have to deserve it.

    Women will lose with Republicans.
    Non-Christians will lose with Republicans.
    The poor will lose with Republicans and lose the right to vote as well.
    Culture will lose with Republicans.
    The Environment will lose with Republicans.
    Science will lose with Republicans.
    Education will lose with Republicans, and
    Equal justice under the law will lose with Republicans and
    yes business will lose with Republicans and
    Public Health will lose with Republicans.

    One man can't organize a counter attack sell the program and do the job. That demands superior, statesmanlike, thinking people.

    Thus far the only ones thinking strategically are from the dark side and I don't mean people of color. A darkness of the Heart that cares only for itself and lies with impunity and they are "carrying." Note the last two weeks in the good old U.S. of A.

  106. My first reaction to this enlightening piece was to imaging what President Obama and his wife Michelle might say about it to each other in private. I am sure that there are similarities with Paul Newman, but I doubt Mr. Newman had to live with so much hatred, daily death threats or decisions that affect the lives of millions. I also believe that a person who sticks to a small central group of close friends rather than pander to a crowd for approval is still a person worthy of his wife's approval. I have watched his hair turn gray and his manner with the press become more guarded. I could not manage the level of stress and abuse he endures, but I hope that he can for all our sakes.

    The campaign is different this time - it gets down in the mud with the Republicans because they turned the playing field into a muddy obstacle course and we shouldn't be put off by his state when he hits the showers any more than Michelle would be. Thanks Ms. Dowd for bringing this up. It reminded me of Kipling's If:

    IF you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too...

    If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;...

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    ' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,...

  107. I was able to observe President Obama at very close range over the course of a few hours interacting one on one with several people who were Not- repeat Not, big contributors, if at all. He struck me as being extremely genuine. When President Obama smiled it was real And (!) it was real every time with every person he met that afternoon. He connected with each individual he engaged with. I have met many other people who have had made the same assessment of him. How refreshing, to say the least, that we have a President who number one is genuine, and number two connects with the individual regardless of the money the individual has contributed. Most importantly however, I believe President Obama's deep understanding and commitment to our Constitution is what sets him apart from individuals to a degree. It seems to me that President Obama is committed to the United States and to Our Constitution and actually has the intellectual ability and character to understand and keep that commitment. According to historians George Washington reportedly displayed the same temperament.

  108. Yesterday, I heard a story on an NPR program (Radio Q, I think) about how important it is for people to not overload their decision-making processes, because it can be more than the brain can handle. In fact, it is when some people rise to positions of power, like a CEO, that some make errors in judgment, like a governor of New York hiring a prostitute.

    At the time, I wondered how Obama handled all the stresses of his office. Now, after reading this article, I realize that he has figured out ways to "recharge" his batteries and refresh his brain. I say, more power to him.

    Also, when Prince William visited Canada and the U.S. with his bride, they attended many social events and raised money for various charities. Towards the end of the trip, he confided to a British reporter that he looked forward to getting back home, where he planned to sit in a dark room alone and do nothing.

    Some people thrive on social interactions and some don't.

  109. Ridiculous column. And I have been thanked by President Obama but agree with john's comments below.

  110. If someone donated $38,000 to me for some reason, I would send them a thank you note, but then, I'm not the president. Guess he gets a pass.

  111. Some people would find it troubling to be thanked personally for doing what they they're supposed to be doing regardless.

  112. What does Romney do for Adelson? Kill the SEC investigation would come to mind. Romney's entitled arrogance is much more disturbing, he owes the American people those tax returns, that would be a nice thank you to the American people for wanting to be considered for President.

  113. It does not matter whether Obama is cool or not. Obama's problems stem from his lack of executive leadership. He said he had policies he wanted to have enacted for Americans. He then negotiated with himself first and when he got in the room with the GOP, he had already given away to no one in particular all of the best parts of his policies. So the GOP took the rest and Obama ended up negotiating his failure. I'm not sure of Harry Reid's competence but I do not at all mind his aggressiveness when confronted by a GOP party of liars.

  114. I've always maintained that Obama is the antithesis of a politician. This will be his downfall. It seems as if the most effective politicians master the skill of connecting with people. Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, Ronald Regan…flaws and all have the innate ability to be or at least appear empathetic to others. Obama and Romney are robots…trained seals programmed to elicit responses to appease the polls. What a sorry state of political affairs we are witnessing.

  115. So, essentially what you're saying is, Obama like Newman doesn't cater to people's neurotic ego needs, and when he doesn't, they smite him. So, what we take from this is, just exactly how superficial their support was in the first place, that it was based on them and not on a larger cause, because darlin', he ain't no movie star, or the messiah, he's just a good man we need for the job.

  116. Exactly. He is a good man. I am so glad Harry Reid is stepping up to get his back, because for all the fodder about him having control of both houses, he never did. He got stuck with blue dogs who were DINOs and a minority party who set out to destroy him. I am concerned with all the people in KS who follow the party line per Limbaugh/Beck/Rove/Cheney/Palin/Fox and call themselves Christians. It is very scary to me. Hate is not very Christian.

  117. Well, whadyaknow, a President who doesn't like to schmooze. He's got the weight of the world on his shoulders after being bequeathed two wars and a financial collapse. He contends with a disloyal opposition on a daily basis, and has billionaires funding a media blitz against him. Most men would curl up in the fetal position in that environment, the way George W. did in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 or when the world economy was careening toward disaster. I'll take the cool, deliberative Obama who doesn't always send thank you notes, thank you very much.

  118. Obama Obama does. Ingratitude normally stems from a feeling of self-entitlement and a feeling that one is somehow owed a debt. It kind of reminds me of a term paper that a young First Lady Michelle once wrote in which she depicted herself as a victim in a white man's oppressive university/world. Most politicians, recognizing their lack of a human heartbeat, have learned to wear a mask of genuineness. Obama's lack of gratitude is not likely foreign to politics. But, as President, his apparent disregard for how others perceive him points to a deeper blight. As human-beings, there are certain virtues that are widely held to be reflective of personal decency. Gratitude is one of them. Long before the Golden Means were chiseled on some ancient tablet, people understood that. Why doesn't Obama?

  119. My God, this is well stated. I hope you don't mind if I repeat it...

  120. I don't expect President Obama to personally write a thank-you note for every $100 contribution. Publicly acknowledging the importance of grassroots support on a fairly frequent basis should be enough. But not thanking someone for staging a concert on his behalf? That's just rude. Yesterday, I got a thank-you note from a candidate for statewide office here in North Carolina. She is the incumbent and the note was, in fact, a form letter sent to contributors - but she added, in her own handwriting, a personal thank-you. It wasn't fancy, but she acknowledged my continuing support of her in a sincere and gracious fashion. All I have ever asked of her in return for my support is her best effort be a good public servant (she is); but the personal note was gratifying. Candidates and officeholders who do not understand that good manners count are often too willing to think that they and they alone are responsible for their own success. I prefer public servants who express appreciation for my support in appropriate ways. I don't need political favors to feel appreciated - just good government and good manners. Both are important.

  121. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard the president say something to the effect of "I couldn't have done it with out you" – meaning all of us contributors, upper-, middle- and lower-income – I'd, well, I'd send it right back to his campaign!

  122. I want a president who spends time thinking and planning his actions...a president who is conscious of the fact that he is president of ALL Americans, not just the rich and celebrities. I want someone who cares about the growing gap of income inequality, who knows that even in the supposedly rich nw Chicago suburbs where I live, children go hungry every night. (I've seen the Brookings Foundation reports on suburban poverty and have taught a recent class in writing social justice.) And a president who not only knows, but cares -- cares that states are cutting Medicaid, cutting food stamps and programs like WIC - extra food for pregnant women and children up to 6.

    Today, Romney was in one of those suburbs, with his "trust me, my private sector experience makes me able to play God with the economy" message. My Congressman, Joe Walsh, is robocalling me into his public meetings, where he states that Tammy Duckworth, his opponent, isn't a true hero, despiter losing her legs and having arm damage when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq.

    I want people representing me who CARE for people. My choices this time around are Obama/Biden and Tammy Duckworth - because I believe they will try the hardest to make life better...more opportunities...more help for those who need it most.
    Jan Bone, Palatine IL

  123. Why not just say he was unprepared for the office of the president and so he has been a failure at the task. The Presidency involves more than thinking you're the top.

    In truth, Obama did not do his homework.

  124. President Obama is not quite of this world and I am definitely okay with that. He is a rare human being and maybe "too good" for this tainted toxic mashup that has evolved as contemporary political life-- but what a coup for America to have him steering the ship of state. Who can come even remotely close to his inner mounting flame? If there is such a thing as being on the right side of history, that's where President Obama resides-- along with his incredibly inspiring wife.

  125. I think the President is kind of busy...what with the country, indeed the world unraveling. And I think Mr. Newman would have donated to him and not
    expected a thank you. At least not until the battle was re-won and the unraveling

  126. I support Barack Obama in part because I think he's focused on doing what's right, and not on making people happy. He strikes me as cerebral and empathetic where it counts. He's empathetic enough to understand that national pride is not a unique American trait and that touting America's greatness constantly and especially in areas where we're not great by any objective measure isn't a sign of strength; it's a sign of ignorance that sets us up for long-term failure.

    He's cerebral and empathetic enough to understand that women deserve the right to decide for themselves when and how many children to have.

    He's cerebral and empathetic enough to understand that all families don't look like his with two beautiful, healthy children and high achieving, heterosexual parents with a successful marriage.

    He's cerebral and empathetic enough to understand that while some people do achieve great things through persistence, talent, and hard work, other talented people sometimes work equally hard and run into obstacles (a health crisis, a twist of fate) that set them back in ways that can sap the soul.

    He's cerebral and empathetic enough to know that America will be stronger if the middle class gets stronger.

    I hope Barack Obama doesn't have to spend his time making financially successful people feel "important." He's got too much work to do for the country he clearly loves.

  127. You know what? This kind of characterization of Obama is silly and beside the point. If people expect a leader like him to slaver over them they're truly needy and have a problem which should be discussed with their shrink.

    The President has far more serious things to do than be warm and fuzzy. I for one am grateful for his intelligence and the fact that he actually thinks about things.

  128. Seems Ms. Dowd cleverly planned this column to invite great reader comments (which I fully agree with) that clearly side with the President. Well done Ms. Dowd!

  129. The contrast between presidents Clinton and Obama tells us a lot about the political process, and what it takes to prosper as an office-holder. You note that the former was obsessively driven by a need to please and be pleased by others, making it more natural for him to be energised by the adulation he received in public. Wasn't that neediness also his greatest weakness, when the adulation was offered to him in private? Why was Monica Lewinsky's story so credible from the start, if we didn't recognize such a weakness as the downside of Clinton's charisma?
    Give me a principled introvert any day, someone whose authority emanates from a rational performance of his public duties. Not that Obama doesn't know how to charm the crowds when he is ready, once his batteries are recharged in private. We just won't be expecting smutty stories to emerge about what else he is up to in private. No doubt Michelle feels herself in a much safer relationship than Hilary ever did, amidst the perils of their husband's presidencies.

  130. Unlike Ms. Dowd, I find Obama’s personality to be more relatable than any other President since I’ve been paying attention to politics. Carter was a bit too pious, Reagan was too much the Hollywood showman, Bush Sr. (I’m drawing a blank on Bush Sr., and maybe that’s the problem), Clinton didn’t strike me as being fully genuine (I like him much better now), and Bush Jr. made me too upset about Iraq to care about his personality.
    My father used to tell me that the guys who got promoted over him where he worked weren’t necessarily better or brighter. They just happened to go on golf outings with the boss while my father preferred to stay home with his family. Maybe this helps to explain why I can relate to Obama, and why I prefer a private and intelligent policy maker to a glad-handing politician.

  131. So wait, let me get this straight. Are you complaining that Obama doesn't cater well enough to his wealthy benefactors, that he doesn't pretend to kiss their feet? Are you trying to say this is a bad thing? I don't get it.

  132. This column massively boosts my regard for Barack Obama. It's nice to see a man who recognizes our self-obsessed celebritocracy for the shallow glitterati that they are. Keep on ignoring those oh-so-sensitive billionaires, Mr. President! Those of us with transparent American Express cards have got your back!

  133. I very much hope that the President reads this column. The Presidency is not Hud or Cool Hand Luke (I loved Paul Newman as an actor and would put up with mediocre movies to see him on screen). Mr. President, listen to Ms. Dowd, sign, sign, pat, pat, say thank you. It is not only polite, it is part of the job. I lean toward the Mr. Obama's cool, analytic side, but not everyone does.

  134. Maureen, I love enjoy your columns. But I must say, when you speak of Obama, a tone of wounded personal pride often creeps into your writing. There is a feeling of personal, sometimes irrational resentment towards him. Has he disappointed you, somehow, beyond just his policies? Was it his aloofness towards you personally, or maybe some ingratitude towards you? Was there some respect you weren't paid, or was your ego injured by his unwillingness to woo you?
    I may be wrong, and I'm likely reaching, but I feel like this column in particular reveals more about you than it does about Obama.
    You identify so closely with those who feel jilted or personally unthanked. Was there a literal or metaphorical thank-you note that you deserved, but did not receive?
    I hope I'm wrong, but if I'm right, it could explain so much about your obsessive need to proove you've pegged him correctly as an ingrate, an aloof professor, more than the wise president (that I believe he is).

  135. Dowd can turn on a dime in her admiration and respect for one politician or another. Are serious men and women who opt into politics expected to please Dowd and meet some level of acceptability or they can then expect they will soon enough be exposed to her sarcasm? She' s clever, of course, but she doesn't know much when it's all said and done.

  136. What's revelatory and interesting -- while not in the least surprising -- about the quotes from the usual cohort in the article above is the thinly-veiled, we-made-you pique that's being expressed.

    At least with a racist, Mr. President, you know where you stand.

    (Maybe time to turn the Lincoln Bedroom into Motel 6 again, you think?)

  137. This is one reason I like Obama, because he shares a bit of my disdain for stupid ego driven insincere retail politics. And my preference for actually trying to do what needs to be done. I donate to and vote for him because he's the one I want doing this job, not because it will make me feel better about myself.

  138. What is described here is a politician who isn't. A politician. This is a big problem. In just over a dozen years in elective office, Obama rose from being a guy with a polished academic resume to being president of the US. That's fast, especially considering that aside from his good looks and speaking abilities, he carried no other particular recommendation for high office. The signature accomplishment was overcoming personal disorder in his childhood home life, but he did so by excelling in the academic realm, a route taken by many others. Our second youngest president, John Kennedy, had his family name and his war time heroics. Bill Clinton had been governor of Arkansas since he was ten and possessed the ability to wrap an audience into his dinner napkin and take it home with him or make them wish he would.

    The inability to appreciate the needs of aides, Congresspeople and other small political fry probably comes from the fact that Obama has gotten a great deal of what he wanted so easily. His one big political lump was losing a race of the House. (A mere 8 yrs. later, he was elected president.) Other than that, his life has been golden. Such a background could make one insensitive to the point of not giving a hoot about backscratching politics.

    Washington is a town of pettiness, so little things mean a lot. A House member or Lt. gov. can dine out for a month on a word or a few minutes with a president. This reluctance could cost Obama dearly.

  139. “Needy politicians, like Bill Clinton, recharge at political events,” says Alter. “But, for Obama, they deplete rather than create energy.”

    Most every personality characteristic has an upside and a downside.

    From my observations (obviously filtered by media as I have no personal knowledge), President Clinton's hunger for attention may have made him more affable, but it also made him vulnerable. President Obama understands boundaries better, perhaps, and the importance of not losing yourself. He keeps some energy in reserve for his family and himself, and therefore is less likely to make impulsive decisions. It's probably why Paul Newman and President Obama have had stable marriages.

  140. Carter was like that, only more so. He felt morally superior to the exigencies of politics -- and indeed he was, but that just made it harder for him to hold his nose and do the necessary. Carter's style and Obama's are radically different, but the sense of superiority is there in both. I feel for them, rather. Politics is unsavory. It asks that you flatter rich people who are already so self-worshiping that compliments are redundant. It would make me nauseous. But it's the price of success at politics in this country. I respect him that he doesn't find it easy to stroke big egos.

    He should show more gratitude to the little folk, though. It's a character defect as well as a professional failing if he doesn't.

  141. Maybe he needs a social secretary, or an additional one. What he doesn't need is a column like this one.

    President Obama is the President of the United States, with hugely important, urgent things to be planned and done. He needs help which we can give him by voting in a Democratic Congress come November, and, if you're wealthy enough, a substantial campaign donation now.

    So Paul Newman sent thank you notes. So Paul Newman had that kind of time.

  142. I don't understand the commentators who seem to be saying that the president has more important things to do than to say "thank you" and more important than to be responsive to his supporters and subordinates human needs.

    Nonsense. The president is not an unelected and autocratic philosopher king. He is the elected leader of the American people and if he wants to accomplish at least some of his goals -- which includes getting reelected -- he better do what it takes, even if it's not natural to him.

    An actor can respond or not to admirers. It's only his or her personal career which is at stake. (Paul Newman, by the way, may have had his share of conscious reserve, but he was a regular at Gold's "kosher style" deli -- not a very fancy place; looks like a neighborhood luncheonette-- and did his workouts at the Westport, CT YMCA. I don't imagine Obama hanging out with the crowd at Gold's or the Y.)

    The president has to deal with the world and its people as it is, not as he or some of the commentators here would like it to be. Some thank yous and hugs and warm smiles are perfectly normal elements of leadership in the USA. He asked for the job and those of us who support his policies are relying on him because there is no one else. It's too late for Obama to not play by the well established -- and fundamentally harmless and cost free -- rules of how to accomplish goals by making others feel good.

  143. Some of us would feel good if he succeeds at what we elected him to do, and give not a fig if he sends thank-you notes. We will thank him instead. Some of us also hope it is NOT too late to change the rules.

  144. I want a president to run this country. A man with good principles and good policy making ability. I don't expect a thank you for my donations. If you think it's necessary, maybe you should volunteer. Oh you can't you say, you have a full time job?

    We don't need him to spend his time on thank you notes. I hope Maureen isn't writing this column because he neglected to thank her for something positive she wrote or money donated. Geez, didn't we hand him a plate full of slop and expect him to come up with a gourmet meal?

    I'm glad to see the comments standing up for this President and I was ecstatic that Harry Reid is doing so. He's had enough hate and threats thrown at him to last thru the next 10 presidencies. Give him a break. It is us who will lose if he loses, not him.

  145. Fascinating. It's worse than I feared. Where Clinton sounds manic, Obama sounds depressive, though neither is either. I would say, however, that Hillary Clinton is more like Obama than like her husband, Bill (yes?). I do know for certain that when she was Senator, she sent thank you notes to anyone who deserved one. A good rule to follow, even in private life. I wish I had followed it.

  146. The president is depressive? Phlegmatic perhaps, but not depressive.

  147. good grief. Nothing about President Obama suggests "depressive." It's a pleasure to have someone with introvert tendencies in office. If he were gladhanding as some of you seem to think he should, he'd get more accusations of being a celebrity president and a cult of personality. It is not worse than you feared -- it's so much better than we deserve, since Republicans won't let him act in the interests of the country. Do you really think you know enough to judge whether he's sending thank-you notes appropriately? He's running the country and things are a little crazy out there, if you haven't noticed.

  148. Obama reminds you of Nixon and Carter.

    Remarkably intelligent but distant and cold in a profession that rewards empathy and engagement and warmth with awesome loyalty bordering on theology and love. But they were all skilled politicians earning respect rather than love.

    Willard Mitt Romney is also devoid of any apparent human warmth and compassion or empathy. And his intellect and political skills are questionable.Rafalca Romney the $ 500, 000.00 worth $77, 000.00 tax deduction dancing horse Olympian seems to be the focus of the Duke and Duchess Romney's passion.

    In the end all that matters is winning elections.

  149. America -- He is as good as you will ever get. Ms Dowd -- This is a most sensible
    commentary on what it is all about. I do not need to comment further because the
    first seven commenters have each in their own way done it extremely well.

  150. Obama is a complicated guy, like Batman. I like Batman.

  151. The problem is, and the problem has been, that the man that is best to lead a democracy is hardly the type, in terms of character, temperance, and social graces, that is likely to be elected to lead such a democracy.

    President Obama has always had the smarts, but, either because of willful disdain, or because he is innocent and naive, Mr. Obama has never fully engaged in the transactional essence of politics.

    Philosopher kings might wax about the wisdom of their acts, but at the end of the day, voters think of identity politics, of being better off, and of not feeling "betrayed" by their candidate Mr. Obama once denied this reality, and dreamed of post-partisanship. He now is clearly aware of the unreality of this, and has thrown himself to partisanship as the only way that exists for a politician to win re-election.

    Because of his competitiveness, he will too have to become a true politician, or else, face defeat at the polls. We might not like it, but this is how things work in the "real" world.

    Thanks Maureen, for a great column.

  152. Dear Mr. President, from one aloof, 'un-needy' person to another: please continue to not be a phony and focus on the job you were elected to do. I don't need hugs, kisses, and thank-you notes simply because there are more urgent and important things in the world for you to focus on. Those who need to have their egos continuously massaged are below you, and frankly need psychological therapy and maybe a prescription antidepressant.

  153. Scary how uncaring for "the people" (classic definition) both Romney and Obama are. Heck of a choice.

  154. It's clear that Romney also has a "fierce competitive will". I think Obama has met his match, and I think he knows it.

  155. If Romney has a fierce will to win, it is leading him in the wrong direction in this campaign. The only thing that I see Romney having a fierce will at is amassing more money.

  156. @ Mark

    and trying to add President to his resume.

  157. “Needy politicians, like Bill Clinton, recharge at political events,” says Alter. “But, for Obama, they deplete rather than create energy.”

    Psychological studies can be said to show that the above statement is a rather perfect description of nothing more, possibly, than the wired in difference between an extrovert and an introvert. It is sometimes said that nothing much more distinguishes the two than what is needed for each to discharge. For the former, contact and people; for the latter, quite and solitude or something close to that. Neither is wrong, and they really should not be compared and contrasted as right vs. wrong.

  158. What an interesting and well-written article. Congratulations to Maureen.

    I voted enthusiastically for Mr Obama in 2008, and I'll vote for him again in November without hesitation. BUT.....this time I will have to hold my nose when I vote, as I have done in the past in most presidential elections.

    I think this article is so well written that it will come to Mr Obama's attention if his wife has to wrap it in a brick and hit him on the head with it.

  159. Another terrific column by Ms. Dowd. I just want to add, having spent a lifetime in politics myself, I know that there are many, many other politicians at all levels who are equally ungrateful to their supporters, contributors and especially their staffs. Both Clintons may have been/be "warm and fuzzy" with contributors. But they treated/treat their staffs staff like garbage- really miserably. This is common knowledge.

  160. George Washington couldn't have made it as a glad-handing pol. He was known for his aloofness, but it was regarded as a sign of character. It's too bad for America that we demand a certain personality type of our politicians instead of character, intelligence and leadership.

  161. For someone who allegedly wants to be a policy maker and not a politician he has certainly shaped many of his domestic and economic policies in order to curry favor with Republicans, big business, financiers and other obscenely rich plutocrats. That his efforts have been less than 100% successful is a testament to the ideological bull headedness, radical partisanship and willingness of the Republicans to be owned lock, stock and barrel by the aforementioned elements of the American plutocracy.

  162. Personally, I think it's a good thing that Obama won't even sign a photo for a donor. It makes me feel like we're all on equal footing here. I've given money to Obama and expect nothing from him in return.

    Except that he fight for everyone, not just rich donors.

  163. Probably all very true. But with Romney hot on his heels, please put him up there, with motherhood, until election day.

  164. How about we drop the Paul Newman nonsense?

  165. Years from now, history will judge Barack Obama as a great President. I expect his second term to dramatically add to his accomplishments. We are living during a transitional period. Change is difficult at any time. We must maintain our leadership role but must recognize the changes that have and will continue to take place as developing nations move forward in a global economy. The President understands the challenges. The characteristics outlined in Ms. Dowd's article showcase the special qualities of this leader. As a man of great intellect and grace, he is moving forward into the future, not backward into the past. Forward....a campaign imperative. Forward...we as a nation must start to march or the parade will surely pass us by.

  166. Go to any tea party web site, and you will find that there are sizable numbers of our population who are fixated on guns, greed, and God, but not any God most moderates would recognize.

    These people are defined by what they hate, which includes gays, non-whites, labor unions, education other than home schooled, science and intelligence.

    A black man in the US, even the President, even Colin Powell, has to be cautious in America, to our shame. Consider the young man in Florida who was murdered for standing his ground while black.

  167. You make it seem like being self-sufficient is a character flaw.

    True, it doesn't serve him well in politics, but as was stated in your article, this is the profession of needy dysfunctionals.

    Barak may not be the ideal politician, but don't call it a moral failing.

  168. Can we have more like him please?

  169. Being an ideal politician is not the same as being a good President.

  170. It is too bad that that sometimes the sensibilities of very privileged people in our society get warped by the daily abeyance can become accustomed to - sometimes a sense of entitlement develops.

    It is very obvious to anyone half-way watching that there are never enough hours in a POTUS day, and that any seconds and minutes which can be pried away from work highly-prized and spent on family.

    This probably takes some adjustment for some very privileged people, and it seems that at least the DNC could make sure proper thank yous go out, but it's certainly alright for contributors to find that access and time are not for sale.

    They should realize they contribute to a cause, a set of goals, not a particular person; that such a person is a vessel, who should animate us.

    It is also quite a fine notion that the person holding the most important elective office on the planet recharges himself other than standing in front of crowded rooms, or with ceaseless glad-handing.

    It's good to have an interior life to keep you centered and not believing too much of your press.

  171. On the nose again, Maureen. And sometimes that stings. We have a president, and like Paul Newman any attempt to replace him would be a complete failure= especially in this election.
    Thank you for another sparkling column.

  172. How would anyone know how many thank you notes President Obama has sent?
    Perhaps one can infer the number by collecting complaints from big donors who have publicly complained they didn't get enuf luv for their money, but I doubt it.

    Paul Newman was a pretty cool guy with a good heart and President Obama merits the comparison. In the movie "Hombre" Newman's half Apache character is asked why everyone should follow him out of a difficult situation.
    Newman says, "Because I can cut it."

  173. I have given President Obama money in 2008 and 2012. I have a framed (I paid for the framing) copy of my invitation to the Presidential Inaugural of January 20, 2009. That is thank you enough for me. Ironically, January 20, 2009 is also when the Republican "elite" met to formulate ways to destroy the President. They have partially succeeded, however, it is NOW time for the American electorate to get rid of the Republicans in Congress so that we can really get this economy and nation moving again. As for the Republicans, their treason and worship of the 1% should lead to their destruction as a political party.

  174. Amen! The best thank you we could ever have is a functioning US government, and if the President puts all his efforts toward this end, with the help of a loyal congress, we will be duly rewarded. Enough with the rock-star politicians. Let them concentrate on what they're sent to DC to do.

  175. Boy, are you going to be depressed when Obama loses Herbert Hoover size - for pretty much the same reasons - and takes a ton of Democrats down with him.
    Please, don't believe me. Go to the Gallup website and look how many votes Obama IS NOT going to get that he did in '08.

  176. I'm a very small donor yet I have received lots of cool stuff from the President, including an invitation to the Inauguration, a poster, bumper stickers and a lawn sign.

  177. A few things pop to mind:

    1) Ideally, when one gives-donates-contributes, one should NOT expect anything in return. It would be nice if the other party expresses gratitude, yet expecting-wanting them to do so is called craving, not exactly giving.

    2) While one does not wish for a leader or president who is a psychopath devoid of any human emotion, one should not see a leader as some kind of rock star or movie starlet who more or less has to pamper to the emotions of 'fans'. A mature society should be able to tell the difference between them. I may not be a fan of a certain president yet this may not hinder my voting for him or her, and there is no need to thank me for the vote when and if elected.

    3) Ideally, a president should be a leader (globally and historically, there have been too many people in positions where they are expected to lead but don't) and one character required of a leader is that he or she needs, when and where required, to 'rise to the occasion' and transcends beyond and above him or herself i.e. ignoring his or her personal well-being e.g. political future. Sometimes this also means saying or doing things which may be unpopular (but is necessary) at the time.

    4) I sometimes wonder if the WWII American leaders like Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Patton etc would become what they had become IF they were seeking office and (military) command today.

  178. Mr. Obama has been a poor president for obvious reasons - lack of strong leadership experience, and his reliance on some of the economists that helped build the mess we're in. On the other hand, I have no doubts about either his honesty, or intent to benefit America. (Except for legalizing the illegals.)

    Obam's alternative, Mr. Romney, has unfortunately repeatedly proven himself as dishonest, stumbling, and arrogant. Despite Obama's warts, no doubt about who to vote for in my mind.

    Oh yes - Ms. Dowd's insights and writings continue to amaze me. Outstanding!

  179. Well, I think Mr. Obama puts his faith in God. That always limits the scope of negotiation.

  180. One wonders how your opinion of the president might have been different if he had a loyal opposition, ready to meet him in the middle, instead of the great super-patriots like Mitch McConnell.

  181. I think Alter (and by extension Dowd) is spot on in his analysis. You'd think we'd be happy to have a president who is secure rather than needy, but human nature being what it is we find fault with that too. Isn't it well past time we grew up a little bit and behaved like adults--like our President?

  182. The world has changed Ms. Dowd. With 24/7 cable, reality shows and every person with their own camera and microphone, the President is acting appropriately.
    Since he becames President his every action, word or private conversation has been twisted, and used by his many foes to paint him as unAmerican, radical, commie, pinko alien. From the reaction at a fundraiser his quote about guns and religion and his initial remarks about the Gates fiasco were twisted by his detractors to paint him as a Bill Gates twin.

    No wonder he is distant. Rather this than a Michele Bachman, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum let it all hang out type of guy.

  183. I think President Obama is seeing all gatherings supporting his efforts as a collaboration to address the interests of the Nation or the Public Good. Accordingly, he probably sees the virtue of giving to a greater cause as its own reward. He probably has many more pressing things on his mind, more people to consider, and less time to send thank you cards than was the case for Paul Newman.

  184. Hey, I'm okay with knowing those robo phone calls from Barack are going to other folks and not just to me. And I can live without a thank you note or an email followup from the White House for my meager donation.

    What will bother me -- in fact, infuriate me and millions of others -- is if there is a new President who is determined to raise my taxes, savage women's rights, spend trillions more on wasteful military systems, and nominate tools of the radical right to the Supreme Court. Then I will be offended.

  185. President Obama has core convictions and is who he is, a thoughtful caring man.

    Mitt Romney who has no core,has changed every position, lies with impunity and refuses to release tax records,has the goal of accumulaing more in $ and power.

    There is no comparison in the quality of these men.

  186. I'll still vote happily for Obama over his opponent, whose approach seems to be: "Ok team, please remember that I need my daily talking points before breakfast so that I remember what to say, and how to feel."

  187. I'm a small contributer to Obamas campaigns. In 2008 I always received some form of gratitude. This year the only acknowledgement is a plea for more. Guess how much he'll receive from here on out!

  188. You know, it's rather telling that the columnist compares running the country and seeking political support as equivalent to being a Hollywood actor. It seems to me like the last time we had an actual Hollywood actor for president, is when things really began to go downhill for the U.S.A.

  189. The United States is a nation dominated by extraverted personalities. These folks who find their footing and their reward among others necessarily have a very hard time understanding (and thus accepting without criticism) the psychology of the introverts in their own households, classrooms, workplaces and political stages.