Random Thoughts: Obama Just Like Me


Various writers have spilt a fair bit of ink writing about Obama’s personality. Some have claimed that his great skill is to make others feel that he is just like them. Perhaps that part is true because my contribution to the Obama psychoanalysis is to claim that he is more like me than perhaps any other US president.

My theory (using my favorite lens of Myers-Briggs typing) is that Obama is an INTP. That is to say, he is an introverted, cerebral, and abstract thinker. Indeed, above all else, he is a thinker (compared to doer or decider).

The traits that so impressed many such as his “nuanced view” on issues are typical of an INTP. INTPs are more concerned with understanding than solving problems or doing things. They are good at seeing various sides of an argument (many could have a lengthy debate with themselves). The moments of melancholy that some attributed to him are another characteristic of an INTP. The arrogance that many complain of is another INTP trait. It might be more accurate to say “apparent” arrogance, as many INTPs are filled with doubt. Their introversion, aloof, and cerebral nature make them appear arrogant, but this is more apparent than real (although INTPs can display powerful intellectual snobbery).

Now that he has the power Obama needs to make decisions. Sadly, decisiveness is not an INTP trait. Their great skill is seeing possibilities and understanding complex systems. However, making decisions tends to be difficult for them: there is always more to learn, other possibilities to explore, and more information to gather. But, a president does not just have to understand, he has to decide. Indeed deciding is probably the key skill. The ability to act in the absence of total information is what makes a successful executive. Any decisions may turn out to be right or wrong, more information also adds more doubt. The skill of an executive is to gather just enough information to make their decisions more than a guess.

In short, Obama is temperamentally unsuited to the job he is now in. To be clear, I am not making an ideological statement (even if Obama and I would differ on this), I am certainly not making any racial or HBD type of claim: Obama undoubtedly has the intellect for the job just not the personality. My point is that Obama has a personality that is unsuited to a high level executive position. The job of president, forces him into a position that relies on strengths that are actually his weaknesses (decisions with incomplete information and understanding people and their motives, etc.). The job of president is stressful for anybody, but is likely far more stressful for someone like Obama. He is truly a case of being careful what you ask for.

I will reiterate that this not a complaint about decisions that Obama has made or may make. If I were in total agreement with his outlook, I would still believe his temperament unsuited for the job (as would my own temperament).

I use Myers-Briggs more as a metaphor for personality types. Typing people from a distance is fun but futile exercise. There are to many confounding factors, especially for someone with a “public” persona. Even if accurately typed, such typing at best describes the likelihood of certain traits. It is certainly not a complete description of a person, their skills, attitudes, or motives. Some have called Obama a narcissist, I guess this post counts as my own bit of narcissism, thus making me like Obama as per my original claim.

This is another Random Thought in the Random Thoughts series of quickfire posts (more like comments than articles).


5 Responses to “Random Thoughts: Obama Just Like Me”

  1. Xamuel Says:

    I read some theory somewhere, someone wondered whether Obama might not be going through depression right now. Apparently according to his books he went through two other long periods of depression earlier in his life. In any case, as a radical leftist, my heart is broken by his total capitulation on every issue, as if he were a Republican plant. Nothing for it now but to take the faith we had in Obama and put it in someone like Assange.

  2. Default User Says:

    You probably feel as about Obama as many on the right felt about Bush. Has he really capitulated on every issue? He has not made radical changes, but neither did Reagan, Clinton, Bush (foreign “wars” have been part of Republican and Democratic administrations).

    If you are a radical anything you will always be disappointed when those you choose have to govern.

    If Obama is really depressed does that mean we have to worry about this:
    http://www.alternativeright.com/main/blogs/hbd-human-biodiversity/depression-polygamy-and-suicide-bombers/ :/

  3. David Foster Says:

    Not sure about the INTP analysis. Many claim Obama is a brilliant intellectual; I have seen little trace of the abstract-thinking ability that is supposed to be associated with with the iNtuitive type. Regarding the Perception attribute, he may be “nuanced” when it comes to rogue states, terrorists, etc, but he is extremely judgmental regarding whole classes of his fellow Americans.

    More generally, I observe that successful managers and executives are those who focus on **what the job inherently requires**, whether or not it fits their personality. The extroverted successful salesman who gets promoted to sales manager, and doesn’t want to spend time on budgeting and planning, is probably going to fail. Ditto the introverted engineer who gets promoted to engineering manager and doesn’t want to spend time interacting with marketing, product management, and finance.

    I think the Jungian typology is very useful, but people should have flexibility to do what needs to be done, even when it goes against the grain. Within realistic limits, of course.
    [DU: I agree that personality typing can be taken too literally or become too limiting. My point was that many aspects of the president’s job would be outside the normal comfort/competence zone of an introverted cerebral type. While I do not believe that Obama is “brilliant,” I do believe he has the intellect needed for the job (i.e., he is bright enough).]

  4. Linkage is Good for You: Ethnic Stereotyping Edition Says:

    […] Default User – “Random Thoughts: Obama Just Like Me” […]

  5. PA Says:

    I posted this comment at Half Sigma, but thought it’s somewhat relevant on this thread as well:

    Here’s the thing about Bill Clinton’s smarts. I don’t deny his being very intelligent, but where’s the intellectual output? The man lived in the world of ideas and political debate, and yet not one original thought is attributed to him, not one rousing speech, not one piece of profound writing.

    His speeches were long, boring laundry lists of platitudes. Not one memorable one-liner remains from his presidency, save farcical ones like “definition of IS is.”
    [DU: Good point. Clinton was definitely skilled as a people/political person. His success was partly due to that “flexibility” (react to events and challenges), and not deep strategic thinking. If I had to type Clinton, I would put him as ESTP (but not earlier disclaimer on such typing).]

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