Many first-hand observers of George W. Bush in the White House stressed his lack of intellectual curiosity. He wasn’t a President that interested in ideas nor did he go out of his way to secure knowledge. He was from his point of view not thinker-in-chief but “decider-in-chief” — he had subordinates who were meant to come up with the ideas for him to select. One thing he did have was so-called emotional intelligence — when I met him during the 1996 White House campaign one immediately picked that up. His emotional intelligence was also on show in the those dark days immediately following 9/11 — cast your minds back at how he connected with the New York firemen who had been working at Ground Zero.
What we have with Barack Obama would seem to be the reverse — an intellectual unable to connect on the emotional front. One of the most interesting passages in Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars comes on page 67 with John Podesta recognizing Obama’s Achilles Heel while he oversaw the President-elect’s transition team.
Woodward says: “He compared Obama to Spock from Star Trek…Podesta was not sure that Obama felt anything, especially in his gut. He intellectualized and then charted the path forward essentially picking up the emotions of others and translating them into ideas.” Explains a lot about how disconnected emotionally this White House has felt.