Obama doesn’t seem to know how to be president

Originally posted on I Said . . . comments on current issues:

Two years ago, a PhD student from Stanford University spoke with several former Obama White House staff members. Naturally, they were guarded in what they said but, every so often, a few of them made a revealing comment or two.

The student reported to me that lower level staffers followed the Obama Administration talking-points and blamed the Republicans for the legislative gridlock. But the higher-ups in the chain of command sometimes expressed a quiet frustration.

A woman said: “He (President Obama) created what was like a college dorm atmosphere in the West Wing. People were never certain what their job was because someone would change the priorities just like that.”

A man remarked: “There was a lot of brainstorming about things with no decisions made or plan of action, or timetable, and no results.”

Another man commented: “A president does not really have a fixed job description. He gets to…

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Posted in Controversial

A tale of two Virginias

By Ken Feltman

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), widely assumed to be the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was beaten in a primary yesterday. The media are claiming Cantor’s loss is a shocking, totally unexpected event. Not so fast: Cantor got caught in excessive hubris and a Congressional district that reflects a split in the Republican Party that will not be easy to resolve.

Tea Party folks are claiming credit. But the various Tea Party groups were hardly involved in the primary. The immigration issue served as a rallying point for disenchanted voters hurt by the economy and having trouble finding good jobs. These voters struck out at Cantor, who was more attuned to the better off suburban Richmond voters.

Cantor ignored warnings

Some groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for example, picked up the signals that Cantor was in trouble. Cantor dismissed their intelligence and their offers of help. Yesterday, as his constituents voted, Cantor met with lobbyists at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill in Washington to plan fundraising activities.

Do not read national significance into this primary upset. Cantor has never been comfortable with rural “red-neck” Republicans. During reapportionment, his consultants managed to add non-suburban Republican areas to his district, seemingly strengthening his hold. These new areas were an uncomfortable fit for Cantor and they turned out yesterday to vote for a simpler message than the nuanced Cantor conveyed.

Cantor’s pollster misread the likely GOP electorate. Cantor misread the growing split between frustrated conservatives who feel threatened and disadvantaged, unable to control their economic destiny, and those Republicans who have financial stability and want to build on that base.

Richmond suburbs are moving north?

Another way to look at it: The Richmond suburbs are growing and, in essence,  moving north, politically, toward the Washington suburbs of Northern Virginia. As the Richmond suburbs “move north,” they pass the more rural areas that remain, politically, in the old Virginia.

This split will intensify and the Republican Party will have a difficult time reconciling these two Virginias. During last weekend’s Republican convention in Roanoke, the antagonism toward Northern Virginia was evident in “Yankee, go home” comments directed at some Northern Virginia delegates.

The suburban areas near Washington may wish they could split from the rest of Virginia because they pay taxes to shore up the economies and infrastructure of many struggling areas of the Old Dominion. Although West Virginia split off from Virginia in the Civil War, with help from the Union government in Washington, separation will not happen today. But the separation of attitudes will continue to define the two Virginias. One is resisting, even regressing, as times remain tough, The other is more moderate, accepting and accommodating. It is also an economic engine that all parts of the Commonwealth of Virginia need.

This is the Virginia equivalent of New York City versus Upstate New York or Chicago versus Downstate Illinois – an uneasy tension that occasionally breaks out in political chaos.

Posted in Congress, Elections, Ken Feltman, Political parties, Politics | Tagged , ,

The Manipulator: Psychological Profile of Ukrainian President Yanukovich

by Elizaveta Egorova, PhD, and Ekaterina Egorova, PhD

(This is an update of the April 2010 psychological profile of President Yanukovich by Ekaterina Egorova and Elizaveta Egorova.)

Viktor Yanukovich’s choice between the association with the EU or the accession to the Customs Union is quite predictable if you look at this decision in terms of personality of Yanukovich. The President of Ukraine has once again demonstrated his skills of diplomacy based on his purely personal pragmatism that allowed him “to manipulate” the decision to join this or that economic space over such essential for his country issues such as the price of Russian gas and public debt.

The main goals in this game are primarily the presidential elections which results should be recognized by Moscow, and money from Russia which would slightly reduce the pressure of the economic factor in the Ukrainian upcoming elections.

There is a feeling that Yanukovich’s plans to engage with European integration were not serious from the very beginning, since he understands that EU is unlikely to recognize the results of the next presidential elections held under his scenario as legitimate. Both, the EU and Moscow are just figures on the Yanukovich’s chessboard which he move accordingly towards his plan, and yet quite successfully. Maidan square – does not count. This topic as well as the Western reaction towards the tough actions against the opposition is outside of Yanukovich’s interests.

Thus, which psychological characteristics of Yanukovich will help us to understand his behavior in relation to Moscow and Brussels?

Yanukovich grew up in the tough world, poverty, without parental support, and love. His childhood on the streets and days in prison taught him the main lessons – how to survive by relying on himself and how to manage the situation. He perceives the world extremely pragmatic: all profitable works good.

His childhood has formed the lack of emotional ties and obligations to anyone whatsoever. People who surround Yanukovich are the means in achieving his own goals. This mental design has firmly taken its place in Yanukovich’s domestic and foreign policies.

Yanukovich represents a vivid example of the political leader persistently working toward his goal. He had to overcome difficult barriers, humiliation and open hatred to become a president. Yanukovich brands his enemies as liars and calls traitors those who do not share his position. His reaction to criticism is aggressive and very painful. He greatly desires to obtain power over those who do not submit to him. But to rule in the country divided into two is not so simple. If there is no consensus, a politician with such psychological personality structure may operate only by means of compulsion.

Yanukovich is a classical example of a personality whose self-esteem is low and requires compensation. Its roots are in his unhappy childhood. Yanukovich considers himself to be a hero in all victories and blames others for defeats. Each foreign policy failure will be attributed to the behavior of the other party, and the process of reflecting his own behavior will be blocked.

The low self-esteem and lack of confidence in himself, caused by the shortage of love and recognition on the part of his parents, was expressed in his aspiration for occupying a dominating position and his need for power over others. In his interview to newspaper “Vzglyad” Yanukovich emphasized – “Today, Ukraine needs tough mechanisms of power providing presidential government no less than ten years”. [1]

Force for him is the main element of power. However, the natural pragmatism counterbalances the power orientation dictated by a very high need for power. Yanukovich is likely to demonstrate force approach through obstinacy and stubbornness, if there is no “carrot”. A potential “stick” is unlikely to produce any impression on him. However, a situation of real inconvenience probably will encourage Yanukovich to cooperate, as it happened during his first term prison sentence.

Yanukovich perceives a conflict as an integral part of any policy. Therefore politics is a cruel war where all means are good. Hence, in foreign policy he trusts nobody and is not going to relax. All allies are “friends” only for the time being while they are useful. And their usefulness is determined, in the first place, by Yanukovich’s goals. Since he is aimed at domination owing to his high need for power and the direct domination over the presidents of larger and strong countries is rather problematic, his domination may take a form of using them pragmatically to suit his own ends. As a result, cunning may well replace force, allowing him to solve his problems.

Yanukovich’s low self-esteem gave a push to the development of another major need, his need for achievement. It has a compensatory character as other needs. Therefore, he probably lives it through more sharply than the people with an adequate self-esteem. Yanukovich always tries to reach his goals, to be guided by the result and is ready to concentrate all his forces for its sake. He said about himself: “I am a man of action. It takes little time between my idea and its realization.” It is an important quality for a political leader.

Pragmatism is a key concept for Yanukovich. His pragmatism is focused on the main question: “What shall I get from it?” This question suggests various benefits like political and economic gain, support and recognition, power and influence, status and prestige. The clear understanding of what he may receive in various situations of foreign policy interaction will help Yanukovich to work out his line of behavior. However, the understanding of what he can lose or receive only partly may also facilitate making the right decision.

Even in respect of foreign policy Yanukovich formulated his thought rather clearly: “We will pursue a pragmatic and balanced foreign policy.”

Yanukovich is a good fighter with little fear. He was always ready to get involved in a dangerous situation and to risk. Rules and laws have value for him only if they ensure his own rights. In all other cases, they are only obstacles that should be skillfully bypassed.

His attitude to rules is worth remembering at the time of reaching agreements with Yanukovich and “ensuring” their observance. Yanukovich’s pragmatism allows him to change his position depending on his personal benefit, departing from previous arrangements. If some agreements are unfavorable to him, he simply ignores them. Therefore, the agreement reached as a result of the negotiations may be easily torpedoed, most likely silently. As a pragmatist, Yanukovich is always ready to reorient himself in his alliances, to trim his sails to the wind and capable of maneuvering in the changed conditions.

By virtue of his high need for affiliation Yanukovich cannot accept indifference to his personality. Attention to his personality is required during the interaction with Yanukovich. However, it is unable to arouse an emotional response from him.

Yanukovich is quite capable of strategic planning in his ventures aimed at achieving his goals. He is well aware of the situations around him, skillfully estimating his resources and possibilities. Focused on achieving success, he competently finds out and estimates every possibility that will lead him to the necessary result. He is also able to estimate his obstacles properly and to find a way to bypass them skillfully, maneuvering tactically at that.

In interpersonal relations, Yanukovich is highly distrustful and has a strong paranoid accentuation. If he comes across any counteraction on the part of those with whom he co-operates, it only makes him insist on his own approach even more, moving to the set goal. In other words, the disagreement with his offers or refusal of them is likely to force him even more to implement his plan.

Yanukovich still wins in this challenging game with such serious opponents as the EU and Russia. And if the European Union is experiencing annoyance that it was “used”, Moscow does not feel so. Meanwhile, in Kiev Yanukovich began to actively prepare the ground for the presidential elections and the new set of laws once again demonstrate the Ukraine’s vector of political development under Yanukovich’s rule.

Copyright © 2014 Elizaveta Egorova and Ekaterina Egorova. All rights reserved.

Posted in Controversial, Ekaterina and Elizaveta Egorova, Elections, Politics, psychological profile, Russia, Thought-Provoking Analysis, Ukraine | Tagged , , , , ,

Chris Christie: The revealing recklessness

By Ken Feltman

I have never regarded politics as the arena of morals. It is the arena of interest.
– Aneurin Bevan

Some defenders of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are whining that the media are making too big an issue over Christie’s supposed bullying. They are wrong for two reasons.

First, his actions as governor are fair game for the media. Christie may run for president. How he performs as governor is an indication of how he may perform if he becomes president. Secondly, the Christie apologists should be happy that the media are concentrating on the “bullying” aspect of Christie’s personality. Why? Because every moment spent on bullying is a moment not spent on what people really want to know about Christie.

Lazy media

The media tend to be lazy and follow the easy story line. A few weeks ago, the media called Christie’s more bellicose behavior refreshing, decisive, tough, direct. Now Christie is a “bully.” The public adjusts to the outward personalities of elected officials. No matter what people thought of President Clinton’s actions, very few thought he was vindictive enough to inconvenience ordinary citizens. People sensed that Clinton liked people. The closed traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge are causing people to wonder whether Bridgegate signals a darker side of Christie’s nature. Is he petty, does he have an enemies list, a mean streak? Does he retaliate when opposed?

Bullying is one thing. It is out in the open. Vindictiveness is another. It can be hidden. The media have only touched on this aspect of Christie’s personality. But the public is learning.

Former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean (R) showed how to play the vindictive card. The venerable Kean, one of New Jersey’s most respected public officials, has known and mentored Christie since Christie was a boy. Why would Kean attack the wounded governor over Bridgegate? The answer is bound up in the primal nature of politics, with a few New Jersey Mafia aspects mixed in to add flavor.

The revealing recklessness

Late last year, Christie tried to unseat Kean’s son, Tom Kean, Jr., as state Senate minority leader. Should Christie have known better than to take the risk of offending one of the state’s most well liked politicians? Moreover, should he have attacked the son of the man who gave him his start? Talk about ungratefulness! But sometimes success and the adulation of fawning followers lead a politician to recklessness – the revealing recklessness that comes when a person believes he has outgrown his teachers, his coaches, his mentor.

The plot against Kean, Jr. was a bad idea even if it succeeded. But the plot failed. Christie could not pull off the power play.

In politics, wounds never heal. These wounds were still so fresh that the senior Kean must have been startled that the moment for revenge came so soon, so easily. He would not need to spend time whispering rumors and dropping hints at political gatherings. All he had to do was answer a reporter’s question about what he thought of the growing Bridgegate scandal. He could have given a non-answer or laughed off the question.

Instead, he said, “On the one hand, I think (Christie’s) got a lot to offer. I think he’s the most able politician since Bill Clinton. On the other hand, you look at these other qualities and ask, ‘do you really want that in your president?”

Whack!

Whack! Just like the Mafia movies: You whack my son, I whack you back. Christie gave his respected mentor a made-to-order opportunity to retaliate. How revealing of Christie’s judgment is that? He gave a respected man a chance to settle a score and to defend his son by retaliating in the traditional Jersey way. What did Christie expect? No one thinks the less of Kean, Sr. What do they think of Christie’s political smarts now?

Kean could be joined by others who have personal or family wounds inflicted by Christie or one of his minions.  Politicians seem to find their own wounds heal faster when they inflict wounds on others. People with no wounds at all but with an ax to grind may invent wounds to bedevil Christie. A potential presidential front-runner is about to learn what it is like not only to be bullied but what it is like to be the victim of political retaliation.

More tales of errant vindictiveness may be out there. Christie cannot make them go away and he has given every political foe a reason to search for more revealing tidbits. He has also given his friends license to spill what they think, just as Kean, Sr., did. Hey, this almost makes New Jersey political retribution seem like a public service.
Christie can survive being a bully. Can he survive if people think he allows bridges to be closed in a political game of retribution? The media have more work to do. Christie has more explaining to do.

Remember Watergate? Sen. Howard Baker asked the most important question: “What did the President know and when did he know it?” The clues were in the Oval Office tapes, which were products of Richard Nixon’s vanity. Christie’s vanity was most revealed when he thought he could attack the son of his mentor and suffer no repercussions.

One email from destruction

Today, Christie is just one email, voice mail or overheard comment away from political destruction. Think about the folks who have hired (or are about to hire) opposition researchers to find the “smoking email.” Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul and any other Republicans who are thinking about running for president in 2016 are anxious to force Christie out. Every potential Democratic candidate wants Christie gone. This will generate business for a lot of political researchers and private detectives.

Consider another level of concern: If you are a key Republican official, are you going to worry that if Christie is nominated in 2016, the roof will fall in when the Democrats leak that “smoking email”? Will you now be less inclined to want Christie as your nominee?

Forget about the post-mortems on whether, in his mea-culpa press conference, Christie could have handled things better to get Bridgegate behind. This will not be behind him until he has whacked-into-silence every person with a motive to whack him. Think about that: He has whacked the most respected political figure in the state (yes, perhaps that is a low bar) and ordinary citizens trying to cross a bridge. There are a lot of people left to be heard from.

They vote and they now have reasons to worry that Christie is too petty to be presidential.

Posted in Elections, Ken Feltman, Politcal Consulting, Politics | Tagged , , , ,

Chris Christie and Bridgegate: Just one email away from destruction

By Ken Feltman

(also published at Politix.)

Remember Watergate? Sen. Howard Baker (R-TN) asked the  most important question: “What did the President know and when did he know it?” The clues were in the Oval Office tapes, which were products of Richard Nixon’s vanity.

Today, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is just one email, voicemail or overheard comment away from political destruction. Think about the folks who have hired (or are about to hire) opposition researchers to find the “smoking email.” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and any other Republican who is thinking about running for president in 2016 is anxious to force Christie out. Every potential Democratic candidate wants Christie gone. This will generate business for a lot of researcher-detective types.

Then consider another level of interest. If you are a key Republican official, are you going to worry that if Christie is nominated in 2016, the roof may fall in? What if the Democrats leak that “smoking email”? Will you now be less inclined to want Christie as your nominee?

Forget about the post-mortems on whether Christie could have handled things better or did as much as could be expected. Christie will not be able to put Bridgegate behind until another election cycle with him on the ballot passes. That cycle comes in 2016.

 

Posted in Elections, Politcal Consulting, Political parties, Politics | Tagged , , , , ,