Back during the late stages of the 2008 presidential campaign, many in the media were trying to get a grasp of who then-Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama was. It was a question that even Tom Brokaw and Charlie Rose struggled with.
Fast forward to 2011 – New York Times columnist and author of “The Social Animal” David Brooks has finally figured it out, and it’s complicated. On Sunday’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on CNN, Brooks explained his answer, which involves multiple personalities.
“He’s multiple animals,” Brooks said. “You know, I would say we’re all – we all have multiple personalities. My psychobabble description of him is he’s a very complicated person who has many different selves, all of them authentic, but they come out in different contexts. And he is — has always has the ability to look at other parts of himself from a distance, and so it means he has great power to self-correct and I think it gives him power to see himself. It means that he rarely is all in.”
Brooks said this is where Obama has an edge on former President George W. Bush.
“You know, President Bush didn’t have as much – many multiple selves, so when he made a decision he was all in, he was just going to be there,” Brooks continued. “But as I think President Obama is much more cautious, because he’s a man of many pieces and many parts and not all of which I understand or I think anybody understands. But it may — it leads to that caution that we see time and time again and almost a self-distancing I see.”
Brooks explained that on the campaign trail politicians are “social animals,” but once in power they become “dehumanized.”
“In general, though, the politicians I cover are tremendously attuned social animals on the campaign trail,” he said. “The problem is that when they go into government, they start talking in the language of CBO reports and they become very dehumanized when they’re doing government, where they sort of take away in many ways the strength that they have.”