A few months ago, I had dinner with a journalist who knows President Obama somewhat well and admires him in several respects. He told me something that didn’t particularly surprise me – but which was useful to have confirmed. This person’ said Obama is enormously thin-skinned, he remembers and keeps track of negative things said and written about him, and he is a person filled with many more grievances and resentments than one might imagine. He feels sorry for himself – and he is inclined to lash out, in his own emotionally contained way, at even slight criticisms.
I was reminded of that conversation in hearing this exchange between Ed Henry of Fox News and the president.
Henry asked Obama a question related to Iran and, in the course of it, quoted a critical comment about Obama made by Mitt Romney. To which the president responded, with a faux smile, “I didn’t know you were the spokesperson for Mitt Romney.”
For a reporter to ask a president a question that includes a quote from a person from the opposite party is about as common as the sun rising in the east. So what explains the president’s snarky response?
The answer, I think, goes back to what my dinner companions said: Obama is exceedingly thin-skinned. Beyond that, he expects to be coddled by, if not worshiped by, the press. And of course Obama carries a particular resentment for Fox News, which doesn’t treat him as the world-historical, Lincoln-like figure Obama sees himself as.
In their book The Battle for America 2008, Haynes Johnson and Dan Balz wrote this:
[Chief political aide David] Axelrod also warned that Obama’s confessions of youthful drug use, described in his memoir, Dreams From My Father, would be used against him. “This is more than an unpleasant inconvenience,” he wrote. “It goes to your willingness and ability to put up with something you have never experienced on a sustained basis: criticism. At the risk of triggering the very reaction that concerns me, I don’t know if you are Muhammad Ali or Floyd Patterson when it comes to taking a punch. You care far too much what is written and said about you. You don’t relish combat when it becomes personal and nasty. When the largely irrelevant Alan Keyes attacked you, you flinched,” he said of Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate opponent.
Obama has flinched ever since – and he’s flinching now more than ever.
I have commented several times before that as Obama’s presidency collapses, he will have a terrible time processing it. He is becoming increasingly petulant and exasperated, blaming others for his own failures, and even seeing conspiracies (Ed Henry is carrying water for Mitt Romney) where none exist.
It’s a sad thing to watch Barack Obama morph into Richard Nixon.