One of the Gipper’s favorite jokes involves a father who took his two young sons to see a psychiatrist because he was concerned about their contrasting personalities, one had become an extreme pessimist, the other an extreme optimist:
First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. . . . the little boy burst into tears. “What’s the matter?” the psychiatrist asked, baffled. “Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?” “Yes,” the little boy bawled, “but if I did I’d only break them.”
Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. . . . [The boy] clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. “What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked . . . . “With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere!”
I’d always interpreted that joke to mean that optimism and pessimism are innate qualities.Â We are either one or the other.Â Now, I’m not sure I believe that, but watching the Barack Obama these past few months (at least since his election) I’m beginning to wonder if he’s like the boy who burst into tears at the sight of a pile of brand-new toys.
Just watching him speak, I don’t get how he fills so many people with rapture.Â His smiles seem forced and rarely linger on his face.Â When he pauses for effect or to wait for applause to die down, his face rests in this very earnest look of determination.
That sense of his natural pessimism became increasingly manifest yesterday when I read Dick Morris’s column, It’s Obama spreading panic:
Ultimately, all recessions and depressions resolve themselves into crises of confidence. . . . President Obama, in his pursuit of liberal big-government spending, has totally neglected the role of the president of the United States in reversing global panic. . . .
Instead of being a firewall, reassuring Main Street even as Wall Street crashed, he has become a conduit of panic, spreading the mood of desperation from the stock exchange floor to kitchen tables across the world.
Morris believes there’s method to the president’s gloominess:
. . . having inherited a recession, his words are creating a depression. He entered office amid a disaster and he is transforming it into a catastrophe, all to pass every last bit of government spending and move us a bit further to the left before his political capital dwindles.
Perhaps this negativity is only strategy.Â And watching the president, I begin to wonder if this strategy which comes naturally to him.Â Hope seems more a opportunistic political slogan than a defining personal ideal for Barack Obama.
UPDATE:Â Peggy seems to agree:
Obama doesn’t do jaunty. Something in his demeanor defeats joy; his default mode is mild indignation when his job is inspiration. He did not leave people thinking, Now I know we will defeat this calamity.