Obama’s Achilles’ Heel: Hubris and the Arrogance of Power

For the next three weeks it will be very hard  to say anything critical about President Obama without it being interpreted as providing fuel for the Republicans.

We are in the “harrumphing” stage of the electoral cycle, as both Obama and Romney and their machines are primarily interested in stampeding the cattle across the finish line, on their side of the road.

There is little time for thoughtful consideration of any criticism, even that aimed at helping a candidate perform better in the remaing debates and days of the race.

Romney has already pulled his “October surprise”, with his stunning presentation of a new “authentic self” in the first presidential debate on October 3.

Obama has yet to present his “surprise”.  But as the incumbent, he has an immense advantage–the overwhelming power and initiative of the state.  He can order military strikes against those deemed responsible for killing four Americans in Benghazi on September 11-12, or (in principle) even support Turkey in taking military action against Syria as its border confict with that country escalates out of control.


The Trenchant Observer, “No time for cowboys: U.S. preparation for reprisals against Libyan targets, October 3, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer, “Syria as ‘The tinderbox of the Middle East’; Security Council press statement condemns Syria for shelling Turkish town—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #87 (October 5),”
October 5, 2012.

The criticisms and suggestions which might help Obama in the last stretch of his campaign probably can’t be heard, much less taken to heart.  

One strong piece of advice would be for him to get eight hours of sleep. The president’s exhaustion was evident in the first debate, and indeed has been evident for some time. He would win more votes if he could relax a little, and show he’s human with a genuine smile once in a while. He seems stressed out, and should fix it now.

A second would be to get a grip on the arrogance and hubris he and his team and campaign radiate everywhere they go. His own non-verbal behavior during the first debate provides one example. The failure of his administration to admit any error, even the slightest, in handling security in Benghazi and in providing misleading information about the nature of the attack is another. Biden’s bullying interruptions in the vice-presidential debate offer another.

See The Trenchant Observer, “New details on Benghazi attack on consulate, American response,” October 13, 2012.

For a fresh take on Barack Obama as viewed by a French journalist, see Corine Lesnes, “Barack Obama, Mister (faux) Cool,” M le magazine du Monde, Le Monde, 5 octobre 2012 (Mis à jour le 08.10.2012 à 00h40).

Obama’s arrogance, and the hubris which his team emulates and projects, could cost him the votes of independents and hence the election.  If he wins, we will have to suffer his arrogance for four more years, unless he has an epiphany, for which we can only pray.

But then no one said that Romney, the candidate without a memory (of his own positions), would be any better. In fact, the Republicans and their ideas for the country could turn out to be much worse than those of the Democrats.

It’s a hard choice: The arrogant warrior versus the “blank slate” dealmaker, handsome and promising in his own way.  But we must not forget that the dealmaker was brought to the dance by the Republicans whose true voices we heard in the primaries, and to whom, if elected, he would be beholden.

If there is any consolation, it is that in the end the election is not so much about Obama and Romney, but rather about the Democrats and the Republicans, and about their visions and goals, and which group we want to lead the country.

The Trenchant Observer