As Election Day approaches, President Obama is sharing a few important things about himself. He has mentioned more than once in recent weeks that he cooks “a really mean chili.” He has impressive musical pitch, he told an Iowa audience. He is “a surprisingly good pool player,” he informed an interviewer — not to mention (though he does) a doodler of unusual skill.I guess people who think they're ordinary don't go into politics, but Obama takes his self-praise to a whole new level.
All in all, he joked at a recent New York fund-raiser with several famous basketball players in attendance, “it is very rare that I come to an event where I’m like the fifth or sixth most interesting person.”
Even by the standards of the political world, Mr. Obama’s obsession with virtuosity and proving himself the best are remarkable, those close to him say. (Critics call it arrogance.) More than a tic, friends and aides say, it is a core part of his worldview, formed as an outsider child who grew up to defy others’ views of the limits of his abilities. When he speaks to students, he almost always emphasizes living up to their potential...."Cockiness?" Isn't that one of those dog-whistle words we're not supposed to use?
But even those loyal to Mr. Obama say that his quest for excellence can bleed into cockiness and that he tends to overestimate his capabilities.
Of course, Obama has spent an inordinate amount of time as president perfecting his abilities in his leisure activities.
For someone dealing with the world’s weightiest matters, Mr. Obama spends surprising energy perfecting even less consequential pursuits. He has played golf 104 times since becoming president, according to Mark Knoller of CBS News, who monitors his outings, and he asks superior players for tips that have helped lower his scores. He decompresses with card games on Air Force One, but players who do not concentrate risk a reprimand (“You’re not playing, you’re just gambling,” he once told Arun Chaudhary, his former videographer).His arrogance is wearing rather thin, even with Democrats
His idea of birthday relaxation is competing in an Olympic-style athletic tournament with friends, keeping close score. The 2009 version ended with a bowling event. Guess who won, despite his history of embarrassingly low scores? The president, it turned out, had been practicing in the White House alley.
Even some Democrats in Washington say they have been irritated by his tips on topics ranging from the best way to shake hands on the trail (really look voters in the eye, he has instructed) to writing well (“You have to think three or four sentences ahead,” he told one reluctant pupil).For all his self-adulation and contempt for Romney, it must really grind away at him to be basically tied in the polls with Romney, especially with his view of the comparable qualities of their campaigns.
For another, he may not always be as good at everything as he thinks, including politics. While Mr. Obama has given himself high grades for his tenure in the White House — including a “solid B-plus” for his first year — many voters don’t agree, citing everything from his handling of the economy to his unfulfilled pledge that he would be able to unite Washington to his claim that he would achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Those were not the only times Mr. Obama may have overestimated himself: he has also had a habit of warning new hires that he would be able to do their jobs better than they could.
“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Mr. Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign, according to The New Yorker. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
Though he never ran a large organization before becoming president, he initially dismissed internal concerns about management and ended up with a factionalized White House and a fuzzier decision-making process than many top aides wanted.
No matter what moves Mr. Romney made, the president said, he and his team were going to cut him off and block him at every turn. “We’re the Miami Heat, and he’s Jeremy Lin,” Mr. Obama said, according to the aide.Let's hope that he'll get a whole lot more time to perfect those bowling, golf, and basketball skills after January 20, 2013.