His rhetoric, his ability to use words, is superlative.
He is also clearly intelligent, even brilliant.
Barack Obama seems strangely lacking in the emotional connectivity and empathy department.
Even when he uses the right words, there’s an odd emotional disconnection and aloofness that comes out.
Few if any close, working relationships with senators, congressmen, and fellow leaders have been established.
He’s not one to reach out by phone or socialize with allies, let alone enemies.
His policies done in the name of compassion are set forth in coldly factual ways.
His favorite solution is to lecture, to educate through speeches and policy declarations, and then to dismiss and discount those he feels like “don’t get it”.
Statements like, “we’re all more united than not” in the aftermath of the recent shootings strike me as downright strange and out-of-touch.
Emotional Disconnection at Home and Abroad
Early in his presidency when he enjoyed huge majorities in Congress, he shifted focus onto health care reform rather than remaining focused on addressing the economy.
And the backlash absolutely caught him off guard as if he thought, “no reasonable person could possibly object to this!”
When pursuing environmental policies that destroy even more manufacturing jobs, a similar surprise at the vehement opposition of those most affected is evident.
On the world stage, he has leveraged a great deal of US prestige on promoting homosexual rights on a global scale, yet fails to emotionally understand how such a stance is seen in the Arab and Slavic worlds: effeminate weakness.
He judges the Republicans for nominating Donald Trump, yet fails to see how his own repeated lack of evident empathy opened the door to him in traditional, blue-collar, Democratic areas.
He judges the aggressiveness and disregard of the US among powers like Russia, Saudi Arabia, yet fails to emotionally understand why his sexual liberationist policies invited it.
Empathy for the Man
But my purpose in writing this is not to judge the man.
Rather, I want to propose a thesis.
My thesis is Barack Obama is on the spectrum.
I think he is a highly functioning Asperger’s individual.
I don’t think he is purposely trying to antagonize, patronize, or demonize those who disagree with him.
I do think he has some deep deficits that make it difficult for him to anticipate emotional reactions, and respond to them after they arise.
And I think it’s easy to misread him in return and therefore take personally what he does or doesn’t do.
If my thesis is correct, this pattern will continue until he leaves office.
If my thesis is correct, raging against him will not help and will only damage those people and groups he keeps offending and hurting with cold, surgical precision.
If my thesis is correct, we can only adjust our expectations.
Those in opposition to his polices, like myself, can save our breath and not expect him to hear our concerns, understand our fears, and make compromises to mitigate the worst excesses of his “theoretically perfect” positions.
Making Up for the Deficit
To those who agree with the President ideologically, realize that people on the other side feel repeatedly beaten up, aggressively attacked by, and unyieldingly punished by this president.
Part of the reason there is such anger is, instead of empathy, there is this cold, condescending, compassionless lecturing that has hugely and permanently alienated wide swaths of the electorate.
Unlike FDR or JFK or Bill Clinton, Barack Obama has shown no empathy towards those his policies have economically, morally, and socially harmed.
Bridges have been burned that, if the Democratic party has any future, will need to be rebuilt.
And the same goes for the Republicans.
Instead of keeping up the pressure and rolling out policy after policy that offends and hurts the same group, how about a season of peace and rest?
How about reaching out to religious conservatives and saying, “Let’s find a wise, both-and solution to areas where our current social activism policies now require you to violate your conscience”?
How about reaching out to blue-collar, white, de-industrialized males and saying, “Let’s find a wise, both-and solution which compensates you for the free-trade, pro-environment policies that have destroyed your industries, and get you back into the better paying workforce”?
The trouble is neither Hilary Clinton nor Donald Trump is strong in empathy.
I therefore predict that, sooner or later, our current social divisions will continue to be further inflamed by an unconsciously uncaring chief executive.