Make Life a Mythic Journey
President Barack Obama has been severely criticized for his unrelenting willingness to compromise with overtly hostile and ideologically rigid opponents. His failure to let the Bush tax cuts expire and the resulting debt-ceiling fiasco in the summer of 2011 are prime examples of what critics claim is a lack of backbone. The insights of the great Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, may prove useful in understanding President Obama’s behavior.
Jung said, “For the boy, the father is an anticipation of his own masculinity.” As we know, Mr. Obama like former President Clinton was raised largely by his mother and grandparents without the presence of a father. To paraphrase Jung, the absence of the father removes the possibility that “the father may drive the boy out of his identification with the mother.” Such a boy, lacking the inner masculine, will of necessity fall back on the more feminine approach to conflict resolution—compromise. This may be especially true when dealing with bullies. The inability of Mr. Obama to deal with bullying casts a shadow over his Presidency.
The major social problem the President faced upon taking office in 2009, the one that led to his election, was the economy. Mr. Obama’s selected as his major economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, a notorious bully who was ousted as president of Harvard for his harsh, heavy-handed treatment of women. Prior to this, Mr. Summers was one of the “Gang of Five” along with current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner who bullied Brooksley Born, the woman President Clinton appointed to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, when she had the audacity to propose regulations controlling the use of the exchange traded derivatives that ultimately led to the economic collapse of 2008.
Perhaps the President felt that such a hyper-masculine bully and Wall Street insider would complement his psychological deficiency. Or perhaps the “fear of the father” that the bully represents unconsciously led him to appoint Mr. Summers to this critical position. The weak recovery, the unwillingness to punish any of the captains of Wall Street, and the recent Occupy Wall St. movement as well as his constant mantra of “bipartisan compromise” are the legacy of Mr. Obama’s psychologically weak “father-imago” or image as Jung called it. Until Mr. Obama, like the fictional Luke Skywalker, faces his own Darth Vader directly, or perhaps follows President George W. Bush’s example of appointing a strong father figure to a major Cabinet post, the situation is unlikely to change.