Evan Thomas, writing in the October 1, 2012, edition of TIME observes that both President Obama and Governor Romney have been called “aloof.” I have, earlier on this blog, called them introverts. They both possess a significant degree of shyness. I know this seems impossible, on the surface of things, but I think a little careful study of character and human psychology reveals that such people often become public leaders. I have studied this a great deal because contrary to what some people think about me as a public person I am actually an introvert.
Thomas reflects on this so-called “aloofness” in the two candidates. He harkens back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He says Ike would have been appalled at the personal attacks that have become standard fare in this campaign. He would have thought Obama was debasing his office while Romney would have made him cringe at the jokes he tells that are not very funny. And he would not have understood why candidates wives should give speeches or why aspirants to the White House should disclose so much about their faith or private lives.
Evan Thomas, professor of journalism at Princeton University, makes these types of observations because he recently completed a book titled: Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Struggle to Save the World. Thomas asks, “Why can’t they [Obama and Romney] be more like Ike?” Ike enjoyed approval ratings of up to 65%, something unheard of in our time. Yet Thomas says that in “little-noticed ways, maybe they are [like Ike].” On what does he base this viewpoint? Well, Romney and Obama do not like parading their feelings. Romney can come across as “plastic” while Obama can seem “aloof.” They are both “deeply private men who would have been more comfortable as politicians in an earlier, more buttoned-up time.”
Few people understood Ike. Even his wife admitted she did not really know him. Thomas asked Ike’s son John about his famous dad. Thomas said Ike at times appeared to be “sunny” while at other times he seemed cold-blooded.” John said make that “75% cold blooded.”
So what does this have to do with the presidency? Well, it can be a lonely job. Presidents are “required to make close-call decisions, sometimes in real time and often with inadequate information.” Michael Lewis, in a recent Vanity Fair article, suggests that Obama is a lot more like Ike in this way. Ike would take all sides in a debate with the National Security Council and often people were not sure what he was thinking at all. Romney is a shrewd businessman who demands data and hard facts and positively rejects pat answers. Romney is criticized for what seems to be a fuzzy foreign policy approach yet Ike navigated “between isolationists and hard-liners in his party.”
A modern president cannot get away with playing dumb. In fact, in this current election one gets the impression that both sides want to make the other candidate look as dumb as possible. But Thomas is right when he concludes “It’s worth remembering that the most important decisions a President makes–in a crisis, with the clock ticking–are lonely ones. Presidents look inward (or upward) to know what to do. Their inner selves are what really matter. If Presidents do not readily reveal themselves or their intentions, they can have more room to maneuver. Ike understood that there can be power in mystery.”
It is far too simplistic to demonize one candidate or the other. The simple fact is that one of these intensely private men will be the president for the next four years. I am praying that the winner uses the inner strength that he possesses to make good and wise decisions that will protect and serve the purpose of our living a quiet and peaceful life that affords us the greatest freedom to do good and to share the good news. Here is why I pray this way.
First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. 2 Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God. 3 This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Savior. 4 God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth ( 1 Timothy 2:1-4b).