I’m really enjoying working my way through Newsweek’s seven-part behind-the-scenes account of the recent US election, Secrets of the 2008 Campaign. I’m learning fun facts, such as the Secret Service’s code names for Barack Obama’s daughters (“Radiance” and “Rosebud”), and not-so-fun facts, like the details about infighting among Hilary Clinton’s staffers. I was especially interested to learn more about the temperament of our President-Elect, and to realize, based on some descriptions of him, that he just might be an introvert.
I must confess that I usually imagine politicians to be uniformly extroverted, as constant interaction with the public would be sure to drain the energy of most introverts. But, I also believe that introverts can learn to be more extroverted in certain situations, and there are some (perhaps tending to the Feeling end of the Myers-Briggs Feeling-Thinking continuum), who really thrive on meaningful interaction with friendly and like-minded individuals. I obviously can’t speak for Mr. Obama, but here are a few pieces of evidence that might confirm his tendency to introversion.
In the first chapter of the series, “How He Did It,” there is a description of some of Obama’s self-doubts early in the campaign, particularly regarding his performance in preliminary debates, and how he dealt with them:
Obama was a relentless self-improver: “I’m my own worst critic,” he told NEWSWEEK, but he was also a loner who needed to step back away from the others, to look more closely at himself. He wasn’t chilly, exactly, but for a politician he was astonishingly inner-directed, and that could make him seem remote.
There are so many introvert “code” words in these two sentences; “loner,” “inner-directed,” and “remote” are very common ways that introverts are characterized (although not always by introverts themselves). Further along in the article there is a telling description of how members of the press first saw the candidate, noting they found him “chilly and guarded.” Sounds like a misunderstood introvert to me!
If you add these observations to Obama’s reputation as a voracious reader and accomplished writer (often hallmarks of an introverted nature), the picture gets a little clearer. If my conjectures are true, and Obama really is an introvert, my admiration for his commitment to a tough job is even greater, and I would be delighted to know that someone “like me” will be occupying the Oval Office come January.