Thursday, December 20, 2012

Obama's Style

The amount of excitement generated by the election of America's first biracial president focused attention on his first few days in office. How would he govern? Historian Edward Klein notes that, early in his administration,

Obama indicated that he had a preference for a corporatist political system in which the economy would be collectively managed by big employers, big unions, and government officials through a formal mechanism at the national level. Also known as state capitalism, it is a system in which the government picks winners and promotes economic growth.

Barack Obama expressed a preference for what is commonly called "crony capitalism," which is very different than free market capitalism. In a free market, all the players take risks: they all have the same chances to win or lose. In Obama's "crony capitalism," the government intervenes in the market to favor one company over another.

Edward Klein interviewed a guest who had attended a dinner at the White House - the guest spoke on the condition of anonymity - who said that

Since the beginning of his administration, Obama hasn't been able to capture the public's imagination and inspire people to follow him. Vision isn’t enough in a president. Great presidents not only have to enunciate their vision; they must lead by example and inspiration. Franklin Roosevelt spoke to the individual. He and Ronald Reagan had the ability to make each American feel that the president cared deeply and personally about them.

That quality has been lacking in Obama. People don't feel that he's on their side. The irony is that he was supposed to be such a brilliant orator, but in fact he’s turned out to be a failure as a communicator. And his failure to connect with people has had nothing to do with the choice of his words or how well he nothing to do with the choice of his words or how well he delivers his speeches. It's something much more fundamental than that.

The American people have come to realize that, in Barack Obama, they elected a man as president who does not know how to lead. He lacks an executive sense. He doesn't know how to run things. He's not a manager. He hasn’t been able to bring together the best and brightest talents. Not to put too fine a point on it, he’s in over his head.

Experienced leaders share this view of Obama. Secretary of State James Baker, seeing the chaos in the White House as different advisers and appointees strove to keep themselves informed, noted that

All this comes from the fact that, before he became president, Obama never had the responsibility for running anything. He’s a policy wonk; he's very smart, very knowledgeable. But he was a community organizer, and a community organizer doesn’t have the lines of authority that you have when you're running an organization.

Voters had been fascinated by the fact that Obama would be the nation's first biracial president. After he took office, the public saw his policies gradually take shape, and his management skills put to the test. Edward Klein writes:

Obama's handling of the 2009 fiscal crisis showed an alarming lack of experience and a complete ignorance of how Washington works. For instance, during the presidential race, Obama campaigned against earmarks — the notorious legislative gimmick used by congressmen and senators to allocate funds for favorite projects in their home districts. Yet, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent an omnibus spending bill with $8 billion worth of earmarks to the White House, Obama na├»vely believed Pelosi and Reid, who told him that that was the only way he could get his $800 billion stimulus bill passed. Obama signed the omnibus spending bill with all the earmarks intact, signaling that the barons of Capitol Hill could roll the amateurish president.

Whether his comments during the campaign were made out of idealism or out of calculation, when Obama was in office, the public gained a more accurate perception, both of his ideals and of his skills.

Black Leaders Criticize Obama

America's first biracial president, Barack H. Obama, has not met with the enthusiastic response he expected from the nation's black community. Having based his campaign on, and having been elected because of, his race, many people assumed that he would enjoy the full cooperation of the African-American leaders in the United States. But this is not the case.

For example, Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, took issue with Obama's handling of Project Labor Agreements. These deals direct government contracts to labor unions. The problem? African-Americans are underrepresented among union workers. President Bush had eliminated these PLAs; Obama reinstated them. Alford commented:

President George W. Bush eliminated PLAs from federal contracting and his main reason was ‘unions discriminate against small business, women, and minorities.’ So here we were with the first black president who deliberately discriminates against small business, women, and minorities. How ironic!

Harry Alford was not the only black leader expressing doubts about Obama. The White House knew that it would need to do fix the situation if Obama was to be reelected. Historian Edward Klein writes:

As he headed into his fourth year in office and began to gear up for his reelection campaign, Obama was forced to face an uncomfortable fact: he was profoundly unpopular with black leaders, who found him cold and distant, an inauthentic “brother.” If he hoped to generate a large black voter turnout in 2012, something had to be done to counter this growing disenchantment. He had to rally his base.

Obama's problem was that he was at ease with an oil executive - like one of the many father figures who destabilized young Barack's childhood by casually drifting in and out of it - or with the vice president of a bank - like his grandmother - or with a room full of white university professors - like his college experiences - or with the people from an exclusive private school - like those which he attended instead of ordinary public schools. He was more comfortable with elite white people than with a gathering of ordinary African-Americans.

This feature of Obama's personality made itself known among the leaders of America's black community. He would need to repair his image among the nation's African-Americans in order to be reelected. Edward Klein reports:

Suddenly, I started hearing from prominent blacks, whose phone calls and emails to the White House had gone unanswered for three years.

"I wanted you to know that I finally got an invitation to the White House — I was asked to attend the White House Christmas party," one of Obama's severest black critics told me. Others confirmed that the White House had undertaken a full-court press to win black approval.

But it was too little and too late. As it turned out, Obama would be reelected in 2012, but by white voters. The black vote for Obama declined precipitously from 2008 to 2012. The African-Americans were not impressed with Obama.

Obama: African-American, But Not Black?

One might have expected that America's first biracial president would have been a master at race relations. One might have expected that, being the son of a white mother and a black father, he would have been perceptively attuned to issues of race. But Barack Obama has found the African-Americans to be one of his most challenging constituencies.

There are many reasons why it might be difficult for Obama to connect intuitively with the African-American community. Some arise from his childhood, much of which was spent in Indonesia, where he was surrounded by many Asians and a few ex-patriot Europeans, but not by people of African heritage. The few Africans he might have seen there would not have been African-American, but rather properly African, and therefore not part of the American black experience.

During those few childhood years he spent in the U.S., mainly in Hawaii, his grandmother's wealth - she was the vice president of a bank - ensured that he was sent to exclusive private schools, away from ordinary black people, and away from ordinary public schools.

This childhood did not equip Obama to relate to the culture and experience of African-Americans, whether rural or urban. This inability to connect to black voters gave rise to difficulties in the Obama administration. Maureen Dowd, a newspaper columnist whose ideas are generally similar to Obama's, wrote:

The Obama White House is too white. It has Barack Obama, raised in the Hawaiian hood and Indonesia, and Valerie Jarrett, who spent her early years in Iran. But unlike Bill Clinton, who never needed help fathoming Southern black culture, Obama lacks advisers who are descended from the central African-American experience, ones who understand "the slave thing," as a top black Democrat dryly puts it.

The firing of Shirley Sherrod revealed how badly Obama's administration could bungle race relations. She was fired from the Department of Agriculture based on media reports, on public perceptions, and on urban legend. The administration did no fact-checking. Not only was she fired based on what turned out to be a false narrative, but the White House was not aware of her status as a leader in the African-American community. Dowd write that Obama's staff wasn't

familiar enough with civil rights history to recognize the name Sherrod. And they didn’t return the calls and e-mail of prominent blacks who tried to alert them that something was wrong. Charles Sherrod, Shirley’s husband, was a Freedom Rider who, along with the civil rights hero John Lewis, was a key member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee of the ‘60s. As Lewis, the longtime Georgia congressman, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he knew immediately that something was amiss with the distorted

narrative percolating through the media. Obama and his staff were utterly out of touch with the intuitive reaction of the larger African-American community. Historian Edward Klein wrote that Dowd's "blistering rebuke of Obama" was a logical consequence of

how badly America's first black president had bungled his relations with black America.

Although the Sherrod incident was indicative of Obama's inability to understand black American, it was not an isolated occurrence:

The Sherrod Case was a turning point in relations between Obama and the black leadership. No longer were blacks willing to bite their tongues when speaking about the black president. By the summer of 2011, the Congressional Black Caucus was openly warning Obama that black voters were frustrated by his administration's unwillingness to address black joblessness, which was more than double the national average, and which rose as high as 40 percent in urban centers like Chicago and Detroit. The message was clear: although Obama would probably still get more than 90 percent of the African-American vote in 2012, he couldn't count on the kind of black turnout he had generated in 2008.

The numbers in 2012 confirmed this: although Obama's 2008 election had been primarily the result of white voters, his 2012 reelection was even more so. A precipitous decline in black voter turnout revealed that the African-American community was no longer enthusiastic about Obama.

"I'm frustrated with the president, I'm frustrated with the Senate, I'm frustrated with the House," Representative Emanuel Cleaver II, a Missouri Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. "The president and his White House team [are] trying to minimize the discussion of race as it relates to job creation."

Although his 2008 campaign and election were based primarily on the fact that he was biracial, Obama continued to be tone-deaf to the views expressed by black leaders.

Emanuel Cleaver's complaint was echoed by Maxine Waters, a former chairman of the caucus. "The worry should be that are [black] people going to be enthusiastic about getting to the polls, or are they not going to be as enthusiastic."

African-American leaders were frustrated with Obama; he in turn was frustrated with them. This mutual annoyance arose from a cultural divide. Ann Dunham, Barack Obama's mother, had raised Obama in the company of wealthy white businesspeople: oil executives, bankers, professors. The non-whites in Obama's early life, Asians and a very few blacks, were from the comfortable and educated classes. Whatever vague notion of blackness the young Obama had, it was removed socially, culturally, and economically from the African-American experience.

Obama compounded his problem with African-Americans in August 2011, when he set off on a three-day bus tour through the Midwest to talk about his push to create jobs. With his approval ratings at an all-time low of 39 percent, Obama campaigned before all-white audiences in Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. This set off a chorus of criticism from black leaders, who wanted to know why the president had avoided African-American communities.

Obama may have been comfortable with individuals of African heritage - people with dark skin - but many of the one's he'd actually known were not from the United States and not part of America's black culture.

Stung by all this criticism, Obama appeared before the Congressional Black Caucus in September 2011 and gave a no-holds-barred speech chastising his critics. He told the attendees at the gathering to "take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes" and "stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying."

In response, Maxine Waters deftly put the president in his place. "I've never owned a pair of bedroom slippers," she said.

Many African-American leaders came either from the rural south or the urban industrialized north. Obama grew up among wealthy people in Hawaii and Indonesia. More than one black leader noted that Bill Clinton was more able to understand their concerns than Barack Obama. Edward Klein recalls his interviews with various black leaders:

If relations between Obama and black politicians were touchy, they were downright contentious with black businessmen. I spoke with Harry C. Alford, the president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, which represents the nearly two million black businesses in the United States.

"When Obama became president, we were all happy about the symbolism — America’s first black president," Alford told me. "We didn't really care about his position or views on anything. We just wanted a black president no matter what. We should have been more careful, as his views on small business, especially black business, are counter to ours.

"His view of business is that it should be a few major corporations which are totally unionized and working with the government, which should also be massive and reaching every level of American society,” Alford continued. "Thus, his first Executive Order was the reinstatement of Project Labor Agreements in government contracting. PLAs give labor unions an exclusive [option] in construction jobs — all participating firms must use union labor or, at least, pay union wages and abide by union rules. This activity, in effect, discriminates against blacks, Hispanics, and women per se, as trade unions deliberately under-employ them."

Obama is quite comfortable with the leadership of the Democratic Party - a largely white group of individuals. He's also comfortable with the leadership of unions - again, a group the majority of which is white. His experiences in school - all the way through graduate school - were in environments populated mainly by white people. Obama is simply not comfortable around black people.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Obama and the Politics of Race

Every American president - George Washington included - has had to address questions of race. Barack H. Obama is no exception. For all of these men, the question includes political, moral, and personal considerations. For Obama, the personal dimension of this question is obvious yet unclear. It is more than obvious, inasmuch as he is the first American president to have half of his heritage - his bloodline, his family tree - from Africa, and half from Europe: the first biracial president. It is unclear, inasmuch as Obama's relationship to his biracial lineage is somewhat uncomfortable.

The son of a white woman and a black man, Obama was raised in social circles which were conspicuously free of African influences. Abandoned by his father as an infant, he was raised largely by his mother and her parents: his mother's mother was the vice president of a bank and able to fund a nice lifestyle and private schools for young Barack. Of the other men who would temporarily function as father-figures for Obama, none were of African descent, and all would casually leave Barack and his mother, moving on, and further destabilizing Obama's self-image.

Ann Dunham, Obama's mother, carefully managed his career and early childhood. Much of his childhood was spent outside the United State, primarily in Indonesia. When he was on United States soil, she arranged for him to attend private schools. Thus he did not attend an American public school - the very institution which he encourages for all American children. This was one factor in a larger dynamic in which Ann Dunham kept Barack largely apart from African-Americans. Attending schools in Indonesia, he was surrounded largely by Asians, and by a few ex-patriots of European descent, but not by students of African heritage.

Randall Kennedy, an African-American scholar and law professor at Harvard, notes that

Early on in his presidency, Obama was pressed by some activists and politicians to offer race-specific policies to address the disproportionately high rates of unemployment that have long plagued black and other racial-minority communities. He steadfastly refused to do so.

Responding to requests from black voters, Obama said,

"I can't pass laws that say I'm just helping black folks," he responded when asked about Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) criticism of his employment policy. "I'm the president of the United States. What I can do is make sure that I am passing laws that help all people, particularly those that are most vulnerable and most in need. That in turn is going to help lift up the African American community."

While alienating himself from black voters - fewer of whom would vote for him 2012 than in 2008 - Obama also revealed a procedural muddle: as president, he has little to do with "passing laws," because that is primarily Congress's task.

"Here Obama was engaging in the old trick of creating a straw man to knock down," Kennedy continued. "The CBC was not requesting policy aimed at 'just helping black folks.' It was requesting policy that would be intended to assist Americans as a whole but 'particulary those who are most vulnerable' in economic downturns."

Like Professor Kennedy, many black voters who supported Obama in 2008 were disappointed after the president was inaugurated. Historian Edward Klein writes:

Despite Obama's failed economic policies, grievances between black leaders and the black president were kept under wraps for quite some time. White Americans were hardly aware of the family squabble. But those grievances finally surfaced in a dramatic way in the summer of 2010, when Shirley Sherrod, the black Georgia state director of rural development for the United States Department of Agriculture, was forced to resign under orders from the Obama White House.

In a large-scale example of the urban legend phenomenon, the media and the public nurtured the belief that Sherrod had discriminated against white farmers and directed federal aid toward black farmers. The Obama administration ordered Sherrod fired, without examining the strength of the accusations against her, and before evidence emerged suggesting that she might not have given preferential treatment to black farmers.

By firing Sherrod without looking into the matter more carefully, Obama once again revealed himself to be politically inept. Unknowingly, he had picked a fight with the wrong black person, for not only was Shirley Sherrod falsely maligned by the White House, but it turned out that her husband, Charles Sherrod, had played a significant role in the 1960s civil rights movement. Charles Sherrod had been a Freedom Rider along with John Lewis, a prominent member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a longtime Georgia Congressman.

The disconnect between Obama and the African-American community is not only a question of political ineptness, but also of a fragmented personal identity in Obama's psyche. Although his campaign for the presidency was based upon the fact that he is an African-American, his administration has demonstrated a lack of perceptiveness toward black concerns.

As might be expected, the African-American political elite quickly came to the defense of the Sherrods. "I've known these two individuals - the husband for more than fifty years and wife for at least thirty-five, forty - and there's not a racist hair on their heads or anyplace else on their bodies," Congressman Lewis said.

One may well imagine that the blacks who voted for Obama in 2008 did not imagine that they would be defending their fellow African-Americans against Obama's unjust treatment: unfair and racially-motivated treatment. In Obama's mind, formed as it was by his mother's planning, the blacks in America are "them" - not "us" - Obama does not view himself as part of their community: and perhaps rightfully so, having attended white private schools, paid for by his grandmother's large salary from the bank at which she was vice president. Obama may have African-American genes, but he is not the product of the American black experience.

"I don't think a single black person was consulted before Shirley Sherrod was fired - I mean, c'mon," said Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, who had ditched Hillary Clinton to support Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary campaign. "The president is getting hurt real bad. He needs some black people around him."

But Obama isn't comfortable with some black people around him. That situation wasn't a part of his formative years - not as a child, an undergraduate, or a graduate student. Congressman Clyburn continued by saying that

"some people over there [in the White House] are not sensitive at all about race. They really feel that the extent to which he allows himself to talk about race would tend to pigeonhole him or cost him support, when a lot of people saw his election as a way to get the issue behind us. I don't think people elected him to disengage on race. Just the opposite."

The CBC has many voices agreeing in this assessment of Obama:

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the representative from the District of Columbia, concurred: "The president needs some advisers or friends who have a greater sense of the pulse of the African-American community, or who at least have been around the mulberry bush."

Only when the farce threatened to hit the national media, and threatened to erode Obama's reelection bid, did he clumsily move to repair the damage.

Never one to graciously admit his mistakes, Obama finally phoned Shirley Sherrod and spoke to her for a grudging seven minutes. Obama said that he felt that the incident had been blown up way out of proportion, and he refused to apologize personally for the national humiliation Sherrod had suffered. When he offered Sherrod another job in the Agriculture Department, she politely declined.

The telling fact is that in 2012, fewer blacks voted for Obama than in 2008. Why? The pre-election polls did not guarantee Obama an easy victory; so they didn't stay home because of confidence in his certain reelection. Clearly, many African-Americans are less than enthusiastic about him than they were in 2008, and not satisfied with his performance in office.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kennedy vs. Obama

The word 'dynasty' has been often used to refer to the Kennedy family. In American politics, given the lack of a royal house, the Roosevelts, the Clintons, the Bushes, and the Adams have made a collective impact on our political system, but few families have made more headlines than the Kennedys.

Yet the Kennedy family is not always monolithic. During the 2008 primary season, patriarch Ted and his niece Caroline supported Obama, while his nephew Bobby supported Hillary Clinton. Once Obama obtained the party's nomination, there was little to do but calculate the role the Kennedys would play during Obama's first term.

Have prominently supported Obama during the campaign, Caroline, according to historian Edward Klein,

wanted to secure a position as an adviser on education to the new administration. With that in mind, she sent the White House a long memo on education funding reform, which was based on her first-hand experience with the New York City Board of Education. She ended the memo by saying that she hoped to meet with the president to discuss her ideas.

Obama's relation to the Kennedy clan is complex. They cannot directly lay claim to having given Obama his position. That was done by a different set of people - those who handle and manage Obama. But there is no denying that Caroline's support was very helpful to Obama, both in getting the party's nomination, and in winning the general election. And it is also clear that a united effort by the Kennedys to keep Obama out of the White House would probably have succeeded. So, while the Kennedys did not, and do not, manage Obama directly, they are still powerful inside the party, and one might think that it would behoove Obama to acknowledge them. But

she never got a response. Not even an acknowledgement that he had received the memo.

The death of Teddy Kennedy may have given Obama the feeling that he no longer needed to calculate the political dynamic of the Kennedy family.

Then, in the summer of 2011, Caroline asked Maurice Templesman, her mother's longtime companion and a major player in the Democratic Party, to arrange a meeting with the president and his political advisers on Templesman's 70-foot yacht the Relemar, which was docked on Martha's Vineyard, where the president was vacationing. It was Caroline's hope that such a meeting would further her late uncle Teddy's dream of forming a close bond between the Kennedys and the Obamas.

If Obama is interested in forming his own dynasty, he's not interested in doing so by merging with the Kennedys. It is clear that Obama wants to break with major threads within the Democratic Party tradition. He is perhaps akin to those who stormed the 1968 Democrat convention in Chicago, eager to dismantle the machine in favor of an approach modeled after Saul Alinsky.

Once again, the White House spurned Caroline's overture. The president didn't even make an effort to see Caroline, whose home on Martha's Vineyard, Red Gate Farm, was not far from the house the president was renting. A presidential snub had turned into an insult.

It is not clear what Obama's agenda is in this case; on the one hand, he seems to want to fit into the mold of the patriarchs of the Democrat Party - vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, displaying his Ivy League credentials - but on the other hand, he seems not to want to take a place in the pantheon of Democrat Party Aristocrats, but wishes rather to play the role of the iconoclast - raging against the machine. It's as if the radicals who rioted at the '68 Democrat convention in Chicago also wanted memberships in the country clubs where leaders of the Democrat party play golf - and golf is another air which Obama happily wears, while casting himself as the antithesis of golfing politicos.

The White House meted out similar treatment to Ethel Kennedy, the matriarch of the family. During the presidential primaries and general election, Ethel was so gung-ho for Obama that she stopped talking to her son Bobby, because he was an Obama critic. After Obama won the election, Ethel invited the new president to stop by her house in the Kennedy Compound. Her request was met with stony silence.

Having absorbed the political support of Teddy, Caroline, Ethel, and other members of the Kennedy family, Obama was content to ignore them after entering office. This may yet earn him the united ire of the Kennedys. Anonymously interviewed by Klein, one member of the family said that

our family has spies all over the Obama administration. There are a lot of Kennedy loyalists from Ted's old office and his connections throughout Washington who are in high positions in the White House agencies. People like Melody Barnes, the direct of the Domestic Policy Council; Kenneth Feinberg, the special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund; James Steinberg, a former deputy secretary of state; and Greg Craig, the former White House counsel under Obama. Through these and other people, Caroline heard back that there was a lot of nasty shit being said about the Kennedys by the president and Michelle. There were catty remarks about how badly the Kennedy women dressed, and how their houses were shabby and threadbare. Caroline got the impression that most of this negativity was coming from Michelle, who didn't want the Kennedys to be part of the administration for fear that they would have too much influence over the president. Gradually, Caroline began to change her tune and side with Bobby and Kathleen [Kennedy Townsend] against the Obamas. Unlike Jackie, who was completely apolitical, Caroline is a liberal with a capital L. When Obama didn't raise taxes to balance the budget, Caroline marked him down. In her eyes, he's a mess because he doesn't follow the liberal bible on politics. More important, Caroline discovered that the Obamas didn't give a damn about her or her support. For instance, she was not invited to the state dinners at the White House hosted by the Obamas, or to the president's forty-ninth birthday celebration in Chicago. It really annoyed Caroline when comparisons were made by the media between Michelle and Jackie. Caroline had a word for such comparisons; she called them 'odious.' She really got annoyed. And when she began to fall out of love with the Obamas, love was replaced by outright scorn. Now she says things about Obama like, 'I can't stand to hear his voice any more. He's a liar and worse.'

Perhaps the only thing worse than being snubbed or ignored by the Obamas is being invited by them - when it is clear that the invitation is purely for form's sake, and utterly insincere.

On Halloween, 2011, Caroline Kennedy received an invitation to attend a reception celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the White House Historical Society. She could hardly have been ignored in this case because it was her mother, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, who had restored many parts of the White House and established the White House Historical Association in 1961.

The meeting between Michelle Obama and Caroline Kennedy was orchestrated to be understated and downplayed.

The reception was closed to the press. Michelle Obama posed for a photo with Caroline, which was released later. But that was it. There was no invitation to the Family Quarters, where Caroline had lived and played as a child. After the photo, Michelle spun on her heels and left.

A Kennedy family adviser reports Caroline's experience:

Caroline said that shaking hands with Michelle was like shaking hands with a cold fish. Caroline had the feeling she wasn't really wanted there. Michelle gave the distinct impression that she doesn't like her. Caroline can be pretty standoffish herself, but she was surprised at how cold Michelle was to her. The only thing personal about the meeting was when Michelle turned to Caroline and said, 'the president is going to put the Keystone Pipeline project on hold and wouldn't Bobby like that?' In response, Caroline said, 'Bobby would like to meet with the president about the Keystone Pipeline being not only delayed, but being aggressively attacked and killed.' Michelle looked stricken. She said, 'Bobby should call the White House,' meaning that he would have to go through channels like everybody else. Caroline's attitude about the 2012 election is that, as a loyal Democrat, she has nowhere to go, no one else to possibly support except Obama. What really pisses her off is that the Obamas know that she has nowhere else to go, so they see no point in being nice to her.

Obama wants to establish himself and his regime as something apart from the heritage of the Democrat Party. He's willing to use the Kennedys or the Clintons when they are useful, but he will do so in way which holds them at arm's length, and when they've ceased being useful, he'll drop them. Part of this is ideological: he's not looking to establish a Kennedy-esque Camelot of traditional American liberalism; he's looking to decisively undermine and weaken the United States, both politically and economically. Part of this is personal: as someone damaged when abandoned both by his father and by a string of father-figures who temporarily paired up with this mother, confused about his identity as his mother directed him through a serious of educational institutions which kept him largely outside of the Black community and the mainstream of the African-American experience, his own self-concept is incomplete, lacking a core identity which is especially necessary in the pressure-cooker of presidential politics, and therefore lacking the ability to form certain types of relationships. He's insecure, and not quite sure how he would relate to the Kennedys, and so simply chooses not to do so.