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Personality and Politics

Personality and Politics
Obama For and Against Himself

March 2011 | 176 pages | CQ Press

Renowned presidential scholar Stephen Wayne takes a close look at the interplay of personal character, partisan politics, and public opinion on presidential decision-making. In this systematic character study, Wayne considers how President Obama’s policy beliefs and operating style fueled his meteoric success as a candidate, but have had a decidedly mixed impact on his governance as president. Arguing that character matters, Wayne shows that Obama’s personal dimensions both contribute and detract from his policy achievements and political goals.

Taking into account the environment in which he took office up through the “shellacking” of the Democrats in November 2010, the book looks at how Obama has dealt with the troubled economy and a polarized political climate. Wayne sets his study within the larger literature on presidential character and explores the broader questions surrounding presidential leadership in a democratic society: Do presidents lead or follow public opinion? To what extent do leadership skills make a difference? What kind of policy and political impact can presidents have in the twenty-first century?

A Disciplinary Dilemma

Character and Its Derivatives

Organization of the Book

Character Development
Race and Roots

Ambition and Politics

Adaption and Approval

Ego Checks and Guilt

Basic Beliefs
Commonality as a Value

Church and Community

Government and Society

Progressive Pragmatism

Operating Style

Decision Making




Character-Based Tensions
Idealism and Pragmatism

Direction and Delegation

Vision and Compromise

Rationality and Empathy

Boldness and Caution

Political Impediments
Transitioning from Campaigning to Governing

The Limits of Presidential Power

Public Attitudes Toward Government

Democratic Leadership Dilemmas
Obama's Theory of Democratic Leadership

The Bully Pulpit and Its Limits

Obama's Practice of Democratic Leadership

The Interaction of Personality and Politics: Three Case Studies
Stimulating the Economy

Reforming Health Care

Upping the Ante in Afghanistan


The impact of presidential personality on governing in the
White House is one of the great puzzles of presidential politics. There
is no one better than Steve Wayne at helping us solve this puzzle and
achieve a better understanding of the Obama presidency

George C. Edwards III
Texas A & M University

This fine book goes a long way toward capturing the essence of the complex, elusive, and politically important Barack Obama.

Fred I. Greenstein
Princeton University

Stephen Wayne combines the rigor of a political scientist with
the insights of a psychologist to explain how President Obama’s
character intersects with politics to produce the policies of his
administration. Wayne explores the tensions between Obama’s ideals and
the reality of American politics as well as the fissures between his
transformational vision and his transactional style. If you want to know
what makes Obama tick, this book is a good place to start

James P. Pfiffner
George Mason University

An excellent introduction to the study of personality and politics, offering a comprehensive review of President Obama.

Mr James Bilsland
Department of Politics, Newcastle University
September 6, 2012

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