..."What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular? "
You have not really asked for a psychological "autopsy," but that is what I am inclined to give--rather than a "they did it" answer.
First of all, Barack Obama never knew his father--met him twice in his life. He was raised and influenced mainly by strong women, his mother and grandmother. Grandfather was a nice guy, seemed to finish last and had a hard time keeping a job-- not an inspiring male role model, to be sure. His mother was an effective mediator and organizer; her life's mission was to bring understanding and economic power to 3rd world women. One can see how the torch was passed to his sister, Maya, who is doing the same kind of work in Hawaii. Read her profile in last week's Nation magazine to see that the "apple does not fall far from the tree."
About Barack Obama--a more difficult situation, obviously. He was encouraged and educated in the best schools mother and grandparents could afford--and was so smart he got full scholarships. Still......there is the ghost of his father--a brilliant, aggressive, ambitious, but irresponsible drunk, who later died in a (probably alcohol related) car accident.
Barack, the son, has both his father, mother and grandmother in him--incompatible, impossible ghosts, one might say. He is ambitious and a brilliant orator, but also (first and foremost), like his influential mother, comfortable only in his role as a mediator. So....that is who we have for a President. A basically good man, but so inclined to mediate and reconcile that he does not possess other options about how to function. Yet he has tremendous ambition. You might say it is in his genes. Would that the world operated in a saner way. We know it does not. I believe that is why Obama has hired such aggressive, psychopathic operatives to keep the path open. He cannot do it himself, but does not hesitate to find those who can do it for him.
Kate is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who had a private practice in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland from 1973 to 2004. She studied Family Systems theory with at Georgetown University, and became interested in the inter-generational transmission process of emotional issues in families. Though Kate is officially retired from full-time practice and currently living on the Oregon Coast, she remains active in the field, and is presently supervising therapists in the D.C. area in family systems thinking and application. She frequently contributes to the comments boards of op-ed pieces in The New York Times.