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Justin Frank Headshot

Obama on the Couch: Whose Job Is It Anyway?

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President Obama's powerful speech on the budget alternated between urging members of both parties to work together - citing bipartisan support for the principles and programs he outlined - and making it clear that he recognized that some Republicans will block any proposal he makes - even those they had once proposed themselves.

Obama's relentless pursuit of bipartisanship is part of what compelled me to explore his psychology further, and my upcoming book Obama on the Couch describes his "obsessive bipartisan disorder" as driven by a compulsive, unconscious need based on his own fractured childhood experiences. Obama holds so tightly to his deeply held dream of bipartisan unity that it almost doesn't matter how much suffering is caused by the persistent and vicious partisan divide.

Unveiling the American Jobs Act, however, Obama occasionally dropped the pretense of bipartisanship to play the role of the scold, shaming the Republicans for not taking responsibility the way a schoolmarm might shame students for not producing their assigned papers. At times he uncharacteristically engaged in direct confrontation, once calling the Republicans "you guys," seven times telling them that they "should" pass the bill. But for the most part his approach was less adversarial than parental, informed by his failure to see his opponents' constitutional and deep psychological inability to collaborate with him.

When Obama talked about crumbling infrastructure, and the importance of rebuilding bridges, roads and schools, he was also talking about the kind of effort his own mother made to keep her fatherless child from crumbling. She continuously set her sights on helping him build inner structure and psychological strength, getting up at 4 AM to tutor him in his schoolwork, and using tough words to urge him on. Now Obama is applying the same tactics on Congress, looking them in the eye and telling them that he means business. He doesn't understand that the Republicans will do anything to defeat him - and he doesn't understand it because he didn't react that way to his mother.

Obama also doesn't understand hatred because he doesn't let himself feel it from within. When Bill O'Reilly asked Obama in their pre-Super Bowl interview how it felt to be hated, Obama changed the verb to "disliked." He doesn't want an internally warring nation like he doesn't want an internally warring self - a self half black and half white; a self from two broken homes with two abandoning parents; a self who didn't know who he was or where he belonged. Because of this he is extremely sensitive to the power of community, and denies the destructiveness of members of that community.

Obama will soon hit the road to get his jobs bill passed, and you can be sure he will fight hard for its passage - not just to ease the suffering of millions of his constituents, and not only to increase his chances for reelection. Obama will fight for the possibility of unity triumphant because he has been unconsciously fighting for it all of his life.