The abandonment by his father when he was an infant and by his stepfather at age 10 has left President Obama with a "father hunger" that influences everything from why he distances himself from pushy supporters, to his strong desire to compromise and bring people together, to his aggressive campaign to kill Osama bin Laden, says a psychoanalytic book out next week. In Obama on the Couch, George Washington University professor Justin Frank also reveals that Obama has spent much of his life seeking out father figures, but most, like Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Vice President Biden, have disappointed him. "Obama searched for a father, for someone to relate to who could help him—a strong man who knew what to do," Frank writes.
This is Frank's second psychoanalytical book about a president. While a sympathetic look at Obama, it follows Bush on the Couch, a sharply critical analysis that suggested then President George W. Bush was disturbed. In that book, he predicted that someone like Obama—"completely different," "someone not ... white"—would succeed Bush. What the nation ended up with, however, is "an almost tragic figure," Frank writes.
The general theme is that Obama has been affected both by being biracial and by the abandonment of his two dads during his childhood. The result is that he is overly protective of his own nuclear family, desires greatly to see national unity, and yet harbors anger that he took out on bin Laden. [Vote now: Will Obama be a one-term president?]
Take for example Obama's earlier willingness to compromise with Republicans, upsetting his liberal base. Here Frank cites the negative influence of his parents, especially his mom, who often pressed him to do better in school. "He hates being pushed by supporters who want him to make good on his promises of universal healthcare and care for the poor, something that represents his mother and how she pushed him to study harder," Frank writes. And when he ignores his base, he is emulating his father, expressing annoyance but not worried they will desert him.
As for bin Laden, Frank writes that Obama's inner anger emerged: "He was able to pursue his action against bin Laden in part because bin Laden offered a displacement figure for Obama's rage toward his own parents." [See a slide show of 10 issues driving Obama's re-election campaign.]
Frank also calls Obama scared of the type of radical change he advocated in 2008. "He wants to be the father who makes change safe, the person he has waited for his entire life."