Obama’s Inner Spock


Is there anywhere else in the world where people worry about whether their president is too intelligent and logical? After eight years of George Bush, and the threat of Sarah Palin being the next Republican candidate, we should not underestimate the importance of intelligence. Instead Obama has been compared possibly negatively to Spock–twice this week alone.

On  November 30, John Harris of Politco had a silly column on 7 stories Obama doesn’t want told. This included:

Too much Leonard Nimoy

People used to make fun of Bill Clinton’s misty-eyed, raspy-voiced claims that, “I feel your pain.”

The reality, however, is that Clinton’s dozen years as governor before becoming president really did leave him with a vivid sense of the concrete human dimensions of policy. He did not view programs as abstractions — he viewed them in terms of actual people he knew by name.

Obama, a legislator and law professor, is fluent in describing the nuances of problems. But his intellectuality has contributed to a growing critique that decisions are detached from rock-bottom principles.

Both Maureen Dowd in The New York Times and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post have likened him to Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.

The Spock imagery has been especially strong during the extended review Obama has undertaken of Afghanistan policy. He’ll announce the results on Tuesday. The speech’s success will be judged not only on the logic of the presentation but on whether Obama communicates in a more visceral way what progress looks like and why it is worth achieving. No soldier wants to take a bullet in the name of nuance.

The article is a prefect example of how non-serious the work by Harris and many others at Politico often is. Obama staffers responded with a leaked email which sums up many of the problems with Politico. Marc Ambinder posted the list:

7 narratives politico is fighting in their efforts to get an interview with the President

1.       They are more interested in readers than accuracy

2.       Its okay to be wrong everyonce in a while, if your are the first to break the news

3.       More interested in gossip than news

4.       A spouter of the worst sort of insider conventional wisdom

5.       Their analysis about obama has been wrong more than any one

6.       Click … period

7.       More obsessed with personality than policy

This should not be seen as the more outright type of battle going on between the White House and Fox. Ambinder puts this in perspective:

It’s fairly caustic — and, truth be told, the White House maintains good relationships with Politico reporters and has been known to try to agenda-set by dishing out a few tips to the publication. But make no mistake: many on the White House senior staff dislike Politico’s brand of journalism, and they do not like the effect that Politico’s metabolism has on the rest of the press corps, including this (i.e., my own) corner of it. Still, don’t read too much into this. There’s been plenty of back-and-forth between the White and the Politico, and the White House accepts the role — which is often substantial — that Politico plays in the newsgathering process.

Perhaps Politco was leading the news here as yesterday AP again raised the comparison between Obama and Spock:

He shows a fascination with science, an all-too deliberate decision-making demeanor, an adherence to logic and some pretty, ahem, prominent ears.

They all add up to a quite logical conclusion, at least for “Star Trek” fans: Barack Obama is Washington’s Mr. Spock, the chief science officer for the ship of state.

“I guess it’s somewhat unusual for a politician to be so precise, logical, in his thought process,” actor Leonard Nimoy, who has portrayed Spock for more than 40 years, told The Associated Press in an e-mail interview. “The comparison to Spock is, in my opinion, a compliment to him and to the character.”

Until now.

From there the article questioned if this is a negative. Imagine, a president who actually thought about war plans, upsetting Dick Cheney who took the opposite approach. While I have my doubts about the ultimate policy on Afghanistan, I prefer Obama’s Spock-like thoughtfulness to Cheney’s act as a Klingon who lacks honor.

Even the writer and producer of the last Star Trek movie sees Spock in Obama:

Roberto Orci, the screenwriter and producer behind the latest “Star Trek” movie, said Obama “has a Spock-like aura about him: calm in the face of great adversity and looking for a logical middle ground.” Obama, himself a big “Star Trek” fan, screened the movie at the White House during its opening weekend.

“We knew he was a Trekkie,” Orci said in a telephone interview. He said he watches the White House regularly for insight on the Spock character.

“To have a case study like that on the news every night makes my job a lot easier,” he said.

Orci said James T. Kirk, the “Star Trek” captain, was “based on a young new president,, John F. Kennedy, and that the Obama administration is part of a 1960s-type revival. Except this time, Kirk isn’t in charge. Spock is.


  1. 1
    Mike Hatcher b.t.r.m. says:

    What?  It has been 10 minutes already and you don’t have photos of the nude model P.E.T.A.  ad “controversy”?   I’m comfortable with Obama being Spock -like.  With that perception already in my mind of him, I’d probably suspect it was just an act if he showed more emotion.   Regarding his speech on Afghanistan, I actually was supportive of the flexible content in it.  Seemed like it conveyed both a sense of urgency in the mission but a willingness to adjust along the way if necessary.  Despite his acclaimed skill in delivery of speechs, it is actually his delivery that I was most critical of, perhaps he was emphasizing “ownership” of both the problem and the decision, but there seemed like to much “I” and “me” at the start of the speech that struck me as too self centered rather than issue centered.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    I’ve already posted a couple of the PETA ads.

  3. 3
    Eclectic Radical says:

    ‘…but there seemed like to much “I” and “me” at the start of the speech that struck me as too self centered rather than issue centered.’
    To make an entirely biased remark, I am far more comfortable with Obama taking ownership of the problem in a ‘self-centered’ way than with George Bush emphasizing his role as ‘the decider’ while obviously not really having any grasp of the principles involved in the decisions he was making or the underlying arguments of advisers on either side of an issue.
    To cross science fiction metaphors, I’d rather have a Vulcan president than an Eloi.

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