Obama on the Couch
Inside the Mind of the President
By M.D. Frank, Justin A.
(Free Press, Hardcover, 9781451620634, 288pp.)
Publication Date: October 18, 2011
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Even though he’s three years into his term as President, many Americans feel like they don’t know the “real” Barack Obama. From the idealistic campaigner who seemed to share our dreams, and who promised to fulfill our lofty expectations, to pragmatic politician who has repeatedly compromised on the promises of his campaign, it indeed seems as though there are two Obamas. What to make of this? How can the electorate get a better sense of its commander-in-chief, and how can the President more effectively lead a nation in a moment of turmoil and crisis? These questions are of great interest to most Americans, but the questions – and their potential answers – are especially intriguing for a psychiatrist eager to diagnose and help cure the ills that plague our country. Here, Justin Frank, M.D. ,a practicing psychoanalyst and the author of the New York Times bestseller Bush on the Couch - brings a new patient into his office, and the results of his sessions are not only fascinating, but they provide valuable insights that will help readers in their frustrating pursuit of the President’s character.
Obama’s transformation over the course of his brief but incredibly well-examined political career has left some supporters disillusioned and has further frustrated opponents. To explore this change in behavior, and Obama’s seeming inability to manage the response to his actions, Dr. Frank delves into his past, in particular, the President’s turbulent childhood, to paint a portrait of a mixed-race child who experienced identity issues early in life, further complicated by his father’s abandonment. As he addresses everything from Obama’s approach to health care reform, his handling of the Gulf Oil spill, to his Middle East strategies, Dr. Frank argues that the President’s decisions are motivated by inner forces - in particular, he focuses on Obama’s overwhelming need to establish consensus, which can occasionally undermine his personal—and his party’s—objectives. By examining the President’s memoirs, his speeches, and his demeanor in public, Dr. Frank identifies the basis for some of his confusing or self-defeating behavior. Most significantly, he looks at the President’s upbringing and explores the ways in which it has shaped him—and what this means for our nation and its future.
Obama is a complex and mysterious figure who inspires many questions and great interest from Republicans, Democrats, and from the rabid 24-hour news cycle; this book provides what everyone’s been looking for: an intriguing and provocative assessment of the President’s strengths, weaknesses, and even what could be called his destructive tendencies, ultimately drawing connections that will enable readers to interpret recent history in revealing new ways.
As Obama’s first term comes to a close, speculation about the future will only grow more intense; Obama on the Couch will give average citizens and pundits alike a way to help all of us anticipate what the President will do next—and what the future of our country might hold.
Dr. Justin Frank, a widely-published national expert on psychoanalysis, is a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He also maintains a private practice in marital and family therapy there. His numerous publications and media appearances range from articles in popular magazines—including Marie Claire and Salon.com—to several book chapters and one New York Times-bestselling book, Bush on the Couch (ReganBooks 2004, with revised paperback editions in July, 2005 and October, 2007). While promoting Bush on the Couch, Dr. Frank appeared on television shows including CNN, MSNBC with Tina Brown, and PBS with Tucker Carlson.
“Wonder why President Obama can’t fight back? The answer is in this compelling book. Dr. Frank unravels the tragic flaw within a tightly woven man whose unexpressed rage toward both his parents has neutered him as a leader. Aware of his own capacity for destructiveness, he cannot allow himself to retaliate against opponents bent on crushing his Presidency. Pass on this book to his advisers. It could lift him out of depression and free him to expose the fractures threatening our country and heal our national split before it is too late.”
--Gail Sheehy, author of Passages and Understanding Men’s Passages
“Dr. Justin Frank’s brilliant use of psychoanalytic categories to unravel the mystery and enigma of President Barack Obama should be read by every American. For years we have puzzled over how the president elected on a promise of ‘change we can believe in’ could have become the Democrat who capitulated to most Republican demands—while abandoning and denouncing his political base rather than fighting for the needs of the environment, the middle class, the poor, the immigrants, and the powerless. Obama on the Couch demonstrates why this pattern is for our president a necessary response to his own inner needs. Nuanced and measured, Dr. Frank’s book is a major contribution to contemporary political analysis.”
--Rabbi Michael Lerner, founding editor of Tikkun
“An analyst who can coin phrases like ”obsessive bipartisan disorder” to describe our President is a pleasure to read. But what makes Obama on the Couch an important book is Justin Frank’s ability to dive deep into the President’s eloquent writing about his childhood and emerge with fresh and major insights—unacknowledged rage for the mother Obama claims to idolize, unexpressed despair at his abandonment by his stepfather as well as his father. Obama on the Couch is nothing less than a public service.”
--Jesse Kornbluth, HeadButler.com