Dear Mr. President,
"President Spock," "No Drama Obama," the list of ways the media has found to call you calm, as either an insult or a compliment, seems to get more creative all the timeMaureen Dowd writes today about the paternal aspect of the presidency, something she feels you are failing at. A President, apparently, must demonstrate the emotional state of the nation to show that he understands how people feel. I don't often find myself in such strong disagreement with Ms. Dowd. I don't need you to show me your emotional response to the oil spill in order to feel better about my own; I believe that you have emotions, just like me, and that, just like me, you decide who sees how you feel and who sees how you think. I don't believe that the citizens of this country are entitled to see every aspect of your personality; we ought to hold you accountable for how well you do your job, not how well you demonstrate that you feel the "right" way about every issue. I don't need to see you react the same way I do.
I think this urge we have, to feel that we know our leaders on a personal level, manifested in votes based on who we'd rather have a beer with, or in a need to see ourselves and our lifestyles reflected in those of our elected officials, is not always the surest compass to find the best qualified leaders. I'm an emotional person. I feel things violently, obsessively, consumingly. I do not appreciate this about myself, and think that, especially in matters of leadership and crisis management, it can be considered more a weakness than a strength. I look for a leader who can calmly, thoughtfully, rationally make decisions based on information and guided by a sense of what the best choices will be. I didn't vote for you because I thought you'd cry at things that make me cry or scream at things that make me want to scream; I voted for you because I hoped that you would, in the face of these things, have more productive solutions than my tears.
This is not to imply, as Ms. Dowd does, that you lack emotional depth. I think that your emotional reactions are kept private, as most of us prefer ours to be. I am often moved by displays of emotion by politicians; that does not mean I have to see such displays to know they exist. Asking for such demonstrations from our elected officials is only asking to be lied to. Our need to feel better, to be comforted by the parroting of our responses by others, does not help us overcome the challenges of our times. As much as I might like to know you as a person, to feel that we are friends and that you are just like me, it would do me no practical good. I don't believe that any one who hears the news from the gulf, or who has seen the terrible images, especially some one who must take responsibility for fixing it, can be unaffected. But your feelings are your own, Mr. President, and, while I clearly do not speak for Ms. Dowd and may not speak for the majority of American voters, I, personally, do not need you to share them in order to satisfy my own desire to see my own personality reflected in my President's.