Republicans are making sport of a comment made by President Obama at a recent fundraiser featuring NBA athletes. “It is very rare that I come to an event where I’m like the fifth or sixth most interesting person,” the President reportedly joked. Republicans and conservatives are citing the comment to lampoon the President’s ego — which they want to depict as enormous.
Obviously, Presidents must be self-confident to be successful. It’s a demanding job; the individual who fills it has to be decisive, and a big part of being decisive is having confidence in your judgment. You don’t want someone who is wringing their hands about every decision. That’s one reason why people were so concerned about President Carter’s famous retreat to Camp David, where he seemed to be inviting advice from every Tom, Dick and Harry about how to get the country headed in the right direction. Americans wondered whether the President had lost his nerve — and that possibility made people very uneasy.
Of course, you’d like to think that the President isn’t an arrogant SOB, either. We want Presidents who are humble about being chosen to lead us and modest about their ability to perform the various tasks required of The Most Powerful Man in the World. Presidents shouldn’t be know-it-alls; they clearly need to be willing to listen and learn about a broad range of topics from subject matter experts. And conceit and narcissism aren’t very attractive qualities, in a President or anyone else. There’s a reason why pride is the first of the seven deadly sins.
I think there’s a fine line here, and President Obama should be paying careful attention to it. Polling data shows that even people who don’t agree with his positions on the issues often still say they like him, personally. That’s an important attribute going into what looks like it will be a close election. If I were the President, I’d leave the jokes about how fascinating and interesting he is on the cutting room floor — at least until after Election Day.