PRESIDENT OBAMA on Newsweek Cover
Contact: Katherine Barna FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
at 212-445-4859 Sunday, February 22, 2009
COVER: THE CONFIDENCE GAME
PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS THE CONFIDENCE TO RESTORE HOPE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
OBAMA HAS A “FIRM GRASP OF THE PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SUBSTANTIVE CHALLENGES OF THE PRESIDENCY”
New York—Every day seems to bring bad news, with more on the way, observes Senior Editor Jonathan Alter in the March 2 Newsweek cover “The Confidence Game” (on newsstands Monday, February 23). The nation is in a pessimistic mood and although Obama is popular and refreshing, he is still well short of transformative. “For all of the legislative achievements of his first month in office, Americans have not yet had their faith in the future restored,” Alter writes. Despite Obama’s initial stumbles, which include mistakes in cabinet selection, Alter believes President Obama has a good chance of restoring confidence and pulling America back from the brink. He writes, “My take on Obama…is that he has a firm grasp of the psychological and substantive challenges of the presidency. Equally important, his 2008 campaign proved that he possesses a superior sense of timing.”
In these difficult economic times, the question is: What’s a president to do? “If he starts in with the happy talk, he sounds like John McCain saying ‘the fundamentals of the economy are strong,’ which is what sealed the election for Obama in the first place, Alter writes. “But if he gets too gloomy, he'll scare the bejesus out of the entire world. The balance Obama strikes is to say that things will get worse before they get better, but that they will get better. Now he must convince us that’s true.”
Alter examines why confidence is the critical piece of what makes a good leader. “Leadership in a peacetime crisis also involves making the right calls on policy—but at bottom, it’s dependent on a subtle understanding of how to make people feel better so that they invest in the future,” he writes. “Too much confidence makes people and nations hubristic, while those on the receiving end feel conned. Too little confidence breeds timidity and uncertainty, which can be fatal.” For years the country has lacked that balance, acting too confident for too long in the unerring genius of markets. Though it’s still early in his presidency, President Obama is showing signs of carrying himself in a more naturally confident way, with the right blend of traits. “He’s bold enough to add a couple of zeroes to the conversation about spending, but humble enough to utter those three most unpresidential words: ‘I screwed up,’” Alter writes.
“Obama is betting on two things: first, that people are so tired of being bamboozled that a little straight talk about their woes will make them feel more in control, the prerequisite for genuine confidence. And second, that he’ll get props for trying, that the very effort of riding events instead of letting them ride him will at least offer the illusion of mastery. Once these mental pieces are fastened in place and we’re fully ‘in recovery,’ to use therapy lingo, the enduring problems won’t seem so terrifying anymore,” he writes.
# # # (Read cover story at www.Newsweek.com)
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