I doubt the president was over-confident, nor do I think he underestimated Romney.
I have quite a different explanation.
Barack Obama was afraid. In fact, on a certain level he was petrified.
Now I admit I have been making my living most of my life as a novelist and a screenwriter, so I may be no more than “creating characters” here, but consider this:
What we have before us in these debates is an almost archetypal confrontation – between a man who was and is an exceptionally good father and a man who was deserted by his.
Good fathering is the story of Mitt Romney’s life. He has five sons who are, by all accounts, devoted to him and vice-versa. These boys grew up with a father who, although wealthy and successful, worked like a demon, doted on them, and apparently devoted an extraordinary amount of time to charitable work, in which he also involved them. Indeed, I’ve never heard of a politician who did anything quite like it.
Almost the polar opposite, Barack Obama’s father abandoned him twice and then ended up an irresponsible drunken victim of multiple car crashes. This sad behavior precipitated a search by Obama that brought him in contact with several father surrogates, notably Frank Marshall Davis and Jeremiah Wright, that it would be hard to brand as anywhere near satisfactory. (Davis was a pornographer and about Wright the less said the better.) No Mitt Romneys there.
If you think this is lost on Barack Obama when he stands opposite Romney, then you think the president is stupid, which he is obviously not. But it’s worse for him yet, because he is standing opposite a father who has worked harder, has more experience, and is more knowledgeable and charitable than he and he, on some level at least, must know it.
Not only that, most of what Mitt Romney has done, including graduating simultaneously from Harvard Law and Harvard Business, is an open book, while almost everything about Obama remains purposefully hidden. (He knows this too, obviously.) Obama lives in fear of exposure – and thus in fear of Romney who, although rich, is much more the self-made man of the two, the ultimate father figure.
The face-to-face clash of these two men is almost out of Greek drama. Obama must rage against or embrace the man who represents what he most dearly needed and never had. If this really were Aeschylus or Sophocles, Obama would be caught between those conflicting goals and end up plucking his own eyes out.
I usually don’t go much for psychoanalysis and I never really understood the fascination that so many people (including Obama) have with his father. But that’s probably because I have so much in common with Barack’s childhood.
My parents divorced when I was a baby so I have no childhood memories of my father. My mom remarried for a few years so I had a step-dad for a while but I didn’t miss him when they split up. I was mostly raised by my mom and my grandma.
I knew I had a dad. He used to send me and my sister Christmas and birthday cards with letters inside but I never paid much attention to what he wrote. I never felt a longing for a father figure – I never really even thought about it. It was just the way it was.
That’s why I really don’t understand the daddy issue thing. It doesn’t resonate with me emotionally. But this article has a psycho-babble air of truthiness about it. It sounds plausible and kinda scientific.
My analysis is similar but simpler. Leaving the daddy issue stuff aside, I focus on who those two men are. Barack Obama is a poser. He’s a narcissist with an over-inflated ego but deep in his heart he knows he’s just a con man who is in over his head.
Barack is a wannabe, but Mitt’s the real deal.
Mitt succeeded in school. Then he was wildly successful in business. He succeeded in running the 2002 Winter Olympics. Now he is succeeding in politics. His family life is successful too.
Barack knows he is a failure as president. When he faces Mitt Romney he is overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy. I am gonna predict that Obama will choke in the other two debates just as bad or worse than the first one.
It’s not about preparation. Obama is overmatched and he knows it. He’s been able to fake his way through life until now but it’s time for him to stand and deliver and he knows he cannot deliver.
Even worse, he’s not somebody who can handle losing. When he lost the primary to Bobby Rush in 2000 he was devastated and depressed. He knows he’s gonna lose on November 6th and it is eating him up inside. He’s a tin man with no heart.
I almost feel sorry for him.