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Barack Obama has given all liberals some pause to consider his personal psychology. I've joked often that he's such a bad negotiator that I would never want him to help me buy a car, because I'd end up paying twice Blue Book value just so everyone could call the deal a "win." And while it's tempting to assume some sort of malevolence or corporatist attitude on the part of Obama, I genuinely think it's something much more deep-seated in Obama's psyche. As the product of a mixed race union at a time when miscegenation was still illegal in some states, raised by white grandparents in the Kansas heartland, with an exotic name and a Muslim Kenyan absent father, Barack Obama literally defines the term "Other."
It is not farfetched to believe that Barack Obama has spent pretty much his entire 50 years trying to make people who find him fearful comfortable. Even his white grandmother admitted to being nervous if an African American male approached her, an attitude that could not help but affect him in his impressionable years. Add to that someone who appears constitutionally conflict-averse (his pre-politician career as a community organizer was to get people to work together, not fight it out), and you have the makings of a person ill-suited for the divisive environment of Washington and the full-contact political battles that have to be fought.
And we've seen that tendency manifest itself as a politician who is always willing to bend over backwards to those who will not trust him, whether from their own innate racism or from their own personal agenda. There's no question that racism plays a much greater role than liberal white America may have wanted to acknowledge, although our minority friends and colleagues would probably say "duh!". One little moment of expressed irritation will give rise to literally hundreds of thousands of reports in the media and right wing blogs/publications/foundations of the angry black man. So rather than play to those disposed to give him the benefit of the doubt, Obama rather tries to win over those who will never do so.
Subbing for the vacationing Ed Schultz, guest host Michael Eric Dyson speaks to this inherent tension with Real Time host Bill Maher, who exhorts Obama to find his spine and be an unapologetic liberal Democrat instead of the watered-down Republican he's being. Whether he can give up the ghost of trying to be liked by those who have no incentive to like him remains to be seen, but Maher's assessment that this path may lead to Obama's loss in the 2012 election is apt.
On a related note, and well worth your time, Peter Daou -- no stranger to the looking glass world of DC politics -- looks at How the Democratic establishment shunned the left, spawned the Tea Party and moved America right.