Obama on the Couch

Justin A. Frank
Free Press, 2011

Coming at a time when many of the loyal volunteers who helped run Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign are feeling abandoned and lied to by the current president, Frank’s self-described attempt to go “inside the mind of the president” provides some welcome analysis. Frank eschews one-dimensional explanations of the president’s transformation from “hope candidate” to “accommodator-in-chief”: he portrays Obama neither as a politician dissuaded by death threats from following his progressive instincts nor as a self-conscious liar, nor as a black man forced to conform to the will of the white power structure in order to accomplish anything in office. There is nothing dismissive in this book. Instead, Frank makes brilliant use of psychoanalytic categories to paint a multi-layered picture of the forces inside and outside Obama that have pushed him to be who he is. This first-rate study convincingly concludes that there is no “superman” Obama secretly waiting until 2012 to get re-elected and then suddenly fight for all the good ideas his supporters thought they heard him advocate for in 2008.


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