Obama, the loner president

Scott Wilson writes: Beyond the economy, the wars and the polls, President Obama has a problem: people.

This president endures with little joy the small talk and back-slapping of retail politics, rarely spends more than a few minutes on a rope line, refuses to coddle even his biggest donors. His relationship with Democrats on Capitol Hill is frosty, to be generous. Personal lobbying on behalf of legislation? He prefers to leave that to Vice President Biden, an old-school political charmer.

Obama’s circle of close advisers is as small as the cluster of personal friends that predates his presidency. There is no entourage, no Friends of Barack to explain or defend a politician who has confounded many supporters with his cool personality and penchant for compromise.

Obama is, in short, a political loner who prefers policy over the people who make politics in this country work.

“He likes politics,” said a Washington veteran who supports Obama, “but like a campaign manager likes politics, not a candidate.” The former draws energy from science and strategy, the latter from contact with people.

Which raises an odd question: Is it possible to be America’s most popular politician and not be very good at American politics?

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