The "Absent" Barack Obama

Or, is the President Cognitively Impaired?

Recently there have been discussions regarding Pres. Obama’s governing choices; Vassar and Flagstaff both had excellent diaries about Mr. Obama and what he has done, or failed to do, and the possible whys.  I want to examine Barack Obama from a different perspective, one we have not seen discussed in depth, yet.  Almost every day words are being used to describe Mr. Obama from a point of view that people may not be aware of–I am referring to psychological appraisals of the man.

My professional background is nursing, (20yrs).  In the health fields, one has to have medical knowledge and the ability to do skilled assessments.  We spend almost every moment around patients assessing them for changes. More importantly, if you catch the early signs, you can prevent the bigger problems.  Before, and certainly since Obama was elected, many words have been used to describe his persona, his personality, his reactions (or lack thereof), his speeches, interactions, his general behavior and of course, his executive decisions. This is not unusual with public figures, and as President, Mr. Obama would certainly expect that he is under a fine microscope.

I too have watched and observed Barack Obama–not always easy to do, because his attitude and words have grated on me.  But still, I became aware early on that something is not quite right about this man who is our President.  First it was the physical observations I’ve made about him.  Terms like flat affect came to me (reminds me of a claymation puppet), or problems with thought retrieval, or delays in his responses, or his rambling answers to questions in news conferences, allowing him to barely answer 6-7 questions in over an hour.  Initially, one could think that those difficulties were related to him trying to find the answer that wouldn’t give him away, as in the truth vs political expediency.  After awhile though, I dismissed that as the cause.  The realization of Obama’s extensive and almost pathological dependency on teleprompters began to support a different premise for the speech and behaviors we’ve seen.  Everyone has a definition of normal or average, and one would expect the president to be average or better, but with Mr. Obama this is not the case.  For example, there are literally some people (many in fact) who get “stage fright” and cannot speak in front of a crowd.  But, if you are going to be a politician I would assume you need to get over it.  But what drives a normal person to need teleprompters when addressing 6th graders in a classroom, or even a high school graduation?  Is Mr. Obama that incapable of spontaneous/extemporaneous speech?  There is no need to spend any time discussing the media’s selling of Obama to us as an intellectual giant, or extraordinary speaker.  They’ve made liars of themselves.  Nothing Obama has shown us indicates that he is or ever was any of these wonderful, extraordinary, people.

Now why is that?

Obama’s life is really divided into two parts–the one that he himself told us about in his book, “Dreams From My Father” and the part we know during this past decade.  If there is much in between, it has been so sanitized as to consider that the past of this person has been eradicated.  But it is important to bring up Mr. Obama’s adolescent (high school and college) years, because he told us something about himself in that book.  “I had learned not to care….I blew a few smoke rings remembering those years.  Pot helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it.  Not smack, though.”

We know that major neurological growth and development occurs throughout childhood, but it is important to understand that it continues well into the mid-twenties.  Neurologically, brain cells go through critical changes in these years; they are also highly sensitive to toxic substances, hence the severe effects of alcohol and substance abuse–including marijuana and other illicit drugs.  Yes, we all probably fried a few of our own brain cells in those years, too, but hopefully not too many.  It is not known how many years Mr. Obama used these substances, but we do know that he did.  The other part to knowing about substance abuse are the short and long-term effects. Almost all organs are affected by toxic substance abuse, but none more so than the sensitive, still-developing brain.

Fast forward to today.  When candidate Obama presented his one-page certificate of being in “good health” by his physician, we all had to accept it.  He is entitled to his privacy; the law gives all of us that regarding our health records.  But, I doubt that any of us believed that he had no medical history.  He does – we all do.  He certainly has a nicotine addiction, perhaps he has been treated for it. Here is something else to consider though.  Look at some of the words that have been printed describing Barack Obama:  unemotional, detached, disconnected, cold, dispassionate, indifferent, unresponsive.  Yes, we are all seeing the same thing; your eyes are not deceiving you.  But it is not “normal’ to be this way, unless, and I emphasize, unless–he is cognitively impaired or on medication that causes these same symptoms as side effects.  For example, the SSRI’s, considered a major breakthrough for anti-depression therapy and obsessive compulsive disorders, affect short-term recall, memory, affect people’s libido, affect people’s ability to feel, unless an extreme emotion finally erupts.  They may not be feeling pain and psychic distress, but they are not able to feel empathy, sympathy, etc.  People report that they find it difficult to cry when on these meds.  I am not saying anything against these drugs.  Medications are life-saving for those who need them and one may have to learn to live with the side effects in order to get the relief from a major disorder.

When we observe and speak about Pres. Obama’s lack of feeling, lack of response, lack of emotion, rambling speech, or behaviors that almost seem inappropriate, these are the things I think of:  It is not normal to be this way, and there is something causing it.  No one yet knows all the cognitive long-term harm from his early years of substance abuse; nor do we know how many years he used substances that could have caused residual cognitive impairment.  But, as I have observed Pres. Obama and realized that similar words were being used to describe him that we use in psychiatry in assessing patients or their responses to psychotropic medications, it should not be ignored.

Many have examined in detail the reason for Obama’s lack of governing; he has been said to be incompetent, incapable, inexperienced, and didn’t he always vote present in his Illinois Senate days?  What kind of person functions this way, and why?  What is “normal” about a leader who parties and plays, while the people he supposedly cares about face disasters.  Barack Obama was given a blank slate for his past, the MSM covered for him.  Very few individuals get that kind of “cease to exist” treatment, unless you are in a witness protection program.

We may agree that Barack Obama is doing a poor job of governing and the thesis I present does not help that, but perhaps we will no longer wonder at the why and not spend energy expecting him to be any different than he is.  Truly, what we see is what we get.