When newly elected President John F. Kennedy was flying out of Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, he looked down at his father and said to a nearby assistant, “There’s the man who did all this.” Kennedy’s dad, like most fathers of presidents, played a massive role in the identity of his son. And as the 2012 presidential election approaches, it would be helpful to look closely at the dads of today’s candidates. As psychologist Dr. Dale Atkins put it, “Our relationship with our parents is the ‘original’ relationship of our lives, the template for all other connections.”
There is no better place to start our look at presidential papas then with the father of our current president. President Barack Obama is featured in a new book that psychoanalyzes the world leader. George Washington University professor Dr. Justin Frank had previously written a negative book about George W. Bush in 2004, and this time he puts Obama on the Couch (which also happens to be the name of the book).
Frank focuses on what he calls Obama’s “father hunger.” He believes that Obama has made most of his decisions based on feelings from being abandoned by his birth father as an infant and his step-father at age 10. Frank argues that Obama has even tried to feed his dad-shaped hole with replacements like Jeremiah Wright and Vice President Joe Biden. Frank writes, “Obama searched for a father, for someone to relate to who could help him — a strong man who knew what to do.“
We know that Obama has reached out to know more about his Kenyan father and namesake. In his 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father, Obama quoted his half-sister: “I can’t say I really knew him, Barack. Maybe nobody did . . . not really. His life was so scattered. People only knew scraps and pieces, even his own children.”
In Dreams, the reader discovers an Obama reaching out to discover a father to reveal the own mysteries within himself. Author Sally Jacobs wrote about the father-son relationship between the two Baracks and also saw real issues:
In Dreams, you feel Obama Jr. struggling with [questions like] “Who am I? What kind of a man am I? What will I be?”
Next: Does parental abandonment yield “excessive bipartisan disorder”?