Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Equal Time for John McCain

Roughly 99.9999% of all people who find this blog do so by searching "Obama Enneagram", "personality type obama", or "egg, bacon, obama, and spam." No one ever gets here by searching for John McCain. Is it just because he's so obviously a 6 that it bears no discussion?
Recently, this article was brought to my attention. It talks about the candidates' relationships to ambivalence and decision-making. Here are the parts that make McCain seem especially sixy:

"McCain's oppositional dynamics seem to dominate the process he uses to make decisions and take action. They reveal themselves in his reflexive defiance of authority, his inability to control his temper, his aura of anger and his touchiness." (From Riso and Hudson's Personality Types, pgs. 218-219: "Of course, in one way or another, all nine personality types have some kind of relationship with authority figures and need some guidance and reassurance in life, but whether supporting authority, rebelling against it, or fearing it, Sixes seem to have the most issues in this area... The key to understanding Sixes is that they are ambivalent: the two distinct sides of their personalities oscillate between aggressive and dependent tendencies.")

"He has been known for nastiness as well. In a private school he attended, his peers called him ' McNasty" and "the Punk." Neither his Vietnam POW experience nor his adult life as a politician cured him of this nastiness, and he gained something of the same reputation among his fellow senators." The article goes on to mention some crude sexist remarks of McCain's. (In describing type Six in the low-average level of mental health, termed "The Authoritarian Rebel" by Riso and Hudson, page 241 of Personality Types reads, "One of the uglier aspects of Sixes at this stage is their need to have a person or group on whom they can release their pent-up anxieties. Their scapegoats are always assigned the basest of motives so that Sixes will feel justified in dealing with them in whatever way satisfies their emotional needs. This can occur in office politics, in a family system, between the sexes, or in national politics.")

As a member of the Senate POW committee, ""He browbeat expert witnesses who came with information about unreturned POWs. Family members who have personally faced McCain and pressed him to end the secrecy also have been treated to his legendary temper. He has screamed at them, insulted them, brought women to tears. Mostly his responses to them have been versions of: how dare you question my patriotism?'" ("... average Sixes are far from innocent. Counterphobia makes them overcompensate; they blame and berate whatever threatens them. They become rebellious and belligerent, harassing and obstructing others however they can to prove that they cannot be pushed around. Sixes at this stage are full of doubts about themselves and are desperate to latch onto a position or stance that will make them feel stronger and dispel their feelings of inferiority." -- PT 239-240.)

"McCain's frank awareness of his own dark inclinations has made him understandably endearing to both press and public. McCain's honesty can be disarming, as when he confessed in his 2003 biography, "Worth Fighting For," that he has "a tendency to overreact" to "slights" in a manner that is "little changed from the reactions to such provocations I had as a schoolboy.'" Although Sixes can be nasty, they are also often disarming and endearing. As Personality Types puts it, they are "sweet and sour."

"His biography suggests young McCain had deep reasons to rebel. He was expected to follow his father - who eventually made four-star admiral - into Annapolis and a Navy career. McCain's grandfather had been an admiral and key leader in the Pacific campaign during World War II. A McCain ancestor had served on George Washington's staff during the Revolutionary War. McCains had fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. But young John McCain didn't want to attend the Academy and endure its regimentation. As McCain's biographer, Robert Timberg, dramatizes it in "John McCain, An American Odyssey," McCain "knew that if he said what he thought - hold it, screw Annapolis, the place sucks - shock waves would reverberate through countless generations of McCains, shaking a military tradition." So, instead, he went and acted passive aggressive. ("Passive-aggressive indirection shows up in all their social interactions, even in their humor, which now has an edgy sarcastic note. Passive-aggressive humor allows Sixes to get in a jab at people indirectly, by saying the opposite of what they mean ('Of course I respect you -- I treat you will all the respect you deserve.')")

According to the article, "At the Academy, McCain's insubordinate behavior with superior officers would have gotten any other cadet expelled. But he was a McCain. Ironically - an irony probably not lost on McCain - he could get away with such cheekiness precisely because of his father and the family history he was rebelling against."

" The public doesn't know much about what is in the psychiatric reports drawn up on McCain after he returned from Vietnam, but we do know that one psychiatrist concluded McCain had been in a long struggle to escape "the shadow of his father.'" ("Because they are connected to the protective figure, Sixes powerfully internalize their connection with that person, whether it is a loving, supportive one, or a difficult, destructive one. They continue to play out in their lives the relationship with the person who held authority in their early childhood years... if Sixes experienced their protective-figures as abusive, unfair, or controlling, they will internalize this relationship with authority and feel themselves always at odds with those who they believe have power over them. they walk through life fearing that they will be 'in trouble' and unjustly punished, and adopt a defensive, rebellious attitude from the cruel protective-figure they project into many of their relationships." -- PT, pgs. 224-225.)

The article also mentions McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate, saying:

"Palin is clearly more popular with most Republicans than he is, so that at times it appears that she is the top of the ticket and not he. He seems forced and secondary standing beside her. If McCain's first reflex in a charged situation is to rebel against whatever authority he perceives is in control, when he is the authority he engenders a problem" and then goes on to say: "At this point, the two sides of McCain's ambivalence - conforming versus rebellion - have become so inextricably confused that the Obama campaign and the press could accuse McCain of being "risky" and "erratic" as he lurched from one idea to its opposite, his obedient angels and his rebellious angels at war with each other. " -- a perfect metaphor for Six-ishness.

As for Obama, the article's emphasis on his mythologizing of his absent father makes him seem like a 4, its mention of his habit of watchfulness makes him seem like a 5, and its talk of his careful questioning makes him seem like a 6. What a tough nut to crack.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thoughts on the MBTI Personality Styles of the Candidates

Much has been made of the differences between the temperments of Barack Obama and John McCain. Obama is calm, cool, collected (distant?) and McCain is fiery, a maverick (erratic?). I have been observing the two men closely during the debates and I am convinced that Obama is a Myers-Briggs INTJ and McCain is an ESTP. With three out of four preferences being opposite, no wonder they come across so differently!
First, let's look at how introversion versus extroversion plays out in these two candidates. Obama is an introvert. People close to him say he is hard to get to know; by contrast, those aboard the extroverted McCain's Straight Talk Express bus say he is constantly talking, often telling the same jokes and stories over and over. During the debates, McCain interrupted Obama more than Obama interrupted McCain, although McCain did show a lot of polite restraint. During this last debate, I noticed that McCain used his notepad a lot more than Obama did. He wrote things down -- either what Obama was saying that he wanted to respond to, or the things he himself planned to say -- processing the information externally. It wasn't simply a matter of being more diligent; if anything, I thought Obama's responses were more targeted toward what the interviewer asked and what the other candidate said, but Obama processed the information internally -- he made the notes inside his head. Critics of Obama sometimes say that he hesitates as he begins to speak (I have heard people say he must be lying or making it up, since he has to think so hard about it, but we introverts know that internal processing takes time.)
The combination of introversion plus the judging trait made Obama's responses have the following well-organized pattern: first, a statement that establishes what I am talking about; then, a statement of my position on that issue; then, a transition to the side issue the other candidate raised; then, a statement of my position on that issue, etc.
McCain, an extroverted perceiver, speaks very differently. Sometimes, he moved from one idea to another so quickly that I had trouble following the line of thought. One example -- he was talking about the need to end our dependence on foreign oil and the role that offshore drilling would play in reaching that goal; mid-sentence, he thought about how it was fine to buy oil from Canada, and he said so, and that made him think about how Obama wanted to add some regulations to our trade agreement with Canada, so he mentioned that, and also how he disagreed with telegraphing our intentions to other nations by saying such things and how that might lead to bad relations, so he said all of those things right then and totally lost the thread of his plan to eliminate our dependence on middle Eastern oil.
A result of this speaking style is that McCain gets more ideas into a smaller space of time, but they are expressed less fully and less coherently. Not only is McCain's speech more dense with ideas, his ideas are more specific. This is because he has the sensing preference, so he focuses on facts -- specific bills, particular incidents, concrete proposals. The first question of the third debate was about the country's economic woes. In answering, McCain focused narrowly on the mortgage crisis, and outlined a specific plan to renegotiate mortgages based on the reduced values of homes so that people could afford to stay in their houses.
Obama, by contrast, took the question more broadly. He talked about housing prices, but he also talked about job creation, tax relief, and investing in the future of our economy with educational programs. This is because Obama has the intuitive preference. He focuses on overarching ideas and principles. Critics of his say he is vague and never outlines concrete plans for achieving his goals, and he never defines what "change" means. As a fellow intuitive, I am not bothered by this. I think that once you establish the principles by which you will lead, you can apply those principles to the particulars as they come up; I don't need to hear all the details of every little policy. My criticism of McCain is an intuitive's criticism of a sensor -- much of what he talks about seems small, boring, obscure and tedious. Where is his vision for the country?