Remind you of anyone?


From James David Barber’s 1972 book, The Presidential Character (emphasis added):

Active-Negative: The contradiction here is between relatively intense effort and relatively low emotional reward for that effort. The activity has a compulsive quality, as if the man were trying to make up for something or to escape from anxiety into hard work. He seems ambitious, striving upward, power-seeking. His stance toward the environment is aggressive and he has a persistent problem in managing his aggressive feelings. His self-image is vague and discontinuous. Life is a hard struggle to achieve and hold power, hampered by the condemnations of a perfectionist conscience. Active-negative types pour energy into the political system, but it is an energy distorted from within.

In the fourth edition of his classic study of presidential personality types, Barber summarized the Active-Negative as:

Compulsive: power as a means to self-realization; expends great energy on tasks but derives little joy; preoccupied with whether he is failing of succeeding; low self-esteem; inclined to rigidity and pessimism; highly driven; problem managing aggression.

Why does any of this matter? Barber explains:

The president is not some shapeless organism in a flood of novelties, but a man with a memory in a system with a history. Like all of us, he draws on his past to shape his future. The pathetic hope that the White House will turn a Caligula into a Marcus Aurelius is as naïve as the fear that ultimate power inevitably corrupts.

Why does this matter? Because on Friday, Caligula takes over the White House.