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Should Obama betray self-doubt?

Mark Mardell | 19:15 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Obama_press_conference.jpgWe've just witnessed what must be one of the most extraordinary presidential appearances ever. At times, it felt more like therapy than a news conference.

President Obama, looking rather grey and subdued, came up with all the stuff I expected: jobs, understanding people's frustration, listening to the voice of the people, working together with Republicans and accepting responsibility for the defeat.

He then was asked how it felt when he was talking to friends who'd been defeated, perhaps because of him.

"It feels bad," he said.

Near the end of the news conference, he was asked if he had become out of touch. He hesitated and thought for seconds before he replied. He admitted he could get trapped inside the White House bubble and that it was difficult to balance the responsibilities of the office with meeting people.

"One of the challenges we have to think about is, how do I meet my responsibilities here in the White House, but still have that opportunity to engage with the American people on a day-to-day basis and give them confidence that I'm listening to them?" he said.

He spoke of his emotions when he read letters from voters every night, but observed, perhaps rather bitterly, that there were no cameras on hand to capture those moments. He was reflective, introspective and even seemed to doubt his own ability.

He added that nobody had questioned his leadership when he was on the campaign trail.

"They got a pretty good look at me up close and personal. And they were able to lift the hood and kick the tires, and I think they understood that my story was theirs," he said.

But, of course, he wasn't a leader then, just a candidate. He said that whenever he met people he felt much more optimistic - he just didn't look it.

Is this a calculated recalibration? I just don't know. It seemed from the heart, but the best politicians are often the best actors. Sometimes it is as calculating to show the real you, as to disguise it.

But I just don't know whether this will help him. In America, you can certainly tear up like John Boehner, especially when talking about family and the American dream. You can confess to sin but perhaps not to mistakes.

Showing self-doubt, a lack of confidence and insecurity may not be the path back to power.

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