The “Likeability” Factor

Conversation which took place over twenty years ago:

Colleague:   “Heard you were getting married; do I know him?”

Me:  “Salazar, in Department 404.”

Colleague:  “He’s marrying you?  But, he’s so nice…”

Me:  (Puzzled look)

Colleague:  “….oh, I mean, it’s not that you’re not nice, uh, you’re just different.”

In my professional life, I was viewed as a single-minded, focused hard-nosed prosecutor with zero likeability.  In my personal life, I’m pretty sure my friends and family didn’t view me that way at all.  And there were, of course, those at work who knew me both professionally and personally and liked me anyway.

What I’m saying is that unless you know someone on a personal level, there’s no way to know who that person really is if your only contact with him or her is on a professional basis.

Case in point.  President Barack Obama.

It always amazes me when I read polls which show that people don’t like the POTUS’ policies and the way he’s handling this or that, but, for some strange reason, they find him personally “likeable.”  For example, a poll in January showed that 83% of those asked called him “likeable,” but most say he hasn’t accomplished much on two top goals – the economy and fixing the way Washington works.  WSJ columnist and author, Peggy Noonan, wrote that “the American people don’t want to not like Mr. Obama.”

I’ve got two problems with this “likeability” thing.

First, I don’t want to like my President.  I want to respect him and I’d rather the rest of the world respect him, if not fear him, rather than like him.

Second, even if I wanted to like him, what would be the basis for liking him?  I’ve never met him; I have no personal contact with him; I don’t have any idea what he’s like in private?

In other words, why is he so likeable to so many people?  We see the President the way he wants us to see him even if it’s a photo op with the family dog Bo.

I have no idea whether he’s a good father.  I don’t have any insight into his marriage.  If I knew he gave his mother-in-law flowers each year, on Michelle’s birthday, thanking her for making him the happiest man in the world, as Ronald Reagan had, maybe I’d know something about the man before the desk in the Oval Office.  But I don’t.

Here’s what I do know about his “personal” life.  On May 9 of last year, at the commencement address he gave at Hampton University, he said he didn’t know how to work an iPod, yet two years before, he told Rolling Stone about his “eclectic tastes” in music revealing the contents of his iPod.  He was the head of the most technologically-savvy campaign in 2008, and then says in 2010, he doesn’t know how to work an iPod?  Why would he lie about something so trivial?

I remember an interview by Katie Couric who asked then candidate Obama why so many prominent political figures risk so much by committing adultery.  He gave a very strange and disjointed answer.  “I have no idea, because my attitude is the more I’m in public, I mean, I don’t even want to pick my nose, you know.  It’s, I mean, I’m assuming everybody’s watching.  And it’s just an interesting – I’ll leave that to the psychologists.  But I find that, the more I’m in the public eye, the more I want to make sure that people know that, uh, there’s no gap between who I am and the face I’m presenting the world.  You know, you want to, you want people to know that what you say is what you mean and that’s who you are.”

What???  He’s more concerned about getting caught by the public?  Where’s, “I love my wife and my children and wouldn’t want to lose their love and respect by acting so recklessly?”  How about following the words of J.C. Watts, Mr. President?  “Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.  There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”

As my President, I find him far too thin-skinned for the Office he holds, he doesn’t like criticism, even though that comes with the job, and has shown himself to be incompetent to solve the problems we’re facing now.  I’m frankly tired of hearing him blame his predecessor for the country’s problems.  I don’t like when he ridicules and mocks his opposition.  It’s unstatesmanlike.  He’s never held a real job and knows zippo about how the business world works.  We’ve got fundamental differences in our views of America and, unlike my President, I don’t believe entitlements have made this country great.  But, hey, that’s just me.

I’ve no idea if I’d like Mr. Obama if I “knew” him personally, but I certainly don’t like his policies.  Didn’t like them in 2008, don’t like them in 2011.  One year, three months, ten days … and counting down to election day 2012.

“Likeability.”  I don’t get it, but if you do, God bless you.

Author Bio:

For over twenty years, Leona has tried to heed her husband’s advice, “you don’t have to say everything you think.” She’s failed miserably. Licensed to practice law in California and Washington, she works exclusively in the area of child abuse and neglect. She considers herself a news junkie and writes about people and events on her website, “I Don’t Get It,” which she describes as the “musings of an almost 60-year old conservative woman on political, social and cultural life in America.” It’s not her intention to offend anyone who “gets it.” She just doesn’t. Originally from Brooklyn, and later Los Angeles, she now lives with her husband, Michael, on a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest, which she describes as a bastion of liberalism.
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  • Jeffreydan

    IMO it’s not really necessary to know BO personally to dislike him. I’ve paid attention since he threw his hat into the ring.

    He regularly treats others with utter contempt (accusing opponents of bigotry, the “clinging” quote, rubbing Obamacare’s critics faces in it the day after he signed it into law, lying about Republicans not contributing any ideas, accusing doctors of unnecessarily amputating limbs for profit, etc. etc. etc.), which would be bad enough, but then he brazenly steps up to the podium and calls for an environment of civility when he sees fit.

    A person comprised so completely of dishonesty, disrespect, and full-blown narcissism could only be likeable to those not paying attention.

  • peter chaconas

    Bernie I dont know if you will appreciate this but my grandson when he sees you on Fox says “Papou”. He thinks I look like you. Gosh are we that handsome? Enjoy seeing and hearing you on Fox. Peter Chaconas

    • Leona Salazar

      Hi, Peter, Bernie didn’t write this article. I did. I doubt your grandson thinks you look like me. At least, I hope he doesn’t! Leona

  • KayakBob

    I think Pres. Obama IS a “likable guy”. I am just not one of those people.

    Yeah, I know..I know. I am a racist. I get it.

    That’s it really. I suspect about half of the people that say they “like” him do so only because they don’t want to be called a racist.

    As for me, I couldn’t care less because the people on blogs don’t know me. I don’t know them. (And I don’t care a whit that I don’t know them.)

  • Roger Ward

    The last two Presidents I liked were Reagan and JFK; the last two disliked were Carter and Nixon. Having said this, I don’t think a President should be liked or disliked but should be respected (or not), agreed with (or not), and voted for (or not.) The President should be above judgment on the basis of likeability and should live or die by his policies and practices.

    So why did I like/dislike the four aforementioned? I guess I’ve been infected by the same “popularity = likeability” illness as many other Americans; I guess if a President is popular, he must be likeable.

    The likeability factor doesn’t seem to cover Obama’s champions, though. Am I the only one who would rather hear fingernails on a blackboard than listen to Nancy Pelosi or Rahm
    Emanuel or Bernie Frank or Harry Reid?

    • Paul Borden

      I vote for fingernails, Roger, though Reid is good for a laugh. No pomegranates! Oh, the humanity!

  • David Walker

    Nail on the head Leona…I want to respect my President…

  • Paul Borden

    Leona: You left out arrogant and condescending, In that way, he may be the perfect president for the “me, me, me” attitude that permeates much of the country today.

  • CCNV

    The nasty picture on this article scares me. It makes me think of the words, “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall…”.

  • robin in fl

    I don’t know bernie goldberg personally ,BUT i like him.if i found out he kicked his dog i probably wouldn’t like him,i like what he says,i enjoy his books,so i say i like him.
    i guess i could say i like his ‘work’ instead, but it’s just simpler to say “i like him”…that’s just one example. Of course my list of people i do not actually know but say i “like” could go on and on.

    some people may like me and some may not,but i am lucky that i truly never cared who did and who didn’t. Ones who actually knew me and liked me also knew i could be quite unlikable at times, but accepted me as i was/am. that was nice of them ,but wouldn’t have made me act any different either way.
    i know people who have done some not so ‘likable’ things, but i still like them because i also have done many such a thing.
    i am NOT a fan of obama whatsoever, i don’t like him as president ,i have no idea if he’s a nice man ,but some people just like to feel they have a ‘type’ of personal relationship with people they actually do not know and just use the word ‘like’…i have heard people say it about characters from reality shows or movie stars and in actuality they do not know any of those people.

    *goes back to my corner not caring if i am liked by people either way*

  • Marina Coca Tambakis

    LEONA ~

    • Leona Salazar

      Thank you so much, Marina, for your kind words. I’ll be sure to pass them on to my husband as well. I hope you’ll visit my website when you have a moment,

  • Beth

    Ah, BUT you can get “it” with affirmative action!

  • chief98110

    I am a person who, for the most part, people like and I have learned to go with it. I find that when I’m in my work clothes (suit) , people treat me differently than when I’m in my weekend duds but that is just human nature. We make judgments based on our preconceived notions of what a “nice person” looks like. More to the point, if a person is both a nice guy and competent then great. The problem in our country is no one wants to tell the person in charge that they don’t know what they are doing because of repercussions that will follow.
    I remember years ago, I was doing legal work for a medical corporation whose head was an alcoholic. The boss started his day with wine and ended it with triple Manhattans. The folks who worked there got together and begged me to talk to the boss about his afternoon patient visits while clearly tipsy. Because I was the nice guy who their boss liked, they thought I could talk to him about his drinking. Well, guess who didn’t work there long after that little chat with the boss.
    I believe that this is the case with our president. Maybe a nice guy, but way out of his pay level.

  • Bjonz

    Leona, Never underestimate charisma! You can’t major in it at Harvard, you can’t buy it or borrow it – you got it or you don’t – a gift from God as anciently understood. The sad part is that it has nothing to do with who you are inside.

    For a guy like BHO it works like this:

    “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, and those are pretty good odds.” – Bret Maverick

  • Ron

    I certainly did not know Ronald Reagan on a personal level but I liked him. I read his letters to Nancy and others and listened to his speeches. So I think it is quite possible for people to like President Obama without knowing him on a personal level. I do not support any of his policies and will vote against him in the next election but I can understand other people liking him. As for his blaming his predecessor for the country’s problems, his predecessor contributed to them. I recall President Reagan blaming President Carter for the country’s problems well into his first term It is what politicians do. We blame liberals for all of the country’s problems. As for his remarks to Katie Couric, they were stupid but I am not sure I would read anything more into them

  • Nancye

    Love your article. However, I don’t like Obama as a president OR a person, and no I’ve never met him, and have no desire to ever meet him. In my not-so-humble opinion his policies rub off on his personal life, which make him unlikeable as both prezzzzz and regular person.

    It’s really comforting to know, however, that he merely picks his nose rather than commit adultery. <<< Said in sarcasm.