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The candidates

By Times Wires
Published February 24, 2008


The Supervisor

Hillary Clinton is a Guardian, and her specific type is an ESTJ, what Keirsey calls "the Supervisor." Supervisors are, Keirsey says, steadfast, cautious, methodical. They are the reliable, detail-oriented people without whom organizations and society fall apart - something ESTJs won't hesitate to point out. "(T)heir first instinct is to take charge and tell others what to do," says Keirsey. They are "devoted public servants." This service is an obligation, not given "freely and joyously."

Keirsey says Guardians' "self-esteem is greatest when they present themselves as dependable, trustworthy or accountable in shouldering their responsibilities." In other words, an ESTJ wants everyone to know she's "ready to be president on Day 1." According to Please Understand Me II, about half of our presidents, from George Washington to George H.W. Bush, have been Guardians.

Guardian leaders are not the big thinkers or the bold doers. They have, says Keirsey, "a stabilizing and consolidating effect." ESTJs are most comfortable in the world of the specific.

ESTJs have a pronounced weakness at the abstract arts of strategy and diplomacy. The ESTJ can, to her detriment, says Keirsey, see the world as inhabited by good people and bad people. Think of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" or how Hillary touts her "battle scars." In the New Yorker, a former friend said of her, "Hillary needs enemies." Kroeger writes that ESTJs "do not cope well when things don't go as planned."

The Champion

Barack Obama is an Idealist. His specific type is an ENFP, what Keirsey calls "the Champion." ENFPs are "filled with conviction that they can easily motivate those around them." Idealists "usually have a tongue of silver" and are "gifted in seeing the possibilities" of institutions and people. This ability to move people through imagery carries a danger for the ENFP, says Keirsey - a belief in "word magic," "the ancient idea that words have the ability to make things happen - saying makes it so."

Keirsey says Idealist leaders should be called catalysts because the "individual who encounters such a leader is likely to be motivated, animated, even inspired to do his or her very best work." Idealists are deeply introspective. According to Keirsey, their "self-confidence rests on their authenticity," which makes them "highly aware of themselves as objects of moral scrutiny." Idealists, such as Thomas Paine, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. tend to be leaders of movements, not office-holders. Obama, Keirsey says, would be the first Idealist president. Keirsey says the Idealist is the unusual leader who is "comfortable working in a climate where everyone has a vote." The Idealists possess a "diplomatic intelligence," "seek common ground," arrive at "universal truths," and are "trusting." They can be "surprised when people or events do not turn out as anticipated." The ENFP can have a problem with "restlessness," says Kroeger. As a task drags on, "the ENFP can become more pensive, moody, and even rigid."

The Promoter

John McCain is an Artisan, and his specific type is an ESTP, what Keirsey calls the Promoter. The ESTP is "practical, optimistic, cynical, and focused on the here and now." If the ESTP portrait gives you a feeling of deja vu, it's because George W. Bush is an ESTP, too. They are a common presidential type: Both Roosevelts, JFK, and LBJ were ESTPs. "Artisans need to be potent, to be felt as a strong presence and they want to affect the course of events," writes Keirsey. They hunger to "have a piece of the action," "to make something happen" whether "on the battlefield" or "in the political arena." So many politicians are Artisans because "politics allows not only for maneuvering, excitement, and risk - but for powerful social impact."

"Artisans also make everyone else look like amateurs when it comes to improvising survival tactics," writes Keirsey. Their wily ability to make do in dire circumstances makes them "successful scroungers as prisoners of war." Newsweek describes how "McCain survived in prison camp by sheer cussedness."

Artisans "are not threatened by the possibility of failure in themselves or others, so they are likely to take risks." Promoters have strong people skills. Promoters "might seem to possess an unusual amount of empathy, when in fact this is not the case," writes Keirsey. "Rather, they are uncanny at reading people's faces and observing their body language." Grand theories are not for the ESTP. "No high-flown speculation for the Artisan, no deep meaning or introspection. (They) focus on what actually happens in the real world, on what works, on what pays off, and not on whose toes get stepped on."