Presidency Can Feel Isolated, Lonely

With power comes a sense of isolation and loneliness, experts say.

ByABC News
November 17, 2008, 4:08 PM

Nov. 18, 2008 — -- President-elect Barack Obama is quickly learning what many former leaders already know: It's lonely at the top.

Obama told CBS' Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes" Sunday evening that he's already been warned by former presidents about the loneliness and isolation that comes with being the man in charge.

"[A]ll of them recognize there's a certain loneliness to the job," said Obama. "That, you know, you'll get advice and you'll get counsel. Ultimately, you're the person who's gonna be making decisions. And I think that, even now, you know, I -– you can already feel that fact."

Obama's lament, for example, not being able to take a walk alone or go out for a haircut, is well-known to inhabitants of the White House, dating back to Abraham Lincoln, who was probably the last president to more or less live among the people without a lot of security.

Richard Norton Smith, a presidential historian and ABC News consultant, said that many presidents, despite the constant company of security personnel and Cabinet members and advisors, have felt lonely and isolated during their time in office.

"There are a number of factors that contribute to the loneliness [of being president]," said Smith. "Ultimately, it's the sense of responsibility.

"The crushing sense of personal responsibility -– think of what this president is up against: a couple of wars and a spiraling economy –- there's no escape," said Smith.

"And that's lonely."