Free Markets, Free People

Howard Fineman Sees It Too

As mentioned the other day, when I first heard Obama’s UN speech I wondered if I was just reading too much into what I’d heard.  Then I saw Michael Gerson’s column and felt some relief about the fact that I wasn’t the only one which felt that way.  Today I discover Howard Fineman, a pretty avid Obama supporter, is feeling a bit uneasy for precisely the same reasons Gerson and I did.

The president’s problem isn’t that he is too visible; it’s the lack of content in what he says when he keeps showing up on the tube. Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words “I” and “my.” (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.

Even I didn’t count the “I’s” in his speech so it obviously bothered Fineman greatly. The speech apparently made the same sort of impression on him as it did others.

Additionally, Fineman notes something Obama is fond of using but that is beginning to wear very thin:

There is only so much political mileage that can still be had by his reminding the world that he is not George W. Bush. It was the winning theme of the 2008 campaign, but that race ended nearly a year ago. The ex-president is now more ex than ever, yet the current president, who vowed to look forward, is still reaching back to Bush as bogeyman.

He did it again in that U.N. speech. The delegates wanted to know what the president was going to do about Israel and the Palestinian territories. He answered by telling them what his predecessor had failed to do. This was effective for his first month or two. Now it is starting to sound more like an excuse than an explanation.

Remarkably, Fineman invokes – get ready for it – Ronald Regan as someone Obama badly needs to emulate:

The model is a man whose political effectiveness Obama repeatedly says he admires: Ronald Reagan. There was never doubt about what he wanted. The Gipper made his simple, dramatic tax cuts the centerpiece not only of his campaign but also of the entire first year of his presidency.

Obama seems to think he’ll get credit for the breathtaking scope of his ambition. But unless he sees results, it will have the opposite effect—diluting his clout, exhausting his allies, and emboldening his enemies.

And, as Fineman notes, that’s already begun to happen. Domestically his agenda is in a shambles, support is eroding faster than a pizza at a Weight Watcher’s convention and his political enemies are in full voice against him. Internationally, you can see the pack beginning to circle gauging how weak their prey is and what piece they can rip off of him before the bigger predators take their chunk of his hide.

Fineman’s other point is why that’s happening – Obama seems to think that if he appears enough times and says something enough times his words will carry the day. It is as if he thinks that constitutes leadership.  If Obama does model himself after Reagan, it is only to emulate his communication ability while ignoring Reagan’s leadership abilities.

Fineman’s first paragraph really makes a worthy concluding one:

Despite his many words and television appearances, our elegant and eloquent president remains more an emblem of change than an agent of it. He’s a man with an endless, worthy to-do list—health care, climate change, bank reform, global capital regulation, AfPak, the Middle East, you name it—but, as yet, no boxes checked “done.” This is a problem that style will not fix. Unless Obama learns to rely less on charm, rhetoric, and good intentions and more on picking his spots and winning in political combat, he’s not going to be reelected, let alone enshrined in South Dakota.

So it isn’t just me, or those on the right who’re imagining things. In fact it seems our assessment was pretty objective. When the Howard Fineman’s of the world (don’t ever look for the leg-humping Chris Matthews or those of his ilk to have this sort of an awakening) begin to notice, it should be fairly obvious to everyone. If words were action, Barack Obama would be master of the world. But they’re not. The problem, as Fineman and other are learning, is Barack Obama has never had to put his words into action. That requires leadership – something he has never learned, never exercised and increasingly seems unwilling to take on (witness the delaying on A’stan while he sprints off to Copenhagen to do what he does best – talk – about the Olympics).

Fineman has defined the problem. But he can’t provide the solution. That can only come from one man. And to this point he hasn’t demonstrated he understands the problem much less the fact that he must provide the solution. In fact, as Fineman notes, he seems more caught up in himself and his words than ever. It could mean a long three years for both the Democrats and the country. And Fineman’s right, unless things change fairly rapidly, reelection is not something Obama should count on in 2012.



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22 Responses to Howard Fineman Sees It Too

  • Obama’s biggest problem is that he wasted a huge lump of his political capital on the stimulus. So, instead of getting any of his major reforms through he gave Reid and Pelosi their wish list of mega-pork.

    That turned off so many moderates that every thing after that is viewed with suspicion. He might have retained enough political power to get his version of Obama care through but he tried the same tactic of bull rushing something that no one had read through the door.

    Coming as it did shortly after the stimulus, that was a miscalculation because people resented how the stimulus had been bum rushed through.

    Now, everything he wants will be debated and picked apart, and his so called reform issues are so unpopular they cannot stand up in the light of day. So the only thing left will be to try and strong arm them through with zero input from the republicans. And that is doable but difficult.

  • Wow…who would have thought Fineman was such a racist eh?

    The arrogance has been there, all along, it showed in the debates, his sighs, his motions indicating he’d like to interrupt. His glances captured already in numerous photos, especially, are telling. Disdain, anger, the knowing look down his nose at the rest of us when we don’t just hop into line behind him and chant “mmm mmm mmm, Barack Hussein Obama”

    Fineman has captured it. Obama is pretty sure he’s the answer to everything. He’s the salt on your steak, he’s the sauce on your asapargus, he’s the nuts on your sundae. If we don’t get that figured out we’re going to force him to go on Letterman, AGAIN, or maybe Saturday Night Live this time! We have to stop being all wee wee’d up and get with his programs! If we don’t, well, there’ll be more talking, more showcasing of what a persuasive talker he is. The worst part is, he’s NOT persuasive, he’s marginally good, and his leaderhsip ability is virtually nil once you actually expect him to lead.
    All the crisis’s we’ve seen so far have been glacial disasters. You want to see total complete lack of leadership? Wait until a train jumps the tracks. To happen fairly soon I expect, just as soon as one of the nasty world actors can pull the spikes from the ties.

    The problem is Spammy doesn’t get the rest of the world doesn’t have to be impressed. Their analysts and personality experts are advising their governments that he’s an empty suit, things our experts won’t dare say here.

  • I still think that a large part of the problem (which stems from the issue of the lack of leadership skill) is that the administration did not seem to prepare for the possibility that his legislative agenda would be held up. Or perhaps their strategy for dealing with any obstacles was a media/PR blitz, with no plan in place in the event that it did not work.

    Or perhaps Obama felt that he could be “the media President” and let congressional Democrats handle things, trusting Pelosi, Reid, Hoyer, et al, to figure out how to get things done while he gave them political cover by distracting the nation with speeches and appearances on talk shows.

    Whatever it is, I can’t help but feel as if there was the assumption that the election results guaranteed smooth sailing and therefore no attempt was made at having a plan in place to deal with obstacles. It’s hard to fathom that even someone with so little executive experience would be caught so badly off-balance.

    • Spot on Tonus. The plan of this administration was summed up early on with “never let a crisis go to waste”

      The plan was to use the crisis to ram all sorts of transformational legislation through, and a cowed and frightened public- one that surely wanted “change” – would utter nary a peep about it.

      Kyle’s also spot on about the stimulus. I know he rammed it through but the stench still lingers and lots of people noticed it.

  • I go back to a lack of experience and no leadership. The whole idea was to win the election. In that sense, Obama is like the dog chasing the car. What happens when he catches it?

    It is going to be interesting in 2012. Always before, Obama has run on no record, but great sounding rhetoric and plans. In 2012, he will be supposed to have a record. What happens if he has none?


    • Rick,

      He will have a record. A record of appeasment, betraying allies, losing in A’stan, a failed and unpopular legislative agenda, huge deficits, pork and earmarks, and a history of failure at making hard choices.

  • TAO has two fundamental problems:

    1. He is arrogant

    2. He is lazy

    This is a deadly combination for a person in a leadership position. Arrogance means that he is unwilling to listen to other opinions, acknowledge that they have any merit or, indeed, even exist. Laziness means that all the work that MUST be done will essentially go by the board. Witness his feckless approach to A-stan, his handing over Porkulus and health care “reform” (his signature issue) to the Congressional dems.

    TAO enjoys the trappings of being the president: the Wagyu, the parties in the Oval Office, the bowing and scraping to him, the endless opportunities to see himself on TV. What he doesn’t seem to find very interesting is the actual act of governing.

    In many ways, he is the perfect president for our times: his term in office (may it be only four years!) is essentially the ultimate American Idol / Facebook / Myspace / YouTube video for the ultimate narcissist.

    McQWhen the Howard Fineman’s of the world (don’t ever look for the leg-humping Chris Matthews or those of his ilk to have this sort of an awakening) begin to notice, it should be fairly obvious to everyone… And Fineman’s right, unless things change fairly rapidly, reelection is not something Obama should count on in 2012.

    Oh, I fully expect the criticism (as lukewarm as it has been) to be shut down well before ’12, and we’ll be back to the usual hagiographic coverage of TAO. I don’t say that TAO will be a shoe-in for reelection, but given the usual combination of MiniTru’s slavish devotion to him and Republican incompetence, I’d say that his road will not be especially rocky.

  • I never take solace in any agreement with someone like Howard Fineman. I’ve seen enough examples of this sort of homeopathic immunization by the Left to know it’s a distraction. Fineman was long a Chris Matthews boy (and a general MSNBC’er), and Matthews has long employed the bait and switch critique to normalize aberrant political behavior.

    Fineman is not criticizing Obama because of his use of the aberrant cult of personality approach, he’s criticizing him simply because he’s not getting over with it. Had that medical care takeover been passed already Fineman would be morphing Obama into FDR and peeing down his own pantsleg in glee about it.

    No doubt realizing that the pathology of Obama’s personality cult is becoming obvious, Fineman is trying to normalize it by framing it as merely an unsuccessful political strategy.

    But this is nothing that should be normalized. In fact, recognizing it for what it is: a historic attack on the values of American society, not just a so far innefective strategy for launching such an attack.

    • I had the same impression. Fineman is not upset that Obama is pursuing an agenda that he disagrees with. Fineman is worried that Obama isn’t doing enough to get an agenda that he does agree with, enacted.

      • Right. But I’ll take that.

        The left went ahead an elected a may with no executive experience and no accomplishments. They were warned. Now they have to live with it. It warms the heart.

  • Fineman is obviously a racist

    • Good one.

      But dolly back from that quick turnabout and it’s a good bet that Fineman is a racist, for the simple reason that the Left is absolutely saturated with race. I’ve taken up the practice of using the term “racialist” to describe the Left’s gagging attachment to racial identity politics, but at some point that more polite distinction simply loses meaning, especially when people like those from the Matthews crowd, which Fineman is (or was) a part of, never stop pointing the “racist” finger at anyone who disagrees with them. The recent Jimmy Carter episode being the prime example.

  • I just can’t believe all you dense righties fail to see the brilliance and splendor that is Obama. His Christlike visage plus that steady gaze are only the most obvious signs of his overpowering goodness and talent. I predict he will cut spending while passing his much needed government programs, and end up on Mount Rushmore even before he leaves office.

    Of course, that’s a bit over the top. But part of my approach here is to sort of mirror how McQ is saying things, but from the other perspective. And you know how it is when an ex-military basket case with permanent emotional scars from wars gets really wound up about something. There’s just no telling what he’ll say. Why, that hyperbole about charging narcissism and the like is quite a bit over the top, even if it sort of sounds like Fineman agrees. Yes, it’s over top, because, first, I decree it, and second, you guys charge me with narcissim all the time and it’s obvious that I don’t have it, so it’s clear you have a tendency to go over the top about it.

    I mean, just because I continually lecture down to you people and constantly stress what an expert I am and how I used to work in DC has nothing to do with being a narcissist! Nothing at all! I come here out of the goodness of my heart to spread the expertise of my godlike powers of political science, and constantly get nothing but insults. Only a strong, steady personality like mine that never gets upset at anyone would be able to do that, and only someone with my wisdom would be able to hold my own with you over-the-top righties, but I’m definitely not narcissistic.

    But I’m sure McQ believes Obama is narcissistic, the poor fellow. How silly! I really believe Obama is probably the best President we’ve had in my lifetime. Yes, it’s clear after only nine months that he is that good. And you goofed righties shouldn’t even think about bringing up that odious Reagan, who started us on our consumerist, debt-laden track that has gotten us in such trouble, and the Democrats who created all the programs causing the spending are definitely not at fault, so stop saying that!

    And it has been nine months because Obama said so, so you grunt engineer types who want to say it was only eight months when Obama said it was nine are just over the top and looking for silly, irrelevant reasons to criticize Obama’s intellect and prowess. Your jealousy of him is so transparent. You obviously wish he was not so clearly great, but unfortunately for you he thinks like me, and that makes him great.

    Normally I wouldn’t use such effusive language the way I did there, but I was mirroring the provocative wording McQ used. Just trying to fit in with you dense righties, you know? I realized a while back that you guys are constantly exaggerating everything, so I thought I better throw in some hyperbole to fit in. And I’m not saying this because I got caught saying ludicrous, hyperbolic things and needed to make something up to explain myself! Absolutely not, so stop saying that!

    It’s just that I tend to respond pretty much in line with the tone of person I’m responding to. So if you thick righties would just engage me in an intellectual, content-laden fashion, why, I would do the same with you! I would indeed! And then we could go back and forth a thousand times in threads that were so long they would take hours to load, with a completely professional, hyperbole-free discussion, in which of course at the end it’s obvious to everyone that I’m right and your’re wrong. That’s because my godlike powers of political science allow me to simply dismiss any arguments you bring to bear with a wave of my hand, but naturally you righties don’t have the same privilege with me because you don’t have advanced degrees and you have not written a book on international relations. And that book is absolutely not from a vanity press that suckers social science professors, so stop saying that!

    Though I try to avoid actual personal attacks since it’s easy to do that. Dismissing you with a wave of the hand is much harder because it takes such extreme qualifications to pull it off, so I do that instead. It takes no knowledge or skill to insult. I decree it. And those stupid satires of what I say take absolutely no skill to produce, which you can tell just by reading them because they’re not the least bit funny. At least I don’t see any humor in them, though there’s just no telling what dense righties find funny.

    It requires more thought and creativity to respond with content, but of course most of you thick righties don’t have the thinking ability and creativity to do that. So I keep on trying to educate you, though you don’t seem to appreciate it. I am patient and wise, much like Obama, and my frequent visits here are for your own good, and definitely not because I need to find someone to talk down to just so I can feel good about myself, so stop saying that.

  • I went back recently to reread the LA Times story on the “Magic Negro” … and it was pretty much spot on …

    But it’s clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the “Magic Negro.”

    The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. “He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist,” reads the description on Wikipedia.

    He’s there to assuage white “guilt” (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.

    … but it missed what has been called that “Rorschach” quality, the ability to allow everyone to project whatever qualities they desire unto him.

    Well, the “Rorschach” part is pretty much behind us now. We are left with the political version of “Bagger Vance” with the best credentials that affirmative action can give us.

    • I broke my own rule against watching Obama and listened to his speech to the Congressional Black Caucus dinner the other night.

      What I heard sounded like the final merger between class warfare and racial warfare, where the enemy was identified as “some people” who didn’t want what the black president wanted very specifically for the black people of America. Obama’s health care promise was in fact portrayed as the next stage of the civil rights movement, and Obama as its prophet.

      (Don’t take my word for it. You can probably find the speech, either on C-SPAN or at its website or on You Tube.)

      So much for the post-racial president, but no one really believed that was real in the first place, did they?

  • Every time Obama’s approval goes down a point or two…my leg tingles…just a little.

  • And now the rumors indicate that evidence is pretty strong “some guy in his neighborhood” (hint, that would be Bill Ayers, co-founder Weather Underground) ghost wrote Sins of my Father, uh, sorry, slip there…Dreams from my Father.

  • Let me be the first to predict that Rio will get the 2016 Olympic Games.

    Based on the European view of Obama, they will give it to Rio. Obama seems to go out of his way to piss off Gordon Brown and, more importantly, Nicolas Sarkozy with his childish stunts at the UN, etc. This is without even mentioning the Poles, and the Czechs. Saying “No” to a US President will give them special joy, especially when it’s personal and has no strategic importance.

    Revenge is a dish best served cold.

  • I dont get this libertarian bitching about Obama’s “experience.” I’m a libertarian and I’m damn happy he doesnt have experience or leadership skills or he would defly be another Lyndon Johnson, and WE DONT NEED THAT. So count your blessings!