Maureen Dowd asks, “[h]ow did the first president of color become so colorless?” Or, where’s the Obama mojo that attracted so many independents and some Republicans – enough to see him convincingly elected to the presidency.
Answer – it takes theater to elect a president any more and they had good theater. It takes leadership to be a successful president and, at least to some of us, it was evident while reviewing the resume of then candidate Obama that he was way short in that department.
And now, as you might imagine, that’s showing up in spades. Dowd notes that independents are leaving Obama in droves and, using her sister as an example (“Peggy” who is supposedly a Republican who opposed the war in Iraq and therefore swung her support over to Obama) lays out the reasons. “Peggy” – as I read this – hit me more as an Olympia Snowe Republican than a conservative Republican:
Peggy thinks the president has done fine managing W.’s messes in Iraq and Afghanistan. And she lights up at the mention of his vice president, Joe Biden. But she thinks Obama has to get “a backbone” if he wants to lure her back to the fold. “He promised us everything, saying he would turn the country around, and he did nothing the first year,” Peggy says. “He piddled around when he had 60 votes. He could have pushed through the health care bill but spent months haggling on it because he wanted to bring some Republicans on board. He was trying too hard to compromise when he didn’t need the Republicans and they were never going to like him. Any idiot could see that.
“He could have gotten it through while Teddy Kennedy was still alive — he owed the Kennedys something — and then the bill was watered down.
My guess is that’s MoDo putting words in her sister’s mouth – if, in reality her sister really is a Republican. But I can’t imagine anyone of an even slightly conservative bent saying anything like "Peggy" did above.
However, MoDo goes on quoting Peggy’s thoughts and this seems much more likely of the person Dowd described:
“He hasn’t saved the economy, and now he’s admitting he’s made very little progress. You can’t for four years blame the person who used to be president. Obama tries to compromise too much, and he doesn’t look like a strong leader. I don’t watch him anymore. I’m turned off by him. I think he’s an elitist. He went down to the gulf, telling everyone to take a vacation down there, and then he goes to Martha’s Vineyard. He does what he wants but then he tells us to do other things.
“I want him in that White House acting like a president, not out on the campaign trail. Not when the country is going down the toilet.”
That sounds more like a independent or “moderate Republican” disillusioned by what all of us have seen and noted. A total lack of awareness about how leadership works. No understanding of how a leader should set the example and what leadership requires of a leader. Totally tone deaf. Obama’s fallback for his lack of leadership skills and complaints about that is to hit the campaign trail again. It is campaigning he feels comfortable doing and speeches are his preferred form of leadership – because campaigning requires lots of wonderfully crafted words but very little actual doing.
Obama’s coming problem in 2012 is he’ll have an actual record to examine– something he hasn’t really had before – and trust me, we all know it is going to be minutely examined. Those like “Peggy” have pretty much realized how poor that record really is and are already looking for other candidates (“Peggy” supposedly is interested in voting for Mitt Romney if he runs but thinks anyone would be “nuts” to vote for Sarah Palin – I assume that’s now an obligatory part of most lefty’ pundits columns – the gratuitous shot at Palin).
Frank Rich – another dependable administration media lap dog – is all excited about some “forceful speeches” Obama has given. Speaking of dogs, he’s very happy with how the president supposedly struck back at his critics saying they spoke about him “like a dog”. Wow – there’s the Obama of old.
But, even Rich knows he’s pushing a false line wrapped in a false hope:
For Obama to make Americans believe he does understand their problems and close the enthusiasm gap, he cannot merely make changes of campaign style. Sporadic photo ops in shirtsleeves or factory settings persuade no one; a few terrific speeches can’t always ride to the rescue.
In fact, that’s precisely the answer Obama always gives when confronted with a problem. Hey, I”ll go out and work the crowd and talk about it. It worked getting me elected, perhaps it will work now.
Uh, no – the campaign is over. Some one needs to tell the president and his staff that’s the case. Like “Peggy” said, she “wants him in the White House acting like a president”.
Faint hope of that ever happening.
Rich gives Obama this advice:
As many have noted, the obvious political model for Obama this year is Franklin Roosevelt, who at his legendary 1936 Madison Square Garden rally declared that he welcomed the “hatred” of his enemies in the realms of “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.” As the historian David Kennedy writes in his definitive book on the period, “Freedom from Fear,” Roosevelt “had little to lose by alienating the right,” including those in the corporate elite, with such invective; they already detested him as vehemently as the Business Roundtable crowd does Obama.
Though F.D.R. was predictably accused of “class warfare,” his antibusiness “radicalism,” was, in Kennedy’s words, “a carefully staged political performance, an attack not on the capitalist system itself but on a few high-profile capitalists.” Roosevelt was trying to co-opt the populist rage of his economically despondent era, some of it uncannily Tea Party-esque in its hysteria, before it threatened that system, let alone his presidency. Only the crazy right confused F.D.R. with communists for taking on capitalism’s greediest players, and since our crazy right has portrayed Obama as a communist, socialist and Nazi for months, he’s already paid that political price without gaining any of the benefits of bringing on this fight in earnest.
F.D.R. presided over a landslide in 1936. The best the Democrats can hope for in 2010 is smaller-than-expected losses. To achieve even that, Obama will have to give an F.D.R.-size performance — which he can do credibly and forcibly only if he really means it. So far, his administration’s seeming coziness with some of the same powerful interests now vilifying him has left middle-class voters, including Democrats suffering that enthusiasm gap, confused as to which side he is on. If ever there was a time for him to clear up the ambiguity, this is it.
Short version: hate is fine if you hate the right people – play that class warfare game, do some engaging but “F.D.R.-size” political theater, and the enthusiasm gap will start to close.
Really? One wonders where Mr. Rich has been hanging out. That’s all we’ve seen from this administration – political theater. Very little that most voters would consider to be “progress” has been seen. And despite the fact that Democrats would love to tout health care as “progress”, politically they know it is an albatross around their necks.
So they’re left with a bad economic situation, a greatly diminished presidency and “Peggy” and the Indies all headed to Redland. And Rich’s answer is “do F.D.R. theater”, snub Republicans and engage in some heavy class-warfare. That after telling him at another point “he cannot merely make changes of campaign style.” Yeah, no confusion in lefty ranks … none whatsoever.
In reality, all of that is an example of lefty style jargon that never directly states the problem but dances all around it. However they do know what he has to do to remedy the problem. If he or MoDo had just said “get off the campaign trail and actually do something … lead!” they could have saved a whole bunch of column space in the NYT for something else worth reading.