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Obama’s Fading Smile

The man whose ingratiating smile launched a thousand delegates may not be so friendly after all. Here’s Karl Rove in an upcoming GQ interview:

Barack Obama is coolly detached and very arrogant. I think he’s very smart and knows he’s smart, but as a result doesn’t do his homework.

Rove may well have a slew of ulterior motives in trash-talking Obama. But in this week’s New York magazine, John Heilmann claims that after leaving the primary race John Edwards was all set to endorse Obama—until they got together for a policy chat:

Obama blew it. Speaking to Edwards on the day he exited the race, Obama came across as glib and aloof. His response to Edwards’s imprecations that he make poverty a central part of his agenda was shallow, perfunctory, pat. Clinton, by contrast, engaged Edwards in a lengthy policy discussion. Her affect was solicitous and respectful. When Clinton met Edwards face-to-face in North Carolina ten days later, her approach continued to impress; she even made headway with Elizabeth [Edwards]. Whereas in his Edwards sit-down, Obama dug himself in deeper, getting into a fight with Elizabeth about health care, insisting that his plan is universal (a position she considers a crock), high-handedly criticizing Clinton’s plan (and by extension Edwards’s) for its insurance mandate.

Heilmann quotes a Hillary insider who admits that “Elizabeth hates her guts.” Edwards’ ambivalence speaks volumes.

At Politico, Ben Smith reports on a tense exchange between Obama and a man with a camera. The exchange ends with this from Obama:

Yeah well whatever. Just take it. I won’t be smiling. Because you’re wearing me out . . . . No, no, you’ve been really rude about it. Just take a shot.

Barack Obama is having trouble clearing a pretty low bar. He turns big-name Democrats off just as much as Hillary, and it’s getting harder for him to coast through the media gauntlet purely on superficial charisma. He’s wielded his charm like a superpower up until now: take it away and he’s Clark Kent with unattractive friends. In a general election, he was supposed to be the friendly alternative to the irascible John McCain. That might be hard to pull off if he doesn’t figure out how to get humble pretty soon. And wait: wasn’t Obama supposed to show other nations that America under his leadership will be less . . . arrogant?


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