There are two explanations (maybe more) for the White House’s eerie indifference to all the available evidence concerning their own shoddy performance and the public’s reaction to the same, which has resulted in losses in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and sent many Democrats fleeing from the 2010 races.
There is the Out-to-Lunch explanation. Fred Barnes observes:
Months of polls on the president and his policies, the Virginia and New Jersey governor’s elections, then last week’s momentous Massachusetts Senate race – all have sent the blunt message to Obama that, for now, he’s lost. But Obama and his team insist on pretending it’s not true. This is a bad sign. One of the important tests of a president, especially a relatively new one like Obama, is how he deals with a serious setback. Does he respond rationally and realistically? In Obama’s case, the answer is no.”
Sounds like the Democrats need to stage an intervention if the president is that immune to evidence.
But maybe he does understand precisely what’s going on and doesn’t have the wherewithal to revisit his assumptions, get into the weeds of a new agenda, offend old allies on the Left, and morph — as Bill Clinton did — into an effective centrist. Maybe he’d just rather hang it up in three years. In a bizarre interview, that’s what it sounded like: “President Barack Obama said that he ‘would rather be a really good one-term president’ than have two mediocre terms.” Well, the danger here is his being a really bad one-term president. But after only a year in office, it is, to put it mildly, an odd comment. Of all the times to avoid sounding remote, nonchalant, and snooty, this is it. Yet that’s exactly how Obama sounded in an interview he must know will be widely picked over for clues as to the direction of his presidency. Even the New York Times concedes:
Mr. Obama is not the first president in trouble to frame the choice as sticking to his principles instead of worrying about his personal political fortunes. … But it is usually a measure of how much difficulty a president is facing when he starts talking about even the prospect of being a one-term president.
The reasons for the president’s reaction to his self-made predicament – defiance, anger, stubborn indifference — are at some point unknowable. For the country and for his party, the reason is less important than the specter of a president who seems disconnected from the public and somewhat lost.
Forget the tone for a moment — what’s the new agenda? A grab bag of small trinkets for the middle class? That sounds like a ripoff of Bill Clinton, which works well in good times but seems, again, out to lunch when unemployment is in double digits. A new populist fury that may spook the very businesses that must regain confidence and hire workers? Sounds rather self-defeating. A doubling-down on health care? It’s not clear he has even bare majorities in Congress for Son of ObamaCare.
Unfortunately, we’ve come to see that Obama doesn’t shine in a crisis. Not in the aftermath of Iran’s June election and revolt. Not after Fort Hood. Not after the Christmas Day bombing. Not after his own political wipeout. It takes him multiple chances to sound serious and engaged. He doesn’t relate on a visceral level with the public. It should no longer come as a surprise, but it is of concern. If he really does want a second term and wants to be more than a mediocre president, he’s going to have to step it up. And quickly.