Things have gotten so bad for Obama that MSNBC pundits sound like me. The troika of Keith Olbermann, Howard Fineman, and Chris Matthews, ripping Obama’s Oval Office speech with the bitterness of spurned lovers, complain he didn’t do much or say much or project much leadership. And indeed, with his hands folded on that really big and empty desk, you got the impression not that Obama was in charge of that office but that he didn’t do much real work there.
Salon’s Joan Walsh was similarly dismissive. (“I was underwhelmed by President Obama’s first Oval Office speech, as I expected to be. From the moment he began, hands folded on his desk like a well-behaved student, the imagery and energy was off, inadequate to the visual, horror-movie scope of the Gulf oil disaster.”) Maureen Dowd remains infuriated with the hapless president. (“How can a man who was a dazzling enough politician to become the first black president at age 47 suddenly become so obdurately self-destructive about politics?”) Hmm. Because he’s in over his head? Because all he’s ever done is promote himself? Even Politico — the Daily Variety of D.C., which has few harsh words for the town’s stars — acknowledged that “this wasn’t one of Obama’s best speeches” and observed “it wasn’t entirely clear where Obama would go from here to achieve this ‘national mission.’”
This was certainly the liberal media’s big chance to write the “Comeback Kid” story on the oil spill, as they tried to do after every equally ineffective health-care address (“Game changer!” we heard after nothing at all was changed). Instead, they informed the president that he’s no FDR. (Howard Fineman: “It was Obama who compared the Gulf disaster to World War Two, and it was, unfortunately, Obama who was unable to approach let alone match the specificity, combativeness and passion of Franklin Roosevelt.”) Have they suddenly become more savvy or recovered their objectivity? Perhaps they see it all crumbling — the generic polling, the NPR poll, and the president’s ratings slide all confirm that Obama and his party are heading for a drubbing.
Not unlike what the White House did to Creigh Deeds: rather than admit to the failure of liberal ideas, the easiest solution is to blame the candidate — in this case, the perpetual candidate who resides in the White House. So just as readily as they scrambled onto the Obama bandwagon, they are scurrying off. The MSNBC gang and liberal columnists look now to empathize with and retain the loyalty of their liberal audience, which is frustrated that the “sort of a God” has proved inept.
The same “Run for your lives!” mentality will soon take hold of the Democrats on the ballot. Whether they aim to reconnect with their base (as Bill Halter tried to do) or dash to the center of the political spectrum, they will flee from association with the president for whom they walked the plank on vote after vote. I suspect they will have as hard a time retaining voters as MSNBC, Salon, and the New York Times will in keeping their target audience and readership. The Democratic base is depressed — for good reason — and probably won’t be much interested in voting, watching gobs of cable news, or reading endless recriminations from aggrieved columnists as the liberal media tracks the descent of the Obama presidency.