Commentary Magazine


Contentions

RE: The Liberal Tipping Point Away From Obama

John, you’ve certainly hit on the “finger-in-the-wind” aspect to liberals’ reactions to Obama’s speech. The stampede for the exits was worsened, I think, by the image of Obama in the Oval Office, a great irony for the man who once entranced the media and the public with his cool TV persona. The image projected of Obama last night was also extraordinarily damaging — perhaps fatally so — to the president, and it was dispiriting to his base. You sensed that the liberal base was not merely making a political calculation , in effect, to dump Obama, but that they were actually shaken on a visceral level, too.

For good or bad, images help shape the modern presidency. Ronald Reagan was the master of the visual – he was aided by Michael Deaver but rested on his own sense of theatricality. And the visual can also undo a president, freezing in time and then repeating ad nauseam a moment that crystallizes “the problem.” For George W. Bush, there were the photos of him looking out the window at the Katrina devastation (the message: distant, disengaged) and of him standing under the “Mission Accomplished” banner (the message: overconfident, oblivious).

That iconic moment for Obama may well be the image of him last night, hands folded behind that huge empty desk. He was revealed as an impostor, someone play-acting as president and an interloper in serious matters. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with what he said – it was that image. He and his presidency seemed shrunken, with the man once considered a political colossus now hiding behind and dwarfed by the props of the office.

Part of the reaction is certainly the steely political calculation by the left that Obama may be a lost cause. But there was also, I think, the flash of insight and the pang of panic by those invested in this president: it is impossible to maintain the pretense that he’s larger than life. The man looks entirely out of his league. For those of us who never bought into the myth, it’s easy to underestimate the demoralizing effect last night seems to have had on Obama’s base. It’s not often that one speech provides an “ah, ha!” moment of lasting impact, but last night may well have been Obama’s.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.