Commentary Magazine


Stop Him Before He Speaks Again?

It’s not just conservative grouches who find Obama unimpressive and somewhat lost in the Oval office. Richard Cohen writes:

In last week’s prime-time address to the nation, the president sat behind a massive and capaciously empty desk, looking somehow smaller than he ever has — a man physically reduced by sinking polls, a lousy economy and the prospect that his party might lose control of Congress. Behold something we never thought we’d see with Obama: The Incredible Shrinking Presidency.

Part of the problem is that we have heard it all before — most especially, the feint toward a more robust foreign policy immediately undercut by deadlines. We’ve grown to expect that he will strain to push war off the agenda so he can get back to his spend-a-thon. Cohen is right that Obama has no business giving “an Oval Office address unless he has something worthy of the Oval Office to say,” but Cohen is hesitant to get to the heart of the matter.

He wants Obama “to fire some key people.” (I think John Boehner suggested this a week or so ago.) But ObamaCare is the president’s jewel, spending is his true love, and being commander in chief is not. It’s foolish to hope that new staff can stop Obama from doing what he wants to do or invest him with new executive expertise. Is new staff going to remake the president’s demeanor from snippy to gracious? Cohen wants Obama to stop being Obama. A fine idea, but improbable.