Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Obama the Ineffectual

I didn’t watch the president’s address live last night, but before reading it I did take a look at the insta-reaction, and there was a stunning lack of intensity in the response to it. It had become clear in the two hours before he spoke that he himself had no particular proposal to push or goal in mind for the speech. Or rather, there were far too many goals—to blame the GOP, to talk about his desire to raise taxes on wealthy Americans even though that appears to be off the table even in the Democratic plan being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid he said he supported, to separate himself from a Washington growing increasingly toxic in the eyes of voters, and to offer a genuine warning to the public of the consequences of a default. It didn’t succeed—in its own terms—in making a strong case for any of these points individually, and collectively they don’t hang together.

It wasn’t just a bad speech. It was a glaringly ineffectual speech. And it adds to a growing impression of the Obama White House that threatens the president’s reelection chances now more than anything else: The impression that he simply doesn’t know what he’s doing. The damage done to him and his party by his ideological overreach was done in 2010; now he is going to be judged on the practical results of his presidential policies. Right now, with economic growth slowing and unemployment actually rising and no serious proposals or plans on the table to help speed up job growth, that’s not looking too good for him. And one gets the sense that, in response, he and his team are improvising wildly, looking for political advantage. The problem with political improvisation is that it only works well when your instincts on how to sell the public on what you’re pitching are sound.

It is not a sound strategy for a president to deliver a speech bemoaning the chaos in the Washington over which he presides; such a speech is practically an open admission of impotence. Even people who believe every word he says about everything being the fault of the GOP can hardly think he’s come up with a message on the debt ceiling that has changed the course of the debate in his favor. Democrats have great cause for worry if this is the way he handles things in 2012.



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.