Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Obama’s “Malaise Moment”

Every president has a moment when public opinion regarding him solidifies into an enduring image. For FDR it was his great First Inaugural Speech–one of  only a handful that have lived beyond inauguration day–in which he transformed the mood of the country and convinced the people he could deal with the Great Depression. Despite his subsequent mistakes, and the very slow recovery, that image never faded. For Kennedy it was the Cuban Missile speech, which showed that this handsome, witty, somewhat playboy-like president who had at times seemed weak was not. For Reagan it was the air traffic controllers strike in which, like Kennedy, he showed his steel.

Equally, it was when George H. W. Bush abandoned his no-new-taxes pledge that he lost the people, despite his recent triumph in the first Iraq war. Most famously, Jimmy Carter’s “malaise speech” in which he blamed the American people for a “crisis of  confidence,” was the moment his presidency was fatally  damaged. From that point on, the American people largely tuned him out. They just didn’t like the man.

Was last night’s speech by President Obama his “malaise moment,” the moment when American popular opinion froze into an enduring, and negative image of this president? It was classic Obama: elitist, condescending, impolitic, self-obsessed, and dishonest. As Bill Kristol points out, his description of the debt ceiling (which he apparently regards as so arcane a concept that most of the peasantry–oh, sorry, American citizens–have never heard of it) is flatly false.

The last few days have been extraordinary political theater, with the highest officials in the government calling each other dishonest and untrustworthy on national television. Who knows at this point how it will play out, but it seems to me Obama is just not very good at inside politics, and the people have now caught on to it. As with Jimmy Carter, they are coming to the conclusion they just don’t like the man.

If so, he is in very deep political trouble indeed.

 


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.