Commentary Magazine


Topic: communications problem

ObamaCare and Political Insanity

According to the New York Times:

Soon after the 112th Congress convenes Wednesday, Republicans in the House plan to make good on a campaign promise that helped vault many new members to victory: voting to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul.

The vote, which Republican leaders pledged would occur before the president’s State of the Union address later this month, is intended both to appeal to the Tea-Party-influenced factions of the House Republican base and to emphasize the muscle of the new party in power. But it could also produce an unintended consequence: a chance for Democrats once again to try their case in support of the health care overhaul before the American public.

Democrats, who in many cases looked on the law as a rabid beast best avoided in the fall elections, are reversing course, gearing up for a coordinated all-out effort to preserve and defend it. Under the law, they say, consumers are already receiving tangible benefits that Republicans would snatch away.

The story goes on to report this:

Representative Robert E. Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey, challenged the Republicans to bring it on. “We will respond by pointing out the impact of repeal on people’s lives,” Mr. Andrews said. “On women with cancer who could be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. On senior citizens who would lose the help they are receiving to pay for prescriptions.”

Democrats argue that repeal would increase the number of uninsured; put insurers back in control of health insurance, allowing them to increase premiums at will; and lead to explosive growth in the federal budget deficit.

It’s hard to know if Democrats are serious about pursuing this course. If so, they are heading down a perilous political path. Here’s why: the more the public learns about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the more they dislike it — and they dislike it plenty right now.

In addition, the thinking that continues to animate many Democrats — namely, that the only reason Obama’s health-care overhaul isn’t wildly popular is because of a “communications problem” by the White House and congressional Democrats — is wholly in error.

The problem is that ObamaCare is a monstrous, incoherent piece of legislation that is/will (among other things) increase premiums, force millions of people off their existing coverage (which many of them are happy with), and increase, not decrease, the federal-budget deficit. It will harm, not improve, our health-care system. In almost every respect, it compounds rather than ameliorates our problems.

If Democrats want to relitigate ObamaCare, they will find a Republican Party plenty eager to join them.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. With that definition in mind, it is fair to say that on health care at least, the Democratic Party’s strategy is bordering on insanity. If Mr. Obama and his party want the political debate of 2011 to center on health care, they will pay a huge political price for it.

According to the New York Times:

Soon after the 112th Congress convenes Wednesday, Republicans in the House plan to make good on a campaign promise that helped vault many new members to victory: voting to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul.

The vote, which Republican leaders pledged would occur before the president’s State of the Union address later this month, is intended both to appeal to the Tea-Party-influenced factions of the House Republican base and to emphasize the muscle of the new party in power. But it could also produce an unintended consequence: a chance for Democrats once again to try their case in support of the health care overhaul before the American public.

Democrats, who in many cases looked on the law as a rabid beast best avoided in the fall elections, are reversing course, gearing up for a coordinated all-out effort to preserve and defend it. Under the law, they say, consumers are already receiving tangible benefits that Republicans would snatch away.

The story goes on to report this:

Representative Robert E. Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey, challenged the Republicans to bring it on. “We will respond by pointing out the impact of repeal on people’s lives,” Mr. Andrews said. “On women with cancer who could be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. On senior citizens who would lose the help they are receiving to pay for prescriptions.”

Democrats argue that repeal would increase the number of uninsured; put insurers back in control of health insurance, allowing them to increase premiums at will; and lead to explosive growth in the federal budget deficit.

It’s hard to know if Democrats are serious about pursuing this course. If so, they are heading down a perilous political path. Here’s why: the more the public learns about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the more they dislike it — and they dislike it plenty right now.

In addition, the thinking that continues to animate many Democrats — namely, that the only reason Obama’s health-care overhaul isn’t wildly popular is because of a “communications problem” by the White House and congressional Democrats — is wholly in error.

The problem is that ObamaCare is a monstrous, incoherent piece of legislation that is/will (among other things) increase premiums, force millions of people off their existing coverage (which many of them are happy with), and increase, not decrease, the federal-budget deficit. It will harm, not improve, our health-care system. In almost every respect, it compounds rather than ameliorates our problems.

If Democrats want to relitigate ObamaCare, they will find a Republican Party plenty eager to join them.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. With that definition in mind, it is fair to say that on health care at least, the Democratic Party’s strategy is bordering on insanity. If Mr. Obama and his party want the political debate of 2011 to center on health care, they will pay a huge political price for it.

Read Less

Streisand Returns from Political Exile

Barbra Streisand — an influential figure within Democratic circles — told Larry King that while they were “misguided,” both Presidents Reagan and Bush showed “real strength,” which voters admire. This stands in contrast to Obama — though she credits him for having an “open mind,” an “open heart,” and being “very smart.”

She also said that the problem with Democrats is that — you guessed it — they had a “communications problem.” They were unable to convey to the public all the great things they had done. And oh, by the way, Ms. Streisand fled to Europe because of the last election. Alas, she didn’t stay.

Barbra Streisand — an influential figure within Democratic circles — told Larry King that while they were “misguided,” both Presidents Reagan and Bush showed “real strength,” which voters admire. This stands in contrast to Obama — though she credits him for having an “open mind,” an “open heart,” and being “very smart.”

She also said that the problem with Democrats is that — you guessed it — they had a “communications problem.” They were unable to convey to the public all the great things they had done. And oh, by the way, Ms. Streisand fled to Europe because of the last election. Alas, she didn’t stay.

Read Less

Obama’s Progressives Problem

The split between President Obama and his liberal base continues to widen. Yesterday I wrote about the criticisms directed at the president by the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman. Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, has leveled his own blast in the Huffington Post.

According to Kuttner, “I cannot recall a president who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as chief executive.” Like many of his co-ideologists, Kuttner pins much of the blame on Obama’s failure to communicate just how dreadful the GOP is. The president didn’t sufficiently frighten voters enough. Mr. Obama, who during the 2010 campaign referred to his opponents as “enemies,” wasn’t enough of a “fighter.” The losses among seniors was “sheer political malpractice” and “just stupefying.”

Obama is “fast becoming more albatross than ally,” according to Kuttner, who believes the task of progressives is to “step into the leadership vacuum that Obama has left, and fashion a compelling narrative about who and what are destroying America.” He hopes progressives can “move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the President should have been leading.”

Mr. Kuttner’s counsel is wrong on several different levels. The problem Democrats faced was not (as many of us continue to point out) a communications problem; it was a facts-on-the-ground problem, a governing problem. By a wide margin, the public believes the country is on the wrong track and has lost considerable confidence in Obama’s agenda and ability to lead. The president has compounded his problems by incompetence.

But Kuttner is kidding himself if he thinks progressives can create a “counter-narrative” and fill the “leadership vacuum” that Obama has left. For good or ill, the president is the face of a party and, in the case of Obama, a movement (liberalism). So long as he occupies the Oval Office, no compelling counter-narrative is possible. With one exception: a challenge to Obama from the left.

Kuttner doubts such a challenge makes much sense, and I happen to agree with him. But clearly his head is overruling his heart, at least for now. Here’s the thing to watch for, though: the left’s unhappiness with Obama is likely to accelerate rather than decelerate, in part because Obama’s most liberal days as president are behind him and in part because, in Kuttner’s words, “as President Obama gears up for a re-election battle in 2012, the economy is unlikely to be much different than the one that sank the Democrats in 2010.”

If those two conditions are in place, liberal disenchantment with Obama, which is on the rise, will explode. Their hearts will overrule their heads. Progressives will be desperate to detach themselves from Obama. And out of this could emerge a primary challenger. Right now, that’s not a likelihood; but I suspect we’re closer to that point than many people now assume.

The split between President Obama and his liberal base continues to widen. Yesterday I wrote about the criticisms directed at the president by the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman. Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, has leveled his own blast in the Huffington Post.

According to Kuttner, “I cannot recall a president who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as chief executive.” Like many of his co-ideologists, Kuttner pins much of the blame on Obama’s failure to communicate just how dreadful the GOP is. The president didn’t sufficiently frighten voters enough. Mr. Obama, who during the 2010 campaign referred to his opponents as “enemies,” wasn’t enough of a “fighter.” The losses among seniors was “sheer political malpractice” and “just stupefying.”

Obama is “fast becoming more albatross than ally,” according to Kuttner, who believes the task of progressives is to “step into the leadership vacuum that Obama has left, and fashion a compelling narrative about who and what are destroying America.” He hopes progressives can “move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the President should have been leading.”

Mr. Kuttner’s counsel is wrong on several different levels. The problem Democrats faced was not (as many of us continue to point out) a communications problem; it was a facts-on-the-ground problem, a governing problem. By a wide margin, the public believes the country is on the wrong track and has lost considerable confidence in Obama’s agenda and ability to lead. The president has compounded his problems by incompetence.

But Kuttner is kidding himself if he thinks progressives can create a “counter-narrative” and fill the “leadership vacuum” that Obama has left. For good or ill, the president is the face of a party and, in the case of Obama, a movement (liberalism). So long as he occupies the Oval Office, no compelling counter-narrative is possible. With one exception: a challenge to Obama from the left.

Kuttner doubts such a challenge makes much sense, and I happen to agree with him. But clearly his head is overruling his heart, at least for now. Here’s the thing to watch for, though: the left’s unhappiness with Obama is likely to accelerate rather than decelerate, in part because Obama’s most liberal days as president are behind him and in part because, in Kuttner’s words, “as President Obama gears up for a re-election battle in 2012, the economy is unlikely to be much different than the one that sank the Democrats in 2010.”

If those two conditions are in place, liberal disenchantment with Obama, which is on the rise, will explode. Their hearts will overrule their heads. Progressives will be desperate to detach themselves from Obama. And out of this could emerge a primary challenger. Right now, that’s not a likelihood; but I suspect we’re closer to that point than many people now assume.

Read Less

Joe Biden’s—and the President’s—Sycophancy Problem

In an interview with GQ magazine, Vice President Biden, when asked about Barack Obama’s problem in being perceived as aloof, provided us with this answer: “I think what it is, is he’s so brilliant. He is an intellectual.”

So that’s the real explanation for the president’s troubles. It isn’t really a communications problem after all; it’s an IQ Gap between Obama and America. He’s just so much smarter, and so much better, than the rest of us. It can’t be easy for a man so gifted in so many ways to maintain the common touch. That, at least, seems to be the view from ObamaLand.

This, of course, is exactly what the president doesn’t need: aides like Biden, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and others who, as things get worse for Mr. Obama, double down on their flattery of him.

There are many things in life I’m confident Mr. Obama needs; more sycophancy from his advisers is not one of them. What he needs, in fact, are mature, responsible, well-grounded people with standing in his life to let him know what is happening to his presidency. It is coming apart for a variety of reasons, including dogmatism and ideological rigidity, growing incompetence, unwise policies, and the poor performance of the American economy. The problems are not all of Obama’s making — but he bears a large share of the blame for taking America in the wrong direction.

I have little doubt that Vice President Biden’s words reflect his true views. That may be the most worrisome thing of all for the president. Because if this fiction continues to be entertained, things will only get worse for Obama, and for us.

In an interview with GQ magazine, Vice President Biden, when asked about Barack Obama’s problem in being perceived as aloof, provided us with this answer: “I think what it is, is he’s so brilliant. He is an intellectual.”

So that’s the real explanation for the president’s troubles. It isn’t really a communications problem after all; it’s an IQ Gap between Obama and America. He’s just so much smarter, and so much better, than the rest of us. It can’t be easy for a man so gifted in so many ways to maintain the common touch. That, at least, seems to be the view from ObamaLand.

This, of course, is exactly what the president doesn’t need: aides like Biden, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and others who, as things get worse for Mr. Obama, double down on their flattery of him.

There are many things in life I’m confident Mr. Obama needs; more sycophancy from his advisers is not one of them. What he needs, in fact, are mature, responsible, well-grounded people with standing in his life to let him know what is happening to his presidency. It is coming apart for a variety of reasons, including dogmatism and ideological rigidity, growing incompetence, unwise policies, and the poor performance of the American economy. The problems are not all of Obama’s making — but he bears a large share of the blame for taking America in the wrong direction.

I have little doubt that Vice President Biden’s words reflect his true views. That may be the most worrisome thing of all for the president. Because if this fiction continues to be entertained, things will only get worse for Obama, and for us.

Read Less

It’s the White House That’s Scared, Not the Voters

In examining the White House’s “bunker mentality,” Howard Kurtz talks to the Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville:

James Carville, the Cajun strategist, describes the White House mood bluntly: “They’re frightened.” Obama, he says, is “very insular” and “relies on a small group of people.” Recalling the atmosphere in the Clinton White House before the Republicans took both houses in 1994, Carville says: “You know it’s going to be bad but there’s a piece of you that says it’s not that bad, that there’s a new Newsweek poll out or something. You get beat down.”

Well, good to know that Newsweek is a joke among liberals as well. Now, his point is well taken, but this crew was in the bunker even when their polling was high. From Day 1, they’ve been super-sensitive to the slightest criticism. They’ve felt besieged by talk radio, Fox News, Gallup, and on and on. Combine bare-knuckle politics with a president with a messiah complex and you get a White House that goes for the jugular at the mildest provocation.

And nothing is ever their fault. Not even the media strategy:

Despite Obama’s sky-high profile, White House advisers scoff at suggestions of overexposure, saying that shrinking viewership requires the president to make multiple appearances to reach the same audience that Reagan could with a single network interview. …

It’s equally true that 9.6 percent unemployment isn’t a communications problem. But deflecting the political blame certainly is. Perhaps this is the new normal—a president and White House staff having to work overtime to peddle their wares in a crowded marketplace.

“It’s a chaotic environment,” [Dan] Pfeiffer says. “There are no clean shots anymore. Everything we do is instantly analyzed by people who are our allies and people who are our adversaries.”

Oh, woe is them. No other president — not Lincoln or FDR — has ever had it so hard. No president — not George W. Bush — ever faced so much criticism. Silly? Yes. But it goes a long way toward explaining why the White House continually doubles down on losing strategies. It’s never their fault, you see.

In examining the White House’s “bunker mentality,” Howard Kurtz talks to the Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville:

James Carville, the Cajun strategist, describes the White House mood bluntly: “They’re frightened.” Obama, he says, is “very insular” and “relies on a small group of people.” Recalling the atmosphere in the Clinton White House before the Republicans took both houses in 1994, Carville says: “You know it’s going to be bad but there’s a piece of you that says it’s not that bad, that there’s a new Newsweek poll out or something. You get beat down.”

Well, good to know that Newsweek is a joke among liberals as well. Now, his point is well taken, but this crew was in the bunker even when their polling was high. From Day 1, they’ve been super-sensitive to the slightest criticism. They’ve felt besieged by talk radio, Fox News, Gallup, and on and on. Combine bare-knuckle politics with a president with a messiah complex and you get a White House that goes for the jugular at the mildest provocation.

And nothing is ever their fault. Not even the media strategy:

Despite Obama’s sky-high profile, White House advisers scoff at suggestions of overexposure, saying that shrinking viewership requires the president to make multiple appearances to reach the same audience that Reagan could with a single network interview. …

It’s equally true that 9.6 percent unemployment isn’t a communications problem. But deflecting the political blame certainly is. Perhaps this is the new normal—a president and White House staff having to work overtime to peddle their wares in a crowded marketplace.

“It’s a chaotic environment,” [Dan] Pfeiffer says. “There are no clean shots anymore. Everything we do is instantly analyzed by people who are our allies and people who are our adversaries.”

Oh, woe is them. No other president — not Lincoln or FDR — has ever had it so hard. No president — not George W. Bush — ever faced so much criticism. Silly? Yes. But it goes a long way toward explaining why the White House continually doubles down on losing strategies. It’s never their fault, you see.

Read Less

Liberalism’s Existential Crisis

As the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party continue their journey into the Slough of Despond, it’s interesting to watch Obama’ supporters try to process the unfolding events.

Some blame it on a failure to communicate. E.J. Dionne, Jr., for example, ascribes the Democrats’ problems to the fact that Obama “has chosen not to engage the nation in an extended dialogue about what holds all his achievements together.” Joe Klein offers this explanation: “If Obama is not reelected, it will be because he comes across as disdaining what he does for a living.” And John Judis points to the Obama administration’s “aversion to populism.”

Others are aiming their sound and fury at the American people. According to Maureen Dowd, “Obama is the head of the dysfunctional family of America — a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age. The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown.” Jonathan Alter argues that the American people “aren’t rationally aligning belief and action; they’re tempted to lose their spleens in the polling place without fully grasping the consequences.” And Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg has written that “the biggest culprit in our current predicament” is the “childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large.” Read More

As the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party continue their journey into the Slough of Despond, it’s interesting to watch Obama’ supporters try to process the unfolding events.

Some blame it on a failure to communicate. E.J. Dionne, Jr., for example, ascribes the Democrats’ problems to the fact that Obama “has chosen not to engage the nation in an extended dialogue about what holds all his achievements together.” Joe Klein offers this explanation: “If Obama is not reelected, it will be because he comes across as disdaining what he does for a living.” And John Judis points to the Obama administration’s “aversion to populism.”

Others are aiming their sound and fury at the American people. According to Maureen Dowd, “Obama is the head of the dysfunctional family of America — a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age. The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown.” Jonathan Alter argues that the American people “aren’t rationally aligning belief and action; they’re tempted to lose their spleens in the polling place without fully grasping the consequences.” And Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg has written that “the biggest culprit in our current predicament” is the “childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large.”

For still others, Obama’s failures can be traced to James Madison. George Packer complains that Obama’s failures are in part institutional. He lists a slew of items on the liberal agenda items “the world’s greatest deliberative body is incapable of addressing.” Paul Krugman warns that the Senate is “ominously dysfunctional” and insists that the way it works is “no longer consistent with a functioning government.” For Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum, “The evidence that Washington cannot function — that it’s ‘broken,’ as Vice President Joe Biden has said — is all around.” The modern presidency “has become a job of such gargantuan size, speed, and complexity as to be all but unrecognizable to most of the previous chief executives.”

Commentators such as the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein place responsibility on “powerful structural forces in American politics that seem to drag down first-term presidents” (though Klein does acknowledge other factors). The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait pins the blame on “structural factors” and “external factors” that have nothing to do with Obama’s policies.

Then there are those who see the pernicious vast right-wing conspiracy at work. Frank Rich alerts us to the fact that the problem lies with “the brothers David and Charles Koch,” the “sugar daddies” who are bankrolling the “white Tea Party America.” Newsweek‘s Michael Cohen has written that, “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain.” And Mr. Krugman offers this analysis: “What we learned from the Clinton years is that a significant number of Americans just don’t consider government by liberals — even very moderate liberals — legitimate. Mr. Obama’s election would have enraged those people even if he were white. Of course, the fact that he isn’t, and has an alien-sounding name, adds to the rage.” Krugman goes on to warn that “powerful forces are promoting and exploiting this rage” — including the “right-wing media.” And if they come to gain power, “It will be an ugly scene, and it will be dangerous, too.”

What most of these commentators are missing, I think, are two essential points. First, the public is turning against Obama and the Democratic Party because the economy is sick and, despite his assurances and projections, the president hasn’t been able to make it well. And in some important respects, especially on fiscal matters, the president and the 111th Congress have made things considerably worse. Second, an increasing number of Americans believe Obama’s policies are unwise, ineffective, and much too liberal. They connect the bad results we are seeing in America to what Obama is doing to America.

But there’s something else, and something deeper, going on here. All of us who embrace a particular religious or philosophical worldview should be prepared to judge them in light of empirical facts and reality. What if our theories seem to be failing in the real world?

The truth is that it’s rather rare to find people willing to reexamine or reinterpret their most deeply held beliefs when the mounting evidence calls those beliefs into question. That is something most of us (myself included) battle with: How to be a person of principled convictions while being intellectually honest enough to acknowledge when certain propositions (and, in some instances, foundational policies) seem to be failing or falling short.

It’s quite possible, of course, that one’s basic convictions can remain true even when events go badly. Self-government is still the best form of government even if it might fail in one nation or another. And sometimes it is simply a matter of weathering storms until certain first principles are reaffirmed. At the same time, sometimes we hold to theories that are simply wrong, that are contrary to human nature and the way the world works, but we simply can’t let go of them. We have too much invested in a particular philosophy.

President Obama’s liberal supporters understand that he is in serious trouble right now; what they are doing is scrambling to find some way to explain his problems without calling into question their underlying political philosophy (modern liberalism). If what is happening cannot be a fundamental failure of liberalism, then it must be something else — from a “communications problem” to “structural factors” to a political conspiracy. And you can bet that if things continue on their present course, ideologues on the left will increasingly argue that Obama’s failures stem from his being (a) not liberal enough or (b) incompetent.

If the Obama presidency is seen as damaging the larger liberal project, they will abandon Obama in order to try to protect liberalism. They would rather do that than face an existential crisis.

Read Less

Obama the Ideologue

Things have gotten so bad for the Democrats in the wake of the mosque/Ground Zero controversy that respected political observers like Charlie Cook are speculating that Obama’s actions might only be explained by a strange indifference to his re-election. According to Cook:

Just over a year ago, a Democratic congressional leadership staffer who had sat in on a number of closed-door meetings between President Obama and Democratic members of Congress told me something to the effect of, “I know this isn’t true and sounds naïve, but listening to the president in these meetings, you’d think he really doesn’t care if he gets re-elected or not.”

While I acknowledge that someone who gets elected to the U.S. Senate and the presidency is by definition extremely competitive and has a healthy desire to win, the words of that staffer have frequently come back to mind. Most recently, I thought of them following the president’s decision to weigh in on the proposal to build a Muslim mosque and cultural center in lower Manhattan, not far from Ground Zero.

Cook goes on to write:

At the risk of sounding like an unlicensed psychoanalyst, it seems that President Obama is so supremely self-confident, so self-assured of the righteousness of his positions, that perhaps he believes if he does what he thinks is best and lets the chips fall where they may, everything will eventually work out. And, if it doesn’t, well, he’ll still think he did the right thing anyway.

This is the most favorable gloss that can be put on this interpretation; and when stated like this, there’s something to be admired in Obama’s approach. But there is also danger in it as well. For right now, everything is not working out; in fact, things are getting worse on almost every front. Yet Obama appears to be too ideological, too set in his ways, to adjust to events and to reality. He appears to have boundless faith in himself and his worldview; he is convinced he will succeed, come what may. Call it a Faith-Based Presidency.

The president, therefore, seems unable to process the (massive) incoming evidence that his approach is not working. He is a great, world-historical figure — and yet our situation is fraying. This is creating a form of cognitive dissonance. And so he and his aides and supporters must blame others — his predecessor, the GOP, cable news, “structural factors,” a “communications problem,” our political culture, our political system, and even the American people. As his presidency skids, Obama has become obsessed with finding scapegoats.

True conservatism, it has been said, is the negation of ideology. Obama’s brand of liberalism is the epitome of it. He may not bend — but the Democrats, about to be administered an epic comeuppance, eventually will. At some point soon, they will conclude that enough of them have been sacrificed at the altar of Obamaism.

Things have gotten so bad for the Democrats in the wake of the mosque/Ground Zero controversy that respected political observers like Charlie Cook are speculating that Obama’s actions might only be explained by a strange indifference to his re-election. According to Cook:

Just over a year ago, a Democratic congressional leadership staffer who had sat in on a number of closed-door meetings between President Obama and Democratic members of Congress told me something to the effect of, “I know this isn’t true and sounds naïve, but listening to the president in these meetings, you’d think he really doesn’t care if he gets re-elected or not.”

While I acknowledge that someone who gets elected to the U.S. Senate and the presidency is by definition extremely competitive and has a healthy desire to win, the words of that staffer have frequently come back to mind. Most recently, I thought of them following the president’s decision to weigh in on the proposal to build a Muslim mosque and cultural center in lower Manhattan, not far from Ground Zero.

Cook goes on to write:

At the risk of sounding like an unlicensed psychoanalyst, it seems that President Obama is so supremely self-confident, so self-assured of the righteousness of his positions, that perhaps he believes if he does what he thinks is best and lets the chips fall where they may, everything will eventually work out. And, if it doesn’t, well, he’ll still think he did the right thing anyway.

This is the most favorable gloss that can be put on this interpretation; and when stated like this, there’s something to be admired in Obama’s approach. But there is also danger in it as well. For right now, everything is not working out; in fact, things are getting worse on almost every front. Yet Obama appears to be too ideological, too set in his ways, to adjust to events and to reality. He appears to have boundless faith in himself and his worldview; he is convinced he will succeed, come what may. Call it a Faith-Based Presidency.

The president, therefore, seems unable to process the (massive) incoming evidence that his approach is not working. He is a great, world-historical figure — and yet our situation is fraying. This is creating a form of cognitive dissonance. And so he and his aides and supporters must blame others — his predecessor, the GOP, cable news, “structural factors,” a “communications problem,” our political culture, our political system, and even the American people. As his presidency skids, Obama has become obsessed with finding scapegoats.

True conservatism, it has been said, is the negation of ideology. Obama’s brand of liberalism is the epitome of it. He may not bend — but the Democrats, about to be administered an epic comeuppance, eventually will. At some point soon, they will conclude that enough of them have been sacrificed at the altar of Obamaism.

Read Less

Bleak Polls for Dems

Registered voters favor Republicans by 48 percent and Democrats by 43 percent in Gallup’s generic congressional ballot for the week of July 26 through Aug. 1. Only 41 percent of those surveyed Tuesday through Sunday approved of the way Obama is handling his job, according to the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. (In Gallup’s separate daily tracking poll, his approval was at 45 percent Monday.) And the Rothenberg Political Report says there are 88 seats in play — 76 of them Democratic. The GOP needs to win 39 seats to regain control of the House.

But remember, boys and girls, none of this has anything to do with Obama or his policies. He’s doing fantastically well as president; the Obama administration and Democratic lawmakers simply have a communications problem. Once they correct that small matter, “progressives” will dominate the political world.

Of course they will.

Registered voters favor Republicans by 48 percent and Democrats by 43 percent in Gallup’s generic congressional ballot for the week of July 26 through Aug. 1. Only 41 percent of those surveyed Tuesday through Sunday approved of the way Obama is handling his job, according to the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. (In Gallup’s separate daily tracking poll, his approval was at 45 percent Monday.) And the Rothenberg Political Report says there are 88 seats in play — 76 of them Democratic. The GOP needs to win 39 seats to regain control of the House.

But remember, boys and girls, none of this has anything to do with Obama or his policies. He’s doing fantastically well as president; the Obama administration and Democratic lawmakers simply have a communications problem. Once they correct that small matter, “progressives” will dominate the political world.

Of course they will.

Read Less

The Left Knows the Jig Is Up

Greg Sargent sort of gets it when he writes, “The Democrats’ political predicament on unemployment comes down to this: Dems have no way of proving the alternate scenarios — that a smaller stimulus would have resulted in more job loss, or that a larger one would have led to more job growth.”

It’s not simply that they can’t “prove” it — it isn’t so. The Keynesian multiplier turned out to be a divider — the more we spent, the less we got. It’s not simply a marketing problem or a communications problem; it’s a policy blunder. But at least the left has realized the jig is up and Obama’s failure to deliver on his jobs bonanza is now a major liability.

Greg Sargent sort of gets it when he writes, “The Democrats’ political predicament on unemployment comes down to this: Dems have no way of proving the alternate scenarios — that a smaller stimulus would have resulted in more job loss, or that a larger one would have led to more job growth.”

It’s not simply that they can’t “prove” it — it isn’t so. The Keynesian multiplier turned out to be a divider — the more we spent, the less we got. It’s not simply a marketing problem or a communications problem; it’s a policy blunder. But at least the left has realized the jig is up and Obama’s failure to deliver on his jobs bonanza is now a major liability.

Read Less

Why Doesn’t Obama “Panic” About Iran?

We are told there is a “little bit of panic” in the White House over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. White House flacks worry it threatens Obama’s aura of competence (if one supposes that sky-high unemployment, the loss of key gubernatorial races and the Massachusetts Senate seat, the gaping deficit, and his sagging poll numbers haven’t already scuffed it up). Politico reports:

“There is no good answer to this,” one senior administration official said. “There is no readily apparent solution besides one that could take three months. … If it doesn’t show the impotence of the government, it shows the limits of the government.”

Hope and change was Obama’s headline message in 2008, but those atop his campaign have always said that it was Obama’s cool competence — exemplified by his level-headed handling of the financial meltdown during the campaign’s waning days — that sealed the deal with independents and skeptical Democrats. The promise of rational, responsive and efficient government is Obama’s brand, his justification for bigger and bolder federal interventions and, ultimately, his rationale for a second term.

I suppose there are symbolic moments that provide a tipping point, but have the reporters not noticed that those bigger and bolder federal interventions are what is driving down his and the Democrats’ popularity? The panic, I think, is indicative not of the magnitude of the issue or the reaction of the public (Does a majority of the public really blame Obama for the oil spill?) but instead of the obsession of this administration (and its media handmaidens) with spin, image, and communication as the answer to every challenge Obama faces. (“‘They weren’t slow on the response; they were slow on talking about it,’ an outside White House adviser said.”)

What is interesting is what isn’t panicking the White House. The “we have no plan” Iran memo from Robert Gates doesn’t panic them. SCUD missiles in Syria only engenders “deep concern.” Sky-high unemployment figures with little prospect of robust job creation? Yawn.

And it’s equally interesting what sort of villian gets the administration’s attention: “At the same time, they’ve identified a villain — BP — with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying he’d keep a ‘boot on the neck’ of the company to ensure it would pay for and toil over a cleanup of historic proportions.” An exasperated reader emails me: “Will we hear Robert Gibbs say, ‘ We will keep the boot on the neck of the Iranian nuclear program’”? Uh, no.

In sum, the oil spill is an illuminating event — in large part because it stands in contrast to the more serious threats and the lackadaisical attitude this administration demonstrates toward everything that doesn’t threaten the president’s image and political standing. But here’s the thing: what’s going to happen to that aura of competence when the mullahs get a nuclear weapon? Ah, now that will be a communications problem.

We are told there is a “little bit of panic” in the White House over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. White House flacks worry it threatens Obama’s aura of competence (if one supposes that sky-high unemployment, the loss of key gubernatorial races and the Massachusetts Senate seat, the gaping deficit, and his sagging poll numbers haven’t already scuffed it up). Politico reports:

“There is no good answer to this,” one senior administration official said. “There is no readily apparent solution besides one that could take three months. … If it doesn’t show the impotence of the government, it shows the limits of the government.”

Hope and change was Obama’s headline message in 2008, but those atop his campaign have always said that it was Obama’s cool competence — exemplified by his level-headed handling of the financial meltdown during the campaign’s waning days — that sealed the deal with independents and skeptical Democrats. The promise of rational, responsive and efficient government is Obama’s brand, his justification for bigger and bolder federal interventions and, ultimately, his rationale for a second term.

I suppose there are symbolic moments that provide a tipping point, but have the reporters not noticed that those bigger and bolder federal interventions are what is driving down his and the Democrats’ popularity? The panic, I think, is indicative not of the magnitude of the issue or the reaction of the public (Does a majority of the public really blame Obama for the oil spill?) but instead of the obsession of this administration (and its media handmaidens) with spin, image, and communication as the answer to every challenge Obama faces. (“‘They weren’t slow on the response; they were slow on talking about it,’ an outside White House adviser said.”)

What is interesting is what isn’t panicking the White House. The “we have no plan” Iran memo from Robert Gates doesn’t panic them. SCUD missiles in Syria only engenders “deep concern.” Sky-high unemployment figures with little prospect of robust job creation? Yawn.

And it’s equally interesting what sort of villian gets the administration’s attention: “At the same time, they’ve identified a villain — BP — with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying he’d keep a ‘boot on the neck’ of the company to ensure it would pay for and toil over a cleanup of historic proportions.” An exasperated reader emails me: “Will we hear Robert Gibbs say, ‘ We will keep the boot on the neck of the Iranian nuclear program’”? Uh, no.

In sum, the oil spill is an illuminating event — in large part because it stands in contrast to the more serious threats and the lackadaisical attitude this administration demonstrates toward everything that doesn’t threaten the president’s image and political standing. But here’s the thing: what’s going to happen to that aura of competence when the mullahs get a nuclear weapon? Ah, now that will be a communications problem.

Read Less

Tuning Obama Out

Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen explain why ObamaCare seems to be stalling. Apparently, the president can’t “move the numbers” — that is, the anti-ObamaCare polling results:

One reason may be that he keeps talking about details of the proposal while voters are looking at the issue in a broader context. Polling conducted earlier this week shows that 57% of voters believe that passage of the legislation would hurt the economy, while only 25% believe it would help. That makes sense in a nation where most voters believe that increases in government spending are bad for the economy.

When the president responds that the plan is deficit neutral, he runs into a pair of basic problems. The first is that voters think reducing spending is more important than reducing the deficit. So a plan that is deficit neutral with a big spending hike is not going to be well received.

Moreover, the public doesn’t believe Obama’s spin that the plan is deficit neutral. (“People in Washington may live and die by the pronouncements of the Congressional Budget Office, but 81% of voters say it’s likely the plan will end up costing more than projected. Only 10% say the official numbers are likely to be on target.”) It seems that none of what Obama is saying is penetrating to the voters. But then again, they really don’t want him to be focusing on this at all.

The bottom line is this:

The reason President Obama can’t move the numbers and build public support is because the fundamentals are stacked against him. Most voters believe the current plan will harm the economy, cost more than projected, raise the cost of care, and lead to higher middle-class taxes.

Thus, in a sense, the president’s spinners are right when they say the president has a “communications” problem. In spite of — or is it because of ? — his incessant hammering at the same points, the public doesn’t buy what he’s selling. It sounds better to call it a communications problem, as if there were a technical problem with the microphones and satellite dishes at the White House. But it’s more properly thought of as a credibility problem. Obama says X; the public thinks X isn’t true. The numbers don’t move.

Here’s the acid test for whether it’s the communications or the message that’s faulty: come up with another approach. If Obama scrapped his plan, came up with a bare bones set of reforms, and tried selling that, we’d see whether the real issue here is the communications or the massive tax-and-spend plan being foisted on the public.

Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen explain why ObamaCare seems to be stalling. Apparently, the president can’t “move the numbers” — that is, the anti-ObamaCare polling results:

One reason may be that he keeps talking about details of the proposal while voters are looking at the issue in a broader context. Polling conducted earlier this week shows that 57% of voters believe that passage of the legislation would hurt the economy, while only 25% believe it would help. That makes sense in a nation where most voters believe that increases in government spending are bad for the economy.

When the president responds that the plan is deficit neutral, he runs into a pair of basic problems. The first is that voters think reducing spending is more important than reducing the deficit. So a plan that is deficit neutral with a big spending hike is not going to be well received.

Moreover, the public doesn’t believe Obama’s spin that the plan is deficit neutral. (“People in Washington may live and die by the pronouncements of the Congressional Budget Office, but 81% of voters say it’s likely the plan will end up costing more than projected. Only 10% say the official numbers are likely to be on target.”) It seems that none of what Obama is saying is penetrating to the voters. But then again, they really don’t want him to be focusing on this at all.

The bottom line is this:

The reason President Obama can’t move the numbers and build public support is because the fundamentals are stacked against him. Most voters believe the current plan will harm the economy, cost more than projected, raise the cost of care, and lead to higher middle-class taxes.

Thus, in a sense, the president’s spinners are right when they say the president has a “communications” problem. In spite of — or is it because of ? — his incessant hammering at the same points, the public doesn’t buy what he’s selling. It sounds better to call it a communications problem, as if there were a technical problem with the microphones and satellite dishes at the White House. But it’s more properly thought of as a credibility problem. Obama says X; the public thinks X isn’t true. The numbers don’t move.

Here’s the acid test for whether it’s the communications or the message that’s faulty: come up with another approach. If Obama scrapped his plan, came up with a bare bones set of reforms, and tried selling that, we’d see whether the real issue here is the communications or the massive tax-and-spend plan being foisted on the public.

Read Less

Obama to Barnstorm. Film at 11.

According to press accounts, “Shortly after Obama concluded his statement, the White House announced that the President will barnstorm on health care reform with events in Philadelphia and St. Louis next week.” So that’s been the problem all along. President Obama hasn’t been talking about health care often enough.

Barnstorming the country on behalf of ObamaCare will undoubtedly make it a hugely popular piece of legislation. Because — didn’t you know? Haven’t you heard? — the White House had a “communications problem.” Guess they’ve fixed it.

According to press accounts, “Shortly after Obama concluded his statement, the White House announced that the President will barnstorm on health care reform with events in Philadelphia and St. Louis next week.” So that’s been the problem all along. President Obama hasn’t been talking about health care often enough.

Barnstorming the country on behalf of ObamaCare will undoubtedly make it a hugely popular piece of legislation. Because — didn’t you know? Haven’t you heard? — the White House had a “communications problem.” Guess they’ve fixed it.

Read Less

Not Buying the Democrats’ Excuses

Democrats have two excuses for what has gone so terribly wrong in the last year. The first is the “America is ungovernable” meme. Well, it has been impossible to govern from the Left, certainly. But we have yet to see evidence that a Centrist agenda, fiscal restraint, and pro-growth policies don’t work or can’t pass. Maybe Obama-Reid-Pelosi aren’t capable of formulating or passing broadly popular proposals, but that is different from claiming that there is something broken in our constitutional system or political culture. Let’s see how Govs. Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell do. Then we can revisit whether we have an “ungovernable” problem or a competency and/or extremism problem.

The second excuse is that this is all a communications problem — from the most eloquent politician (we were told) of our time who had a sycophantic media at his feet for the better part of a year. Really, no one is buying this one. Susan Estrich is blunt:

It’s not a communications problem. What’s gone wrong is that people see the country swimming in debt, see the jobs recovery lagging, see friends and neighbors who are not even hanging on, and they just don’t know how this administration is planning to pay for a massive health care reform effort. The appointment of a bipartisan commission on the deficit only underscores the problem and makes it seem that the administration has no answer for it except another new spending program.

Makes complete sense. The White House will ignore it.

Charlie Cook agrees it’s not a communication problem. The usually mild-mannered pollster unloads:

This is a reality problem. And I think they just made some grave miscalculations and as it became more clear that they had screwed up, they just kept doubling down their bet. And so I think, no, this is one of the biggest miscalculations that we’ve seen in modern political history.

Yowser. What’s more, he says it is so bad: “And it’s very hard to come up with a scenario where Democrats don’t lose the House.” Sounds like more than a communication problem.

If Cook is right, and especially if the Democrats also lose the Senate (or come close to doing so), there will be another round of finger-pointing and excuse-mongering. There might even be some soul-searching. But until the Democrats lose enough bodies, it seems as though they aren’t going to rethink their approach and we aren’t going to get a course correction. That’s why they have elections, after all.

Democrats have two excuses for what has gone so terribly wrong in the last year. The first is the “America is ungovernable” meme. Well, it has been impossible to govern from the Left, certainly. But we have yet to see evidence that a Centrist agenda, fiscal restraint, and pro-growth policies don’t work or can’t pass. Maybe Obama-Reid-Pelosi aren’t capable of formulating or passing broadly popular proposals, but that is different from claiming that there is something broken in our constitutional system or political culture. Let’s see how Govs. Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell do. Then we can revisit whether we have an “ungovernable” problem or a competency and/or extremism problem.

The second excuse is that this is all a communications problem — from the most eloquent politician (we were told) of our time who had a sycophantic media at his feet for the better part of a year. Really, no one is buying this one. Susan Estrich is blunt:

It’s not a communications problem. What’s gone wrong is that people see the country swimming in debt, see the jobs recovery lagging, see friends and neighbors who are not even hanging on, and they just don’t know how this administration is planning to pay for a massive health care reform effort. The appointment of a bipartisan commission on the deficit only underscores the problem and makes it seem that the administration has no answer for it except another new spending program.

Makes complete sense. The White House will ignore it.

Charlie Cook agrees it’s not a communication problem. The usually mild-mannered pollster unloads:

This is a reality problem. And I think they just made some grave miscalculations and as it became more clear that they had screwed up, they just kept doubling down their bet. And so I think, no, this is one of the biggest miscalculations that we’ve seen in modern political history.

Yowser. What’s more, he says it is so bad: “And it’s very hard to come up with a scenario where Democrats don’t lose the House.” Sounds like more than a communication problem.

If Cook is right, and especially if the Democrats also lose the Senate (or come close to doing so), there will be another round of finger-pointing and excuse-mongering. There might even be some soul-searching. But until the Democrats lose enough bodies, it seems as though they aren’t going to rethink their approach and we aren’t going to get a course correction. That’s why they have elections, after all.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Katie Couric will interview Obama live from the Super Bowl because we haven’t seen enough of him, and what he really needs is to communicate more with the American people. Well, that’s apparently what they think inside the White House cocoon. More cowbell!

Mickey Kaus thinks Obama’s excuse mongering about the health-care bill (“we were just about to clean those up [objections to the bill], and then Massachusetts’ election happened”) is a “stunning admission of incompetence.” So maybe the president does have a communications problem, after all. If you can’t read a calendar or follow election polls, you should keep it to yourself.

The Hill: “The House is unlikely to extend President George W. Bush’s cuts for taxpayers earning more than $250,000, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. … Allowing the tax breaks to expire at the end of the year will spark election-year criticism that Democrats are raising taxes. Congress approved the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Democrats are worried about losing seats in November’s midterm election, but Hoyer discounted the idea of his party losing seats solely because of a tax increase.” Well, he’s right — there is also all the red ink, ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the sleazy backroom dealings.

Foaming at the mouth and comparing Republicans to Hitler is not such a winning TV-ratings combination anymore. Andrew Malcolm tells us: “Olbermann’s showboat is sinking. Listing in you-know-which direction. It’s as if he thinks talking LOUDER will keep his low cell battery from dying. Worst, Olbermann’s network president, Phil Griffin, is publicly praising him, always an ominous sign in television.”

Dana Perino reminds us: “The context in which the Bush administration was operating is important. President Bush authorized detaining terrorists as enemy combatants in November 2001, two months or so after 9/11. The Shoe Bomber was arrested in December 2001, only a month after President Bush’s order. At that point, there was no system in place to handle enemy combatants. … Perhaps the more interesting context is how months after the administration announced a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group they could not meet after Abdulmutallab’s attempt because … it hadn’t even been set up yet.”

Karl Rove points out: “The budget is filled with gimmicks. For example, the president is calling for a domestic, nonsecurity, discretionary spending freeze. But that freeze doesn’t apply to a $282 billion proposed second stimulus package. It also doesn’t apply to the $519 billion that has yet to be spent from the first stimulus bill. The federal civilian work force is also not frozen. It is projected to rise to 1.43 million employees in 2010, up from 1.2 million in 2008.” And it seems that the mainstream media and the public are increasingly on to this sort of stunt. That may account for all the Democratic retirements: “Democrats are in the midst of the painful realization: Mr. Obama’s words cannot save them from the power of bad ideas.”

But Obama is telling Senate Democrats that “I think the natural political instinct is to tread lightly, keep your head down and to play it safe.” Translation: go ahead, pass ObamaCare, and join Martha Coakley, Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Chris Dodd, and Byron Dorgan. The president tells them “the answer is not to do nothing.” I think “nothing” is looking like the best of bad options for the beleaguered Senate Democrats, who are now contemplating a serious reduction in their ranks.

The gamesmanship finally ends: “Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown will be sworn in Thursday, according to Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Brown’s lawyer today asked that the election results in his state be immediately certified so that he can be sworn in right away. Initially Brown was scheduled to take office next week, but has since decided he wants to vote on upcoming nominations for solicitor general, the General Services Administration and the National Labor Relations Board.” That probably means that Harold Craig Becker’s nomination is in trouble.

Katie Couric will interview Obama live from the Super Bowl because we haven’t seen enough of him, and what he really needs is to communicate more with the American people. Well, that’s apparently what they think inside the White House cocoon. More cowbell!

Mickey Kaus thinks Obama’s excuse mongering about the health-care bill (“we were just about to clean those up [objections to the bill], and then Massachusetts’ election happened”) is a “stunning admission of incompetence.” So maybe the president does have a communications problem, after all. If you can’t read a calendar or follow election polls, you should keep it to yourself.

The Hill: “The House is unlikely to extend President George W. Bush’s cuts for taxpayers earning more than $250,000, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. … Allowing the tax breaks to expire at the end of the year will spark election-year criticism that Democrats are raising taxes. Congress approved the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Democrats are worried about losing seats in November’s midterm election, but Hoyer discounted the idea of his party losing seats solely because of a tax increase.” Well, he’s right — there is also all the red ink, ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the sleazy backroom dealings.

Foaming at the mouth and comparing Republicans to Hitler is not such a winning TV-ratings combination anymore. Andrew Malcolm tells us: “Olbermann’s showboat is sinking. Listing in you-know-which direction. It’s as if he thinks talking LOUDER will keep his low cell battery from dying. Worst, Olbermann’s network president, Phil Griffin, is publicly praising him, always an ominous sign in television.”

Dana Perino reminds us: “The context in which the Bush administration was operating is important. President Bush authorized detaining terrorists as enemy combatants in November 2001, two months or so after 9/11. The Shoe Bomber was arrested in December 2001, only a month after President Bush’s order. At that point, there was no system in place to handle enemy combatants. … Perhaps the more interesting context is how months after the administration announced a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group they could not meet after Abdulmutallab’s attempt because … it hadn’t even been set up yet.”

Karl Rove points out: “The budget is filled with gimmicks. For example, the president is calling for a domestic, nonsecurity, discretionary spending freeze. But that freeze doesn’t apply to a $282 billion proposed second stimulus package. It also doesn’t apply to the $519 billion that has yet to be spent from the first stimulus bill. The federal civilian work force is also not frozen. It is projected to rise to 1.43 million employees in 2010, up from 1.2 million in 2008.” And it seems that the mainstream media and the public are increasingly on to this sort of stunt. That may account for all the Democratic retirements: “Democrats are in the midst of the painful realization: Mr. Obama’s words cannot save them from the power of bad ideas.”

But Obama is telling Senate Democrats that “I think the natural political instinct is to tread lightly, keep your head down and to play it safe.” Translation: go ahead, pass ObamaCare, and join Martha Coakley, Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Chris Dodd, and Byron Dorgan. The president tells them “the answer is not to do nothing.” I think “nothing” is looking like the best of bad options for the beleaguered Senate Democrats, who are now contemplating a serious reduction in their ranks.

The gamesmanship finally ends: “Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown will be sworn in Thursday, according to Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Brown’s lawyer today asked that the election results in his state be immediately certified so that he can be sworn in right away. Initially Brown was scheduled to take office next week, but has since decided he wants to vote on upcoming nominations for solicitor general, the General Services Administration and the National Labor Relations Board.” That probably means that Harold Craig Becker’s nomination is in trouble.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: That Was It?

If the purpose of the speech was to pivot to the center, then he did not accomplish his aim. His laundry list of goverment programs and his double-down statement on healthcare, albeit weak on detail and vauge on timing, do not evidence any concern that his problem has been substantive. Indeed, he says his greatest failing was a communications problem.

But what is most striking was the lack of attention and serious expression on foreign policy and national security. We are at war. We have been attacked. And he gives a remarkably cursory few graphs at the end of a very long speech, practically ignoring the looming Iranian threat. But this is who Obama is and has always been: a statist liberal who cares not so much about foreign policy, only grudingly devoting time and resources when it invades his day. For those perpetually hoping for a different president than the one we have had for a year, they must be disappointed indeed.

If the purpose of the speech was to pivot to the center, then he did not accomplish his aim. His laundry list of goverment programs and his double-down statement on healthcare, albeit weak on detail and vauge on timing, do not evidence any concern that his problem has been substantive. Indeed, he says his greatest failing was a communications problem.

But what is most striking was the lack of attention and serious expression on foreign policy and national security. We are at war. We have been attacked. And he gives a remarkably cursory few graphs at the end of a very long speech, practically ignoring the looming Iranian threat. But this is who Obama is and has always been: a statist liberal who cares not so much about foreign policy, only grudingly devoting time and resources when it invades his day. For those perpetually hoping for a different president than the one we have had for a year, they must be disappointed indeed.

Read Less

Squandering Mr. Obama’s Teachable Moment

In his interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, President Obama said this:

The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

He went on to say this as well:

If there’s one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here … that people will get it. … What they’ve ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there’s these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. … I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we’re in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago. That also means, by the way, that we can spread out what we do so it’s not so cram-packed. It doesn’t mean I back off the agenda of health care, or energy, or education, or financial regulatory reform, or dealing with our deficits. But it does mean that it doesn’t have to be all on top of the other piled on. And we’ve got a lot more time to explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing. We have a lot more time to answer critics who argue that we’re not doing the right thing.

What a shame; the election in Massachusetts was a wonderful teachable moment for Mr. Obama — and he seems to have drawn all the wrong lessons from it.

First, the president is still engaged in whining and finger-pointing, an act that long ago became tiresome. Unable to master events, he increasingly looks for ways to scapegoat them. Blaming everything under the sun on the “last eight years” won’t cut it (especially since one of the last eight years now covers Obama’s tenure). It simply makes Mr. Obama look petty and small-minded.

Second, Mr. Obama and his press spokesman Robert Gibbs and his top aide David Axelrod are practicing psychiatry without a license. They speak about the need to “understand” the public’s “anger,” as if it was a rooted in something other than a reasonable verdict on Mr. Obama’s agenda so far. The polling data shows that what is costing the Democrats isn’t some kind of free-floating anger that has gripped voters in need of therapy; it is opposition to what Obama and the Democrats are trying to do to the nation.

Third, the president’s “mistake” is that he and his administration were just so busy doing so much good stuff for so many people that, well, they plainly forgot to explain to simple-minded Americans just how much good stuff the Obama administration is doing for them. I guess Rahm Emanuel needs to add “remind people how great I am” to the presidential “to do” list.

Fourth, Obama and his acolytes believe they have a “communications problem” when in fact they have a substance and competence problem. They are pushing proposals that are counterproductive and highly unpopular; that is why the American people are rising up against the president and his agenda.

Mr. Obama’s words are so laughably out of touch I’m not sure he really believes them. If he does, he is more self-deluded than I imagined. And his administration is in more trouble than I thought.

In his interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, President Obama said this:

The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

He went on to say this as well:

If there’s one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here … that people will get it. … What they’ve ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there’s these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. … I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we’re in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago. That also means, by the way, that we can spread out what we do so it’s not so cram-packed. It doesn’t mean I back off the agenda of health care, or energy, or education, or financial regulatory reform, or dealing with our deficits. But it does mean that it doesn’t have to be all on top of the other piled on. And we’ve got a lot more time to explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing. We have a lot more time to answer critics who argue that we’re not doing the right thing.

What a shame; the election in Massachusetts was a wonderful teachable moment for Mr. Obama — and he seems to have drawn all the wrong lessons from it.

First, the president is still engaged in whining and finger-pointing, an act that long ago became tiresome. Unable to master events, he increasingly looks for ways to scapegoat them. Blaming everything under the sun on the “last eight years” won’t cut it (especially since one of the last eight years now covers Obama’s tenure). It simply makes Mr. Obama look petty and small-minded.

Second, Mr. Obama and his press spokesman Robert Gibbs and his top aide David Axelrod are practicing psychiatry without a license. They speak about the need to “understand” the public’s “anger,” as if it was a rooted in something other than a reasonable verdict on Mr. Obama’s agenda so far. The polling data shows that what is costing the Democrats isn’t some kind of free-floating anger that has gripped voters in need of therapy; it is opposition to what Obama and the Democrats are trying to do to the nation.

Third, the president’s “mistake” is that he and his administration were just so busy doing so much good stuff for so many people that, well, they plainly forgot to explain to simple-minded Americans just how much good stuff the Obama administration is doing for them. I guess Rahm Emanuel needs to add “remind people how great I am” to the presidential “to do” list.

Fourth, Obama and his acolytes believe they have a “communications problem” when in fact they have a substance and competence problem. They are pushing proposals that are counterproductive and highly unpopular; that is why the American people are rising up against the president and his agenda.

Mr. Obama’s words are so laughably out of touch I’m not sure he really believes them. If he does, he is more self-deluded than I imagined. And his administration is in more trouble than I thought.

Read Less




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.