Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mary Katharine Ham

Electing a Nanny

One 2012 Republican contender described Obama like this:

The messages are not being received by Barack Obama. So I think instead of lecturing, he needs to stop and he needs to listen on health care issues. On national security, this perceived lackadaisical approach that he has to dealing with the terrorists. We’re saying that concerns us and we’re going to speak up about it and please don’t allow this persona to continue where you do try to make us feel like we need to just sit down, shut up and accept what you’re doing to us.

Others agree:

At the very moment he’s trying to recover his declining popularity and revive his party heading into the November elections, even some Democrats worry that he risks coming off not as the inspirational figure who galvanized the electorate in 2008 but as the embodiment of a dour Democrat that turns off some voters.

The first take is from Sarah Palin, the second from Politico. Remarkable how Obama is drawing everyone together, I know. But what is different lately is not Obama but the widespread reaction to his hectoring. Remember, during the campaign, he was scolding us, too. Mary Katharine Ham made a whole video about it. And Michelle Obama warned us:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

Turns out all the finger-wagging and nagging doesn’t sit well with the American people. They have spouses, parents, and bosses telling them what to do much of the time, and they don’t need the president bossing them around, too, treating them like recalcitrant children who need perpetual instruction. Even Democrats are nervous:

Dee Dee Myers, a former White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton, pointed out that, while Obama has long promised to tell people the truth even when it hurts, he needs to strike a balance.“Part of what people liked about him during the campaign is that he talks to the American people like they’re grown-ups — you don’t have to pretend that you can eat ice cream and lose weight in order to be president,” Myers said. “He did that during the campaign by appealing to hope. … I think little of that has been lost.”

Added Democratic strategist Paul Begala, another Clinton veteran, “You got to be careful about that stuff, or you become a scold.”

Republicans who have long remarked on his condescending tone and message — be it on Gatesgate or ObamaCare — are amused by the newfound consensus. (“‘Nobody wants a national nanny,’ said Republican strategist John Feehery. ‘It’s really annoying, and people don’t want to hear it.'”) Of course, it fits with Obama’s general philosophy that Americans are too dim to run their own lives and need government to guide, monitor, mandate, and regulate everything from health care to carbon emissions. That he lacks age or life experience to dispense such advice is not lost on media skeptics: “Age hasn’t stopped the president, who, at 48, is at ease urging the Obama way — on a range of issues — onto those a lot more experienced than he is. He is at once Americans’ president and their additional dad, teacher, preacher, nutritionist, life coach and financial adviser.”

This seems to be part of the growing realization that what was acceptable or cool during the campaign — including that personal remoteness — does not serve Obama well as president. It is what comes, I suppose, from electing someone we knew so little about and who had so little time on the national stage. Not all blind dates work out.

One 2012 Republican contender described Obama like this:

The messages are not being received by Barack Obama. So I think instead of lecturing, he needs to stop and he needs to listen on health care issues. On national security, this perceived lackadaisical approach that he has to dealing with the terrorists. We’re saying that concerns us and we’re going to speak up about it and please don’t allow this persona to continue where you do try to make us feel like we need to just sit down, shut up and accept what you’re doing to us.

Others agree:

At the very moment he’s trying to recover his declining popularity and revive his party heading into the November elections, even some Democrats worry that he risks coming off not as the inspirational figure who galvanized the electorate in 2008 but as the embodiment of a dour Democrat that turns off some voters.

The first take is from Sarah Palin, the second from Politico. Remarkable how Obama is drawing everyone together, I know. But what is different lately is not Obama but the widespread reaction to his hectoring. Remember, during the campaign, he was scolding us, too. Mary Katharine Ham made a whole video about it. And Michelle Obama warned us:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

Turns out all the finger-wagging and nagging doesn’t sit well with the American people. They have spouses, parents, and bosses telling them what to do much of the time, and they don’t need the president bossing them around, too, treating them like recalcitrant children who need perpetual instruction. Even Democrats are nervous:

Dee Dee Myers, a former White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton, pointed out that, while Obama has long promised to tell people the truth even when it hurts, he needs to strike a balance.“Part of what people liked about him during the campaign is that he talks to the American people like they’re grown-ups — you don’t have to pretend that you can eat ice cream and lose weight in order to be president,” Myers said. “He did that during the campaign by appealing to hope. … I think little of that has been lost.”

Added Democratic strategist Paul Begala, another Clinton veteran, “You got to be careful about that stuff, or you become a scold.”

Republicans who have long remarked on his condescending tone and message — be it on Gatesgate or ObamaCare — are amused by the newfound consensus. (“‘Nobody wants a national nanny,’ said Republican strategist John Feehery. ‘It’s really annoying, and people don’t want to hear it.'”) Of course, it fits with Obama’s general philosophy that Americans are too dim to run their own lives and need government to guide, monitor, mandate, and regulate everything from health care to carbon emissions. That he lacks age or life experience to dispense such advice is not lost on media skeptics: “Age hasn’t stopped the president, who, at 48, is at ease urging the Obama way — on a range of issues — onto those a lot more experienced than he is. He is at once Americans’ president and their additional dad, teacher, preacher, nutritionist, life coach and financial adviser.”

This seems to be part of the growing realization that what was acceptable or cool during the campaign — including that personal remoteness — does not serve Obama well as president. It is what comes, I suppose, from electing someone we knew so little about and who had so little time on the national stage. Not all blind dates work out.

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