Commentary Magazine


Topic: outside adviser

Mr. Obama Goes to Washington

Politico tells us:

While Washington talks about Obama’s new mojo, polls show voters outside the Beltway are sulking — soured on the president, his party and his program. The Gallup Poll has Obama’s approval rating at an ominous 49 percent, after hitting a record low of 47 percent last weekend. A new poll in Pennsylvania, a bellwether industrial state, shows his numbers sinking, as did recent polls in Ohio and Florida. So there are two Obamas: Rising in D.C., struggling in the U.S.

There are several noteworthy aspects to this. First, it’s silly — Washington is composed mostly of Democrats these days, so of course they marvel at Obama’s mojo and “success.” A sample of the fantasy land they inhabit: “Obama aides say that perceptions in the capital about Obama’s effectiveness and political standing have been changed not just by health care, but also job growth, foreign-policy successes and lower-than-expected costs for the bailout.” Job growth?? Lower-than expected cost for the bailout?? I think they’ve got something(s) confused. And the foreign-policy success, I suppose, refers not so much to debacles in our dealings with Iran and the Middle East more generally but to the unratifiable START treaty and relatively meaningless “collect the nuclear materials in four years” deal. This is what passes for Washington wisdom.

Well, then there is the irony that the Yes-We-Can-Change-Washington candidate is now a creature and pop star inside the Beltway and increasingly unpopular everywhere else. It is the triumph inside the Beltway of a president who “won” on health care over the reality in the country, where that “victory” is reviled and will likely lead to a drubbing for his party in November.

And finally, the answer to the president’s woes? More spin! Oh, yes. Democrats proclaim that:

… they fear that Obama moved on too quickly and warn urgently that the White House needs to expend more bandwidth promoting the win. After all, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel originally wanted the bill signed by November, so Democrats would have a full year to explain and promote the bill before midterms.

“They’ve got beat the hell out of this: He’s got to get out there and sell the damn thing,” said a top outside adviser to the White House. “Health care will not sell itself. The only person that can really change the narrative out in the country is the president of the United States.”

The answer to policy objections is always, with this crowd, more PR.

In all of this, one can only marvel at the deep cynicism of a candidate who spun New Age blather, disguised his ideological extremism, and came to Washington to discover he’s at odds with the country that less than two years ago was in the palm of his hand. It seems it never dawned on the Obami that once the ruse was revealed, the public would be annoyed, angry even. They just figured everyone would sort of go along. It must come as a shock to Obama to see the public so resistant to his charms and so disenchanted with the agenda he was smart enough to hide until he won the election.

Politico tells us:

While Washington talks about Obama’s new mojo, polls show voters outside the Beltway are sulking — soured on the president, his party and his program. The Gallup Poll has Obama’s approval rating at an ominous 49 percent, after hitting a record low of 47 percent last weekend. A new poll in Pennsylvania, a bellwether industrial state, shows his numbers sinking, as did recent polls in Ohio and Florida. So there are two Obamas: Rising in D.C., struggling in the U.S.

There are several noteworthy aspects to this. First, it’s silly — Washington is composed mostly of Democrats these days, so of course they marvel at Obama’s mojo and “success.” A sample of the fantasy land they inhabit: “Obama aides say that perceptions in the capital about Obama’s effectiveness and political standing have been changed not just by health care, but also job growth, foreign-policy successes and lower-than-expected costs for the bailout.” Job growth?? Lower-than expected cost for the bailout?? I think they’ve got something(s) confused. And the foreign-policy success, I suppose, refers not so much to debacles in our dealings with Iran and the Middle East more generally but to the unratifiable START treaty and relatively meaningless “collect the nuclear materials in four years” deal. This is what passes for Washington wisdom.

Well, then there is the irony that the Yes-We-Can-Change-Washington candidate is now a creature and pop star inside the Beltway and increasingly unpopular everywhere else. It is the triumph inside the Beltway of a president who “won” on health care over the reality in the country, where that “victory” is reviled and will likely lead to a drubbing for his party in November.

And finally, the answer to the president’s woes? More spin! Oh, yes. Democrats proclaim that:

… they fear that Obama moved on too quickly and warn urgently that the White House needs to expend more bandwidth promoting the win. After all, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel originally wanted the bill signed by November, so Democrats would have a full year to explain and promote the bill before midterms.

“They’ve got beat the hell out of this: He’s got to get out there and sell the damn thing,” said a top outside adviser to the White House. “Health care will not sell itself. The only person that can really change the narrative out in the country is the president of the United States.”

The answer to policy objections is always, with this crowd, more PR.

In all of this, one can only marvel at the deep cynicism of a candidate who spun New Age blather, disguised his ideological extremism, and came to Washington to discover he’s at odds with the country that less than two years ago was in the palm of his hand. It seems it never dawned on the Obami that once the ruse was revealed, the public would be annoyed, angry even. They just figured everyone would sort of go along. It must come as a shock to Obama to see the public so resistant to his charms and so disenchanted with the agenda he was smart enough to hide until he won the election.

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That’s What They Need — A Campaign Manager!

It is only fitting that Obama’s first significant personnel change in the wake of the Massachusetts debacle is to hire back his campaign manager. No, really. Chris Cillizza reports:

Daivd Plouffe, the man who managed President Barack Obama’s campaign, will be taking on an expanded role as an outside adviser to the White House, according to sources familiar with the plan, a move that comes just days after a stunning defeat for Democrats in a Massachusetts Senate special election.

Not a new economic team. Not a new chief of staff. Not even a new national security staff to replace the gang that dropped the ball on the Christmas Day bomber. No, with the Obami, it is never about substance or getting the policy right. It’s not about governance. It is about the perpetual campaign. So the campaign manager gets the emergency call.

Plouffe, not coincidentally, authors an op-ed in Cillizza’s paper arguing that ObamaCare was a fine idea, just misunderstood. (“It’s a good plan that’s become a demonized caricature.”) He says Democrats better pass it, or the public won’t understand how wrong Sarah Palin was. (I’m not making that up: “Only if the plan becomes law will the American people see that all the scary things Sarah Palin and others have predicted — such as the so-called death panels — were baseless.”) Where are the votes going to come from? What about the legitimate complaints from the Left and Right that the bill is an incoherent jumble? Sorry – Plouffe is in the campaign business, not the policy business. (Republicans shouldn’t get their hopes up that anyone in Congress other than Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid buys this stuff.)

It gets worse after that. He also thinks Democrats should create jobs. (Who knew you could get paid for coming up with this stuff?)  And Democrats should defend the stimulus plan. (Do we think this is a Karl Rove mind-trick game?) Democrats shouldn’t listen to complaints about spending because voters will be impressed by blaming the other party. Work on the corruption issue. (Reps. Murtha, Rangel, etc., don’t agree, I suspect.) And “run great campaigns.” (Who’d have thought?)

You see the problem. This is what passes for inspired advice, and this is the personnel slot that Obama fills first. It’s hard to believe that the candidate who ran against stale politics is now, a year into his presidency, a hackneyed pol happy to push this sort of pablum on an already disgusted public. Well, it sure does explain how Obama wound up in his current predicament.

It is only fitting that Obama’s first significant personnel change in the wake of the Massachusetts debacle is to hire back his campaign manager. No, really. Chris Cillizza reports:

Daivd Plouffe, the man who managed President Barack Obama’s campaign, will be taking on an expanded role as an outside adviser to the White House, according to sources familiar with the plan, a move that comes just days after a stunning defeat for Democrats in a Massachusetts Senate special election.

Not a new economic team. Not a new chief of staff. Not even a new national security staff to replace the gang that dropped the ball on the Christmas Day bomber. No, with the Obami, it is never about substance or getting the policy right. It’s not about governance. It is about the perpetual campaign. So the campaign manager gets the emergency call.

Plouffe, not coincidentally, authors an op-ed in Cillizza’s paper arguing that ObamaCare was a fine idea, just misunderstood. (“It’s a good plan that’s become a demonized caricature.”) He says Democrats better pass it, or the public won’t understand how wrong Sarah Palin was. (I’m not making that up: “Only if the plan becomes law will the American people see that all the scary things Sarah Palin and others have predicted — such as the so-called death panels — were baseless.”) Where are the votes going to come from? What about the legitimate complaints from the Left and Right that the bill is an incoherent jumble? Sorry – Plouffe is in the campaign business, not the policy business. (Republicans shouldn’t get their hopes up that anyone in Congress other than Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid buys this stuff.)

It gets worse after that. He also thinks Democrats should create jobs. (Who knew you could get paid for coming up with this stuff?)  And Democrats should defend the stimulus plan. (Do we think this is a Karl Rove mind-trick game?) Democrats shouldn’t listen to complaints about spending because voters will be impressed by blaming the other party. Work on the corruption issue. (Reps. Murtha, Rangel, etc., don’t agree, I suspect.) And “run great campaigns.” (Who’d have thought?)

You see the problem. This is what passes for inspired advice, and this is the personnel slot that Obama fills first. It’s hard to believe that the candidate who ran against stale politics is now, a year into his presidency, a hackneyed pol happy to push this sort of pablum on an already disgusted public. Well, it sure does explain how Obama wound up in his current predicament.

Read Less




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