I don’t see eye to eye with Eugene Robinson on the direction Obama should take to repair his presidency (Robinson is a card-carrying member of the double-down on ObamaCare club). But I heartily concur with him on two points.
First, he thinks the populist hooey isn’t very convincing: “Obama just doesn’t give off that guy-next-door vibe. Even if he were to roll up his sleeves, loosen his tie and start talkin’ like his predecessor, droppin’ his final g’s left and right, nobody would buy the act.” Like Obama’s “37” bowling score — it’s embarrassing to watch Obama fake being a non-elitist. As Robinson argues, Obama can use “fight” 20 times in a speech, but it doesn’t amount to much if it doesn’t correlate with any actions — or results. It’s hard to tell which is worse — the artifice of anger or the fact that Obama thinks that artifice will help.
Second — and here’s the bad news for the Obami — Obama can’t get by on campaign happy talk. Or any kind of talk. Robinson warns, “In the end, voters will respect Obama’s accomplishments, not his aspirations.” Uh oh. There are no accomplishments so far. (Racking up more debt than any other president in such a short time doesn’t count.) He ran on aspirations and New Agey inspiration. (Plus a whole lot of Bush-bashing.) Now it’s not enough? That’s right. And that’s what his most loyal defenders are telling him. They feel compelled to repeat it, I suspect, because they have a queasy feeling that Obama doesn’t grasp this.
Tomorrow Obama will have to give a speech — a big speech that’s the sort of crutch he’s resorted to again and again. (Recall the “game changer” September health-care address?) He might think that this is the chance to reset his presidency. But his speech won’t change much of anything unless the content and the actions that follow amount to a real revision of his agenda. Obama often seems convinced that if he could give just one more speech, one more interview, maybe that would do it. They listened during the campaign. Well, that was then. Now they expect him to do something — something different from what he’s been doing. The country will be listening. But then they’ll watch to see if anything comes of it.