Even Gail Collins doesn’t buy Obama’s act. She thinks the populist hooey and Beltway-bashing doesn’t really work coming from the Ivy League–educated president who’s been in office for a year:
Obama does not really do angry. Peeved, yes. He looked pretty peeved when he was being interviewed by Diane Sawyer of ABC News the other night. If he can’t manage mellow with Diane Sawyer, what’s he going to do on Friday when he has scheduled a meeting with the House Republicans? Have you ever seen all the House Republicans in one place? It’s like a herd of rabid otters.
Looking out at the motley crew seated before him for the big speech, the president seemed at times to be pretending that he had never seen these people before in his life. “Washington has been telling us to wait for decades,” he complained at one point, as if he was a visitor from the heartland with a petition that he wanted to deliver if only he could get an appointment with someone on the appropriations committee.
She attributes all this to an outbreak of crankiness. But really it’s phoniness — as phony as Bill Clinton biting his lower lip. Obama is play-acting, affecting anger he doesn’t really feel (otherwise we’d have seen it before Scott Brown’s victory, right?). And meanwhile he’s donning the mantle of outsider while occupying the Oval office.
He got to the presidency as the leader of a new sort of politics. Unburdened by ideology, more cerebral and less craven than all who ever came before him, he was going to leave pettiness and perpetual campaigning behind and institute a new way of governing based on respect for the public and his opponents and heightened transparency. Now he’s upset that some fellow’s been running things for a year, acting like “change” was just a campaign slogan, so he’s going to get to the bottom of it. You can get whiplash trying to figure out which role he’s playing and whether he could possibly believe we haven’t noticed that the practitioner of all this secrecy, inside dealing, and hard-ball politics is the man behind the curtain … er … podium.