Obama’s public persona is so predictable and his image so overexposed that even the left is over him. He’s gone from fascinating and cool to a crashing bore in less than two years. Greg Sargent: “Seems the consensus is that Obama’s presser [Friday] was way too boring, substantive and unemotional to produce an abrupt and massive enough turnaround in the polls to guarantee in advance that Dems hold their majority.” Ditto, hisses Maureen Dowd: “How did the first president of color become so colorless?” Well, he ran out of catchphrases and revealed himself to be less articulate than George Bush. Dowd admits he sounds downright loopy at times:
“How have you changed Washington?” [Chuck] Todd asked.
The president answered that he is trying to help “ordinary families” and not special interests, before conceding that he, too, is frustrated by his inability to create “a greater spirit of cooperation in Washington.”
“You know, are there, you know, things that I might have done during the course of 18 months that would, you know, at the margins have improved some of the tone in Washington?” Obama asked. “Probably.” Uncharacteristically valley girl, the usually eloquent president must have, you know, had a hard time acknowledging that.
Why are liberals so bored all of a sudden? Conservatives, of course, rolled their eyes over his New Age-like campaign rhetoric and have begun to pine for Bill Clinton, who, at least, was intellectually creative and amusing. There are, I think, several things at work.
First, style — that “superior temperament” and the coolness — was what attracted many urban liberals to him in the first place. Obama was in essence the latest trend, equivalent to this season’s fashion or the newest cell phone, which they had to have. But trends by definition come and go, and surface impressions and infatuation don’t last long.
Second, it is easier to admit that the candidate they swooned for is boring than it is to say he’s incompetent (or an empty suit). The former implies that Obama has lost his charm, the latter suggests that their own judgment was faulty. This also neatly sidesteps the troubling matter that Obama’s policies have tanked. (If he could only be more eloquent about the trillions spent, the public wouldn’t dessert him, the thinking goes.)
Third, Obama just doesn’t wear well. Having never stepped out of his campaign mode or put aside his contempt for the Bible and gun clingers (that would be a large segment of America), he’s grating on the nerves. Dowd quotes a “Peggy” (that Peggy? who knows if there is a Peggy at all):
I don’t watch him anymore. I’m turned off by him. I think he’s an elitist. He went down to the gulf, telling everyone to take a vacation down there, and then he goes to Martha’s Vineyard. He does what he wants but then he tells us to do other things. I want him in that White House acting like a president, not out on the campaign trail. Not when the country is going down the toilet.
And finally, Obama thought we could never get enough of him. He has been omnipresent — everywhere from the all-star game to People magazine. Former White House officials warned that the presidency is a commodity that should be jealously guarded. But Obama has insisted on splattering himself on every publication and appearing on virtually every cable TV station. (He might have missed Food Network, although his wife did show up there.) Even someone with something interesting to say can’t say it for two years without losing his freshness.
I’m doubtful Obama can reinvent himself, either intellectually or personally. He’s not struck us as one willing to moderate his ideology or to reflect on his own weaknesses. And it may be that just as bored as liberals are of him, he’s bored with the job and tired of the incessant criticism, fed up with unappreciative Americans, and frustrated that the country and world do not fall at his feet. Maybe one term really is enough for him — and for his disenchanted supporters.