The Incredible Shrinking PresidentPosted: August 14, 2011
President Obama has enjoyed largely positive media coverage since 2004, when he gave his first nationally televised speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. But since his very public humiliation at the hands of Republicans in the debt ceiling fight, the tide has suddenly turned. I think we may have finally reached a real tipping point.
Just one week ago, Dakinikat wrote a post about the Villagers finally beginning to express buyer’s remorse after Obama’s recent display of weakness and cluelessness. This week, the President has again been hammered in the national and international media, and yet he and his handlers still don’t get it, as Dakinikat’s post from late last night demonstrated.
According to the shocking New York Times article Dakinikat quoted in her post last night, Obama and his top advisers have, in a cold and calculating way, determined that advocating for policies that would create jobs would not be conducive to Mr. Obama’s reelection. Even the ideas they hesitate to push are weak and unoriginal–and as Dak pointed out, would have little to no impact on unemployment or the economy anyway. According to the NYT,
Mr. Obama plans to spend time this weekend considering his options, advisers said. The White House expects to unveil new job-creation proposals in early September.
The ailing economy, barely growing at the same pace as the population, has swept all other political issues to the sidelines. Twenty-five million Americans could not find full-time jobs last month. Millions of families cannot afford to live in their homes. And the contentious debate over raising the federal debt ceiling — which Mr. Obama achieved only after striking a compromise with Republicans that included a plan for at least $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years — has further shaken economic confidence….
So far, most signs point to a continuation of the nonconfrontational approach — better to do something than nothing — that has defined this administration. Mr. Obama and his aides are skeptical that voters will reward bold proposals if those ideas do not pass Congress. It is their judgment that moderate voters want tangible results rather than speeches.
Perhaps so, but so far we have gotten nothing but speeches–and repeated capitulations–from Mr. Obama. More:
Mr. Plouffe and Mr. Daley share the view that a focus on deficit reduction is an economic and political imperative, according to people who have spoken with them. Voters believe that paying down the debt will help the economy, and the White House agrees, although it wants to avoid cutting too much spending while the economy remains weak.
As part of this appeal to centrist voters, the president intends to continue his push for a so-called grand bargain on deficit reduction — a deal with Republicans to make even larger spending cuts, including to the social safety net, in exchange for some revenue increases — despite the strong opposition of Congressional Democrats who want to use the issue to draw contrasts with Republicans.
Have Plouffe and Daley paid any attention to the media reactions to their boss in the past week? I want to share some of my favorite recent critiques of Obama. Admittedly some of them come from right wing sources, but I detect a distinct change in the wingers’ reactions to Obama too. Instead of claiming he’s a socialist, they are mocking him for being incompetent and ineffectual.
Much of the negative media reaction came in response to Obama’s pathetic speech last Monday while the market was tanking.
Andrew Malcolm at Top of the Ticket: Obama’s penchant for speeches now sounding hollower by the word
Yesterday Obama gave a strange statement to the media. He’d been away on another mini-vacation at Camp David. So, it was left to aides and Treasury Secy. Geithner to attempt to discredit the first-ever credit downgrading of the federal government.
Every politician has at least one major weakness. Bill Clinton’s is, well, well-known. George W. Bush’s political weakness was thinking his intuition and instincts could carry him through any challenge. Barack Obama’s weakness is thinking he can talk his way in or out of virtually any opportunity or difficulty….
Obama is very proud of his talking. In May this year he told a Boston fundraiser: “Back in 2004, I gave a little speech here that got some attention.” And he waited for the crowd’s applause. Which he got.
Have you noticed how many remarks Obama has been making in recent weeks? Not a coincidence that they coincide with his lowest approval ratings ever. When in trouble, give a speech.
Malcolm also noted that when Obama makes a speech, he usually whining about how Congress isn’t doing anything rather than offering any ideas of his own.
Dana Milbank at the WaPo: The most powerful man on earth?
A familiar air of indecision preceded President Obama’s pep talk to the nation.
The first draft of his schedule for Monday contained no plans to comment on the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poor’s. Then the White House announced that he would speak at 1 p.m. A second update changed that to 1:30. At 1:52, Obama walked into the State Dining Room to read his statement. Judging from the market reaction, he should have stuck with his original instinct.
“No matter what some agency may say, we’ve always been and always will be a AAA country,” Obama said, as if comforting a child who had been teased by the class bully.
When he began his speech (and as cable news channels displayed for viewers), the Dow Jones industrials stood at 11,035. As he talked, the average fell below 11,000 for the first time in nine months, en route to a 635-point drop for the day, the worst since the 2008 crash.
Ouch! Remember the days when Milbank would go on MSNBC and shill for Obama?
Milbank also points out that the thrust of Obama’s speech was that the situation is “imminently solvable,” but that the President could provide no specifics except for his repetitive mantra about Congress passing free trade deals and patent reform. When reporters tried to get some information about Obama’s ideas for job creation out of Jay Carney later in the day, they were unsuccessful.
Various reporters tried to elicit more information about Obama’s economic plans and deficit-reduction proposals, but Carney declined again to take the lead.
“I don’t want to get too far ahead of the process,” he explained to the Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler, adding that Obama “will be contributing to that process, not driving it or directing it.”
“Why?” inquired Politico’s Glenn Thrush. “He’s the leader of the free world. Why isn’t he leading this process?”
Even the international press is wondering what happened to the man they had such high hopes for. Marc Hujer at Der Spiegel wrote a lengthy and somewhat naive piece called Dashed Hopes: How Obama Disappointed the World
When Barack Obama was elected almost three years ago, the country seemed intoxicated. The world allowed itself to be carried along by this wave of enthusiasm, and by its hopes for a new, more peaceful America. A crowd of 200,000 people came to hear him speak at the Victory Column in Berlin; Kenyans spent the entire election night dancing in front of their television sets; in Japan, the residents of a fishing village named Obama celebrated his victory; in Gaza, where hatred for America is normally the prevailing sentiment, there were exuberant parties; and in London, Madame Tussauds wax museum handed out free tickets….
The world also had high hopes for a changed America, a country that would be less militaristic than it was under his predecessor, George W. Bush, and one that would pursue smarter policies, both in dealing with the Islamic world and on issues of environmental protection and climate change.
This wasn’t just wishful thinking on the part of his voters or his foreign admirers. In fact, it consisted of tangible promises Obama had actually made. Again and again, he talked of uniting the country and even healing the planet.
But now, Hujer writes:
All that remains of the great hopes Americans and the world had pinned on Obama, inspired by his stirring campaign speeches about change and renewal, is a battlefield of unsatisfactory and contradictory compromises. Obama, who just turned 50 and was once a symbol of youthful change, suddenly seems old and worn out, as gray as his hair has become.
There’s much more along those lines. According to Hujer, all of Europe is deeply disappointed in Obama.
Matt Gurney at the National Post: Obama’s speech writers should have their salaries downgraded
His speech might have been a futile gesture, but it was still a bad futile gesture. What happened to the Orator-in-Chief?
The full text of Obama’s brief address doesn’t reveal a single witty sentence, or even one original idea. It’s a positively dreary affair, and suggests that the President needs a new crop of speechwriters as much as he needs a sustained surge in job creation. It wouldn’t be fair to compare Obama’s remarks on Monday afternoon to some of the great speeches in history, because a brutal day on the markets doesn’t call for a “we shall fight on the beaches” or a “we choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” But it would have been nice if, if nothing else, Obama’s remarks rose to the occasion as it was.
Particularly bad was when the President said, “No matter what some agency may say, we’ve always been and always will be a AAA country. For all of the challenges we face, we continue to have the best universities, some of the most productive workers, the most innovative companies, the most adventurous entrepreneurs on Earth.” …. If there’s anything that says the U.S. is economically screwed, it’s got to be that. The President of the United States, when responding to a credible suggestion that his country is fiscally and politically dysfunctional, should not resort to cliches that leave him sounding like the high school basketball coach trying to cheer up his team after a thumping, or a father awkwardly trying to cheer up a heartbroken daughter after she got dumped by her boyfriend.
The gist of the headlines was that Obama is “frustrated” because other people (Congress) won’t do anything about the economy and jobs, and then begging people in the audience to contact their Congresspeople and urge them to act. Wouldn’t a strong President putting pressure on Congress be more effective? Oh yeah, we don’t have a strong President. Tarranto sums up:
Like a leaky balloon, Barack Obama keeps getting smaller. “The president is declaring to the world that he is simply too weak to govern,” Peter Wehner observes. “Not only that, he wants all of America to know that he’s darn frustrated about it. You can even hear it in his voice.” That last comment isn’t Wehner’s evaluation but a paraphrase of the president’s own words: “Maybe you hear it in my voice–that’s why I’m frustrated. Because you deserve better.”
Wait, it gets worse. Last night Obama was in New York for a fund-raiser. At that event he elaborated on the “you deserve better” theme: “What was remarkable was to see outside of Washington the enthusiasm, the energy, the hopefulness, the decency of the American people. And what I said to them is you deserve better. You deserve better than you’ve been getting out of Washington over the last 2½ months–for that matter, for the last 2½ years.”
For the last 2½ years. Is that not as explicit an acknowledgment of failure as has ever been heard from a sitting president?
Yes, Tarranto is a conservative, but I have to agree with him. Here’s the full speech from the fundraiser full of super-rich society folks.
Citing “things we can do right now to accelerate job growth,” Obama complained that “the only thing keeping us back is our politics.”
He called for Congress to immediately approve measures that he said were “ready to go,” such as a payroll tax cut extension, a road construction bill and free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
Really? Those same tired policies that Obama keeps touting would have just about zero effect on the economy or unemployment. Does he really think he can be reelected by pushing pathetic policies like those?
“The only thing preventing these bills from being passed is the refusal of some in Congress to put country ahead of party,” Obama said.
He called on people to tell their senators and Congress members to “stop sending out press releases, start passing bills,” adding: “They’ve got to hear from you.”
Obama also promised more proposals in coming weeks intended to stimulate job growth, but he acknowledged that Congress also has to address mounting federal budget deficits.
What a sad sack loser! Before long Obama is going to be more of a joke than Carter ever was.
I know this post is getting waaaaay too long, so I’ll end with the latest presidential approval numbers from Gallup: Obama job rating sinks below 40% for first time. He’s going the way of the guy he’s been imitating–George W. Bush.
Those of us who saw through him long ago have been amazed how long the media has taken to discover the real Barack Obama. And still, some in the media and the Democratic Party still cling to the hope that Obama can be convinced to behave somewhat unselfishly, since his current policies are destroying the economy and in the process, his party. But it’s not going to happen, and I believe most Americans are way ahead of the media and Democratic pols.
Finally, as we approach the 2012 election, the man behind the messiah mask has been publicly revealed to be a small-minded, shallow, humorless, calculating, and manipulative man with a limited imagination, a shriveled conscience, and no ability to connect emotionally with anyone who can’t help make him richer and more powerful. Yet he seems incapable of using any of his undeniable power.