In Defense of the Aloof

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd continues her rant against a president she characterizes as an effete, out of touch elitist who isPresident Obama and Mayor Fenty willfully ignorant of the plights of the common person. The column, Myth and Madness, begins as a discussion about Delaware's GOP nominee for Senate, the much maligned tea-party darling Christine O'Donnell, then pivots about halfway through to yet another piece about Obama's inability to feel our pain.

Dowd writes, "Obama can connect with policy. He just can’t connect with the objects of policy. Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice." In this column and others, Dowd concedes that the Obama administration advocates for policies, and often effectively, that assist those struggling in this economy, but she claims that the president's inability to connect on a visceral level with those hurting leaves him impotent and provides fuel to the Tea Party fire. She finds a parallel in the recent ouster of DC's mayor, Adrian Fenty, who was defeated despite his record of lowering crime, improving schools, and revitalizing forgotten neighborhoods. Even with his successes as mayor, Fenty was charged with the unforgivable crime of being distant and cold, prompting a somewhat pathetic I'll-be-more-friendly-next-term tour in the weeks leading to the Democratic primary (which in this city is when mayors are chosen; the GOP doesn't even have a candidate in the race).


To those such as Dowd, who simultaneously view Obama (and Fenty) as capable leaders and aloof elites, men and women like this deserve considerable criticism from an unsettled electorate and perhaps are worthy of being booted out of office. But do we elect presidents and mayors to manage our budgets and personnel, or to be our mental health gurus and best-buds-in-chief? So the president no longer sends thrills up our legs, as Chris Matthews once termed it, but he seems to be effectively managing two wars, attending to an economy that was spiraling out of control, and passing major initiatives such as health insurance reform that have eluded even his most empathetic predecessors. In Washington, a mayor began the difficult process of transforiming the image of a city viewed by most as a cesspool of political cronyism and corruption to one that is serious about education and safety. But he failed to enchant and charm the city's residents, who responded to reform with rejection. Americans are increasingly facing a stark choice at the ballot box: those who offer the perception of understanding but who lack any real qualifications to govern (see: Sarah Palin) and those who seem aloof and distant yet capable of managing and offering solutions to myriad challenges. With the seriousness of these challenges, I'll gladly take the competent-though-distant leader, and look for emotional support from my friends and family.

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8 years 6 months ago
When did Obama develop any competency to govern, certainly not before he was elected.  I asked several who said they were going to vote for him the following questions, 1) can you name anything positive he ever did and 2) what qualifies him to be the most powerful executive office in the world.  Not one could give an answer other than they liked him or had hopes for him.
So here we have by assertion that he is a great leader and executive.  What kind of fantasy populates the editors of this site.  Is Mr. O'Loughlin kidding, when he says the economy is being run effectively, two wars going smooth?  Does he read the news reports?  He should talk with the unemployed and the assessment by many that jobs will not be turned around for several years.  And one of the reasons is the Health care bill which will raise costs and not control them as advertised and which is not wanted by a large majority of the country.  Or the stimulus bill that burdened the country with seemingly endless debt and produced no jobs.  Mr. Obama has a knack for getting things wrong.
Maybe Mr. O'Loughlin should read into the real financial crisis facing the country and which will inhibit implementation of anything close to what would could be called social justice and that is the unfunded pensions of public workers and entitlements.  HIgh unemployment is a current major problem but what is just over the horizon could possibly dwarf it in comparison.  And our aloof leader is exacerbating it with his policies not alleviating it.
There is no evidence that he has any competency at all in anything. Oh, he can read a teleprompter very well.
8 years 6 months ago
I think Mr. O'Loughlin has fashioned a bit of a strawman in this argument.  Empathy may not be the best word, but I think you can, and several Democrats have convincingly made the case, that the President has severely misjudged where the American people are on several issues.  I think he made a  miscalculation by allowing the old bulls on the Appropriations Committee to light up a Christmas tree with the stimulus bill with every pet liberal project instead of targeting focused spending and tax cuts.  I think he made a very serve misjudgment in wasting a year on a health care bill when it was clear the American people were more concerned with the economy.  He totally botched the Oil Spill response and went boomeranging from oil to national security and back again.  And I think he has a very bad penchant for inserting himself into purely local controversies and nationalizing them in a way that makes him look like an old school liberal, i.e. the Gates controversy at Harvard. 

So no, I don't want him to be thearpist-in-chief, but he who is supposed to be so good at connecting with voters has failed in this respect in a big way.  I think that's Dowd's point.  And kudos to her for keeping Obama's feet to the fire as much as she holds Republican feet to the fire as well.
Gabriel Marcella
8 years 6 months ago
Managing 2 wars effectively? He can thank a wise secretary of defense and the most professional military in the world, along with some tough decisions made by his predecessor. Please let's not have the America blog become a cheering section for the White House, whether the occupant is a Democrat or Republican.
Vince Killoran
8 years 6 months ago
I love it-some of our angry blogers are replying to themselves!! 

Take a day off guys-enjoy the weather, read a book, and maybe, for once, take a look at a blog without commenting (oh, I know, you have a right to free speech but that doesn't mean it's necessary always good speech).
8 years 6 months ago
Well it sure is nice to see at least one "journalistic" source maintaining its integrity by continuing the Obama hagiography (and one for Joe Biden down below I see, too!) in the face of sheer apostasy from nigh 50% of the country, most of the vulnerable Democrats running for re-election, and (that bastion of right-wingdom) the NY Times op-ed pages!  Just think if he wins re-election: I can see the cover now with two words beneath Obama's smiling visage: "Santo Subito!"
Chris Boscia
8 years 6 months ago
I've said this to many friends who also stated that President Obama had no accomplishments before taking office that point to his "competency" to govern.  Check out the story of Illinois House Bill 223, signed into law in 2003 by then-Gov. Blagojevich.

Then-Sen. Obama took a bill on the recording of custodial interrogations that was uniformly rejected among law enforcement and built a consensus to reach near universal support on the bill.  The content of the bill was spot on, the opposition was intense, and his "competency" to negotiate and persuade made all the difference in getting the bill to become law.

By recording custodial interrogations, we reduce litigation over Miranda issues and, more importantly, reduce the possibility of wrongful conviction based on false confession.

This episode in Obama's past wasn't given much attention by pundits or the media, but demonstrates to me that he had the capacity to negotiate and bring hostile parties together in Illinois.  That's the type of competency needed by an Executive, in my opinion.
Thomas Farrelly
8 years 6 months ago
Of course Obama was elected as a "mental health guru", by clueless kids, enchanted liberals, and a 99% black vote.  He certainly was not elected because of some proven executive ability, given that he had never even run a hot dog cart.
O'Loughlin's praise of his accomplishments would make any intelligent observer gasp with astonishment.
Thomas Farrelly
8 years 6 months ago
I disagree with Tim Reidy, who takes the approach, so common on the left, of dismissing opponents as so disreputable as to be unworthy of recognition.  
I on the other hand consider the Farrelly post as going right to the heart of the matter; Obama had zero executive experience, and people elected him because he made them feel good.

As for the Boscia post, I give him an A for effort, a D for substance.  It was a pretty desperate effort to give Obama a soupcon of executive experience.
Tom Maher
8 years 6 months ago
Tom Farrelly's comments are perfectly reasonable and should be expected.   We need to hear Tom's and other's opinions.  

Certainly Michael O'Loughlin's bold pronouncement that President Obama has effectievely managed the economy would cause many people to take issue with.  One of the main issues in the 2010 election is the failed economic policies of the Obama administration. 

Tom Farrelly has a free speech ???r?i?g?h?t? which should be ??r?e?s?p?e?c?t?e?d?.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
8 years 6 months ago
Mr. Reidy said,
 ''Chris: thank you for your substantive response; everyone here may not agree with you, but you deserve credit for mounting an actual argument. ''
He is referring to a comment by Chris Boscia about a video interrogation bill.  This bill was not Obama's bill but was taken from another legislator named Ricky Hendon who did the leg work for the bill.  After Obama had said he wanted to run for senator in 2004, the head of the Democratic Senate in Illinois, Emil Jones, starting directing lots of legislation towards Obama so he could get his name on it as the sponsor.  This was one of those pieces of legislation.
It is interesting that I asked for positive things Obama did and all we get is when he hijacked a piece of legislation from another legislator.  Even if Obama were solely responsible for the legislation which in reality was quite minor as an accomplishment for the leader of the free world, it is in reality an indictment of him that no one can come forward with all his positive accomplishments except for this bogus one.
While Obama is real short on positive accomplishments, he is not short on negative ones.  People should pay attention to the following people who were Obama's mentors or associates.  Alice Palmer, Alison Davis and Tony Rezko.  Palmer was Obama's mentor and a communist.  He took her senate seat away from her after he had her disqualified by lawyer friends of his.  Davis and Rezko were slum lords and built many dysfunctional housing projects in and near Obama's district which Obama supported and helped get financing for.  They were associates and fund raisers for Obama.  If the people Obama was associated with or helped were associated with a Republican, America and all the liberals would be all over them as corrupt.  But if you are a Democrat, you can screw the poor and still be a hero to them.
Finally, Mr. Reidy's comment seems another attempt to silence any opposition by making people feel unwelcome.  ''(the talking points rehearsed in our comboxes do get tiresome''  Why not welcome opposing comments?  That is the way one learns.  Oh, I have read Mr. Surowiecki, column.  Maybe we could have a discussion about it.  At least we didn't have to put up with him saying it was Bush's fault like someone else we know.
8 years 6 months ago
I am astonished and disappointed that Mr. Reidy, whom if I remember correctly is an online editor of the blog charged with moderating the comments, has chosen to weigh in on the "substance" of arguments on this blog.  I cannot ever recall a situation on any other blog wherein the moderator weighed in so blatantly on one side.  And contrary to his assertion that those who disagreed with the O'Loughlin piece are failing to make "actual arguments", sarcasm and wit are arguments, particularly when set against the kind of bloviation that eminates almost daily from this source in unadulterated adoration of President Obama.  And the assertion that those who disagree with the piece are failing to make arguments is patently false.  The first 5 of 7 comments mount various reasons in disagreement with the piece.

Again, I implore the editors of America to make some attempt at balancing the political viewpoints expressed here.  It should be clear to them on a daily basis that the readers (at least those commenting) of this blog are nearly 50-50 liberal-conservative, yet we only get uniformly liberal commentators. 
8 years 6 months ago
Oh come on Mr. Reidy.

"I had just hoped that the blog would be a forum for more original thinking and debate. Right now, we tend to get rather one-sided responses, at least on political posts and the arguments presented by JR and others too often mimic GOP talking points."
- And we get one-sided posts from your commentators that almost uniformly mimic Democratic talking points.  For pete's sake you had a former Demo political operative as your chief political blogger in Michael Sean Winters!  When liberals complain about "original thinking and debate" in my experience its a complaint that they;re losing the argument.  If you want more original responses, get more original posters, i.e. someone who can represent a different viewpoint!  If you don't want conservatives to post, then state that upfront that "In All Things" is a liberal blog for liberals only and conservatives shouldn't post.  Otherwise, GET MORE VIEWPOINTS!

We are responding to a piece of writing that doesn't even represent the viewpoint of most Democrats right now about Mr. Obama, and we're getting chided for being "unoriginal" and "snarky"?
8 years 6 months ago
I'm sorry but i feel compelled to respond to you because it is becomig increasingly unclear to me from your posts what America's policy toward free debate and comment on its blog is.  JR Cosgrove and I (along with regular liberal commenters such as Michael Bindner and Stanely Kopacz) have consistently commented on posts, espeically political ones, for some time.  I have enjoyed reading the online commentary on America, and I do not subscribe to America, just as I enjoy reading and commenting on First Things blogs and do not subscribe to that publication (and have nary a complaint from them).  I originally felt compelled to start commenting on political posts by Michael Sean Winters because I felt like he parroted Democratic talking points and left out salient facts or points of view.  To add to that frustration, he adamanatly refused to respond to comments (his perogative), so I felt like it might behoove readers to hear alternative points of view and I often tried to link to various viewpoints on "conserative" opinions.  If I have come across as snarky it is because of frustration that America too often represented a predictable left of center political POV.  I have consistently asked (publicly & privately) that America get different viewpoints from its bloggers, and I have often been told that you were "working on it".  Fine.  But it sure seems like crying over spilt milk now that with numerous posts a day all praising President Obama and attacking conservative points of view that when some of us respond we get chided for not making actual arguments or whatever.  Not to mention that the 'rules" re: full names or space-limitations or tone only seem to be enforced when conservative opinions are voiced.  Bottom line is that it is extremely disappointing to me to see America taking this track re: "tone" or "process".  You seem to be disappointed that more liberals don't speak up and that the "tone" of some of us "trollers" are preventing that.  Hogwash.  I read the NY Times online daily & I do not object when 99.9% of the comments are predictably liberal or anti-conservative.  Its the nature of the blogosphere.  I personally think that conservative comments on this blog liven up what would otherwise be a staid reliably left of center blog.  Seems thats what you want, albeit without saying it or taking the action to ban some of us in order to create a more "liberal-friendly" space, as if we needed yet another such thing.  But I suppose your paint is taken: conservatives take a hike & leave us alone.
Gabriel Marcella
8 years 6 months ago
Indeed, Americans expect presidents to ''feel our pain.'' Recall George Bush's reaction at the check out counter of a store in Maryland, when he saw a scanning device for the first time. That single event reinforced his image as a ''silver spoon'' president and helped defeat his reelection in 1992. His son had similar problems in the Katrina disaster. How does a president show that he feels our pain? Some detachment is necessary for the president to be effective, but as some commentators on this blog mention, there are other qualities that come into play. Obama can master information well, but he's hemmed in by an air of aloofness that emanates from a very privileged academic upbringing. Plus, unlike Gerry Ford, Jimmy Carter, or Bill Clinton, he seems too studied and not genuine in his public appearences. The best thing that he could is to throw out the teleprompter and talk from his heart.


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