Obama: No Drama or Fighter?

There was a common theme among White House operatives and liberal commentators yesterday. David Axelrod, appearing on MSNBC, promised the President would continue fighting to address the anxieties felt by middle class voters. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the results in the special election in Massachusetts did not mean the President "should stop fighting for an economic recovery, that we should stop fighting for what we need to do to create an environment for the private sector to hire." In this morning’s Post, E. J. Dionne writes that the President needs "to come out fighting."

The President himself sat down for an interview with George Stephanopoulos and maybe he did not get the memo because there was no "fight" whatsoever in his voice, no fight in his posture, no fight in his words. It was all balanced commentary, all "no drama Obama," all calm analysis.

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Of course, the President is no dummy, and as part of his analysis of his situation, he recognized that he has been trapped in wonk mode, that he has failed to stay in touch with average Americans because he was so busy actually trying to learn and make policy decisions. Look at this part of their exchange:

OBAMA: And, you know, if there's one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here --

STEPHANOPOULOS: That people would get it.

OBAMA: That people will get it. And I think that, you know, what they've ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there's these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. Maybe some of them are good, maybe some aren't, but do they really get us and what we're going through? And I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we're in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago.

As I mentioned yesterday, the kind of thing that drives Independent voters bonkers is when they see 2,000 page bills because they know that no one except a few lobbyists and staff really know what is in there and, just so, they see this as an affront to basic notions of self-governance. Here, in the interview, the President acknowledges the disparity between the policy-making part of the job and the communications part, but he also seems to see communications difficulties as one more technical issue in need of a fix. He does not explicitly link it to his views about democracy.

It is easy to make fun to the tea party crowd, and indeed, many, perhaps most, of them invite ridicule or worse. But, the sense of being disconnected from government is very real as soon as you get outside the Beltway. The President needs to find some bold ways to make citizens feel re-connected to their government. I have suggested, until I am blue in the face, that legislators find ways to draft legislation that is readable. I think a radical simplification of the tax code is something with populist appeal that could steal a march on the Republicans.

Most of all, the President needs to show some fight. One of the hallmarks of Obama’s campaign was their ability to adjust to shifting currents of opinion, to address difficulties head-on. As the interview showed yesterday, the President is supremely capable of self-criticism. But, he needs to show some fight. That is easier on the campaign trail then it is in the White House. But, instead of deferential comments about what the House and Senate should do, he needs to head up to Capitol Hill and knock some heads together. It is time for some drama from No Drama Obama.

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7 years 11 months ago
I see a way ahead by having the Senate pass piece meal health reform. First a bill to eliminate insurance turn downs for pre-existing conditions, Let the Repubs filibuster till hell freezes over or until the fall elections.. .
Thomas Piatak
7 years 11 months ago
Barack Obama is a lightweight ideologue, elected to replace another lightweight ideologue. Our country faces deep, systemic problems, largely stemming from the fact that we are broke (which in turn is largely a consequence of the bipartisan embrace of the foolish notion that we should allow the manufacturing sector wither away). Neither party has faced up to the fact that we are broke, with the Democrats wanting expensive new entitlements and the Republicans more expensive wars in the Middle East. This bipartisan obliviousness stems from the fact that the leaders of both parties live in the bubble of Washington, DC, where the money flows no matter what is happening in the rest of the country. We did not get serious leadership from Bush, and we are not getting serious leadership from Obama.
Gerald Hay
7 years 11 months ago
You people have lost it. Nothing at all about Obama and his henchmen. What about your supposed devotion to "social justice"?
Well, at least you seem to be getting away from being the religious arm of the Democratic Party.
Gabriel Marcella
7 years 11 months ago
The President's communication problems will not be fixed by "some bold ways to make citizens feel re-connected to their government." The process of communication has three parts: messenger, message, and recipient. We live in an interconnected web based world, where citizens have more means to hold elected officials accountable. President Obama is a practiced and effective orator. But since people question whether he has delivered on the promise of "transparency and change," he will have difficulty in getting his message across in the future, no matter how brilliant his wordsmiths in the speechwriting corps of the White House. One of the lessons of Massachusetts is that political leaders frequently underestimate the intelligence of the citizenry. Now it's Senator elect Brown's turn to promise and deliver. Democracy is alive and well.
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 11 months ago
Deliver what, Mr. Marcella?   Already heard Pretty Boy Brown parrot the old "lower taxes, fear Al Qaeda" garbage that got us in this mess in the first place.  The whole thing between the Democrats and Republicans is little more than a sockpuppet show distracting the public while Big Business, Big Banks and Wall Street pick the crowd's pockets and sends their jobs overseas.  We are in a lot of trouble here with established moneyed elites controlling the media and the politicians.  If any of the tea party dupes want to march on something, march on Wall Street.  Democracy is not alive and well.  It is manipulated and controlled.  Instead of getting rid of incumbent politicians, we need to get rid of both incumbent parties.  That will take a revolution, preferably non-violent, in the streets. 

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