The Beltway media crowd had marveled this weekend over Barack Obama’s interview tour de force, appearing on five Sunday talk shows in pre-taped segments with different hosts. The President appeared on all of the networks except for Fox News, indicating that Chris Wallace’s assessment of the White House as “the biggest bunch of crybabies” was probably accurate. Obama got plenty of real estate on the tube this weekend in doing his “full Ginsburg,” but was it effective? Did Obama make a better argument for health-care reform?
Howard Kurtz says it was the same old song once again:
Sure, this is a president who has dissected basketball brackets on ESPN, gone for burgers with Brian Williams, showed Steve Kroft his swing set, dissed Kanye West (off the record) with CNBC and ordered a general to shave Stephen Colbert’s head. By that standard, Obama’s Sunday blitz was a mere throat-clearing that, as it turned out, produced little in the way of big news. And some journalists — even as they continue to clamor for access — say he is diluting the product. …
So did Obama score?
While the White House plan was for Obama to focus primarily on health care and Afghanistan, he broke no new ground on either subject, repeating points he has made many times. Some topics varied — “State of the Union” host John King asked about North Korea; “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos asked about the ACORN scandal — but the game plans were strikingly similar.
This has been the problem with Obama for the last several months. He keeps demanding access to valuable television time, which politicians usually do when they have something new to say. Obama then uses either prime time or Sunday political talk shows to say essentially the same thing he’s been saying since April on health-care reform. It’s as if the White House and Obama just can’t comprehend that people won’t swallow the party line without question, and instead of recalculating the bill or their approach, simply turn up the volume.
This runs the real risk of exposing Obama as an empty suit. Most politicians find ways to win debates by adjusting or creating new, compelling arguments for their position. Obama hasn’t had a new idea in months, really ever since Inauguration Day. He’s playing a game of gotcha with the broadcasters in demanding all of this time, and showing up with nothing at all original. Audiences have already begun to notice, and after this circus act that tied up their top-rank interviewers for 15-minute meetups on Friday, the broadcasters will begin to tire of the circus soon enough.
When Obama first launched his campaign, I described him as someone who impressed me as a mile wide and an inch deep. Obama is a raconteur who can have good dinner conversation on a wide variety of topics, but once you scratch the surface, would be exposed as having little knowledge of any beyond slogans and populist groupthink. His inability to rebut arguments and to produce new strategies, as well as his appalling lack of understanding of competition and the free market, corroborates my initial analysis.
Update: I’m not the only one reaching the “mile wide, inch deep” conclusion. Edward Lucas writes in yesterday’s London Telegraph that Obama looks seriously out of his depth:
Regimes in Moscow, Pyongyang and Tehran simply pocket his concessions and carry on as before. The picture emerging from the White House is a disturbing one, of timidity, clumsiness and short-term calculation. Some say he is the weakest president since Jimmy Carter.
The grizzled veterans of the Democratic leadership in Congress have found Mr Obama and his team of bright young advisers a pushover. That has gravely weakened his flagship domestic campaign, for health-care reform, which fails to address the greatest weakness of the American system: its inflated costs. His free trade credentials are increasingly tarnished too. His latest blunder is imposing tariffs on tyre imports from China, in the hope of gaining a little more union support for health care. But at a time when America’s leadership in global economic matters has never been more vital, that is a dreadful move, hugely undermining its ability to stop other countries engaging in a ruinous spiral of protectionism.
Even good moves are ruined by bad presentation. Changing Mr Bush’s costly and untried missile-defence scheme for something workable was sensible. But offensively casual treatment of east European allies such as Poland made it easy for his critics to portray it as naïve appeasement of the regime in Moscow. …
The man who has run nothing more demanding than the Harvard Law Review is beginning to look out of his depth in the world’s top job. His credibility is seeping away, and it will require concrete achievements rather than more soaring oratory to recover it.