Quotes of the day

posted at 8:18 pm on September 7, 2012 by Allahpundit

Barack Obama is deeply overexposed and often boring. He never seems to be saying what he’s thinking. His speech Thursday was weirdly anticlimactic. There’s too much buildup, the crowd was tired, it all felt flat. He was somber, and his message was essentially banal: We’ve done better than you think. Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

There were many straw men. There were phrases like “the shadow of a shuttered steel mill,” which he considers writerly. But they sound empty and practiced now, like something you’ve heard in a commercial or an advertising campaign.

It was stale and empty. He’s out of juice.

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The problem with President Obama’s dud of a convention speech isn’t that it deflated his supporters (it didn’t), or that it made Bill Clinton look good (it did). The problem is that it stepped on the message. And for that reason, Democrats may come out of their convention no better than Republicans came out of theirs…

But he couldn’t pull it off. He promised a speech heavy on policy specifics, but what he delivered was largely the same positions he’s been peddling for the last four years (investing in education! renewable energy!), with little emphasis on how he would address the nation’s persistent unemployment. Combined with Friday morning’s disappointing jobs report, that left the messaging effort without its essential capstone. Convention-watchers may have been left feeling like they like the president and think he’s tried to do the right thing, but he just doesn’t have a firm handle on the way forward. With each new sign that the economy is treading water or worse, the Democrats’ plea for patience gets harder to take. The idea that things are turning around snd all we have to do is cross our fingers and wait gets less and less credible.

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“Safe speech,” one underwhelmed Democratic strategist told POLITICO. “It’s kind of like you ask someone out on a date, and [at the end] they say, ‘Oh, he’s nice.’”…

Two Democrats with close ties to the Obama campaign, who were familiar with the thinking that went into the address, said the goal was essentially to bring Obama back to earth in terms of how he’s viewed by voters. The Democrats said the campaign believed Obama would get hit hard if he looked to score rhetorical points and so the president instead went more for pragmatism. The campaign is feeling, despite the criticisms, pretty good about the outcome, said the Democrats…

Had Obama gone for soaring, Schwartz said, he would have run the risk of failing to connect with the real difficulties some voters still face and missed the opportunity to explain the steps he took to stabilize and strengthen the economy.

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It was said of Bernard Baruch’s rhetorical style, “Even a platitude dropped from a sufficiently great height can sound like a brick.” In Charlotte, Obama dropped such bricks instead of balloons…

Obama made almost no mention of the continuing jobs crisis. He offered nothing new or creative on a fiscal and debt crisis that undermines economic confidence. Much of Obama’s agenda — lowering tuition costs, recruiting math and science teachers, “long-lasting batteries” — sounded like a seventh-year State of the Union address, a collection of policy leavings and leftovers. One of Obama’s more ardent defenders called this a “return to normalcy after a long period of emergency.” And so Obama has gone in four years from being compared to Abraham Lincoln to carrying forward the legacy of Warren Harding.

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As he laid out his case for re-election, Obama struggled with a basic underlying question: What happened to all that hope from his 2008 campaign? Obama knows that his actual record as president leaves many voters uninspired, and certainly not filled with hope. So early in the speech, he sought to redefine hope — to define it down — into something that fits his purposes now…

Perhaps the most striking thing about Obama’s speech was that it did not emphasize the most urgent concern of the greatest number of voters: the continuing unemployment crisis. It’s the most glaring weakness in Obama’s record, and he chose simply not to address it in a systematic way. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that the government would release new jobs numbers less than twelve hours after the president’s speech. More likely it was because Obama doesn’t really know what to say about the problem.

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We’re dangerously close to Jimmy Carter territory here. First, there’s the boast (“You elected me to tell you the truth”) disguised as an expression of humility (“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy”). Later, I actually winced when Obama humblebragged, “And while I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.’” Just because our greatest president was a bit depressive, that doesn’t mean we want the present one to lacerate himself over his failures, and we certainly don’t want to hear him tell us about it. The mention of FDR only served to remind us of how different, temperamentally, Obama is from the Democratic party’s “happy warrior” tradition. Worst of all, though, was Obama’s statement that “not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.” It combined an opportunistic (and probably insincere) echo of Bill Clintons irritating pronouncement in 1996 that “the era of big government is over” (which wasn’t even true) with a hint of Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech assertion that the country’s crisis of confidence was too big a problem for a president to solve on his own. Even when it’s true that the fault lies in our selves, not in our stars, who wants to hear it from the country’s biggest star?

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The first idea, that of “citizenship,” is a quintessentially American idea, and Obama is right to have picked up on these themes from our history. Yet he turned them into partisan tropes last night. After all, both sides agree with these basic premises – the real debate is what comes next. Hamiltonians have one answer and modern progressives have another. The implication of his speech last night was that progressives have a monopoly on these values, and that opposition to their economic and social program is somehow inconsistent with them…

There has been a growing polarization in this country over the last few decades that moves beyond matters of simple partisan support. Increasingly, it seems, one side of this great divide views the other side as somehow illegitimate. No leader since at least Richard Nixon has done more to exacerbate this dangerous tension. By inevitably redrafting shared values as Democratic ones, he feeds the impulse on the left that the right is un-American, he infuriates the right for what are vicious insults, and he leaves those in the middle of the country scratching their heads.

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President Barack Obama didn’t give a particularly good acceptance speech Thursday night, but for the thousands in the arena it didn’t matter one bit. They were here to see him more than listen to him, to communicate their love to him (often by bursting forth with “I LOVE YOU!!”s) more than hear about his plans for the next four years. The last five minutes of the speech was a festival of hollering back, of responding not to Obama’s frequently inaudible remarks but to the rising timbre of his voice. I think it’s impossible to understand the ongoing appeal of this odd and embattled president without grappling with the notion that he is an essentially religious figure

The Democrats are selling themselves in 2012 as the party that simply cares more. They feel your pain, only this time it’s not a snicker-worthy campaign ploy from a slick southern politician; it’s a governing creed. Simply by virtue of being more empathetic, they will produce better policies and outcomes, particularly those that affect the identity groups within the Democratic coalition: women, Hispanics, blacks, the gay and lesbian community.

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