posted at 12:34 pm on October 14, 2010 by Pundette
I’m wading through Peter Baker’s long NYT Mag piece on the Obama presidency thus far. It has an funereal vibe:
Yet even if the White House saw it coming, this is an administration that feels shellshocked. Many officials worry, they say, that the best days of the Obama presidency are behind them. They talk about whether it is time to move on.
Obama’s diagnosis of what went wrong is, well, wrong:
“Given how much stuff was coming at us,” Obama told me, “we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration — and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top — that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular. And I think anybody who’s occupied this office has to remember that success is determined by an intersection in policy and politics and that you can’t be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion.”
As far as we know, he said that with a straight face, though he was notoriously disengaged with the finer points, and even some larger ones, of his health care reform. He surely never read any of the bills. But he did spend an inordinate amount of time campaigning and shilling for it. Mark Hemingway doesn’t know where to begin with that:
Then the idea that Obama neglected “marketing and P.R. and public opinion.” The president gave 54(!) speeches on health care reform, including a special joint session of Congress and prime time infomercial. And yet, he’s still of the opinion he just hasn’t explained it properly or something? We’re gonna like this turkey any day now! (Also, the fact he’s explaining his policy approach in his eleventy billionth magazine profile should tell you something — as president, Obama’s even posed for the cover of The American Dog.)
The “failure to communicate” meme is like blaming a baby’s unhappiness on “colic”: it’s a convenient catch-all that no one can prove wrong.
This part was interesting:
Obama advisers who left the White House recently have been struck how different, and worse, things look from the outside. As he made a round of corporate job interviews after stepping down as White House budget director, Peter Orszag was stunned to discover how deep the gulf between the president and business had become. “I’d thought it was an 8, but it’s more like a 10,” he told me. “And rather than wasting time debating whether it’s legitimate,” he added, referring to his former colleagues, “the key is to recognize that it’s affecting what they do.”
Bit of a contradiction here, between this:
Unlike Clinton, who never met a rope line he did not want to work, Obama does not relish glad-handing. That’s what he has Vice President Joe Biden for. When Obama addressed the Business Roundtable this year, he left after his speech without much meet-and-greet, leaving his aides frustrated that he had done himself more harm than good. He is not much for chitchat.
But as Obama gets back on the campaign trail, aides have noticed his old spirit again. He particularly enjoys the so-called backyard sessions on the lawns of supporters. “That’s the happiest I’ve seen him in a long time,” an aide said. After one, Obama told the aide, “This reminds me of Iowa on the bus.”
Perhaps he doesn’t mind chitchat with those who might faint at his feet, but dreads it with those who might expose his ignorance.
Our thin-skinned prez is even touchy about criticism of his redecoration of the Oval Office!
He told me he was happy with the redecorating of the office. “I know Arianna doesn’t like it,” he said lightly. “But I like taupe.”
Good. Grief. Was he expecting a medal for his good taste?
Peter Wehner has read the whole thing and concludes:
The White House, then, is characterized by habitual vanity, rising cynicism, collapsing morale, and increasing resentment toward politics and governing, itself.
Joe Weisenthal understands the Democrats’ dismay at the portrait the Obama WH painted of itself:
Remember, in 2008, not only was Obama more popular than McCain, he has the benefit of inciting a movement behind him. That’s now totally gone, and rather than exciting anyone, the administration is projecting sadness.
So close to an election, the least they could do is fake it.
It seems they’re too wrapped up in their own angst for that. How will they be able to handle what’s coming in a few weeks?
Cross-posted at P&P.