Quotes of the day

In Europe, where more than 200,000 people thronged a Berlin rally in 2008 to hear Barack Obama speak, there’s disappointment that he hasn’t kept his promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, and perceptions that he’s shunting blame for the financial crisis across the Atlantic.

In Mogadishu, a former teacher wishes he had sent more economic assistance and fewer armed drones to fix Somalia’s problems. And many in the Middle East wonder what became of Obama’s vow, in a landmark 2009 speech at the University of Cairo, to forge a closer relationship with the Muslim world.

In a world weary of war and economic crises, and concerned about global climate change, the consensus is that Obama has not lived up to the lofty expectations that surrounded his 2008 election and Nobel Peace Prize a year later. Many in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America were also taken aback by his support for gay marriage, a taboo subject among religious conservatives…

“We all had high hopes for him,” said Filomena Cunha, an office worker in Lisbon, Portugal, who said she’s struggling to make ends meet. “But then things got bad and there’s not much he can do for us over here.”


In a swing through the Tampa area today, Mitt Romney blasted the Obama presidency as “a disappointment” and left town with about $2.3 million — part of an expected $10 million fundraising haul for a two-day Florida swing…

“This presidency has been a disappointment. And the people who have been hurt by this disappointment are the American people, and that’s why we’re going to get him out of office.”…

“By his own measure he’s failed,” Romney told the crowd, citing what he said were Obama’s promises on unemployment and the deficit during the 2008 campaign.


[I]f the election were tomorrow and I was forced to put money on one of the candidates, I’d say Romney. I also feel that unless something new and dramatic happens–as it usually does, admittedly — Romney’s advantage is more likely to grow than diminish…

Obama’s big problem, I think, is that he is no longer the president he said he would be. Above all, he’s stopped trying to be that president.

The astonishing enthusiasm for Obama in 2008 rested heavily on his promise to change Washington and unify the country. You can argue about whose fault it is that Washington is even more paralyzed by tribal fighting than before–in my view, it’s mostly (though not entirely) the GOP’s fault. For whatever reason, Obama failed to bring the change he promised. That would be forgivable, so long as he was determined to keep trying. But he isn’t determined to keep trying. His campaign message so far boils down to this: You just can’t work with these people. I tried, they’re not interested, so it’s war. If they want bitter partisan politics, they can have it…

To me it seems so obviously the wrong strategy, in fact, that I struggle to understand what Obama’s people can be thinking.


The Obama running for re-election is for everything and nothing at once, a creature of calculation. His oratorical skills are seen not as gifts that elevate him above the elite political class, but tools that enshrine him as its leader. Obama has become what he came to Washington to change: He is politics.

There is a good chance the Obama campaign is about to disintegrate, if only briefly. Obama is about to walk through “the valley of death,” where candidates lose their way and are tested on an arid march. In this familiar story, the campaign that could do no wrong can do no right: Pundits who have predicted an Obama victory reverse course and insist Romney is a sure bet…

Obama is asking America to be a polarized, angry country, where we are at war with each other, tearing at our own throats. Romney is asking us to be a country at peace with itself.

Unless Obama changes course, he will not make it through the valley. This is a race Romney wins.


The women I know who are struggling in this economy couldn’t be further from the fictional character of Julia, presented in Mr. Obama’s Web ad, “The Life of Julia,” a silly and embarrassing caricature based on the assumption that women look to government at every meaningful phase of their lives for help…

The struggling women in my life all laughed when I asked them if contraception or abortion rights would be a major factor in their decision about this election. For them, and for most other women, the economy overwhelms everything else…

I have always admired President Obama and I agree with him on some issues, like abortion rights. But the promise of his campaign four years ago has given way to something else — a failure to connect with tens of millions of Americans, many of them women, who feel economic opportunity is gone and are losing hope. In an effort to win them back, Mr. Obama is trying too hard. He’s employing a tone that can come across as grating and even condescending. He really ought to drop it. Most women don’t want to be patted on the head or treated as wards of the state. They simply want to be given a chance to succeed based on their talent and skills. To borrow a phrase from our president’s favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, they want “an open field and a fair chance.”


The increasing premium on skills and smarts promises to bring us an uglier society in the form of a meritocracy where those who are rich can think not only that they’re richer but that they’re better. That doesn’t simply threaten the incomes of the unskilled. It corrodes the traditional American idea of social equality — the idea that we’re “equal in the eyes of each other.” Cheering on young professionals — while urging the non-professionals to hurry up and do some learnin’ — doesn’t make the problem better. It makes the problem worse. Even if it increases GDP.

Weren’t Democrats supposed to be the party of Everyman? If you went to work and obeyed the rules, Dems would “make work pay” — plus give you unemployment compensation and Social Security and medical care in old age. White male workers are sort of the indivisible denominator in American politics — they have no special economic leverage, and no race- or gender-based claim to special privileges. They’re naked as far as favoritism goes, and thus (not unlike Marx’s proleteriat) are the representatives of universal privileges (such as Social Security). The new Obama coalition threatens to abandon this universality, becoming instead the party of non-universal skills, ethnic and gender identities — of special pleaders, victims and causists. Not of citizens.


Obama’s single achievement is something he scarcely intended and likely will lament for the rest of his days: the reinvigoration and reorientation of the right to first principles in the aftermath of the Bush presidency. Prior to Obama’s ascendance, the right was riven between big-government conservatives, libertarians, social conservatives, interventionists, activists, and intellectuals. The right was more interested in its divisions than its commonalities. Years of power had made us sloppy and complacent and sometimes corrupt.

Obama illustrated, boldly and shockingly, the power and drive of a resurgent progressivism. His grandiose designs forced conservatives into rethinking their attitude toward public policy in light of American exceptionalism and the American Founding. Suddenly finding themselves unwilling passengers on Obama’s progress train, conservatives remembered those they had left behind: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Adams, and Lincoln. Only in reversing course, in returning to the supposedly outmoded and old-fashioned ideas of natural rights and constitutionalism, would conservatives begin to prepare the ground for a renewed America. That is why Obama’s grade is a D Plus rather than outright failure. Who says conservatives don’t believe in grade inflation?

Barack Obama, future historians will remember, gave new life to something thought dead. Maybe he is a miracle worker after all.


A young man recounts how inspired he was by Barack Obama’s “promise to change Washington’s corrupt culture.” A woman recalls how she voted for Mr. Obama “because he spoke so beautifully.”

Fans of the president? Hardly.

Both people star in television spots attacking Mr. Obama, and both help answer a question that has vexed conservatives for months: how to go after a president whose personal popularity remains unusually resilient, even amid lukewarm ratings of his job performance.

The answer: Acknowledge the potency of Mr. Obama’s 2008 appeal. Then steep the ads in disappointment and lost promise.


“I just think he should, instead of making people victims of people who are successful, we should be telling people, ‘Look, you are having a hard time, I feel bad for you. Let’s look at what you’re doing, let’s teach you how to succeed. Let’s give you the tools to succeed.’ As opposed to turning everybody into victims, a victim mentality is what he’s selling and nobody with a victim mentality will get anywhere. Ever. They will never succeed,” Lovitz said.

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