One of the ex officio duties of a President is to be the leader of one’s party. As many Presidents have learned, this is akin to being the leader of a Cub Scout pack of, oh, several thousand youngsters at once. However, we haven’t seen quite the mismanagement that took place this week at the Democratic convention, especially not directly provided by an incumbent President.
It started when Republicans noticed that the Democratic platform had removed all references to God, and also a plank that endorsed recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Republicans rushed to attack Barack Obama over it, in part to pay back Democrats who had attacked Mitt Romney over the GOP’s plank on abortion. Platform stories rarely last long, though, because few people bother to read the platforms and candidates largely ignore them as well. Had Obama ignored the issue, as Romney had with the abortion plank the week before, it would have become a dusty footnote in history.
Instead, Obama and his team turned it into a headline-making embarrassment. The campaign couldn’t make up its mind if Obama had personally reviewed the platform before its adoption, or had never looked at it at all before the GOP made the omissions an issue. Everyone agreed on one thing, though: Obama personally ordered that the platform be amended to fix both problems — a process that would require a two-thirds vote on the floor to approve, since the convention delegates had already approved the platform. Ted Strickland and Cory Booker dutifully went back and wrote one amendment to cover the changes. No one apparently checked to see if either the recognition of Jerusalem or adding a mention of God would provoke significant opposition, nor did Obama have his team split the issues into separate amendments in order to isolate any opposition.
That set the stage for this memorable train wreck:
Instead of ignoring the issue and letting it die a quiet death, as it would have done with the favorable media coverage at the convention, Obama’s leadership had a whole lot of Democrats appearing to vote against God Almighty — and booing Him, too. Suddenly, the nothingburger of a platform dispute erupted into headline-grabbing news, and even MSNBC was forced to cover it. Obama’s hand-picked DNC chair tried telling everyone that there was “no discord” in one of the worst spin attempts ever caught on videotape — one that had CNN’s Anderson Cooper and his panel marveling that Debbie Wasserman Schultz lives in “an alternate universe” and openly laughing at her:
There may be a lot of blame to go around on this debacle, which will most definitely be the biggest news story of this convention and will haunt Democrats through the election. But it all started with the party’s leader fecklessly playing into the hands of his opponents by taking the bait on a platform debate.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!