The president’s problem isn’t that he is too visible; it’s the lack of content in what he says when he keeps showing up on the tube. Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words “I” and “my.” (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.
There is only so much political mileage that can still be had by his reminding the world that he is not George W. Bush. It was the winning theme of the 2008 campaign, but that race ended nearly a year ago. The ex-president is now more ex than ever, yet the current president, who vowed to look forward, is still reaching back to Bush as bogeyman.
He did it again in that U.N. speech. The delegates wanted to know what the president was going to do about Israel and the Palestinian territories. He answered by telling them what his predecessor had failed to do. This was effective for his first month or two. Now it is starting to sound more like an excuse than an explanation.
That’s from Howard Fineman, whose next appearance on “Countdown” is likely to be, shall we say, stormy. Meanwhile, WaPo’s Richard Cohen is troubled:
The election has been held, but the campaign goes on and on. The candidate has yet to become commander in chief…
For a crisis such as this, the immense prestige of the American presidency ought to be held in reserve. Let the secretary of state issue grave warnings. When Obama said in Pittsburgh that Iran is “going to have to come clean and they are going to have to make a choice,” it had the sound of an ultimatum. But what if the Iranians don’t? What then? A president has to be careful with such language. He better mean what he says.
The trouble with Obama is that he gets into the moment and means what he says for that moment only. He meant what he said when he called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” — and now is not necessarily so sure. He meant what he said about the public option in his health care plan — and then again maybe not. He would not prosecute CIA agents for getting rough with detainees — and then again maybe he would.
I.e. as Jim Geraghty has forever warned us, all Obama statements come with an expiration date. Nice to see these two finally cluing into that idea. For an especially egregious illustration, enjoy Flopping Aces’s litany of dire Obama warnings over the years about Afghanistan being a “war of necessity.” Or if you prefer, via Hot Air Pundit, here he is in campaign mode talking a good hawkish game. It’s almost as if he says what he needs to say to get elected, isn’t it?