Sunday, February 24, 2013

Politics and egos (updated)

Years ago I used to spend a lot of time at our State Capitol trying to get legislators on board with supporting the kind of work we do with young people. After awhile, I could see what was going on. Its a heady game. You gain status as a "somebody" by feeding the egos of people who aren't always the brightest bulbs in the universe. Most of the people who inhabit those great halls have insatiable egos, and so the task is never-ending. I'm not very good at that kind of thing. So I eventually quit trying and found other ways to get the job done.

I thought of that experience when Kevin Drum asked an interesting question.
I'm perplexed by [Bob] Woodward these days. He really seems to have some kind of weird jones against the Obama White House. I can't quite figure out where it comes from.
If my little State Capitol is filled with insatiable egos, I can only imagine what it looks like in Washington DC - not just when it comes to politicians, but journalists like Bob Woodward and the general culture of the place. Its what happens to many people when they're given a certain amount of power.

We've been watching President Obama for long enough now that its become clear that he's not very interested in the kind of ego-stroking that a place like DC has come to expect and demand. We hear the whining about that pretty regularly on all fronts. That's where I'd go to answer Drum's question.

I can imagine that some of the way this gets reported to us is true...President Obama probably looks on the whole culture that has developed with a kind of disdain. As politicians and journalists assume that the way to get anything done is to have their egos stroked in the process, they lose touch with what it is they were sent there to do. When we talk about the "DC bubble," that's how it would be defined.

Many of us knew that in electing President Obama we were sending someone into that bubble who wasn't interested in playing the game. So let's not be surprised when we hear the whining from those who are so terribly disturbed that he's opting out of it all. When someone like Woodward lashes out at the President because he's gotten his feelings hurt, its a sign that Obama is doing just what we sent him there to do.

UPDATE: Noam Scheiber reviewed Bob Woodward's book The Price of Politics. He pretty much nails a response to Drum's question.
There is a body of respectable Washington opinion that considers Obama unworthy of the presidency: he hadn’t put in his time before running, didn’t grasp the majesty of the office, evinced no respect for the way things were done. He not only won without courting the city’s elders, he had the bad manners to keep his distance even after winning. This is the view Woodward distills.
In other words, the black guy didn't pay his proper respects to the white good-ole-boys club.

5 comments:

  1. As I recall, Sally Quinn spent a great deal of time in the Washington Post bemoaning that the Obama's weren't participating in the "society scene." Which can be summed up as "they aren't coming to my dinner parties!" (whine) In Tom Clancy's book Executive Orders he has great descriptions of the DC bubble, and what happens when it suddenly has to deal with a President who "isn't interested."

    Woodward is just another example of what we've been seeing out of the White House press corps, as well as numerous pundits. They expected to be coddled and have their asses kissed, and now they have a serious case of butthurt because it didn't happen.

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    1. Sally Quinn wrote the classic Washington Post op-ed on this issue right around the time of Clinton's impeachment. Only she didn't realize that was what she was doing. She wanted to explain to people outside Washington why people inside Washington didn't like the Clintons. Instead, she gave a perfect demonstration of the very kind of "he didn't stroke our egos" attitude you describe.

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    2. She also went and repeated the theme not long after the Obama's came into the White House, bemoaning the decline of the hostesses, and in particular her attacks on Desiree Rogers.

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  2. In other words, the black guy didn't pay his proper respects to the white good-ole-boys club.

    **********************

    What is not said is that PBO could never do anything that would have gotten him accepted in the old white boys club!

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  3. Sheba Lo -
    Hell, Bob Woodward's meltdown and your analysis explains almost 70-80% of the pundit class gripe with Obama, no matter if its the Washington Press Corp, the Professional Left (Particularly the 'Dashiki Ivory Tower' guys like Cornell West and Tavis Smiley) or the Loony Right. I think Samuel L Jackson put in best in Tarantino's "Django Unchained":

    "Who Put that N*** on that Nag?!

    Obama became President without the blessing of the Washington Insiders or the Professional Left (and frankly was far more successful by ignoring them) and he certainly never kowtowed to the right. The uppity Negro didn't learn his place and frankly isn't taking a back seat to anyone.

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