Sunday, August 22, 2010

Therapist-In-Chief vs Problem-Solver-In-Chief

Plant your tongue firmly in your cheek while you read this from Roger Simon.

Q: Will Barack Obama be a one-term president?

A: Yes, he might last that long.

Honest to goodness, the man just does not get it. He might be forced to pull a Palin and resign before his first term is over. He could go off and write his memoirs and build his presidential library. (Both would be half-size, of course.)

I am not saying Obama is not smart; he is as smart as a whip. I am just saying he does not understand what savvy first-term presidents need to understand:

You have to stay on message, follow the polls, listen to your advisers (who are writing the message and taking the polls) and realize that when it comes to doing what is right versus doing what is expedient, you do what is expedient so that you can get reelected and do what is right in the second term. If at all possible. And it will help your legacy. And not endanger the election of others in your party. And not hurt the brand. Or upset people too much.


But what would Obama be doing if he was being expedient and following the polls? Maureen Dowd describes our current situation this way:

The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown, with the right spreading fear and disinformation that is amplified by the poisonous echo chamber that is the modern media environment.


But then, in true Dowd "I want my daddy to fix it" mode, she says this about Obama:

The president who is always talking about wanting to be perfectly clear is ever more opaque. The One, who owes his presidency to the intense feeling he stirred up, turns out to be a practical guy who can’t deal with intense feeling.

He ran as a man apart — Joe Biden was enlisted to folksy him up — and now he must deal with the fact that many see him as a man apart.


I guess Dowd must have missed her psychobabble 101 class when they covered the fact that standing apart from folks who are having a "weird mass nervous breakdown" might be an appropriate response.

At least Matt Bai's analysis of the situation avoids the mind-numbing psychobabble for which Dowd is so well-known.

In conversations over the past few weeks, some of the party’s leading strategists told me that it all comes down to messaging, or — here’s that ubiquitous word again — “framing.” The president who ran such a brilliant campaign, they argue, has utterly failed to communicate his successes. They cited factors like the president’s cool demeanor and suggested that he hadn’t used the right words or shown the proper empathy...

“By focusing on getting big legislative accomplishments, which was understandable, they necessarily gave up a larger image of him as president,” Mr. Podesta said, referring to White House advisers...

“At the end of the day, they set out to do a lot, and got a lot done,” Mr. Podesta said. “If the unemployment rate were at 8.5 percent and we were creating 250,000 or 300,000 jobs right now, it would feel a lot different.” But that hasn’t happened, and if Mr. Podesta is right, panicky voters wanted a president, rather than a legislator in chief, to make sure they understood why.


That one leaves me wondering just what Bai is referring to when he says, "panicky voters wanted a president." Sounds alot to me like the drivel we heard from so many commentators during the height of the Gulf oil spill who were calling for a "daddy-in-chief" rather than a President who was hard at work trying to solve the problem.

This kind of critique just baffles me. For most of my life the American public has been saying they don't trust politicians because they don't "walk their talk." Now we have a President who is doing exactly what he said he would do - and you'd think he was some kind of traitor for not paying enough attention to our feelings. If all we expect a President to do is make us feel better about the mess this country is in - then I think we should start combing the field of psychotherapists to find us a good one.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd like a President who works to solve the problems this country is facing...I'll hire my own therapist if I need one to get through the process - thank you very much.

For my money, Eugene Robinson nails it with his article about Obama's winning streak. Just in the last few weeks:

Combat troops out of Iraq ahead of schedule - check
General Motors about to launch stock offering - check
Gulf oil spill contained and $20 billion fund for damages - check
Standing up for freedom of religion and the Constitution - check

And those are just the headline stories. How about the back-story you're not hearing much about that the DOJ has just reached an extradition agreement to bring Viktor Bout, the "Merchant of Death" to justice? Its just another in the long list of accomplishments that can be credited to Attorney General Holder specifically and the administration in general.

And so, as the right wing fuels its fear and paranoia and the poutragers wring their hands about nothing getting done, this administration soldiers on calmly doing what Presidents are supposed to do...solving problems.

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