FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Politico Fires a Shot Across Obama’s Bow with ‘Egotistical, Selfish, Dull’ Headline
Under the improbable headline “Media: Obama is egotistical, selfish, dull,” Politico‘s Dylan Byers noted Monday that over the Labor Day weekend, “major media outlets…lobb[ed] five high-profile bombs at the incumbent.” The article itself isn’t as noteworthy as the title, which is particularly eye-catching from a political publication whose left-leaning orientation is well known.
The examples Byers points to come from the New York Times, the Washington Post, HuffPo, the Wall Street Journal, and his own Politico. Let’s take a quick look at them – and at the laugher that a senior campaign official offered in response.
The Politico piece is interesting in its classification of Obama as little more than a “conventional” politician, though its focus – on Obama’s failure to preside over “what Robert Frost at Kennedy’s inaugural called a ‘golden age of poetry and power,’ with artists and intellectuals prominent among the first family’s friends and the Georgetown social scene regularly enlivened with the presence of a young and outgoing couple – is trite and tired at best. As may be expected, it showcases quotes that excuse Obama’s failure to present himself as a luminary by denigrating the president’s political opposition and Americans as a whole. Perhaps the best example comes from David Remnick, Obama hagiographer and editor of The New Yorker:
Considering the political climate of Washington, and the degree of anti-intellectualism that is wielded so freely as a weapon, what do you think the reaction would be if he peacocked his learning in the law or literature or history in a way that was judged as flagrant or snobbish? How soon would it be before we heard about Obama being even more ‘out of touch’ with ‘ordinary people’?
In other words, as we see nearly every time a Democrat candidate or president is being discussed, it’s the rest of America’s fault for not understanding and appreciating just how much smarter, more urbane, and simply cooler [insert Democrat's name here] is than they are.
As the New York Times‘ Jodi Kantor notes, Obama himself has, unsurprisingly, bought into the press about his superlative nature, and is quick to declare everything he does in those terms. For example:
When he reads a book to children at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, Mr. Obama seems incapable of just flipping open a volume and reading. In 2010, he began by announcing that he would perform “the best rendition ever” of “Green Eggs and Ham,” ripping into his Sam-I-Ams with unusual conviction. Two years later at the same event, he read “Where the Wild Things Are” with even more animation, roooooaring his terrible roar and gnaaaaashing his terrible teeth. By the time he got to the wild rumpus, he was howling so loudly that Bo, the first dog, joined in.
Mr. Obama’s fixation on prowess can get him into trouble. Not everyone wants to be graded by him, certainly not Republicans. Mr. Dowd, the former Bush adviser, said he admired Mr. Obama, but added, “Nobody likes to be in the room with someone who thinks they’re the smartest person in the room.”
Even some Democrats in Washington say they have been irritated by his tips on topics ranging from the best way to shake hands on the trail (really look voters in the eye, he has instructed) to writing well (“You have to think three or four sentences ahead,” he told one reluctant pupil).
For another, he may not always be as good at everything as he thinks, including politics. While Mr. Obama has given himself high grades for his tenure in the White House — including a “solid B-plus” for his first year — many voters don’t agree, citing everything from his handling of the economy to his unfulfilled pledge that he would be able to unite Washington to his claim that he would achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Those were not the only times Mr. Obama may have overestimated himself: he has also had a habit of warning new hires that he would be able to do their jobs better than they could.
As the Washington Post‘s Amy Gardner notes, Obama’s overestimation of his own eloquence has caused him plenty of problems in the form of verbal gaffes, with none having such a great influence on the current course of the race than his “you didn’t build that” declaration. “During the original 42-minute speech in Roanoke on July 13,” she writes, “Obama used no teleprompter, instead relying on notes and at times injecting lengthy and impromptu riffs about the role government has played in building this nation.” That sure turned out well.
The idea that Obama would be transformative has, of course, been refudiated by the president’s own actions, as HuffPo’s Ryan Grim and Sam Stein note in an article titled, “Barack Obama Promised A New Kind Of Politics, But Played The Same Old Game.” Make no mistake, though; the criticism from HuffPo is entirely from the left, with comments like, “His first two years in office have repeatedly been compared to the New Deal under Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Society under Johnson, with historic achievements on health care, Wall Street reform and other domestic priorities. But Obama’s first term has also left many of his supporters wondering whether those accomplishments could have been bigger in size, scope and impact.” This remark is followed by the claim that both Obamacare and “financial regulatory reform” were “built largely off a conservative[!] model,” and the complaint that neither card check nor an abrupt and precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan were immediately pursued.
The far-left perspective pervades the entire article. When Grim and Stein give Obama credit for accomplishments, it’s on pet lefty issues like successfully raising the debt ceiling, changing his stance on same-sex marriage, and rewarding illegal immigrants by unilaterally making the DREAM Act into policy. Additionally, in their conclusion, the authors put on a brave face and try to make the absurd claim that “it remains unclear whether [Obama is] comfortable with [the] type of politics” that involves “using political force to win with a bare majority rather than reaching consensus [and] letting go of the illusion that the Republican Party is looking to work with you.” In other words, we’re supposed to believe that there’s not a Chicago bone in that Chicago politician’s body. Right.
The Wall Street Journal article takes a different angle than those mentioned above, instead chronicling Obama’s stunning unwillingness to extend his coattails to Democratic candidates around the country – even when they are present at his events. Laura Meckler writes:
At rallies, Mr. Obama seldom urges supporters to volunteer – or even vote – for other Democrats running for office. Sometimes, he mentions other politicians in the room without noting that they are seeking re-election. He rarely shares the stage with other candidates.
The reason? Obama’s election is the one that matters – and the campaign’s (and candidate’s) focus on that goal is so singular that nobody else matters.
He’s ultimately there to communicate where he wants to bring the country and the differences he has with Mitt Romney. He’s not out there campaigning all around the country for other candidates,” a senior Obama campaign official said. “It’s not that he doesn’t want them to get elected, but it’s a campaign event to elect him.”
The result is that Democrats are running parallel campaigns that coordinate little with each other.
That lack of coordination and cooperation extends to finances, as well. Meckler notes that, “early this year, Mr. Obama’s top aides told the Democratic campaign committees for the House and Senate not to expect money from the Obama campaign or the DNC.” Mmmm. Smells like team spirit.
The biggest laugh line in Byers’s own article comes from Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt, who claims that the president received harsh media scrutiny in his 2008 run. “As one of the people who picked up the phone during the last campaign when the press combed through every vote the president ever made and class he ever taught,” LaBolt said, “I can tell you from personal experience it’s a myth that we enjoyed some sort of honeymoon wave of coverage in 2008.” LaBolt is quite the joker. Seriously – that’s funny.