Yesterday Alex Conant, the spokesman for the RNC during the 2008 presidential campaign, posted an interesting article at Politico called “The 5 biggest myths about Obama.”
Conant provides a good starting point for examining Obama’s modus operandi but I think, based on what we’ve seen thus far, that he may not be totally correct.
Conant says the myths are
- Obama is bold.
- Obama is a great communicator.
- Obamaland is a team of rivals.
- Obama is smooth.
- Obama has a good relationship with the media
Let’s look at these in turn.
1. Obama is bold. Actually, he is overly cautious. It’s no coincidence the first bills he signed into law were the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, two populist favorites. […]
This is certainly an arguable premise. When one sees the way he is cramming over a trillion dollars in new spending through congress and using those spending bills as a way of mutilating the economy and the health care systems one can be excused for thinking that this is the most radical assault on our way of life since the New Deal.
When one takes this in context with Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and Hillary Clinton all extolling the virtues of a crisis as a smokescreen for broader action it seems that he is, in fact, bold. He is also smart enough to disguise that boldness in the Administration’s flailing about to address our economic problems.
As much as it pains me to admit this, I failed to take the measure of the man during the campaign. I was then of the opinion that Obama was unencumbered by any governing political philosophy and was simply a empty vessel into which the left was pouring its hopes and dreams. My estimation was that he’d pursue a fairly non-controversial path, a small man doing small things, with an eye on his being reelected by acclamation in 2012. I was wrong. Obama is the most radical candidate we’ve elected since FDR.
2. Obama is a great communicator.
Agreed. I’ve said since late summer that his rhetorical chops are grossly overrated. In terms of delivering a prepared address I don’t think he’s any better than George W. Bush. In speaking extemporaneously without a teleprompter he’s a basket case. I think he’ll get better at that as the ridicule associated with his teleprompter use begins to attach itself to him and though he doesn’t mangle words like President Bush, the atrocities he commits on grammar and sentence structure are astonishing.
3. Obamaland is a team of rivals. Obama earned the label “No-Drama Obama” for a reason. His closest advisers — those who actually shape his thinking, strategy and policies — are loyal and, by all accounts, like-minded. […] Obama does try to bring political foes into the fold when it’s convenient, but his team is primarily made up of political friends.
I’ve never heard anyone, other than Obama, say that Obama had collected a team of rivals so I’ll heartily agree that this is a crock. I think it is clear that Obama has already identified areas of government where he has an interest (destroying industry, hamstringing competitiveness, etc.) and areas that he wishes would go away (defense policy, foreign policy). His installation of Clinton at State lets him take credit for the whole “rivals” nonsense and leaving Gates at Defense is lipservice to the notion of “bipartisanship.” When one looks at Labor, EPA, Energy, HHS, Treasury, etc. he has brought in politically weak non-entities who have no power base in DC and has installed commissars in the White House to develop policy for those agencies.
Every president brings their own team on board. Usually, though, what that personal team has in common is a personal relationship and loyalty to the president. What makes Obama’s team different is that the personal connection is lacking and a uniformity of ideology is prevalent.
4. Obama is smooth. Despite being deliberate, Obama is surprisingly gaffe-prone. […] His geographic gaffes are not just at routine rallies but at major events, including the Democratic National Convention and his first address to Congress. Any politician occasionally misspeaks, but the frequency of Obama’s flubs is notable.
This goes back to his eloquence. Absent a teleprompter the man is liable to say things that makes Joe Biden seem tightly disciplined. With a teleprompter he is liable to say whatver it tells him to, to the extent of thanking himself.
5. Obama has a good relationship with the media. Working with the hundreds of reporters who covered the Obama campaign last year, I was struck by how many of them would quietly complain about Obama’s borderline disdain for the press.
So what. The national media was so deeply invested in Obama’s election that they have lost the ability to critically examine actions by his administration. It doesn’t matter whether or not he has a good relationship with them so long as they do his bidding. When one looks at the supine indifference to the manifest failings and failures of this administration and the lack of coverage they have received (for instance, why did we have to learn about the gross lack of courtesy shown British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his family from British papers?) one is left to shrug one’s shoulders at this particular myth and say “so?”
Obama has a lot of qualities that are indeed admirable: He is without a doubt smart and disciplined, and his mastery of politics is unmatched. But despite popular perceptions, he is far from perfect.
This summary, is a bit of a non sequitur to the entire article but it sums up the problem nicely. We have a president who isn’t particularly fast on his feet, his handling of unscripted situations is abysmal, he has a tone deafness we’ve not seen in an American politician since maybe Richard Nixon, and whose lack of intellectual curiosity (gee, where have we heard that before) is exhibited by the politically monochrome composition of his advisors. And yet, he is “smart and disciplined, and his mastery of politics is unmatched.”
I think we’ve set the bar of mastery pretty darned low.