Discussing the Obamacare disaster in the Rose Garden on Monday, President Obama led with a phrase to which we have become accustomed: “Nobody,” the president emoted, “is madder than me” about this mess.
Along with “let me be clear” and “make no mistake,” this is a favorite construction. Obama, you see, is more concerned for and correct about everything than everybody else at all times. “Nobody shares the frustrations of the American people more than I do,” he told WABC earlier this month; “nobody is more frustrated” than he about the IRS scandal; “no person,” the president affirmed during the election, “is more interested” in “seeing this economy growing strong.”
The line is contagious. In January, while trying pathetically to sell gun control, “Shotgun” Joe Biden informed the press that “nobody” was “more committed to acting on this moral obligation we have than the president of the United States.” “Nobody is more interested,” either, “in finding out exactly what happened” in Benghazi,” “more upset” about “the oil spill in the Gulf, or “more offended about the anti-gay and -lesbian legislation that you’ve been seeing in Russia.”
Even when he’s not interested he’s interested. “The bottom line,” Obama instructed NASA after cancelling the Constellation program, “is that nobody is more committed to manned spaceflight, to human exploration of space, than I am.”
The president is not just more concerned than you, but he’s smarter than you are as well. “I think I could probably do every job on the campaign better than the people I’ll hire to do it,” he told his campaign staff back in 2006. Per Jodi Kantor’s book on the president, he delivered the same message to Patrick Gaspard during an interview:
“I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Obama told him. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
In 2011, Mrs. Obama told a Democratic fundraiser in California that her husband “ . . . reads every word, every memo, so he is better prepared than the people briefing him. This man doesn’t take a day off.”
Ugly as they are to my eyes, such professions of concern, of omnipotence, and of expertise appear to sell. If you were on the Obama campaign’s mailing list, you will remember a set of creepy e-mails from the First Lady — e-mails in which she cast her husband as a veritable superhuman who, when he wasn’t being more interested in everything than you, was clearing the snow from the driveway with his bare hands and toiling into the night to the light of candles and the sound of despair. Mitt Romney’s stonewall refusal to advertise his many good deeds may have been politically frustrating in contrast, but it was almost certainly preferable to this crass spousal rodomontade.
Alas, long gone are the noble days in which politicians were expected to pretend that they had neither interest in ascending to a position of power nor confidence that they would be up the task if selected. In the age of “Mission Accomplished,” Greek columns, and “we are the ones we have been waiting for,” the games that the Founders played — including, it must be said, ostensibly “reluctant” George Washington — look distant and quaint. That self-promotion would trump faux-humility was almost certainly inevitable — neither reluctance nor reticence are likely springboards to political success in our Look At Me culture — but it would nevertheless be nice if at least some bashfulness remained.