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When Obama is graceless, &c.


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Yesterday, I was writing a little something about Jim Jones and Tom Donilon: The one is leaving the post of national security adviser; the other is assuming it. And I listened to a clip of President Obama, talking about this development. You can find it here. There’s a video sort of embedded in the article I have linked to.

This is how Obama began his remarks: “When I took office, I pledged to do whatever was required to protect the American people and restore American leadership in the world. Over the past 20 months, that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

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Did he really need to say “restore American leadership in the world”? He’s not a candidate anymore. He should not be campaigning. He should not be dumping on his predecessor. I think American leadership was plentiful when George W. Bush was in the Oval Office. Obama obviously disagrees.

But, when you’re president, doesn’t there come a time when you stop talking that way?

One of the things I find most off-putting about Obama is his gracelessness. We have seen it in the way he has conducted himself during Election 2010 — what he has said about the tea partiers, the Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove, etc. When he was running for president, some people praised him for a “first-class temperament.” I don’t know. I think even third class might be pushing it.

A little walk down Memory Lane? I thought of something when Jones announced his resignation. In the third and final presidential debate, between Obama and McCain, the question of Obama’s “associations” came up: Billy Ayers and all of those lovelies. (By the way, Rashid Khalidi has just become co-director of a new Palestinian center at Columbia University. It’s all done in honor of the late Edward Said. Great, great.) Candidate Obama said,

“Let me tell you who I associate with. On economic policy, I associate with Warren Buffett and former Fed chairman Paul Volcker. If I’m interested in figuring out my foreign policy, I associate myself with my running mate, Joe Biden, or with Dick Lugar, the Republican ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or Gen. Jim Jones, the former supreme allied commander of NATO.”

A very good answer — a very effective answer. Anyway, Jones is gone now. And in his place is Tom Donilon.

He is the ultimate Democratic politico, of course. He has worked for everybody, since he was about ten: Carter, Mondale, Biden, Dukakis, Clinton — the whole crew. And from 1999 to 2005, he was a registered lobbyist with one client, and one client only: Fannie Mae. Great, just great.

But you know what I find most bothersome? I learned this in a report found here. “Donilon played a key role in successfully convincing the Senate to defeat Bork’s nomination” — the nomination of the great Robert H. Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That Donilon has been a political hack — that’s an unkind word: political operative — for the Democrats is pretty much fine by me. But the disgusting defeat of Bob Bork: That I find hard to take.

A little language? The line I quoted went, “Donilon played a key role in successfully convincing the Senate to defeat Bork’s nomination.” (It’s maddening to read it again.) That “successfully” really does not have to be there. Clunks up the sentence, too.

I have heard people say, “The 2012 Republican presidential nominee will come out of the 2010 elections.” That’s a little vague. Someone elected to office for the first time in 2010? That seems a little . . . rushed. Even Obama, the meteor, had four years in the Senate before he became president. (Well, he started campaigning almost as soon as he got there, true.)

How about someone elected in 2009? I have a friend — very seasoned political observer and strategist — who’s looking at Chris Christie. Sure, he’s only been in office for a couple of years. Oh, excuse me — check that. He took office last January. But when you’re hot, you’re hot. You never know when your time will come again.

I said to my friend, “What about the John Engler problem?” John Engler was governor of Michigan, and often cited as a presidential or vice-presidential possibility. Extremely capable, impressive man. But he was girthy. People said it was a handicap, and they were probably right. My friend said, of Christie, “My slogan for him is, ‘A big man for a big job.’”

And I loved the way Christie handled the weight issue in his gubernatorial campaign. The opposing campaign, Corzine’s, was giving him hell for his weight: emphasizing it in an ad. Christie said — and I paraphrase — “Hey, it’s a bad economy. The people who work at Dunkin’ Donuts and the International House of Pancakes? They need jobs too.”

I think that’s when I first started being a big Christie fan.



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