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The Corner

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The President’s Problem



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All sorts of Democratic operatives and columnists are advising Obama to do A through Z, in near panic that the near-even polls in dozens of states are like light taps to an egg shell — ostensibly not serious at first until the entire surface in an unexpected subsequent moment implodes. But none of the advice mentions the president’s basic problem: He cannot outline a vision of economic recovery without blaming someone or something for his current problems.

No sooner does he talk about jobs then up come the snarls about George W. Bush, the do-nothing Congress, the EU meltdown, ATMs, etc. It took the American people 3–4 years to appreciate that beneath Obama’s mellifluous speechifying and cool appearance, he whines and accuses 24/7 rather than unites and energizes, and is proving the most divisive figure in American politics since Richard Nixon. And their carefully developed sense of Obama — that he whines like Jimmy Carter rather than schmoozes and compromises like Bill Clinton — cannot easily be dispelled.

One can see that with the off-reservation remarks of people like Bill Clinton, Ed Rendell, and Cory Booker, all of whom in his place would have cut out the class-warfare boilerplate, adopted the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles plan, sat down with Republican leaders to find ways to cut the deficit, and talked about we and us rather than I, me, and my. Bringing out Michelle Obama to the campaign trail is suicidal; her favorability rating is now high precisely because it has been nearly four years since she quit the 2007–08 “never been proud”/“downright mean country”/“raise the bar”/“deign to run”/us vs. them stump speeches — and will plunge again if, in the long next five months, she proves true to campaign form.



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