Magazine July 5, 2010, Issue

Message: I’m Insecure

President Barack Obama delivers remarks in the East Room of the White House, June 22, 2010. (Jason Reed/Reuters)
What the president’s oil-spill bluster revealed about him.

Rule One of great acting is, Do not read the stage directions.

You don’t, for instance, wrap up Hamlet’s big Act Two soliloquy — “ . . . the play’s the thing / Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” — and then say “Exit.”

Years ago, during the George H. W. Bush administration, public-opinion surveys began to register a troubling trend for a president campaigning for reelection: More and more people felt that Bush just didn’t care about people’s suffering during the (fairly shallow) recession of the early 1990s.

You’ve got to send them the message that you care, they told him. So, dutifully, in

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Helen Thomas was a fixture — a reporter for 40 years, a columnist for ten — always a plus in Washington. She was a left-wing scold: another plus.

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