The Campaign Spot

Obama’s Speech: More of Our Familiar National Background Music

From the final Morning Jolt of Convention Week:

In Awful Mix-Up, Networks Accidentally Air Compilation of Past Obama State of the Union Pledges

I think Barack Obama has said everything that he has to say. If I were the vice president, I would add, literally.

I know that not everyone listens to the president as often as I do, or perhaps you do, but last night felt like a real rehash of familiar pledges and promises and predictable jabs and reheated “audacity of hope, insert-soaring-imagery here” rhetoric. I think Obama has reached the point where he just doesn’t have much more to tell us that we haven’t heard many times before.

This was not a bad speech, per se. I’m sure the folks in Luntz’s focus group will nod approvingly at the appropriate moments. But Obama’s voice, saying these sorts of things, has been the background music of our lives since 2007. We’ve seen a State of the Union every year. Quite a few joint addresses to Congress. More than one major national address during his sales pitch for Obamacare. An Oval Office address after Deepwater Horizon. Lord knows, Obama loves to go out of Washington and do some “official” event that sounds like a campaign event. Appearances on the trail for Deeds and Corzine in 2009, for Martha Coakley in 2010, for plenty of Democrats in the midterms. He speaks at just about every fundraiser, does several of them a day, does his interviews with local television, tapes his television commercials and web videos and weekly addresses . . . Is it safe to assume that Barack Obama has given more speeches before audiences in a four-year span than any other president?

We’ve joked about Obama’s verbal tics — both small (“Let me be clear”) and large (“Some say we should choose this extreme path on the right . . . Some say we should choose this extreme path on the left . . . but I think we should take this path that I will call the middle, but is still pretty darn left.”). I’ve joked about how predictable most of these convention speeches are, and you and I could have pre-written a lot of Obama’s lines Thursday night.

If we’re tired of hearing these speeches, is it that unlikely that some part of Obama is tired of giving them? Some might argue that Obama’s reelection campaign began shortly after the inauguration, but with the Republicans beginning their campaigns in mid-2011, Obama has been out, making this case, throwing his punches, laying out his contrasts, time and again, day in and day out, for about 16 months now.

We’ve given the president grief for his Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard vacations and weekly golf games, but maybe we’re seeing the consequence of a president not being able to stop, get away from it all, clear his head, look at things with a fresh mind and eyes. The job of the presidency doesn’t really give him time to step away from everything he’s done so far, and think and reflect and reexamine the decisions he’s made. We keep hearing from Democrats that they know things haven’t turned out as well as they hoped when they took power in 2009. Okay, why? Do they still want to cling (bitterly?) to the headwinds/ATMs/Europe/Arab Spring/earthquakes litany of excuses? Why do they think they can’t use the word “stimulus” on the campaign trail anymore? Why did Obamacare cost them the House and a bunch of Senate seats? Does Obama look at GM and its issues, and then look at Ford, not taking any government aid, and ever wonder why those companies are the way they are?

The “knowing now what you didn’t know then, what would you do differently?” question from the press is usually seen as a trap, a “gotcha” question, but it’s actually a really important measuring stick for a leader. How do you respond to difficulties and efforts that don’t succeed? Can you admit mistakes? Can you reassess and come up with new approaches? Or are you locked in on your approach, and going to continue the same thing, predicting or hoping that at some point that the results will be dramatically different?

Ross Douthat: “I thought the people who talked about Clinton overshadowing the President were just looking for Clinton drama. But they were so, so right.”

S. E. Cupp: “That speech was . . . perfunctory. I give it a ‘meh.’ DNC had far more effective messengers than Obama.”

Jon Ralston: “I think the president was just saving himself for his big Vegas speech next Wednesday.”

Richard Grenell: “You can get elected on hope, but you can’t get re-elected on hope.”

Anthony Cumia: “Hey, this guy sounds great! He should take over for the guy that didn’t do all this stuff the past four years.”

Doc Zero: “’Hope and change’ tastes stale and flat when it comes out of the $5 trillion microwave.”

Ben Smith: “Oba-meh.”

Molly Ball of the Atlantic: “Convo in the press box: ‘What kind of photo do you want for your story?’ ‘I want Obama looking disappointing.’”

Most Popular


‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’

It was just one more segment to fill out the hour, and thereby fill the long 24 hours of Saturday’s cable news on November 2. Or so it seemed. Navy SEAL Mike Ritland was on the Fox News program Watters World to talk to Jesse Watters about trained German shepherds like the one used in the raid that found ... Read More

What Do Republican Voters Want?

The latest entry in the post-Trump conservatism sweepstakes was Marco Rubio’s speech at the Catholic University of America in early November. The Florida senator made the case for a “common-good capitalism” that looks on markets in the light of Catholic social thought. “We must remember that our nation ... Read More

A Defining Statement of Modern Conservatism

The greatest documents in American history never lose their ability to astonish. They deserve, and repay, careful study, and inevitably have contemporary resonances no matter how long ago they were written or uttered. There’s no doubt that Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” belongs in the top ranks ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Woes and DACA Throes

This excerpt is from episode 176 of The Editors. Charlie: Yesterday was the day on which the rain stopped and the sun hid behind the clouds and the eyes of the nation turned in unison toward Capitol Hill for the first day of public hearings in the impeachment of Donald Trump. The results of that first day were ... Read More