Monday, March 15, 2010

Obama's Not Happy Enough?

I've read editorials that are more shallow, more superficial, often with Fred Hiatt's imprimatur, but not recently. Fred Hiatt cherry picks some quotes to suggest that the President is insufficiently enthusiastic (by Hiatt's measure) for the job.
I started thinking about this a few weeks ago when Obama confidant David Axelrod, noting that the president always makes time for his daughters' recitals and soccer games, told the New York Times, "I think that's part of how he sustains himself through all this."

Really? Is the presidency something to sustain yourself through?
Yes, Fred, it is. Take a modern President at random, let's say on inauguration day. Take a look at his picture. Now take a look at his picture when he left office. Would you call that normal age progression?

Hiatt wants a President who schmoozes with foreign leaders "like President George H.W. Bush"... Um, because G.W. had such a reputation as a charmer? And G.W. managed to avoid having any "prickly" relations with the leaders of allied nations due to his "schmoozing?" Hiatt's source on this is his deputy editor, Jackson Diehl, who complains that Bush had close relationships with "Aznar of Spain, Uribe of Colombia, Sharon and Olmert of Israel, Koizumi of Japan". Not that I want to understate the importance of any of those allies, but isn't Diehl damning the man with faint praise? (And omitting schmoozing that is unseemly or betrays really bad judgment?)

Hiatt wants somebody who horse-trades and twists arms like Lyndon Johnson... Um, because there's been none of that from the White House?
President Barack Obama's treatment of lawmakers far exceeds the strong-armed tactics once employed by President Lyndon Johnson, a GOP senator argued Thursday.
As they say, it all depends on whose ox is getting gored.

Hiatt complains that Obama doesn't put "his feet up on his desk after a long day and chewing over events with aides", purporting that unnamed "insiders" describe Obama as preferring brisk meetings and spending time with his family. Um... one obvious response is in bad taste. Another... what's wrong with wanting brisk, efficient meetings, even if a few aides would like to spend more time face-to-face with the President? Another... who cares, other than Obama's aides and Fred Hiatt, how much face time they get with the President?

Hiatt admits that one of the things he likes (he says "we", but c'mon) about Obama is that he "doesn't get a kick out of adoring throngs", but nonetheless complains that Obama doesn't recharge by going to campaign events and wading into the crowd. "Obama will do that if he has to, to save his health-care bill. But he can't persuade us he gets much of a kick out of it." "We" like that about him - Fred Hiatt argues that it shows that he's a "secure, self-confident adult" - so, apparently, he should change his ways and start convincing Fred Hiatt that he gets a kick from campaigning? (Time to update the old Cole Porter song?)
We understand that, even without war and recession, it wouldn't be easy. His predecessor partied and stuck him with the tab. The Republicans are reliably obstructionist; his Democrats reliably unreliable. The media are carping, superficial and relentless. He is a prisoner of the Secret Service.
That superficial media... What's Hiatt's job, again?

Hiatt states that upon coming to Washington, "the Obamas and their circle spoke about the honor of service and the excitement of being in the nation's capital," but a year later, according to People Magazine - yes, the celebrity gossip weekly,
"It was their first interview of the New Year on Jan. 8 in the rose-colored library on the ground floor of the White House. President Obama spoke in such a hush about the loneliness of his decisions on war and terrorism that one could hear between his words the tick of an old lighthouse clock across the room."
Hiatt asks,
Do Americans really want to hear the tick of the old lighthouse clock? Or would they prefer the good cheer that we associate with FDR or JFK, the jauntiness with which they took over the White House and made it theirs?
Yes, Fred, you're right. The American people want to hear the President speak cheerfully and jauntily when he describes how he makes decisions on war and terrorism. Thank you for asking. You can go out and play now.

No comments:

Post a Comment