Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The mystery of Barack Obama thickens

A year after President Barack Obama's political honeymoon ended, his job approval rating has dropped to a negative 44 - 48 percent, his worst net score ever, and American voters say by a narrow 39 - 36 percent margin that they would vote for an unnamed Republican rather than President Obama in 2012, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Quinnipiac University
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Obama's falling poll numbers are not a great mystery, the economy is bad and people are suffering, it is natural that whoever is in office when things are this bad is going to see it reflected in the polls. What I do find mysterious is how Obama's once legendary power to communicate and inspire the American people seems to have totally left him, leaving the impression of a politically tone deaf technocrat.

This tone deafness is extraordinary in any professional politician: even the most modestly endowed of them, down to a town alderman, usually possess an innate ability to connect with people. Even George W. Bush, America's worst president, was able to take a bullhorn, climb up on a pile of rubble, put his arm around a fireman and be an inspiring leader, if only for a moment.

I can imagine a hundred reasons for Obama's policies to come unstuck, the ability to inspire and the ability to get things done are not the same, Obama had never actually done anything before becoming president he was elected because of his power to uplift and inspire.

As many lovers will testify, the ability to seduce and the ability to perform do not always go hand in hand. In Presidential politics John Kennedy was a perfect example. JFK never ever really got much done, but he never lost his power to seduce and to charm the American people. Time has revealed a disturbingly dark side to Kennedy that I'm sure the future will never reveal in Obama, but Kennedy's way with words and his ability to sway people never left him, no matter how mediocre his actual performance was. But Obama's power of seduction seems to have left him completely.

In a previous post I wrote that this disappearance of precisely the qualities that took Barack Obama meteorically from total obscurity to the White House, in an astoundingly short time, was so sudden, so abrupt, that it reminded me of some sort of witch's curse from a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, as if his "three wishes" had been used up getting to the presidency and the Good Fairy had decamped... Cinderella's carriage turning into a pumpkin and the horses into mice. Magic to get there and poof, the magic disappears...

I'm not surprised that he can't get much done, Bush left things so screwed up that even FDR or Lincoln would have had trouble sorting it all out, but I cannot remember anything as mysterious as Obama's sudden lost charisma in a whole lifetime of observing politics and politicians. DS


Anonymous said...

He never had it. You fell for a novelty act,a cleaver marketing ploy.After the November elections, the world will begin to see the manufactured person behind the curtin and his puppet masters. Sorry Dave, you and alot of other people have been conned. Own up to it and admit this was a mistake that you and your fellow kool-aid drinkers have forced upon those who knew better...from the beginning.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Wow, if you think I'M a huge Obama fan, it shows you don't read me very often, if ever before. I came to the conclusion early on that he was an empty suit.

stunted said...

Anonymous' comment is a breathtaking example of fingers-in-the-ears, eyes-closed moralising that the internet seems to have liberated in some individuals. The problem they face is that, with their fingers in their ears, it's harder to pat themselves on the back.

About your post, Obama is like a demagogue in search of a public to pander to. He's more Republican than leftist, but they don't want to have anything to do with him, no matter how eager he is to please, as the Shirley Sharrod farce sadly demonstrates, yet again. All Bush had to be was himself-the guy(for some ,apparently) you'd like to have a beer with. Obama always had this otherness about him that was part of his appeal, looking toward a post-Bush era on the horizon. Now, he's just the prez; real, concrete and his otherness has become a weapon the teabaggers are beating him with.

Now, for progressives, it's the long morning after, and they don't know who the guy next to them is. I'm not sure Obama even knows who he is, beyond being a centrist. He allowed Americans to believe that we could now move, in electing him, beyond race--a glowing demonstration of our "we're number one" status in the world. Professor Gates, Shirley Sharrod and the NAACP take the shine off that glow and the teabaggers are taking the grinder to it. Obama benefitted as well from the disastrous Bush years, the legacy of which, as you point out, now has him so hobbled. He was so not-Bush that people clung to him like a life raft and didn't pay attention. When you're drowning, the life raft is your whole universe. It's useless when you get back to terra firma and the daily grind. Charisma doesn't fill the potholes strewn down America's current center-of-the-road. They're growing into sinkholes and he isn't up to the task. He will never recapture the power to communicate he once had, I think, because the ethereal, forward-looking quality of a campaign where charisma can work its magic has been replaced by the grit and sweat that navigating a shitty road requires. At least not until the 2011 election machine starts revving up....

Forensic Economist said...

I voted for him not because I thought he was the savior but a reasonable centrist democrat, the return of Bill Clinton. I think we got the return of Bush 1.

Headline in this morning's business section of the SF Chronicle "Dining with Obama puts CEOs in Winning Circle as Shares Outperform". The article advises buying shares of companies whose CEO just had dinner at the Whitehouse.

oldfatherwilliam said...

Stunted has it about right, IMO, except that the problems of system collapse are virtually unsurmountable in any honest manner, especially while under continuous demagogic attack. You're surely not wishing for the bozo to ignore them or the honeydripper to divert us while it all churns on, but you're right that he could be much more effective at dealing with the neanderthalism. I'm thinking that it's important to save the heavy artillery for the real need. 2011 will tell the tale.

stunted said...

Forensic's is a realistic assessment of candidate Obama, but other people, and a lot of them, were wrapping him in the messianic mantle: Spike Lee's "he's going to change everything"; a slew of progressive websites and their commenters who slammed Hillary because she represented her husband's DNC-endorsed, centrist triangulation; people in my little inner circle of family and friends. America is still a bit foreign to me after most of my adult years in France and nuance isn't my strong suit, so I could be out to lunch on just about everything.

Now that Old Father brings it up, there is something of the honeydripper in Obama's reforms (in someone's dictionary) of healthcare and finance. He has repeatedly shut out any lefty ideas, to the point of calling universal healthcare un-American, another term that could use a definition. It's as if he were mimicing Cheney's energy panel. We always seem to be holding the heavy artillery for some future time that is always in the future, like the sign outside a dive here in Florida, "Free beer tomorrow."
The problems are huge; agreed. If the system is collapsing, changing the wallpaper isn't going to cut it. If Obama is our Gorbatchev, I shudder at who's gonna be Eltsin.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

To me the mystery thickens, the distance between what was sold and what is being delivered is so great... The positive side is that it showed that the American people are still able to dream and to hope big and the down side is that there are still Americans whose core philosophy is "there is one born every minute".