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Obama Projects his Insecurities on His Unpopular Critics:
Or How “Darth Vader” Defeated the Man on the Pink Unicorn

The contrast between the incumbent President of the United States and the immediate past Vice President was not just in their near simultaneous speeches on Thursday, but in their reasons for giving them. The President had to react to the former Vice President’s; the Vice President merely wanted to set the record straight.

Whereas Obama is “uncomfortable with dissenting voices being heard without a rebuttal,” Cheney has no interest in winning a popularity contest.  He could care less about the media warming to him.  Yet, even pundits and journalists from outlets not normally sympathetic to conservatives consider the Wyoming Republican got the better of the Chicago Democrat in their recent exchange.

In an “Analysis” piece for AP, Walter Mears offers:

In political debate, the side that keeps its arguments simple and repeats them again and again is likely to gain the advantage. It is an easier sale, especially when the topic is as scary as terrorism.

That’s how Republicans got the edge in the dispute over President Barack Obama’s planned closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison. And it put former Vice President Dick Cheney on a separate but almost equal platform with the president of the United States, which is a plus any time the party out of power can manage it.

Pointing out that even CBS News’s Bob Schieffer thought that the Republican won this “on points,” Jennifer Rubin found that picking a fight with an unpopular figure doesn’t necessarily redound to the benefit of someone with better poll numbers:

sneering at Dick Cheney’s ability to rebut the president ranks up there as some of the most misguided punditry in recent memory. This episode serves to remind us that politics is still about facts and how effectively the facts are marshaled. It is not purely a contest of personalities (although that counts for more than pundits on both sides would like to admit).

Perhaps, if Obama had not been so thin-skinned, he wouldn’t have gotten himself into this “mess.”  This president seems to have a pattern of projecting his own insecurities onto unpopular critics.  (Remember, his advisors’ attempts to smear Rush Limbaugh?)  But, just as Rubin noted people respond to more than just personalities.  Facts matter, ideas matter.

As the President should have learned this week, popularity contests can take you only so far in politics.  They may help you win elections, in the battle of ideas, they won’t suffice, especially when your adversary comes prepared.

(I want to acknowledge my blogging nephew Mitchell whose timely e-mail today on this very topic helped me frame my argument.)

Obama’s (Increasingly) Irritating Earnestness

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 4:32 pm - May 23, 2009.
Filed under: Obama Watch

There was something about Barack Obama I liked in the first part of last year’s presidential campaign.  Perhaps it was just the contrast between him and Hillary Clinton, his chief rival for the Democratic nomination.  He spoke well, he looked good.  For a while, it seemed that this charismatic (relatively) young man could really unite the nation.

He showed respect for conservatives and our ideas.  He appreciated the greatness of the Gipper.

But, as the campaign wore on, it became increasingly apparent that there wasn’t much novelty behind his charismatic façade.  He was the most liberal member of the Senate.  His policy proposals were little more than recycled liberal ideas of the past forty years.  The “change” he proposed merely represented a return to the pre-Bill Clinton Democratic Party.

Since he’s become president, I’ve found him far less compelling a figure than I had a year previously.  His speeches seem little more than strings of cliches.  And when he talks to us, as he does all too frequently, he smiles far less than he did during the campaign, as if he believes an air of solemnity is necessary to project an image of gravitas.  He just has to show us how important he is.

In the end, he appears just to be feigning earnestness and it’s becoming increasingly irritating.  The austerity of his expression won’t make up for the banality of his rhetoric.  As Peggy Noonan observed just over a year ago, “when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own–you see the speech wasn’t all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate.”

That wise pundit isn’t the only one to notice that there’s nothing new or original behind the charming mask.   The Telegraph’s James Delingpole also finds there’s no there there:

Now, it’s becoming clear that this carefully worked, glacial poise is all there is to Obama. He’s just a hollow man spouting empty rhetoric. . . . (more…)

Obama’s Speech: His Need to Convince Himself He’s Not Bush?

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 12:00 pm - May 23, 2009.
Filed under: Obama Watch,Random Thoughts

Sometimes something strikes you as a odd about a a choice someone has made.  You find it somehow defines the person making it, even if you’re not sure how, like when a friend who never particularly liked a certain genre of movie suddenly takes an interest in that genre.  Or when he stops talking about a subject that once fascinated him.

You think it means something, but you’re just not sure what.

Such was my thought when I had read that the President has scheduled his Thursday speech “shortly after news surfaced that [former Vice President Cheney was planning his. Aides scheduled it for the hour just before the former vice president’s planned appearance at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think thank.”  It struck me as oddly reactive that the President of the United States would time an address to coincide with that of a critic.

It seemed more a campaign tactic than a mark of bold or effective leadership.  As if he still feels he’s running against someone.  But, it seemed there was more to it than that.  I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

But, where I failed, Toby Harnden and William A. Jacobson succeeded.  Building on Harnden’s observation that “the very fact that Obama chose to schedule his speech (Cheney’s was announced first) at exactly the same time as the former veep was a sign of some weakness,” Jacobson offers:

I think it’s more than weakness. Rather, Obama seems uncomfortable with dissenting voices being heard without a rebuttal. The war of words is one Obama is confident he can win if only he is heard, which is why Obama constantly is holding prime time press conferences, giving major speeches, and so on. While the need to counter-schedule a speech to offset Cheney’s previously planned speech reflects weakness for sure, it also reflects a lack of faith on Obama’s part in the ability of the American people to decide important issues.

I don’t think we’ve ever seen a President so ubiquitous.  If Obama is constantly preparing for and making public speeches, he necessarily has less time to think seriously about issues and consults with advisors–and even opponents–on the matters facing the country.

There is something more to it than this.  It may be that Obama, unlike Reagan, lacks a clear political philosophy which he believes is best for the nation.  He can’t just put ideas out there and let the American people consider them on their own.  He has to put himself out there.

If he had confidence in his ideas, he would have more faith in the American people.  Or maybe he just needs to convince himself.  And that’s why, as Jacobson put it, he seems so uncomfortable with dissenting voices.  That remind him of his own uncertainty.