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Athena gets Obama

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 1:18 pm - July 30, 2011.
Filed under: Debt Crisis,National Politics,Obama Arrogance

I’d always wondered if, in 2008, Barack Obama and his political team were not as smart politically as they were lucky.  He got one fundamental thing right as he launched his campaign now more than four years ago; people wanted “change.”  And he had an organization.

In short, he had the right theme at the right time with the right organization.  But, his campaign seemed to flounder when faced with a tough offensive, the Hillary campaign when she found her second wind in the late primaries and the bounce the McCain campaign got with the Palin pick (until the media helped destroyed that accomplished Alaska reformer).

Even conservatives wanted “change.”  Conservative pundits, bloggers and activists, while (generally) genuinely liking George W. Bush and grateful for his leadership in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 as well as for his determination to win the war in Iraq, regretted that that good man didn’t do enough to hold the line on federal spending, that he failed to use his political capital to eliminate unnecessary federal programs — and to deregulate our economy.

Obama seized that mantra of change (that even conservatives hoped for) and won, even drawing in even the votes of some disgruntled conservatives and libertarians.

Now, Peggy Noonan observes that the Democrat is not good at politics*, “and he isn’t good at politics because he doesn’t really get people.”  People don’t really love him, she claims.  He’s better at tearing down than building up:

The fact is, he’s good at dismantling. He’s good at critiquing. He’s good at not being the last guy, the one you didn’t like. But he’s not good at building, creating, calling into being. He was good at summoning hope, but he’s not good at directing it and turning it into something concrete that answers a broad public desire.

And so his failures in the debt ceiling fight. He wasn’t serious, he was only shrewd—and shrewdness wasn’t enough. He demagogued the issue—no Social Security checks—until he was called out, and then went on the hustings spouting inanities. He left conservatives scratching their heads: They could have made a better, more moving case for the liberal ideal as translated into the modern moment, than he did. He never offered a plan. In a crisis he was merely sly. And no one likes sly, no one respects it.

This helps explain why the president remains insistent on blaming George W. Bush even two-and-one-half years after that good man left the White House.  The incumbent is better at critiquing than he is at turning the ambitious rhetoric of his 2008 campaign into actual policies.


*I recall reading another pundit offering a similar assessment, but my google searches have been to no avail in trying to track it down.



  1. Noonan just said Obama is an empty suit.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — July 30, 2011 @ 5:55 pm - July 30, 2011

  2. I’m glad Peggy has finally come around.

    But she has to be held to account for her tactic support of Obama in 2008. She, Colin Powell, David Frum, Chris Buckley and others convinced enough Independents and Republicans that Obama was an acceptable President.

    They have to repent… a lot.

    Comment by Bruce (GayPatriot) — July 30, 2011 @ 7:12 pm - July 30, 2011

  3. Bruce, here you and I disagree. We shouldn’t demand repentance oaths as a condition to include those who supported (or, in the case of Peggy, offered kind words of the candidate) back into the fold. The Gipper were not approve. He didn’t demand that those who supported Gerald R. Ford in 1976 repent of their error — or those who back Jimmy later that fall.

    That they fault the incumbent should serve as repentance enough. We need welcome all the support we can get in the campaign to draw attention to Obama’s flaws and to remove the big spender from office.

    2008 is behind us. The focus now must be on the battles ahead. We must move forward not dwell on the past. That’s how the Gipper would’ve seen it.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — July 30, 2011 @ 7:17 pm - July 30, 2011

  4. sorry, she still is lacking common sense. Much like the twisting and turning Ann Althouse is doing trying to justify her vote for the idiot.

    Comment by JP — July 30, 2011 @ 7:26 pm - July 30, 2011

  5. The articulate, subtle, public trashing of Obama by Noonan counts as repentance.

    Sometimes you gain more credibility as a lost sheep coming home, than one who never left the herd.

    Comment by Geena — July 30, 2011 @ 9:07 pm - July 30, 2011

  6. Well said, Geena!

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — July 30, 2011 @ 9:50 pm - July 30, 2011

  7. Peggy Noonan has a wonderful gift. She really listens to what you say and when you “turn a phrase” she catches it and immediately turns your phrase in a clever way that brings even more dimension to your original quip. She is bright, clever and very observant.

    She also lives deep in the heart of daffy liberalism. I wonder if she prefers to chip away at liberals rather than chatter with the choir.

    However, you can not dwell with the liberals without making certain treaties. Eventually, you begin to anticipate them and to find ways to avoid getting into the same old tired snark attacks. I suspect Peggy Noonan has “drifted” a bit more toward comfortable compromise than she realizes. She undoubtedly meets more than her fair share of red meat conservatives who tell her to bitch slap her opposition.

    There is nothing unusual about country club Republicans. They are adept at navigating the social waters where liberals sail. If that is your environment, you have to keep track of your principles, if not your soul.

    Those of us who have been conservative in academia have long learned to shut up and smile when our colleagues weave politics into their every narrative. That is how “they” play the game. Either you “take it” and come off as a decent sort or you retort and invite an endless pounding for being a Neanderthal.

    Comment by Heliotrope — July 31, 2011 @ 9:31 am - July 31, 2011

  8. Jonathan Capehart writes the following:

    Noonan said she asked Democrats who supported Obama how they felt about him. She got a lot of comments that backed up her claim. But she didn’t talk to my ex, Giuseppe, an Italian who came to this country to pursue the American Dream and fell head over heels for Barack Obama in 2007. He was the first person I heard speak about the then-Illinois senator in Messianic terms that made me uncomfortable. As a result, Giuseppe has become my Obama barometer. If the president loses Giuseppe, he’s sunk.

    Here is the whole Capehart “logic”:

    Comment by Heliotrope — July 31, 2011 @ 11:40 am - July 31, 2011

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