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Obama’s big-vision rhetoric & his mini-issue presidency

At least since his 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama has frequently spoken in lofty terms, appealing, it would seem, to the better angels of our nature. Yet, in his unscripted moments, he has often clung to bitter phrases of resentment. And since taking on the chief executive’s governing responsibilities, some of that unscripted resentment has become the scripted remarks of the President of the United States.

Yesterday, I quoted this passage from his speech in 2008 accepting the Democratic nomination for president:

. . if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone that people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

Increasingly, we see that he is making his reelection campaign about small things.  Note that Obama’s chief campaign strategist, not just the Romney-obsessed legacy media, has attempted to make an issue of Mitt Romney’s dog.  “In late January, for example,” reports the Washington Examiner‘s Byron York

. . . top Obama campaign aide David Axelrod sent out a tweet that included a photo of Obama with his Portuguese water dog Bo in the back seat of the presidential limousine. “How loving owners transport their dogs,” Axelrod wrote.

It wasn’t a random comment. “They’re obsessed with the dog thing,” liberal journalist Chris Hayes said on his MSNBC program Sunday morning, referring to the Obama campaign. “And the reason is that, I have heard, in focus groups, the dog story totally tanks Mitt Romney’s approval rating.”

This appears to be a pattern for the Obama White House as well as the Obama campaign.  Yesterday, dubbing Obama’s the Mini-Issue Presidency, Jim Geraghty provided examples of how the incumbent embraces the smallest of small-ball, citing some of the little issues on which the president has spent a great deal of time.

Guess, to borrow an expression, this “shiny-object strategy of campaigning” distracts a legacy media favorably disposed to the incumbent from the administration’s various scandals and failed policies.  Not to mention the failure of the incumbent to propose a budget capable of securing a single Democratic vote in the House or of passing the Democratic Senate.



  1. The “Mini-Issue Presidency” and the “shiny-object strategy of campaigning” keep Obama in the news without committing him to much, if anything. Right now, Romney dominates and Obama has to keep himself noticed. If he can cause Romney to react, so much the better.

    Here is how Saul Alinsky stated it:

    Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.

    Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”

    Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.

    Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”

    So, Obama throws a rock in the pond and counts the ripples and then moves on.

    Comment by heliotrope — April 19, 2012 @ 5:10 pm - April 19, 2012

  2. in focus groups, the dog story totally tanks Mitt Romney’s approval rating.

    If this is true, maybe the Democrats are right, maybe voters are stupid (in general). I cannot think of any reason why something that likely happened 30 years ago or more, and something so completely irrelevant, would possibly affect the outcome of the election. The only explanation I can think of is that the electorate is stupid.

    Incidentally, I don’t give a s*** that Obama ate a dog, but it might as well be mentioned whenever someone brings up Romney’s dog (and then the topic be immediately changed to something important).

    Comment by Rattlesnake — April 19, 2012 @ 5:38 pm - April 19, 2012

  3. Obama is your average hardcore left-winger: being morally and intellectually empty, he likes to talk lofty-sounding ideals that he can never deliver on. To deflect attention from his failures, he attacks others – projecting his own bad qualities onto them, since his own bad qualities are the ones he knows best.

    Your Obama quote is a perfect illustration:

    . . if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone that people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

    While pretending to take the high road, Obama attributed to his opponents what we now clearly see are *his own* bad qualities.

    The “dog thing” may be yet another example. Last I heard, Obama isn’t averse to eating dogs. So naturally, he’d want to make Willard Mittens out to be a bad dog owner because of something he did 3 decades ago (that may well have been reasonable at the time, or in-context).

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — April 19, 2012 @ 7:48 pm - April 19, 2012

  4. Treacher:

    Romney put a dog on top of a car. Obama put a dog on top of rice. #WeWillNotBeSilenced


    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — April 19, 2012 @ 7:50 pm - April 19, 2012

  5. More Treacher:

    I know the Secret Service has a lot to deal with right now, but are they protecting Bo? From Obama, I mean.

    Update: Obama would never put a dog on top of a car. Dries out the meat.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — April 19, 2012 @ 7:54 pm - April 19, 2012

  6. P.S. Mittens should announce the “Dog Days of Summer”. For 3 days, say in June, he will give ostentatious press conferences where he does nothing but answer questions about dogs… including Obama’s. Hang a lantern on your problem!

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — April 19, 2012 @ 7:57 pm - April 19, 2012

  7. I think the Romney and the dog carrier issue is idiotic, and only an idiot would think it’s an important issue. Maybe Levi, Cas, or Insipidity could explain to me why it matters.

    Comment by V the K — April 19, 2012 @ 8:18 pm - April 19, 2012

  8. Also, the MFM is trying to generate a Romney “scandal” out of an innocuous comment about… COOKIES!

    Good Lord. So, Romney joking about cookies is a scandal, or a gaffe. But the following are not Obama scandals according to the MFM:

    – The $800K “Mock the Taxpayers” Party at the GSA
    – 300 Mexicans Dead Because of Fast and Furious
    – 2 American Border Agents dead because of F&F
    – Billions squandered on Solyndra and other Green Energy boondoggles.

    Never mind Obama’s incompetence; get outraged because of ‘CookieGate.’

    And it’s not a gaffe when President Super Genius can’t tell the Maldives from the Malvinas.

    Comment by V the K — April 19, 2012 @ 8:37 pm - April 19, 2012

  9. I have been trying to picture the Romney-mobile with a beloved pet strapped on the roof of the Family Truckser. My problem in getting the picture is because Hammacher Schlemmer sold “kennels” for transporting hunting dogs in such a manner.

    If you think about wheeling down the highway with a few thoroughbreds keeping their balance as you dodge and weave, you can appreciate the difference between animal cruelty and animal husbandry.

    Every hunter who takes his dogs to a prime spot has to cage them humanely and get them there.

    I never knew Shamus (Romney’s family pet), but I will bet he loved the ride, the open air, the snapping at the wind and a quick river swim at the end. I seriously doubt that he was drugged and petrified and came out of it as a piddling freak who snapped at children.

    Since I am in NYC, I wonder if Shamus was more abused than the average giant dog that waits in an apartment to be walked by a paid stranger with a lot of other vanity stroking pets.

    For years, I had a dog that needed to run. I would take a back road and drive along at a moderate speed as he loped down the side of the road. When we both had had enough, I would take him to the river where he would retrieve stones I tossed to him. Then he would ride, triumphantly, in the back of my pick-em-up truck with his front paws on the roof and his ears blowing behind him. When we got home, he would roll in the grass and run around my wife and pretend to snap at her ankles. She had a butcher bone waiting for him and he cannibalized the daylights out of it.

    My major problem was driving off after telling him he couldn’t go. He thoroughly loved being the master of the quarter deck. If he could have ridden on the hood, it would have been his favorite spot in the world.

    Now, it seems, such pleasure is only to be derived from pure bred city dogs sticking their muzzles out of the windows in the back seats of BMW’s.

    The imbedded snottiness directed at Romney for his cheerful family memory is typical of know-it-all liberals. In the 1970’s, I was hauling small children in the “way back” of our station wagon and trying my best not to roll them off balance on the turns. Seat belts were in the front and rare in the back and car seats were flimsy and more like booster seats than crash protection. Somehow, we managed to raise our kids.

    When I was a kid in the early 40’s, my favorite spot was on the ledge behind the rear seat and the back window. There were no seat belts in sight and the car had suicide doors.

    All of this is not to belittle modern “helicopter parenting” or positive safety rules. But I seriously doubt that old Shamus was strapped down with so many bungee cords to accommodate the cold-hearted Romney family.

    Comment by heliotrope — April 19, 2012 @ 9:57 pm - April 19, 2012

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