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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 12/17/2010

Obama's problems: personality and policy

By Jennifer Rubin

Today Michael Gersonilluminates President Obama's unique ability to offend and alienate opposing sides of an issue. Perhaps we should give it a name (Obamanomia?):

Rather than explaining the economic benefits of the bill and taking quiet credit for a moment of bipartisanship, Obama launched into an assault on both partners and opponents. Republicans are "hostage-takers" who worship the "Holy Grail" of trickle-down economics. Liberal opponents are "sanctimonious," preferring their own purity to the interests of the poor. The president did not just attack the policy positions of nearly everyone in the political class. He publicly questioned their motives.

It is difficult to imagine the president's advisers sitting in the Oval Office and urging this approach: "Mr. President, the best course here would be to savage likely supporters of the bill and to embitter your political base. This will show just how principled you are, in contrast to the corruption and fanaticism all around you." There can be little doubt this communications strategy was Obama's own.

This is not an isolated instance, of course. He managed to enrage conservatives and independents while disappointing liberals on health-care reform (as he bitterly reminded us during his news conference temper tantrum). In the Middle East, he figured out how to anger the Israelis, let down the Palestinians, annoy American Jews and frustrate the Arab states, which would rather he focus on the real menace (i.e. the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran).

So how does Obama manage to do it? Well, part of the problem, as Michael points out, is his public persona. (That's a nice way of saying "his personality.") "He is alternately defiant, defensive, exasperated, resentful, harsh, scolding, prickly. He is both the smartest kid in class and the schoolyard bully." So naturally, after a small dose of this, all sides find him more than a bit insufferable.

But there is something else at work here. His arrogance is inversely related to his intellectual flexibility and depth of understanding. Did he understand that going to Cairo to spout back to the Palestinians their victimology was counterproductive? Guess not. Did he grasp that his anti-Wall Street rhetoric was not helping our economic outlook? Apparently not. Did he perceive that closing Guantanamo was a pipe dream, not simply a function of his predecessor's stubbornness? No. He embarks on no-win propositions, derides those who question his understanding of the issues, and then blames others when his gambits fizzle. With two notable exceptions -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- he has made flawed policy choices, leaving detractors gleeful and supporters annoyed when things inevitably go haywire (e.g. the stimulus plan doesn't keep unemployment at 8 percent).

By eliminating the worst options for him (e.g. killing the omnibus spending bill), Republicans may spare him from bad policy moves. But no one other than Obama can save him from his own haughtiness and peevishness. He will either learn to mask his lack of respect for his political opponents, his supporters, the media and his fellow countrymen, or he won't. Repairing those relationships may be just as daunting as reviving the economy.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 17, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  President Obama  
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Next: Why Paul Ryan excites conservatives

Comments

You call it what you will(all true) but there's a method to Obama's madness. It's called "Divide and conquer." Legislatively, it appears to be working. Rest-assured, his handlers will clean up the mess by 2012, although polls show he has remarkably held onto his personal ratings despite all.

Posted by: PolitiHAL | December 17, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

The new comeback kid
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, December 17, 2010
"If Barack Obama wins reelection in 2012, as is now more likely than not, historians will mark his comeback as beginning on Dec. 6, the day of the Great Tax Cut Deal of 2010.
Obama had a bad November. Self-confessedly shellacked in the midterm election, he fled the scene to Asia and various unsuccessful meetings, only to return to a sad-sack lame-duck Congress with ghostly dozens of defeated Democrats wandering the halls.
Now, with his stunning tax deal, Obama is back. Holding no high cards, he nonetheless managed to resurface suddenly not just as a player but as orchestrator, dealmaker and central actor in a high $1 trillion drama."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/16/AR2010121604846.html

Posted by: rcaruth | December 17, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

"The greatest mistake Ronald Reagan's opponents ever made - and they made it over and over again - was to underestimate him. Same with Obama. The difference is that Reagan was so deeply self-assured that he invited underestimation - low expectations are a priceless political asset - whereas Obama's vanity makes him always needing to appear the smartest guy in the room. Hence that display of prickliness in his disastrous post-deal news conference last week.
But don't be fooled by defensive style or thin-skinned temperament. The president is a very smart man. How smart? His comeback is already a year ahead of Clinton's"
Krauthammer

Posted by: rcaruth | December 17, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

If Obama Wins in 2012…
John Podhoretz - 12.17.2010 - 6:26 AM
… he will do so because of what happened in Washington yesterday. The tax-cut deal passed.

Your old boss hooks up with CK,but Jennifer,it was really smart of you to fly the Contentions Coop,JP is a very screwed up person.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 17, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

This is what you get when the MSM and the intellectual elites go in the tank. For a year we were told (ad nauseum) experience didn't matter and BHO was a man of superior temperment, despite there being no evidence to support such a thesis. In fact, the available evidence clearly pointed to the exact opposite - the entirely leftist voting record; the off-hand socialism to Joe the Plumber; the associations with despicable characters Wright, Ayers, and Rezko; and, the juvenile flipping of the bird to Hillary Clinton all pointed to a very immature and callow man totally unfit for high office.

Posted by: ajweick | December 17, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

This is what you get when the MSM and the intellectual elites go in the tank. For a year we were told (ad nauseum) experience didn't matter and BHO was a man of superior temperment, despite there being no evidence to support such a thesis
Posted by: ajweick

Krauthammer and Podhoretz are not MSM elites.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 17, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Obama is an equal opportunity offender. He is offensive to everybody. Obama has a towering ego like the late ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

Obama's ego mania is actually a good thing. It should make his re-election defeat that much easier.

Posted by: alance | December 17, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer:

"But no one other than Obama can save him from his own haughtiness and peevishness. He will either learn to mask his lack of respect for his political opponents, his supporters, the media and his fellow countrymen, or he won't. Repairing those relationships may be just as daunting as reviving the economy."

this was well written!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 17, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I think that health care reform is a great idea. I have type 1 diabetes and for me to get insurance, it was a nightmare until I found "Wise Health Insurance" search for them online and you can get affordable health insurance instantly.

Posted by: patewart | December 17, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

WOW! Deleting every single comment that doesn't agree with this frightwing witch is outrageous! Who is in charge of editing this piece of crap?

Posted by: fingersfly | December 17, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Back to the old "uppity Negro" meme, eh, Jennifer? Keep using it. It's worked so well thus far.

Posted by: dailyfare | December 17, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

"Uppity negro meme"?? Wow. What's the reasoning here? Oh, I see. Quite a syllogism: (1) "Haughty" is a fancy word for "uppity." (2) There is such a thing as the offensive phrase "uppity negro." (3) Obama is an African-American. (4) Referring to Obama as "haughty" is therefore the same as calling him an "uppity negro." Brilliant. The first sign of trouble with this ingenious reasoning is that that it requires no fewer than four steps. The second is that neither 2 nor 3 nor 4 follow from what precedes them. In addition, Obama -- even if he were green or purple -- would still be arguably the most conceited and narcissistic personage seen in public life for a very long time. "Worked so well"? I'm glad to say I don't see that it's ever been tried. Obama is about to descend into the 30's in public job approval entirely on his own merits.

Posted by: Jeroboam | December 17, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Jeroboam: Bravo!

I was hoping that we would not see the likes of "dailyfare" and "fingersfly" at this blog. Hopefully, Rcauth's occasional tweeks ("that's funny") will be the extent of ad hominem comments directed at commenters and, particulary, Jennifer Rubin.

I predict, however, that as this blog gains more readers and commenters and its point of view gains traction, we will see the squeals of some very nasty people like "fly" and "fare."

Posted by: DocC1 | December 17, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Who is pulling the string and making his mouth move? Maybe he just needs a new writer? Oh well, time for another Luxury vacation on the Peoples dime.

Posted by: CayC | December 18, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

This is the great articulator when he fails to get his way.
Get used to it, we'll be seeing more and more!

Posted by: Beniyyar | December 18, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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