Obama's weak hand
I agree with Maureen Dowd on virtually nothing. But now and then she meanders close to the mark. Dowd writes of President Obama's press conference yesterday:
Obama used to play poker in the Illinois Legislature, but it's hard to believe. First, he cried uncle to Republicans standing in the corner, holding their breath and turning blue. Then, in his White House press conference, he was defensive, a martyr for the middle class.
Well, it was faux martyr-dom, actually, because the Republicans were perfectly willing, demanding in fact, that the middle class be sheltered from a tax hike. Obama was actually a martyr on the altar of class warfare that has provided the fervor and the rhetoric for his party for decades.
What is accurate in Dowd's description, however, is the sense that this whole governing thing -- the public salesmanship, the deal making, the explaining -- is not Obama's strong suit. It was disturbing at some level to see him, rendered so hapless, frustrated and angry. So much for the "superior temperament" we kept hearing about during the campaign. As Dowd uncharitably put it, "There's an argument to be made for what the president did, but he doesn't look good doing it." In fact, many conservative pundits, think tankers, staffers and office holders think it's a bit pricey, but a fine deal. So to put it differently, there is an argument for conservatives to accept the deal, but little reason other than resignation to reality for liberals to do so.
Let's be honest here: a lot of being president is the aura of authority and the projection of strength and competence. Right now, does anyone on either end of the political spectrum think he's demonstrating those traits? Well, Dowd and Rubin sure don't, and that covers a pretty vast swatch of political territory.
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