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Posted at 9:45 AM ET, 01/13/2011

A new tone or a new presidency?

By Jennifer Rubin

Karl Rove, writing no doubt before the Arizona memorial service, examines the hiring of Bill Daley and concludes:

Mr. Obama's best chance of success 22 months from now rests on reclaiming his image as a reasonable, bipartisan and unifying figure. It won't be easy, given his track record as president. That can't be airbrushed from history. But the selection of Mr. Daley as chief of staff indicates that Mr. Obama is willing to give it a try. It makes sense. After all, what he was doing nearly wrecked his party and has imperiled his presidency.

And that is precisely what Obama did in Arizona.

It is not the first time Obama has benefited by comparison to his opponents. In the 2008 campaign, he perfected the art of doing nothing and watching his opponent impale himself. In the financial crisis, he didn't say much, but John McCain was the frenetic one and essentially knocked himself out of the race. Here again, Sarah Palin embarrassed herself by her tone and un-presidential vocabulary, while those on the left showed how strident and silly they can be. In walks Obama, sounding, as did Speaker John Boehner and most other elected leaders, like a sober adult.

Let's use Karl's check list. Was the speech reasonable? I can't see why anyone -- aside from maybe Paul Krugman -- would object on that ground. Was it bipartisan? If anything, he knocked heads on his own side more than on the Republican side. Was it unifying? There was nothing partisan or vindictive about it. So, it's very likely that Obama is now more inclined to take advice, if not from Karl, then at least identical to his.

But the rub comes when he has to do things and is pressed by the media or opponents. Recall the peevish news conferences following the "shellacking" and in defending the tax deal. Can he be less thin-skinned? And more importantly, what happens if a serious ObamaCare modification or a Ryan-Rivlin serious entitlement plan makes it to his desk? It is far from clear how reasonable and bipartisan he would be then.

Obama has benefited most when he is in a controlled environment with an adoring audience. That's how he excelled as a candidate and why his speech last night was so effective. But when he's on defense, or forced to compromise on his underlying ideology, the rubber will really hit the road. You see, it's not enough to give a lovely speech. As president, he has to govern and, more important, get results. On all that, the jury is still out.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 13, 2011; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  President Obama  
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Jennifer, you're a hack. First, who cares what Rove thinks. Second, to say it was a successful speech only because he was among an "adoring audience" is cheap and typical of your ilk. Pathetic. You can't give credit where it's due.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 13, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

"Here again, Sarah Palin embarrassed herself by her tone and un-presidential vocabulary . . ."

What are you talking about? The inappropriate use of "blood libel"? That canard has been thoroughly put to rest by Dershowitz, Tobin, and others. It is a thin reed, indeed, to grasp in the fever swamp of PDS.

I am dismayed that your animus towards Palin must creep into so many of your commentaries. What happened to you?

Posted by: DocC1 | January 13, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

"Here again, Sarah Palin embarrassed herself by her tone and un-presidential vocabulary . . ."

What are you talking about? The inappropriate use of "blood libel"? That canard has been thoroughly put to rest by Dershowitz, Tobin, and others. It is a thin reed, indeed, to grasp in the fever swamp of PDS.

I am dismayed that your animus towards Palin must creep into so many of your commentaries. What happened to you?

Posted by: DocC1 | January 13, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Great Post, Jennifer.

Give credit to David Axelrod for a clever start to the 2012 re-election effort with Obama's first big, raucous campaign gig disguised as a "memorial service".

Who consoles families with a pep rally at a university? What creeps.

Posted by: MartinChuzzlewit | January 13, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

He's a shamelss opportunist. He turned a serious moment of reflection into a political campaign. I was disgusted by his exploitation of this tragedy. You can count on Obama to make it...about him. And the zenith of hypocrisy on lecturing others on blame and vitriol! Is he kidding? He wrote the book. No one person plays the blame game more than Obama. He read a speech that somone else wrote. Everything he does has political calculation. Sincerity? Certainly, to curry favor through his rhetoric... I am sure he is looking at the poll numbers today to see if it worked.

Posted by: reabel2008 | January 13, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

But Jennifer, I thought you said yesterday that the service was going to be "flaky", "weird", and "unserious".

A little bit of the pre-judgement that you have so decried this week on your part?

Posted by: 54465446 | January 13, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I am by no means a fan of Obama, but yesterday he proved he is Presidential, while Sarah Palin proved that she most definitely is NOT. Any hope of her winning against him in 2012 is gone, and the GOP had better get off their collective behinds and find a new candidate to groom, QUICK. The less her name is mentioned between now and November 2012, the better their chances will be.

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | January 13, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I see the usual (and PAID) GOP cohorts are here, pretending they have facts and stand with a majority of Americans (They are wrong on both counts).

Such nasty comments prove they are jaded beyond the possibility of change.

Posted by: Stunned2much | January 13, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Like all the centrists who voted for Obama because he promised bipartisanship and COMPROMISE

NEVER heard any COMPROMISE from Obama last year, especially during that day of the Health Care Summit.


What's government when words have no meaning?


Greg your words have no meaning

Liberals your words have no meaning

Obama your words have no meaning.

You wanted bipartisanship? White House should have made SURE McCain spoke at the Memorial Service.

What is a Memorial Service when words have no meaning?

What is a truce, when words have no meaning?

Liberals will only use a truce to say Obama is a hero.

What is government when words have no meaning??

What is post-racial when False Charges of Racism fly?

What is bipartisanship when Obama jams RECONCILIATION down everyone's throats???

What is an ELECTION when the democrats jam a lame duck liberal agenda down the throats of AMERICA ????


Posted by: RainForestRising | January 13, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Karl Rove is awesome, he will haul off and get you a 28% approval rating if you don't watch it!!

Posted by: danw1 | January 13, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse

"but when he's on defense, or forced to compromise on his underlying ideology, the rubber will really hit the road."

This is a fantasy world the right is childishly indulging in.

When not needlessly prolonging wars, criminally prosecuting critics, this president spends most of his time giving the right whatever it wants - tax cuts for billionaires and an attack on the funding mechanism of Social Security, and beating the hell out of "the left". The left is the one group reviled by absolutely everyone in government, and he relishes triangulating. Witness his petulant anger when selling his tax cut sellout, er compromise.

You on the right have George Bush the third, not Karl Marx.

Posted by: jiji1 | January 13, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

just a few notes here:

First, I can't wait until I get my next paycheck from the GOP for posting here. I could use the fundage of that there is no doubt!

Next, one must admire the unmitigated gall of the liberals. Not content with engaging in calumnies that make me pine for the return of the code duello, they now are whining that Ms Palin didn't, in their own oh so rational opinions, respond to their calumnies appropriately.

It takes a special kind of person, one without any sense of shame, to engage in this kind of public rhetoric.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 13, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Obama is moving to the middle making him tough to beat in 2012.

If the Health Care Law continues to grow in toxicity watch for Obama to throw Reid/Pelosi under the wheels of the first bus and enthusiastically begin negotiating revisions to the Health Care bill he really wanted all along.

Posted by: Otiose1 | January 13, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse


I followed you over here from Contentions. I even sent in a donation to Contentions because of your writing. OK, not a huge sum, but better than nothing. But now, because of your misguided strategy of building an audience on the back of Sarah Palin, I am out of here. I have mixed opinions on Palin but your obsession has gotten out of hand. Goodbye.

Posted by: mboss | January 13, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer, I also wish you would quit taking what I consider cheap shots at Palin. While I don't consider her a viable or credible presidential candidate, I do think she is an admirable spokesperson for conservative values and policies. At a time when she is under scurrilous attack as an accomplice to murder from the likes of Krugman and the Daily Kos, I don't see any good reason to criticize her for very minor gaffes.

I don't think Obama can sustain his new "civil discoursse" . He has been the worst offender, calling his opponents "enemies", talking about bringing a gun to a knife fight, taking constant gratuitous shots at his predecessor, and generally demonizing whoever makes a useful scapegoat for his purposes. It's the community organizer/Jeremiah Wright in him. Consider these "Rules for Radicals" from Saul Alinsky, one of Obama's intellectual influences:

5. Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.
11. If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside.
13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

#13 is seen in almost everything Obama says while campaigning. His tone is always contemptuous and sneering. Like all demagogues, he tries to strip his opponent of his decency and humanity, as when he accused doctors during the healthcare debate of unnecessarily cutting off the legs of diabetics. His opponents' motives are always presented as venal and heartless. It's the left's familiar caricature of their class enemies, and I can't see Obama ever outgrowing it. It's who he is.

Posted by: eoniii | January 13, 2011 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Ms Rubin

You've said that Sarah Palin is embarrasing. How is defending oneself from accusations of being an accessory to 6 murders embarrasing?

Posted by: sangkancil99 | January 13, 2011 10:26 PM | Report abuse

I thought Obama's speech itself was fine - mostly boilerplate, except for his mentioning bits about each individual victim, (something he also did at his much less anticipated and comparatively sparsely covered speech at the Fort Hood memorial.) It sure was refreshing to hear him talk about someone besides himself.

However, the cheering was in very poor taste, as were the t-shirts. Personally, if I were one of the people who had a lost a loved one, the last thing I would have wanted to hear was thousands of college students cheering Obama, or Eric Holder (!?) or Janet Napolitano. The lineup was far too politicized. No other politician besides Obama, and maybe the governor ought to have been invited to speak.

Probably the sheer number of Obama administration members present, together with the adoring throngs of college students wearing the branded event t-shirts are what made the memorial seem a lot like an old school Obama campaign event. Kind of creepy and disrespectful to the victims.

Posted by: Fr0sty | January 13, 2011 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama has destroyed any chance he may have had for re-election by his outrageous political duplicity and immature public behavior for the first couple of years of his first term.
All of his campaign blather of hope and change, transparency and accountability, and especially bipartisanship have been shown to be pompous nothings and empty hot air. Even Obama's most fanatic Democrat and most ardent ultra Left supporters now realize that from the beginning Obama was too small minded, too lazy, too immature, and too much of a petty Chicago political manipulator to handle the Presidency of the United States of America. Obama's failed foreign policy ventures, his spurning of America's allies like Britain, France, and Israel have led to a precipitous drop in his popularity abroad.
But mostly all Americans realize to their great and abiding sorrow, that Obama's grandiose government imposed and tax payer subsidized social plans for income redistribution and universal health care have seriously undermined America's financial stability. The vast majority of American voters now understand that unless these utopian entitlements are undone, they are facing an all but certain future of spirit breaking high unemployment, continuing high underemployment, and a financially and socially impoverished future for themselves and their children.
Obama can pontificate and promise pie in the sky 'til he turns blue in the face but he can no longer fool the majority of Americans.

Posted by: kenhe | January 14, 2011 6:28 AM | Report abuse

like mboss, I also followed Ms. Rubin from Contentions.
only to find an increasingly rigid ideologue, too quick to follow talking points than to bring any independent thought to issues.

whatever Ms. Rubin added to Contentions has been lost here, while Contentions continues to be my favorite read of the day.

kneejerking does not a blog make.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 14, 2011 8:33 AM | Report abuse

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