Obama's penchant for speeches now sounding hollower by the word
This is the 931st day of the Barack Obama presidency.
Yesterday Obama gave a strange statement to the media. He'd been away on another mini-vacation at Camp David. So, it was left to aides and Treasury Secy. Geithner to attempt to discredit the first-ever credit downgrading of the federal government.
Every politician has at least one major weakness. Bill Clinton's is, well, well-known. George W. Bush's political weakness was thinking his intuition and instincts could carry him through any challenge. Barack Obama's weakness is thinking he can talk his way in or out of virtually any opportunity or difficulty.
Being a Real Good Talker helped him get the job heading the law review. And entering politics. And succeeding early there, albeit within Chicago's rigged system. And being an RGT thrust him....
Obama is very proud of his talking. In May this year he told a Boston fundraiser: "Back in 2004, I gave a little speech here that got some attention." And he waited for the crowd's applause. Which he got.
Have you noticed how many remarks Obama has been making in recent weeks? Not a coincidence that they coincide with his lowest approval ratings ever. When in trouble, give a speech. Even if there's no visible audience.
Calling on Congress to do this and that. Calling for more job creation. Calling for green cars and more windmills. Calling for a balanced approach from others when he had none of his own.
Claiming his positions were quite clear, when they weren't. Calling for compromise between Republicans and Democrats, as if he was in the middle and not the nation's top Democrat.
So, it was natural Monday when -- after a weekend's stewing, global markets reacted negatively to the U.S. downgrade -- Obama's instinct tempted him to make a public statement.
Military aside, this may be any president's most powerful tool. Say something, anything. Everyone listens. And obediently runs off to alert the world. Just don't permit media questions that might create other news to clutter the message.
So aides loaded his Teleprompter with 1,531 words. And off Obama went, as he so often does. If you listened to his words, they sounded fine, although dragging the slain U.S. soldiers in at the end of fiscal remarks felt forced.
But if you read the full statement, as anyone could right here on The Ticket, you kept waiting for the point, the real rhetorical reason for the remarks. Like a grand restaurant with the most romantic atmosphere, crackling fireplace, flickering candles, exquisite place settings. And with impressive style the waiter proudly serves an empty plate -- and awaits your awe.
Trouble is, real leadership is more than talking and calling for things. It takes a while, but over time listeners begin to notice rote rhetoric, predictable patterns, empty words. An example:
We didn’t need a rating agency to tell us that we need a balanced, long-term approach to deficit reduction. That was true last week. That was true last year. That was true the day I took office.
The day Obama took office, 931 of them ago. Subsequently, in his Monday remarks the president said this:
I intend to present my own recommendations over the coming weeks on how we should proceed.
Over the coming weeks? The need for a balanced, long-term approach was clear the day he took office $3+ trillion dollars ago and sometime soon he'll share his plans?
Obama is still saying, 'Yes, we can.' But he never explains why we haven't.
Then more solicitous empathizing:
The American people have been through so much over the last few years, dealing with the worst recession, the biggest financial crisis since the 1930s, and they’ve done it with grace. And they’re working so hard to raise their families, and all they ask is that we work just as hard, here in this town, to make their lives a little easier.
This from the guy who doesn't have a long-term deficit reduction plan 133 weeks in and just stepped from his helicopter after two days off in the Maryland mountains.
No wonder the markets plunged 200 more points as he talked.
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photo: Associated Press (Obama inauguration, Jan. 20, 2009); Evan Vucci / Associated Press (Obama reads his statement, Aug. 8).