Go over and read a great ‘report card’ on Obama at the Huffington Post (can you believe I’m saying that?).
Seriously, writer Drew Westen nails Obama for exactly the things I’m increasingly uncomfortable with (and if you believe the polls, you’re increasingly uncomfortable with as well).
What’s costing the president and courting danger for Democrats in 2010 isn’t a question of left or right, because the president has accomplished the remarkable feat of both demoralizing the base and completely turning off voters in the center. If this were an ideological issue, that would not be the case. He would be holding either the middle or the left, not losing both.
What’s costing the president are three things: a laissez faire style of leadership that appears weak and removed to everyday Americans, a failure to articulate and defend any coherent ideological position on virtually anything, and a widespread perception that he cares more about special interests like bank, credit card, oil and coal, and health and pharmaceutical companies than he does about the people they are shafting.
The problem is not that his record is being distorted. It’s that all three have more than a grain of truth. And I say this not as one of those pesky “leftists.” I say this as someone who has spent much of the last three years studying what moves voters in the middle, the Undecideds who will hear whichever side speaks to them with moral clarity.
He goes on, and it gets better.
My own discomfort with Obama come from two core perspectives…
First, that I’m trying to figure out what happened to that uber-controlled competent campaigner. How did he become Barney Fife?
Next, that the guy who is so good at making speeches seems completely incapable of staying on message and developing themes – of expressing a coherent view of the world, our place in it, and the policies we need to advance to secure and improve that place in the world – see my response to his Afghanistan speech.
Westen goes on:
Like most Americans I talk to, when I see the president on television, I now turn change the channel the same way I did with Bush. With Bush, I couldn’t stand his speeches because I knew he meant what he said. I knew he was going to follow through with one ignorant, dangerous, or misguided policy after another. With Obama, I can’t stand them because I realize he doesn’t mean what he says — or if he does, he just doesn’t have the fire in his belly to follow through. He can’t seem to muster the passion to fight for any of what he believes in, whatever that is. He’d make a great queen — his ceremonial addresses are magnificent — but he prefers to fly Air Force One at 60,000 feet and “stay above the fray.”
It’s the job of the president to be in the fray. It’s his job to lead us out of it, not to run from it. It’s his job to make the tough decisions and draw lines in the sand. But Obama really doesn’t seem to want to get involved in the contentious decisions. They’re so, you know, contentious. He wants us all to get along. Better to leave the fights to the Democrats in Congress since they’re so good at them. He’s like an amateur boxer who got a coupon for a half day of training with Angelo Dundee after being inspired by the tapes of Mohammed Ali. He got “float like a butterfly” in the morning but never made it to “sting like a bee.”
And that’s true. My friends criticized Obama – looking at the trail of bodies in his wake and suggested that he was “just another Chicago politician.” I saw that as a feature, not a bug. I believed that when the chips were down, Obama would fight brutally hard.
Haven’t seen that so much. Instead we get what Westen brutally calls:
He’s increasingly appearing to the public, and particularly to swing voters, like Dukakis without the administrative skill.
I hoped that he’d be the harbinger of a new kind of liberalism, and so far I’m flat wrong about that.
But Fitzgerald was wrong; there often are second acts in American life. Obama has been bloodied. Let’s see what happens now. Will he fold or fight? Will he embrace the bankrupt politics of the SEIU, or will he strike out in new directions and bring the American people with him?