Politico: Obama’s media skills face pivotal test — American Thinker: Barack Ozymandias — Salon (Camille Paglia) Too late for Obama to turn it around? — Conservatives4Palin Response to Geoffrey Dunn @Huffington Post
Politico – By JOHN F. HARRIS & JONATHAN MARTIN | 9/9/09
This summer marked the fifth anniversary of the Democratic Party’s swoon for Barack Obama, who thrilled millions of people hearing the young state senator for the first time with words that set his image as a dazzling unifier in an age of mean and divisive politics:
“Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes,” Obama told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. “Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America.”
Five years later — amid declining approval ratings and an increasingly polarized debate over health care — President Obama is losing his argument. Far from taming the forces of accusation, personal malice and ideological fervor, Obama and his signature health care agenda this summer became their target — and at least partly their victim.
What’s more, as he prepares to address Congress in a nationally televised speech Wednesday, one of the main pillars of Obama’s reputation — that his gift for healing words would combine with the power of his biography to transcend the rancor of modern politics — has never looked more wobbly. Even some Democratic strategists say Obama and his vaunted political and communications teams should have seen it coming…
One of the summer’s surprises has been the degree to which angry “town halls” filled with opponents of health care reform has driven the political narrative — no matter that Democrats own both the White House and Congress, no matter that many news organizations were slow to reckon with the consequences of a movement gathering power far from the traditional corridors of power.
Similarly, it was former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, out of office and using her Facebook page, who pushed into broad circulation the discredited notion that health care reform would include “death panels”. More recently, it was Palin’s right-wing media allies who drove White House environmental adviser Van Jones out of office and created fear about Obama’s ultimately innocuous back-to-school speech.
Most Washington oddsmakers consider it more likely than not that some compromise on health care will reach Obama’s desk this fall — a big victory, if it comes, and one that would easily chase away this summer’s headlines. But what’s been lost in the furor — perhaps irretrievably — is the idea that Obama might represent a transformational brand of politics of the sort he envisioned five years ago in Boston. White House aides counsel patience.
“Obama is the only modern Democrat to take on the right-wing noise machine and win — and he has done so repeatedly,” said a senior White House official. “And we always take the long view: Win the war, not the battle. It’s how we won the campaign, it’s how we will pass health reform.”
The summer storms, however, highlighted two realities. One is that — for all Obama’s campaign team was celebrated for its use of “new media” and “social networking”— his White House is split along generational lines that may limit its dexterity.
While some aides heavily promote the use of new media technology to combat viral political assaults, other top aides like White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel devote their most concerted messaging efforts to established news outlets like the major broadcast networks and, most of all, The New York Times.
Even the congressional speech — while giving Obama a powerful platform in which to prove anew the power of his own voice and skill at describing complex policies — is a familiar format. What’s more, Obama is learning that its most ardent foes are in some ways impervious to the usual tools at a president’s disposal — not susceptible to persuasion or reasoned argument and only too happy for the attention that comes from being attacked head-on…
But Republicans say the White House is mistaken if it thinks trotting out Obama for another high-stakes appearance can reverse the tide. “They’ve already way overplayed the Obama card,” said GOP ad man Stuart Stevens. “Obama has an opinion on everything from how to grow organic food, to what jazz to listen to, to who should win NCAA basketball playoffs. He’s way overexposed.”
Mary Matalin, another Republican strategist, said the Obama White House took away two “false narratives” from his electoral success last fall: “that he could use his personal popularity to sell unpalatable policies and that he had a mandate to push a liberal agenda.”
And when there was blowback to that agenda and the president’s numbers began to sag, the White House was at a loss, Matalin said. Obama, she added, is “getting through loud and clear, it’s just that the dogs won’t eat the dog food.” But it also may be that a potent opposition is getting through louder and more clearly…
American Thinker – By J.R. Dunn, September 09, 2009
…In the summer of 2009 we’re overwhelmed with stories about the death of the most notable trainee since Elagabalus, followed in short order by solemn meditations on the demise of a criminal politician, along with a few sidebars devoted to the imperial vacation at Martha’s Vineyard. And oh yeah — Michelle’s shorts. How could I have overlooked them? But none of that, needless to say, will go into the books. The real story this summer, the one that the scholars will be pondering for decades to come, concerns the absolute collapse of the American messiah…
…But Obama, as we have been told time and again, is in no way ordinary. He is a man spoken of in religious terms — the One, the Messiah, the Lightbringer. On the stage of history, we do not create our roles. We fill them as they have been previously established through repeated human activity across the millennia. Obama’s role is one familiar to anyone versed in the history of the ancient world: he is the god-emperor.
Obama was elected to do more than was possible for any ordinary president, and to do it more quickly than is possible for the merely human. His apotheosis was to be like nothing else in history, a redemption of promises so deeply pledged as to have become axiomatic. The age of Obama was to be a time of sweeping, an epoch of transformation. When he strode across our horizon, nothing would remain unchanged.
Now, unless I’ve been paying too much attention the New York Dolls reunion to notice, nothing of the sort has occurred. It’s been a dull summer on the messiah front. In fact, Obama’s performance so far has been dramatically below average even for the sorry run of mortal presidents. We have, in the past few months, witnessed one of the great anticlimaxes of political history. The god-emperor has failed, and no one can deny it…
…Obama’s revolution was divided into three major parts — government takeover of large industrial sectors, the imposition of a Green ideology to justify government intervention on any scale, and federal takeover of the health-care industry. Once these steps were taken, the result would be state control of American society on an unprecedented scale, along with a state-approved ideological superstructure (environmentalism) to act as the framework for the new system. All this was supposed to be carried out with military swiftness, within weeks or months of Obama’s inauguration, before any questions could be asked or opposition mounted.
Thanks to the recession, the takeover of the auto and financial industries went relatively smoothly. The problem lay in the follow-through. GM, the jewel in the government’s crown, has staked its fortunes on an economy model car that, since it is powered by battery, happens to cost $40,000, twice as much as any other economy car (it also requires a total battery replacement halfway through its operating lifespan amounting to at least another $16,000. So let’s round it off to $60,000 — three times what any other economy car costs.)
Since the Volt can be marketed only to the extremely wealthy clinically insane — not an enormous market — it’s obvious that GM can be kept afloat only by subsidies, which will end at the same time that Democratic hegemony does. (We’ll skip over as irrelevant GM’s $4,000 minicar that cannot be sold in the U.S. — India has been marketing such a car for even less.)
As for the financial industry, much as Treasury Department officials have amused themselves with the fantasy that they are “in control”, the bankers have proceeded to do exactly what they please, including paying each other extravagant bonuses, refusing to release funds for the loan markets, and soaking up government subsidies to pay off past losses. Stalin would have had them shot, an alternative currently not open to the Obamiate. I think we can write off industrial centralization.
Cap & Trade, AKA the Waxman-Markey Act, was to be the Trojan horse for Green ideology, an attempt to make environmentalism the basis of most domestic government activity. It was considered an easy sell, with “global warming” having become as key an element of liberalism as gun control and abortion.
But when the provisions of Waxman-Markey became known, particularly those implying the shutdown of most American industry to leave the populace living in holes dug in hillsides and chewing bark off trees, the bloom was suddenly off the Green rose. Rising in their mighty fury, the Blue Dogs forced the bill to be set aside. It’ll be passed eventually though. Next year, maybe. Or after the glaciers recede. We’ll see…
…We now turn to health care. The Mary Jo Kopechne Health Care Reform Act of 2009 would have made Obama into a benevolent god-emperor on the most titanic scale. The bill appeared to be evolving into an Obama version of the NRA, with federal control extended into new areas on all levels of society and every Americans subject to some measure of bureaucratic interference from womb to tomb.
It would be the closest that a third-millennial American leader could come to the absolute life-and-death rule of the pre-modern ruler, the act that would turn Barack Obama into an American Caesar. (Would all presidents coming after him have to add “Barack” to their names following their inauguration? Just wondering…)
Then came the town halls, and Sarah Palin’s revelation that the bill as written would open the door to euthanasia, and the death of Ms. Kopechne’s chauffeur, which together served to send the entire effort crashing. The other week none other than Russ Feingold, who yearns for such a bill the way that Gilgamesh yearned for immortality, announced to his constituents that it will not come up for a vote until the end of the year, if then.
Delays involving such efforts usually mean that they’re finished, at least as they stand. There may be a health-care bill passed somewhere down the line, but it won’t be Obama’s bill, and it will lack most of the provisions that a Caesar demands — the euthanasia counseling provisions, the “public option”, control of insurance rates, and so on…
To cap the redeemer’s woes, we have a world-class case of buyer’s remorse on the part of the voters, with presidential approval ratings dropping to 50% across the board. Rasmussen has Obama at 46%, a drop of some 30% in little more than six months. Zogby, among the most dependable of pollsters, reveals that Obama is losing support even among his core constituency.
So there it is — a political agenda in ruins. Massive ruins, awe-inspiring ruins, ruins unprecedented in their size and majesty. For an epitaph we can turn to Shelley:
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away
So what does he do now? Deliverers cannot simply fail. Jesus cannot shrug and become a Jerusalem rabbi. Moses cannot return to Egypt and open a travel agency for Sinai tours. A fallen messiah does not become half a messiah or a third of a messiah, his original power and influence shrinking to match. He becomes a joke.
Obama will not tolerate becoming a joke. Not with his personality, smug, self-involved, and egotistical as it is. Particularly after being exposed to adulation given to no man since the heyday of Rome (not even Louis XIVth, the Sun King, who embodied the divine right of monarchy, was ever hailed as a “god”). So what are his alternatives?
… No more so than as involves the failure not yet mentioned, that of national security. Here Obama appears to be serving two constituencies: foreign governments and his leftist base. The foreign states wanted a return to an America that doesn’t bother them, and that’s what they’ve got. The Move On/DU crowd wants a defeated and chastened country.
The decision by Witchfinder General Eric Holder to investigate and prosecute CIA officers, the court-ordered release of terrorist Muhammed Jawad, and the administration’s near-silence in response to Scotland’s release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi are events that will create their own response. Nothing is easier to foresee, and nothing more need be said. In his willingness, if not eagerness, to acquiesce to the see-no-evil security policy of the Clinton administration, Obama is sliding inexorably toward the greatest presidential failure of all: the failure to protect the American people. Such a failure will be viewed as the act of pure negligence that it is.
Obama could easily prevail by setting aside his status as god-emperor, dropping the effort to leave his imprint on the age and ignoring the cries of his more fanatical followers. In other words, by acting as a president. But this is unlikely on any number of cultural, political, and personal grounds. He is on the descending escalator, and is doomed to take it all the way to the bottom. It is our business to see that he doesn’t drag the country down with him.
Fortunately, his failures have a flip side. The past few months have shown us that Obama is extremely vulnerable to public pressure, as clearly shown by the town halls. We will have plenty of opportunity to put those tactics into effect in the months and years to come. When would-be imperators appear, the people have to step in. But that’s why they call it democracy…
Salon – By Camille Paglia
Sept. 9, 2009 | What a difference a month makes! When my last controversial column posted on Salon in the second week of August, most Democrats seemed frozen in suspended animation, not daring to criticize the Obama administration’s bungling of healthcare reform lest it give aid and comfort to the GOP.
Well, that ice dam sure broke with a roar. Dissident Democrats found their voices, and by late August even the liberal lemmings of the mainstream media, from CBS to CNN, had drastically altered their tone of reportage, from priggish disdain of the town hall insurgency to frank admission of serious problems in the healthcare bills as well as of Obama’s declining national support.
But this tonic dose of truth-telling may be too little too late. As an Obama supporter and contributor, I am outraged at the slowness with which the standing army of Democratic consultants and commentators publicly expressed discontent with the administration’s strategic missteps this year. I suspect there had been private grumbling all along, but the media warhorses failed to speak out when they should have — from week one after the inauguration, when Obama went flat as a rug in letting Congress pass that obscenely bloated stimulus package.
Had more Democrats protested, the administration would have felt less arrogantly emboldened to jam through a cap-and-trade bill whose costs have made it virtually impossible for an alarmed public to accept the gargantuan expenses of national healthcare reform. (Who is naive enough to believe that Obama’s plan would be deficit-neutral? Or that major cuts could be achieved without drastic rationing?)
By foolishly trying to reduce all objections to healthcare reform to the malevolence of obstructionist Republicans, Democrats have managed to destroy the national coalition that elected Obama and that is unlikely to be repaired. If Obama fails to win reelection, let the blame be first laid at the door of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who at a pivotal point threw gasoline on the flames by comparing angry American citizens to Nazis.
It is theoretically possible that Obama could turn the situation around with a strong speech on healthcare to Congress this week, but after a summer of grisly hemorrhaging, too much damage has been done. At this point, Democrats’ main hope for the 2012 presidential election is that Republicans nominate another hopelessly feeble candidate. Given the GOP’s facility for shooting itself in the foot, that may well happen.
This column has been calling for heads to roll at the White House from the get-go. Thankfully, they do seem to be falling faster — as witness the middle-of-the-night bum’s rush given to “green jobs” czar Van Jones last week — but there’s a long way to go. An example of the provincial amateurism of current White House operations was the way the president’s innocuous back-to-school pep talk got sandbagged by imbecilic support materials soliciting students to write fantasy letters to “help” the president (a coercive directive quickly withdrawn under pressure).
Even worse, the entire project was stupidly scheduled to conflict with the busy opening days of class this week, when harried teachers already have their hands full. Comically, some major school districts, including New York City, were not even open yet. And this is the gang who wants to revamp national healthcare?
Why did it take so long for Democrats to realize that this year’s tea party and town hall uprisings were a genuine barometer of widespread public discontent and not simply a staged scenario by kooks and conspirators? First of all, too many political analysts still think that network and cable TV chat shows are the central forums of national debate. But the truly transformative political energy is coming from talk radio and the Web — both of which Democrat-sponsored proposals have threatened to stifle, in defiance of freedom of speech guarantees in the Bill of Rights…
Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills).
Weirdly, given their worship of highly individualistic, secularized self-actualization, such professionals are as a whole amazingly credulous these days about big-government solutions to every social problem. They see no danger in expanding government authority and intrusive, wasteful bureaucracy. This is, I submit, a stunning turn away from the anti-authority and anti-establishment principles of authentic 1960s leftism.
How has “liberty” become the inspirational code word of conservatives rather than liberals? (A prominent example is radio host Mark Levin’s book “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto,” which was No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly three months without receiving major reviews, including in the Times.) I always thought that the Democratic Party is the freedom party — but I must be living in the nostalgic past.
Remember Bob Dylan’s 1964 song “Chimes of Freedom,” made famous by the Byrds? And here’s Richie Havens electrifying the audience at Woodstock with “Freedom! Freedom!” Even Linda Ronstadt, in the 1967 song “A Different Drum,” with the Stone Ponys, provided a soaring motto for that decade: “All I’m saying is I’m not ready/ For any person, place or thing/ To try and pull the reins in on me.”
But affluent middle-class Democrats now seem to be complacently servile toward authority and automatically believe everything party leaders tell them. Why? Is it because the new professional class is a glossy product of generically institutionalized learning? Independent thought and logical analysis of argument are no longer taught. Elite education in the U.S. has become a frenetic assembly line of competitive college application to schools where ideological brainwashing is so pandemic that it’s invisible.
The top schools, from the Ivy League on down, promote “critical thinking,” which sounds good but is in fact just a style of rote regurgitation of hackneyed approved terms (“racism, sexism, homophobia”) when confronted with any social issue. The Democratic brain has been marinating so long in those clichés that it’s positively pickled.
Throughout this fractious summer, I was dismayed not just at the self-defeating silence of Democrats at the gaping holes or evasions in the healthcare bills but also at the fogginess or insipidity of articles and Op-Eds about the controversy emanating from liberal mainstream media and Web sources. By a proportion of something like 10-to-1, negative articles by conservatives were vastly more detailed, specific and practical about the proposals than were supportive articles by Democrats, which often made gestures rather than arguments and brimmed with emotion and sneers.
There was a glaring inability in most Democratic commentary to think ahead and forecast what would or could be the actual snarled consequences — in terms of delays, denial of services, errors, miscommunications and gross invasions of privacy — of a massive single-payer overhaul of the healthcare system in a nation as large and populous as ours. It was as if Democrats live in a utopian dream world, divorced from the daily demands and realities of organization and management…
Conservatives4Palin Response to Geoffrey Dunn:
Memo to Dunn: all national political figures use speechwriters. Why? Because in a single year, they may have up to a hundred speaking engagements of various kinds. The more ambitious among them will also try to write at least one op-ed every other week. And write the odd article for a magazine. Or publish a study for a think tank. Or even a book or two. All that comes on top of the other work they do: legislative work, campaigning, fund raising etc. Does Dunn really believe politicians should always be writing their own speeches, op-eds, articles, books etc? Or does this new rule only apply to one particular politician, namely the one he loves to hate?
It’s already been pointed out by several others that Sarah Palin has a new ghostwriter on staff and that she is clearly not the auteur of her most recent scribbles on Facebook and most certainly not the primary author of her op-ed yesterday in the Wall Street Journal.
Yes, the latter continues her unyielding obsession with Barack Obama by trying to upstage his healthcare address to the nation today, but it’s clearly the work of someone who can write cohesively and thinks in a linear fashion. The piece doesn’t even sound like Palin. Tina Fey this isn’t. Hopefully Palin’s memoirs capture some of her peculiar dexterity with the English language. (A genius like Mark Twain might have pulled it off, but rumor has it that he’s not around any more.)
Trying to pass off Palin as a policy wonk on national health care issues is simply going a bit far. This dog simply will not hunt. How do we know? Because we’ve seen Sarah’s raw writing on Twitter and Facebook and in her emails–the Palin writings that aren’t ghost written. The examples are everywhere. Just take a look at some of Palin’s infamous “word salads”–as my friends in Alaska call her idiosyncratic manner of slinging phrases together–and it becomes all too clear.
Recall her immortal answers to Katie Couric or her disjointed resignation speech from her backyard in Wasilla. Or the delightfully diagrammed sentence from her interview with ABC News anchor Charles Gibson: I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people. The examples are endless. For better, and, actually, mostly for worse, Palin put her own peculiar brand on the English language. I like to call it linguistic schizophrenia.
So what is this attempt at rebranding Palin all about? You can lay some good money down that here’s what happened: The big boys — her attorney-agent Robert Barnett and probably her publisher, too, Rupert Murdoch — had a sit-down with young Sarah and told her she had better pull her mud together.
They have a lot riding on the deal. Murdoch has anted up a seven-figure advance for a book written by someone who can’t construct two cohesive sentences together. Barnett has staked his considerable reputation on the line. Rest assured that Palin had the law laid down to her. And firmly.
Also note that in the aftermath of Levi Johnston’s most recent revelations in Vanity Fair there hasn’t been so much as a peep out of Palin or her Alaskan mouthpiece Meg Stapleton, whose political instincts are both infantile and unprofessional. Palin has what’s known in sports as rabbit ears.
She can’t help but respond to everything that’s written or said about her. It’s a bad impulse when you’re in the public eye, and Stapleton simply fed Palin’s fetish. Others, including earlier elder male patrons like John Coale and Fred Malek have tried to curb these self-destructive proclivities. She simply did not listen to them. I bet that she is listening now.
Before Palin’s overpriced attorney, Tommy Van Flein sends out another spurious legal threat, I’m going to issue a challenge to him: Put your client in a locked room, give her an hour to write an op-ed piece, and let’s examine the words she puts to the computer screen. It’s what all of us in this business do every day. Those of us with real intellectual integrity. Those of us who claim our own thoughts and express our own views. Those of us who don’t employ ghostwriters to fudge our bylines. We write our own words.
The WSJ piece is yet another Palin lie. This new version of Sarah Palin is like those lip-sync groups from the ’90s that didn’t sing their own songs or write their own lyrics. She’s the Milli Vanilli of American politics. All of this reminds me of one overlooked little tidbit in Levi’s rather devastating glance into Chez Palin in Wasilla:
[Sarah] was always putting on an act in front of the camera. We all know that she didn’t know what to say on TV and that when reading a script she was a phony. I’d be sitting with the family in front of the TV and we’d be disgusted watching her….And there were times when we’d sit there and pretty much laugh at the things she said. Even a bunch of kids back in Wasilla knew better.
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Milton Friedman: How to Cure Health Care
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