President Obama’s cheerleaders are starting to peel away along with his approval ratings, and it’s a fascinating sight to behold. They offer different reasons, but they all boil down to one obvious thing — Obama is first and foremost about Obama — and one less obvious: He has been a failed president.
Democratic pollsters Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen, admittedly more centrist than most of their Democratic counterparts, penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal urging Obama “to abandon his candidacy for re-election.” The authors conclude that the only way Obama could possibly win in 2012 would be “to wage the most negative campaign in history,” because he has no successful record to run on. If he would happen to win in that way, he wouldn’t be able to govern, they say, so he should step aside and allow Hillary Clinton to run.
Their main beef with Obama seems to be his extreme partisanship, which is a particularly damning indictment coming from fellow Democrats. Should he resign, they argue, he would be in a better position to work with Republicans toward “a more constructive dialogue about our nation’s future” instead of obsessing over whether he or George W. Bush is more to blame for our problems.
I don’t agree that Obama would be any easier to work with if he were to withdraw from the race, but it is significant that two credible Democrats, both still loyal to their party, concede that Obama is hyper-partisan and hopelessly mired in the quicksand of scapegoating his predecessor.
Even more interesting was the viral video of Chris Matthews explaining to fellow MSNBC host Alex Witt why his Obama-thrill is gone. This represents quite a fall from Matthews’ previous perch of Obama hero worship.
Matthews clearly believes that Obama peaked about the time his campaign ended and his term in office began, because “the day he was inaugurated, with the Mall filled with people, African-Americans and everyone else, he sent us all home and said, ‘Thank you. Now watch how smart I am.’ That’s the worst kind of a notion of the presidency.”
Matthews is also upset that Obama is running a “virtual presidency,” through endless impersonal emails, rather than building and exploiting the interpersonal relationships that are vital for effective governance. On that score, he laments: “I hear stories (from members of Congress) that you will not believe. Not a single phone call since the last election.”
Matthews is an incorrigible idealist, with a romanticized notion of politics, longing to relive his childhood conception of statecraft as a Camelot Neverland. He is livid at Obama for giving him a political fix with all that grandiose “Yes, we can” rhetoric and then removing it like a sadistic parole officer as soon as he was inaugurated.
Matthews wants a leader, not just to provide that fix but also to follow it up with a vision and policies to realize the vision. But here’s what’s revealing: Matthews excoriates Obama for failing to say “one thing about what he’d do in the second term. He never tells” us his plan for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the tax system or the long-term debt.
I think Matthews is disillusioned with Obama on two levels. First, he feels betrayed that Obama the person is so different from Obama the pseudo-messiah he calculatingly portrayed himself to be during the campaign. He’s ultimately about himself; he’s all hat and no cattle — something many of us knew years ago. He doesn’t share Matthews’ idealism about politics, and he is an abject fraud for pretending to.
Second, whether or not he fully realizes it or its implications, Matthews is frustrated that Obama, the apparently quintessential liberal, hasn’t been able, through their shared ideology, to produce prosperity and world peace.
There is a disconnect at work here with Matthews’ anger at Obama for doing precisely what liberals do. Obama shoved through a radically liberal agenda — the kind that should earn him permanent gratitude from a liberal such as Matthews, and it has led to economic catastrophe. Matthews, at least in part, is furious at Obama, perhaps subconsciously, for proving that Matthews’ lifelong ideology is an epic fail.
But in fairness, Matthews is also rightly disgusted with Obama for refusing to provide leadership or show even a modicum of willingness to work in good faith to extricate us from these horrendous economic, entitlement and debt problems, which, maddeningly, are occurring on a liberal president’s watch.
Matthews pleads: “Just tell us, Commander. Give us our orders, and tell us where we’re going. Give us the mission. And he hasn’t done it.”
I feel your pain, Chris, but we tried to warn you.
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