The BBC’s US President editor (“North America editor” is not an appropriate title, as he reports exclusively on the President and the US politics surrounding Him) has noticed that the President’s popularity and job approval has been at something of a low ebb. Naturally, concerned that his audience might be worried, Mardell leaps to His defense. Under the time-honored journalistic pretext of posing a question, he proceeds to give you the answer. He’s got a defense for every single criticism of the President.
When President Obama was elected he seemed like a different kind of leader.
Only to those caught up in the cult of personality foisted on us by a complicit media. Mardell himself came to the US as one of those true believers, excited by the possibilities. He knows he was wrong then, but goes through a series of intellectual contortions to prove to himself otherwise.
Not just the first black man in the White House but a new sort of American president: thoughtful, reflective and determined to represent all of his country.
Again, only those caught up in the worship believed this for a moment.
Now, a year away from the next presidential election many people question what sort of leader he has turned out to be.
One unkind critic said that he seemed like a 50-year-old man who has just got his first proper job, that he has had no experience of running any organisation and it shows in his management of the White House.
Unkind? How about “honest”? He is a 50-year old man who has had no experience of running any organization, and this is His first really challenging job. What would a “kind” critic say, anyway? Still, let’s hear some real criticism.
Republicans are of course the harshest critics. Ed Rogers, a veteran of the George H W Bush and Reagan White House told me: “I think Obama is not a very effective leader.
“I think he is a thinker and a ditherer to a fault. I think his leadership style does not lend itself to crisp decision making.
Those familiar with Mardell’s coverage of (for) the President will know this is one of the criticisms which most angers him. No surprise that this is how he sets it up.
“I get the impression he anguishes before a decision, and even worse for a president, he anguishes after a decision. So, his team never has certainty.
“They never know if the other side is back in appealing to the president, they never know if they have gotten clear, certain decisions.
“And at the end of the day being president is about making decisions and sticking with them.”
Think about that for a second, before reading Mardell’s defense.
Of course in part Mr Obama’s initial appeal was that he did consider the facts, carefully and dispassionately.
That’s not what Rogers is saying at all. Mardell is misrepresenting things. The criticism isn’t that He is thoughtful and wanted to contemplate all the facts, but that He kept changing His tune afterward. Try not to laugh too hard about the “dispassionately” BS. Mardell obviously doesn’t get it, so starts his defense in earnest:
He was seen as the diametric opposite of his predecessor, President George W Bush, in the popular imagination a cowboy president who shot from the hip, trusting his first gut instinct.
Mr Obama, on the other hand, likes to get down with the details.
Remember, the criticism isn’t about whether or not the President considers the details, but whether or not He is capable of making a firm decision. Only Mardell still thinks this is about why it seems to take Him so long to make one. We all know this isn’t true, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
The US President editor then gives us an anecdote from Jared Bernstein, a former adviser to the Vice President, who heaps praise on the President for being so deeply concerned and interested in real detail. This is, of course, how Mardell shows you that He is so very different from that tiresome cowboy.
In order to drive this point home, we’re told that the President actually saved the US economy.
He makes the point that Mr Obama was faced with an immense challenge and says he stopped the economy going off the edge of a cliff.
Never mind that the initial round of TARP bailouts was begun before He took office, and that He kept Bush’s finance team essentially intact to continue that progress. Praise Him! Then back to the defense.
However, he accepts there is a perception of dithering:
“The guy has an amazing capacity to assimilate a lot of information. He really likes to solve a problem pragmatically – but from a perspective of being as well informed as he can be.
“He certainly doesn’t reach snap decisions. He is a pretty deliberative guy, but you put the facts in front of him he will reach a conclusion pretty quickly.”
Hmm. How does reaching a conclusion “pretty quickly” give the appearance of dithering? In the case of going to war against Libya, for example, it turns out that the President wasn’t dithering so much as He actually didn’t want to do it at all. He thought light sanctions and hard, Paddington-like stares were working, and had to be shown that it wasn’t before He gave the green light. It’s why Hillary Clinton has said that she won’t be working for Him if He gets a second term. Yes, I know the BBC never told you about that.
“I think what looks like excessive deliberation has more to do with the politics. The president might come to a decision on economic policy pretty quickly, but then you’ve got to navigate this Congress and that is a fairly tough equation, getting through all those road blocks.”
“This Congress”? You mean the one with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and a Democrat-controlled Senate? Or the totally Democrat-controlled Congress He had for the first two years which rammed through ObamaCare and Stimulus via backroom deals and end runs around the opposition? You know, the one that Mardell called a “Golden Age”? What a load of garbage. But Mardell thinks you’re all too stupid to remember that, and continues his “Trapped in a world He never made” defense.
But the president has to be a navigator, or at least know people who are.
Mr Obama does not seem to have a strategy for dealing with the sausage factory that is Congress. It has perhaps been his worst failure.
Seriously? What about the billions thrown down the green jobs toilet, mostly to His Democrat moneymen? What about the failure of the $1 trillion-plus Stimulus?
True, he not only got through economic packages which admirers would say saved the country, he also in the end got a healthcare package that has long been a dream of Democrats.
Mardell knows he can’t give the President too much credit for that because, as I said above, that was mostly the doing of the Democrat leadership when they controlled both the House and the Senate. But now it’s time to pretend to criticize Him from the Left.
But it was so diminished that it offended his own side while enraging the right and helping the Tea Party to get off the ground.
Hello: the Tea Party movement was well “off the ground” by April 15, 2009, almost a year before ObamaCare was signed into law. How can Mardell still get this wrong? And it can’t have been too much of an offense to supporters at the time, judging from the way the BBC lauded it.
The trail of sometimes grubby compromises that led to a deal made him look part of a Washington he said he had come to fix.
Yeah, that’s much worse than the fact that the President is the recipient of more money from the finance industry than all the Republican candidates combined, or that the CEO of GE is His Jobs Czar, or that He gave more than half a trillion dollars to a green energy boondoggle because it was backed by one of His moneymen. But I digress.
Perhaps even more importantly it led to an unclear proposal that left many Americans confused and worried that it would leave them worse off.
Oh, God, we’re back to the Narrative that people don’t like ObamaCare only if they don’t understand it properly.
Mr Obama seems to lack the sort of special political skills you need to make sausages (Bismarck said you don’t want to know how sausages or laws are made).
It certainly doesn’t help when practically the first words out of His mouth as President when trying to work a deal with Republicans was “I won“. There’s a difference between not having certain political skills and being an arrogant asshole.
He’s obviously not a thug nor, more oddly, a charmer.
“More oddly”? Why does Mardell say that?
Undoubtedly he has buckets of charisma.
Oh, right. Silly me.
Mardell then goes on to say that the President hasn’t been much good at reaching across the aisle, and – bizarrely – that not even “charming bully” Rahm Emmanuel could get both sides to work together. To my surprise, though, he does acknowledge that critics on the Left don’t want Him to compromise at all. Hey, what happened to all that Republican intransigence? Never mind that, of course, as this is about how the President feels pressure from the Left to stay on course, and that’s why He’s not such a bridge-builder. As always, Mardell has a defense ready for any charge.
He then moves on to the next section.
What made Mr Obama a unique political phenomenon was that he, quite literally, wrote his own story.
Er, no. The media did that. His book was promoted far and wide by them, and they didn’t even spend a tiny fraction of the effort checking into His past that they did on Sarah Palin. More than anything else, though, it was cos He is black. Let’s face it, that was the number one selling point. No white neophyte politician with a vague background of association with questionable characters would have been catapulted to stardom in such fashion.
So Mardell is wondering what happened, how the bloom came off the rose.
Yet this master storyteller appears to have lost control of the narrative in office.
Uh-oh, please, not this again.
Some may think this is post-modern claptrap or simply a silly way to look at politics.
But part of being a leader, and especially an American president, is telling people in very clear terms what is going on, why it’s going on and what should happen next.
Mr Obama himself has said the best solutions to the economic crisis may not be the best story.
Damn. If you don’t agree, it’s because the message hasn’t been made clear to you enough. This is seriously wrong. The President has been absolutely clear on all of His policies, and on all of His various messages. Nobody doubts what He wants to happen or thinks is going on. But Mardell still, after all this time, thinks that if we don’t think He’s doing a bang-up job, it’s only because He hasn’t made the Gospel clear to us yet. Does anyone here think His Plan For Us hasn’t been made crystal clear over and over again? And here comes more defense:
The plot twists of real life get in the way of a simple tale. The president – and just about everyone else – thought the economy would be showing stronger signs of recovery by now.
No, not everybody thought that. Why else would the Tea Party movement have transformed the face of the House? Lots of people knew things weren’t going to go well. Now, why would we think that?
But the author of a critical book about the president’s handing of the economic crisis, Ron Suskind, says the disconnect is the problem.
“Even if the words of a leader are not along the lines of what people want if they match his deeds people say ‘Well, I may not agree with him, he’s a straight shooter’ and that gets you confidence points.
“Mr Obama has had trouble because of his brilliance at soaring rhetoric – inspirational rhetoric.
“And often the caution that has abided his deeds, a kind of split-the-middle-let’s-find-some-middle-ground, even if there is not much coherence to it, a half of this and a little of that, often does not make sound, dramatic policy. “
Name me one big speech where the President wasn’t scolding His opponents. This is Beltway BS. The general public doesn’t think this way. We’ve heard His message, and found it wanting. Suskind, by the way, is not an impartial observer. He’s an Obamessiah supporter who wrote an entire book shifting blame for the economy away from Him. Even far-Left ideologue and JournoList founder Ezra Klein, who wrote the review I’ve linked to, can see that. But Mardell isn’t going to tell you. He, like Suskind, wants the President to go back to the “Yes We Can” stuff.
“When you are president, people always need to know what you would do if you were a dictator. What you would do. Not what’s possible or the realities of Congress or the limits on your authority.
“What would you do if you were dictator? People don’t know that about Obama. And that’s a problem. A weakness. And stylistically it is going to be hard for him to get that back.”
This is a joke, right? Who here doesn’t know how that would go? Any excuse to distract people from wondering about His competence. And that’s the key here: a lack of competence.
Everything in Mardell’s piece is about blaming factors beyond the President’s control, or how people get the wrong idea because He doesn’t fit the typical Washington mold. As I said earlier, trapped in a world He never made. In other words, not really His fault. Don’t question His competence.
Mardell and Suskind both still think He’s brilliant, and potentially a great leader. He’s already shown that He isn’t, but they can’t see it. If He fails, it won’t be His fault. Mardell’s doing a whole series of this stuff this week, hoping for more Hope, and I’m not sure I can stomach it.