Obama: “the great earnest bore at the dinner party”

Opinion piece in Telegraph.co.uk:

081206_obama_allenTongue-tied Barack Obama is turning into Jimmy Carter

Barack Obama’s gaffe mocking the disabled by comparing his (inept but improving) 10 pin bowling skills to the “special Olympics” illustrates the problem he now has in communicating with the American people.

Obama seems incapable of balancing the need to be a national leader and his childish desire to retain his image as the uber cool dude he so clearly believes that he is.

The fact that he felt the need to go on Jay Leno at all to sell his stimulus plan, budget and banking bailouts shows that he has communications issues. The public are not buying his spending splurge, or his administration’s confused attempt to kill off executive bonuses.

Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei at Politico wrote a characteristically insightful piece on Thursday that began: “Of all the pitfalls Barack Obama might face in the presidency, here is one not many people predicted: He is struggling as a public communicator.”

Allen is the hardest working and one of the very best reporters in Washington. Vandehei has established a reputation, with his fellow executive John Harris, of writing pieces that successfully synthesise and lead conventional wisdom inside the beltway. When they speak, you should listen.
They point out:
“The discipline and strategic focus of the campaign have yet to move into the White House. The story of the day often catches the president flat-footed or on the defensive – and regularly undercut by fellow Democrats.

To Obama’s dismay, he is learning that successful presidential communications is only in part – often a fairly small part – about personal eloquence. It requires harnessing his words to a consistent strategy of public education. Obama needs lawmakers and voters alike to view the world through his prism, and to accept his analysis of what’s wrong and his priorities about how to make it right.”

They condemn Obama’s “mixed messages” on the economy, alternating gloom and hope, and what to me is the most damaging fact that he is “too cool for his own good”:

*Even when Obama went before the cameras to express outrage at the AIG bonuses, he seemed to nod to the contrived nature of it. During an East Room event, when Obama coughed, he drew laughter by departing from the teleprompter to crack: “Excuse me, I’m choked up with anger here.”*

Obama has never run anything other than his presidential campaign. He doesn’t know the difference between governing and campaigning and he’s sticking with what he knows.

You can afford to duck and dive between great hopes, dark fears and confected anger when you get three news cycles a day during a campaign. But presidencies last four years and their legacies for centuries. It’s not about winning every news cycle. You have to set a mood. Obama has been curiously slow to learn this.

Allen and Vandehei are not the only ones who have noticed that Obama appears out of his depth. Michael Wolff, America’s premier writer on the media, a bit of a liberal, has just written a devastating critique of Obama’s speaking skills, comparing him to Jimmy Carter and branding him a “terrible bore”.

Here are some of Wolff’s highlights:

*Sheesh, the guy is Jimmy Carter.

That homespun bowling crap on Jay Leno, followed by the turgid, teachy fiscal policy lecture, together with the hurt defensiveness (and bad script for it) that everybody in Washington “is Simon Cowell… Everybody’s got an opinion,” is pure I’m-in-over-my-head stuff.

We’re face-to-face with the reality, the man can’t talk worth a damn.

This guy is leaden and this show is in trouble.*

Wolff stresses that it is the president’s sanctimonious self-regard that has shaped his inept message management.

*Having been so successfully elected, he’s acting like people actually want to hear what he thinks. He’s the great earnest bore at the dinner party. Instead of singing for his supper, he’s just talking-and going on at length. The real job of making people part of the story you’re telling, of having them hang on your every word, of getting the tone and detail right, the hard job of holding a conversation, he ain’t doing.

He’s cold; he’s prickly; he’s uncomfortable; he’s not funny; and he’s getting awfully tedious.

He thinks it’s all about him. That we want him for himself-that he doesn’t have to seduce, charm, surprise, show some skin.*

To some degree we have always known that Obama, while a great platform speaker, is not a great talker. He was a dreadful debater and more prone to be “on it” in one stump speech and utterly uninterested in another just hours later than any front line politician I have seen. But he was undeniably able to extemporise to good effect during the campaign.

That said he was always happiest with an autocue and Republicans are rightly now having a lot of fun pointing out his security blanket like reliance on the plastic screens for even basic announcements.

Continue reading…

Some of us always knew this guy was a fake and his “cooler than thou” attitude was nothing more than arrogance and elitism. Now the truth is becoming more obvious to everybody else.

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