Obama vs. the Loonies
First fix the problem, and then fix the blame. So say the Japanese. But you know what? This ain't Japan.
We play the blame game here, and we play it early and often. It is now generally recognized that two weeks from now, the Democrats will suffer a disaster at the polls.
I know no member of Team Obama who truly believes the Democrats will hold onto the House of Representatives. The only question is whether the defeat will be moderate and manageable or a calamity of Biblical proportions.
So far, the smart money is on Biblical. But why? Upon whom do we fix the blame?
There is the president, of course. While his name will not be on the ballot, it is on everybody's lips. He should have done more and better things in his first two years, Democrats say. Or at least he should have sold his accomplishments better.
The president does not entirely disagree. He told Peter Baker of The New York Times that it is not enough to do good things for the country, but "you can't be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion."
He knew he was going to have trouble with this. Everyone close to him knew he was going to have trouble. I have described it before. In February 2007, about a week before he announced for the presidency, he attended a "cattle call" in a suburban hotel outside Washington for potential Democratic candidates. The room was packed to bursting with pols and press, and those locked out by the fire marshal pounded on the doors. Back then, the Democrats had the enthusiasm and the Republicans had the gap.
When it came Obama's turn to speak, he looked out at the room and said: "You know, if you look at all the cameras gathered around and the clickin' of the photographers, the pundits who are collected, sometimes you feel like you are part of a reality TV show. I feel like this is 'American Idol' or 'Survivor,' and you got to figure out if you're going to go to Hollywood or you're going to be voted off the island. But that's not why I'm here."
He has not changed. He has little patience — Valerie Jarrett, his senior adviser, says — with the "inevitable theatrics of Washington."
But theatrics are how a president sells himself and his policies, and if he fails to master those theatrics, or finds those theatrics too demeaning, then he and his party really will be voted off the island. And quickly.
It is not just how Obama has stage-managed his achievements, however.
And then there are the mainstream Democrats who are merely weary. Velma Hart, a solid, middle-class Democratic voter, stood up at a town hall in September and said she was "exhausted" by defending Obama and his administration. A few weeks later, Gov. Ed Rendell, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said, "A tepid vote counts the same as a wildly enthusiastic vote." Which is true, but it is a whole lot easier getting a wildly enthusiastic voter to the polling place than a tepid voter.
But even if Obama had pleased his entire party, that still would have left the Republicans, the tea partiers and the whackos.
How do you blame Obama for the shocking numbers of people who erroneously believe he is a Muslim or was not born in the United States or is a socialist-communist-fascist (take your pick or take all three)?
Nobody in the White House, including Obama, expected the degree of sheer hatred that has been directed against him. They knew Obama's approval ratings would fall — how could they not when in his first 100 days in office he hit 69 percent, the highest approval rating for any president at that point in 20 years?
But tensions, fears and suspicions bubbled just beneath the surface. Certain facts had been overlooked in the wave of pride and good feeling that had followed Obama's election. While Obama had won the popular vote by a solid 7 percentage points, he had lost the white vote by a landslide, 12 percentage points. And when he made a world tour, where his messianic image got amplified and his halo got polished by huge and adoring crowds, the clouds began to gather back at home.
He cannot be blamed for the demons who demonize him. In a fine story by Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post on Sunday under the headline, "Hope Isn't What It Used To Be," this little doozy appeared in the 25th paragraph about how a volunteer was manning the Democratic Party table at the Arkansas State Fair "when a man walks over wearing a green T-shirt that says, 'Either he dies, or the country dies.'"
Either he dies or the country dies? Do we really live in a country where a man would go out on the street wearing such a thing? If I had seen it, I think I would have called the Secret Service. (I Googled the phrase to see if I could find the manufacturer of the T-shirt, but I found no hits. Does the guy print them up in his basement?)
If the Democrats get swamped on Nov. 2, sure, some of it is the fault of the enthusiasm gap and some of it is the fault of the president, but some of it is the fault of those loonies who have crept into American politics like bedbugs who have grown bloated on their own hatreds.
To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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