The Obama Watch

It’s Maureen in America Again

The sneering Ms. Dowd finds herself outcommunicated.

By 11.8.10

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Especially after bad days, liberals like to go to columnists like Maureen Dowd at the New York Times for some reassurance that everything's fine with liberalism and it's just the rest of us who are a bad mix of weird, greedy, ethnocentric, dumb and scary.

Like a lighthouse in a storm, Dowd unfailingly guides lost-at-sea liberals back to the safe port of bigger government, political sneering, higher taxation, centralized planning and economic envy.

Here was Ms. Dowd's instant analysis on the morning after the nation's voters delivered a stunning and nationwide defeat to Democrats: "Even though it was predicted, it was still a shock to see voters humiliate a brilliant and spellbinding young president, who'd had such a Kennedy-like beginning."

It's more accurate to report that the "spellbinding" phase ended about two years ago when all the balloons and canned stadium speeches were put away and the real job of governing had to begin. Clearly, the thrill is long gone.

Regarding the "brilliant" part, Dowd failed to acknowledge that President Obama was far from brilliant in putting the jobs issue, the top concern for voters, on the back burner while he wasted two years trying to ram an unpopular health reform bill through Congress.

Ms. Dowd is arguing that Obama remains as brilliant and spellbinding as ever and the people are just too dim-witted and propagandized to recognize it.

"Republicans," she asserted, "outcommunicated a silver-tongued president who was supposed to be Ronald Reagan's heir in the communication department."

First, Obama is declared "Kennedy-like," and then Reaganesque. Simply the best, doubled!

In fact, President Obama delivered dozens of major speeches to promote the Democrats' version of health reform. His problem was that the more he talked the more the public turned against what he was saying -- the opposite of the impact President Reagan generally produced when he argued a position.

Rather than a matter of communication or being "outcommunicated," Obama failed because he and his Congressional allies were trying to sell a bad product.

The nation's nasty Republicans and conservatives, concluded Dowd, were "able to persuade a lot of Americans that the couple in the White House was not American enough, not quite 'normal,' too radical, too Great Society." Further, they were able to persuade a lot of Americans that both Obamas were given a strong overdose of arrogance and self-importance in college, that all their "Ivy League schooling had made them think they knew better than the average American folks, not to mention the Founding Fathers."

Dowd got it right about the perception of Ivy League superiority and haughtiness. That seems to be the natural reaction to what Michelle Obama declared in 2008 -- "Let me tell you something -- for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."

A long-running lack of pride in America is simply not something that's felt by non-Harvard "average American folks."

Barack Obama, similarly, when asked while attending a European summit in 2009 if he believed in American exceptionalism, replied, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that Brits believe in British exceptionalism and Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." As Michael Barone put it, "In other words, not at all."

Ms. Dowd's description on the morning after of the previous night's political winners? Simply "a lot of conservative nuts." Quite a catty, bitter and erroneous depiction of events by a top columnist at the so-called "paper-of-record."

I'm more positive about President Obama getting his wings clipped. I think it's healthy for people to increase their skepticism about someone who declared, speaking of himself, "We are the ones we've been waiting for."

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About the Author
Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise and an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.