Speaking to the Democratic National Committee last Saturday, Barack Obama cast himself as a victim of the American people's "frustration" rather than a cause of it. He suggested that his sagging poll numbers reflect an amorphous moodiness, not discontent with his policies.
This epiphany came through his wife, "always a good barometer," who informed him that the American people are too sour these days to take calls from pollsters happily: "she said, you know, listen, if you're the average family, if I'm a mom out there and I'm working and my husband is working but we're worried about losing our jobs, our hours have been cut back, the cost of our health care premium just went up 30 percent, the credit card company just jacked up our interest rates 39 percent, and our home value has gone down by $100,000, our 401(k) is all banged up -- and suddenly somebody calls up and says, so, how do you think President Obama is doing right now? What are they going to say? What are they going to say?"
He said the American people have "every right" to be frustrated. But not with him. What was meant to sound self-effacing quickly became self-justifying. And insulting: he is in effect accusing the American people of unjustly taking their anger out on him.
First, White House aides implied that the frustration of the American people was due to dimness: Obama's arguments are too complex and nuanced for their appreciation. Now the line is that pollsters are catching them at a bad time.
Michelle Obama offered another barometer reading to her husband this week, declaring in an ABC interview that he had performed "a phenomenal job" during his first year. The only positive jobs report that comes out of the Obama White House regards his own, and appears to get upgraded with each passing week: from a "solid B plus" to "really good" to "phenomenal."
The country was on the "brink" of depression, Michelle Obama explained, and Barack pulled it back. Apparently so much so that she can now turn her attention to a problem of plenty, not privation -- "childhood obesity." While other countries on the brink face famine, Obama's America stares down junk food.
Another pressing matter before the nation this week was the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Repealing it is a "matter of integrity," said Obama's generals, as Democrats who voted for that policy nodded. Liberalism never fails to build upon its own failures: so the "dishonesty" that came with Clinton opening the door a crack becomes the rationale for kicking it clean off.
Frustrated Americans clinging to their God and guns may not grasp the complexity of these avant-garde arguments. But in time, if they listen carefully enough to Obama's words, they will come around and see that a Justice Department run by the ACLU and a military infiltrated by ACT UP will keep them safe.
No claim is too fanciful for the Obama administration not to try and float at least once: whether it is saying that "green jobs" will save the economy, abolishing Don't Ask, Don't Tell will strengthen the military, or giving a jury trial to the 9/11 mastermind will boost American morale.
Let's just say it and see what happens, appears to be the attitude. The backlash on the last claim was strong enough that the White House withdrew it, but this week they tried a new tack: those who question Mirandizing terrorists are "serving the goals of Al Qaeda," said John Brennan. The Obama administration would rather not waste time on these "critics."
As Obama said in his DNC speech, Democrats "speak to the hopes of the American people instead of their fears." To parents more worried about feeding their children than making them fat, Democrats offer the hope of a campaign against childhood obesity; to out-of-work coal miners, they offer wind farm jobs of the future; to rattled Americans still reeling from a botched bombing over Detroit, they offer a more progressive military. And while Obama may have cost thousands of Americans their jobs by sending anti-business signals for a year, the unemployed can draw inspiration from his "phenomenal" one.
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