A radio talk show host characterized President Obama’s DNC convention address as the “boyfriend speech”. She compared his pleading with the screed those deadbeat suitors give they realize they are about to dumped and who promise to bring back the magic.
I couldn’t quite figure out why the speech fell so flat with me. Then it struck me. I’d heard this speech before. You know when you’re in a relationship that has gone past it’s shelf life, and maybe a new guy has started to notice, even woo you. All of sudden, the boyfriend realizes he is about to be dumped, and there is a flurry of activity designed to remind you of how awesome he is in the hopes you don’t break up with him. That was the speech Obama gave last night. It started with a look down memory lane, to the hopeful, young man he was when you first met him. Then he reminded you of how much you’d been through. How bad things had gotten. And how HE was there to lean on in times of need. Then he subtly talked smack about his competition. You don’t want THAT guy, do you? He then went quickly into, “it’s not about me, it’s about you”, filling your head with empty platitudes about how great you are and how much you’ve contributed to the relationship. And then he reasserted himself as THE boyfriend. The one who had to put up with all your crap when you were cranky, doing the heavy lifting so you didn’t have to. Then there was the misty eyed hope about our future. He lays out how he wants to get married, and can’t wait to have children, even though nothing he’s said or actually done to this point indicated this previously. And he wraps things up with the “give me another chance and everything will be different this time” spiel and the speech was over. Read the speech and tell me I’m wrong. I’ve heard it all before.
Any reasonable girl would show him the door. But as readers probably know and much to the surprise of John Hinderaker of Powerline, the “boyfriend” speech very often works. There’s a better than average chance in real life that the girl will not only forget about the IOUs, broken promises and BS — she’ll come busting out the gate after him. Hinderaker can hardly contain his perplexity.
On paper, given Obama’s record, this election should be a cakewalk for the Republicans. Why isn’t it? I am afraid the answer may be that the country is closer to the point of no return than most of us believed …
At National Review, Andy McCarthy poses the same question–why isn’t this election a landslide?–and posits a somewhat different explanation. Andy faults today’s Republicans for not being principled enough, or conservative enough.
But even though he doesn’t use the term McCarthy is unconsciously using the “boyfriend” analogy but this time to chastise the Republicans. If Obama is the deadbeat suitor then Romney in McCarthy’s analogy plays the role of George McFly, the wimpy father of Marty McFly in the Back to the Future series. George is too timid and stuck up to aggressively fight for the hand of the damozel in distress. Without some help from the future, George would simply get pushed around.
You can almost hear McCarthy shout Romney, “propose, dammit,propose!” But all McFly can do is stutter. He’s the cinematic Willard Mitt — too tongue tied and diffident to make his play. Of course analogies only go so far. Mitt is more aggressive than George McFly.
Charles Krauthammer, analyzing the Democratic convention, is on the ‘boyfriend’ track. “Given the state of the economy, by any historical standard, Barack Obama should be 15 points behind Mitt Romney. Why is he tied? The empathy gap. On ‘caring about average people,’ Obama wins by 22 points.” In other words, Barack Obama is like one of those characters in the deodorant commercials who gets the girl with pickup moves that are obvious to everyone but the lady.
Unfortunately for both Krauthammer and McCarthy, this sort of charm — the kind that keeps ladies coming back to their boyfriends after they’ve been bamboozled, betrayed and generally given short shrift, is either something you are born with or not. President Obama, whatever his faults, has got lots of this charm. As Charles Krauthammer put it anyone who thinks everyone eventually sees through this smarminess should remember that the public’s idea of a caring person is still Bill Clinton.
Well, there’s always 2016.
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