The Day After

Less than 24 hours after he lost the golden mantle, President Obama went before an expectant nation with a White House press conference. He and his party had received an historic slap-down. The people had spoken directly and plainly.

For the first two-thirds of the presser, the president spoke in Washington-speak. It was nuanced and hit notes that his aides would nod at approvingly. He was humbled and willing to reach out to the other side. If you were a Washington insider and you had a decoder ring, you could nod appreciatively that you understood the message.

But as a political acknowledgement to an angry public, it has to be chalked up as another loss. In the language of the American people, it was not straight talk. It was babble,  presented in cold language that only Professor Obama could deliver.

He said he had heard the American people’s “frustration” over the economy. It had all the feel of the condescending way you talk to children. But this is the Obama way. He lectures at you. He talks down to the public. He doesn’t realize that the public “gets it.” The question is, when will he?

Only near the end of the press conference, when a few White House reporters pressed him to respond to them in personal terms, did Professor Obama exude any self-reflection. At first he was clumsy, saying he felt “bad” about the results. But when speaking about the backroom deals on health care, he ran away from this moment of self-criticism. He mused that while the health care process was “messy,” he thought the health care outcome was a good one.

The performance was one that demonstrated that both he and his inner circle still have yet to process the political debacle he inflicted on himself with his own hands.

Earlier today, I went to a major gathering of conservative organizations to understand the political carnage wrecked by the electorate. It is nothing short of Defcon 5 level of devastation.  And its effects are likely to be felt for at least a decade, if not beyond.

In January, close to 90 new freshmen Republicans will be sworn into office. Many of these men and women ran and won on the Tea Party’s program of small government, lower taxes, and fiscal sanity. Many are articulate new members who will be passionate about their beliefs.  Yes, they actually believe this stuff. They were not merely speechifying. For their health, the Republican leadership will probably have to listen to the newbies. Their allies in the Tea Party have also made it crystal clear they expect a new and reformed Republican Party.