It can never be about the policies. It can never be the public’s rejection of liberal ideas. It’s always about the candidate or the packaging–i.e., the “messaging”–a communication problem. Ace has written about this several times. We saw it during the lead-up to the 2010 election and for some time thereafter. It wasn’t that the public disliked or misunderstood liberalism; it was that the GOP’s packaging was superior. And that if Democrats could simply package, brand, and message their ideas better, then they would be an Instant Hit with the public.
The unstated flipside of the messaging argument is that the public is simply too ignorant to get it. Unstated by some, that is. James Taranto writes about the collapse of “the Cult of Obama” and points out that some are lashing out at the American people for being unworthy of Obama. Taranto adds that there are still others who are experiencing moments of clarity. He mentions Drew Westen’s op-ed in the New York Times yesterday wherein Westen acknowledged being “bewitched” and “enthralled” by the Obama candidacy. Westen didn’t mention whether he thought Obama’s pants were perfectly creased, though.
In his Best of the Web column today, James Taranto contrasts between the gaseous, solipsistic, though seemingly soaring rhetoric of Obama on the stump in 2008, versus where he stands today after two and a half years in office:
Yesterday the president gave a speech in Holland, Mich. Get a load of the headlines it generated:
• New York Times: “Obama Urges Voters to Scold Republicans”
• Associated Press: “Obama: Something Is Wrong With Country’s Politics”
• Los Angeles Times: “Obama to GOP: Put Country Before Party”
• CNN: “President Obama: ‘I’m Frustrated’ ”
• Washington Post: “Obama to America: You Must Pressure Congress to Pivot to Jobs”
• The Hill: “Obama Grasps for Anti-Washington Anger”
Like a leaky balloon, Barack Obama keeps getting smaller. “The president is declaring to the world that he is simply too weak to govern,” Peter Wehner observes. “Not only that, he wants all of America to know that he’s darn frustrated about it. You can even hear it in his voice.” That last comment isn’t Wehner’s evaluation but a paraphrase of the president’s own words: “Maybe you hear it in my voice–that’s why I’m frustrated. Because you deserve better.”
Wait, it gets worse. Last night Obama was in New York for a fund-raiser. At that event he elaborated on the “you deserve better” theme: “What was remarkable was to see outside of Washington the enthusiasm, the energy, the hopefulness, the decency of the American people. And what I said to them is you deserve better. You deserve better than you’ve been getting out of Washington over the last 2½ months–for that matter, for the last 2½ years.”
For the last 2½ years. Is that not as explicit an acknowledgment of failure as has ever been heard from a sitting president? A nice equivoque comes from another headline, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Dreaded Carp: Can They Be Stopped?” Yes, they can–but alas, probably not until November 2012.
Expect plenty of carping — and much worse — next year from the left. In 2003, near the end of his all-too-brief incarnation as a pro-GWOT conservative, Andrew Sullivan wrote of John Kerry (before endorsing him the following year), “The one thing that knowledgeable people have told me about John Kerry is that he doesn’t know when to stop. He has no controlling mechanism when he goes on the attack.”
But that wasn’t true just of Kerry as an individual; that’s a summation of the 21st century American left as a whole. And if the Tea Party turns out en masse next year — which seems like a reasonable forecast, given what we saw in 2010, then the left will explode in response, presenting a very ugly contrast to the dulcet tones of hopenchange in 2008.
Related: At the Tatler, Maximum Pajamahadeen Roger L. Simon spots “Axelrod already trying to shore up a failed presidency on the chat shows.”
Update: Video added, found via Stacy McCain’s sidekick, Smitty.