“No one knows what’s going to happen next week, never mind Nov. 4, Peggy Noonan wrote this past Friday. “But it is increasingly reasonable to believe what a grizzled journalistic veteran of the campaign trail said last week in conversation. The election will be a wave for Republicans; the only question is whether it will be a big one or a small one:”
On Nov. 5, Mr. Obama will have to say something that shows he gets it. That shows without saying that he’s humbled, that he isn’t living in a bubble.
Here’s the problem. The qualities required of such a statement—humility, self-awareness, sensitivity to the public mood—are sort of the opposite of what the president brings to the table.
His people are going to have to figure this out.
Republicans in 2006 lost the House and Senate. In a news conference just before 7 p.m. the next day, President George W. Bush said: “Look, this is a close election. If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a thumpin’.” That did the trick, declaring the obvious with an air of chagrin, admitting he’d been wounded, and acknowledging that politics at bottom is combat.
Democrats in 1994 took an even worse pounding. Republicans not only won the Senate and House but did so on the Contract With America. President Clinton responded the next day with a nearly perfect statement: “We were held accountable . . . and I accept my share of responsibility in the result.” He said of the voters’ message: “I got it.” He acknowledged the election had real political meaning, saying the people “still believe government is more often the problem than the solution.” The voters backed “sweeping changes.” He then made a mistake in seeming to claim his election in 1992 was part of the change, and 1994 just a continuation of its spirit. But he backed off under questioning and reporters didn’t press the matter.
What would an Obama White House meeting on What the President Should Say sound like?
Good luck with that; Obama’s horrid and historically illiterate young speechwriters have little to show for their efforts, and as Obama himself has said, “I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” But while Obama may have disdain for his inner circle, his hatred of everyone to his right, Republicans and moderate blue collar Democrats alike has been the stuff of legend since 2008.
All of which is a reminder that Republicans should work extra hard over the next week to ensure that at a barely restrained fury is on display from the semi-retired president — and Harry Reid, of course — next Wednesday.