Monday, July 26, 2010
"...An ass-thumping president frantically fighting for the little guy—it’s hard to imagine George Washington or Abraham Lincoln choosing to project an image of this kind. Barack Obama has managed a rare feat in American history: The longer he is president, the less presidential he has become. Obama has reversed the usual process of growth and maturation, appearing today far more like a candidate for the presidency—and a very ordinary one at that—than he did during the latter stages of his campaign.
He has also become practitioner-in-chief of what Alexander Hamilton referred to in Federalist 68 as the “little arts of popularity.” These arts, Hamilton well knew, would become an inevitable feature of democratic politics. But their spread from the province of political campaigns into the “normal” conduct of the presidency represents a dramatic reversal of the Founders’ design. The Constitution was crafted to prevent a campaign-style presidency; Obama is in the midst of creating one.
In January 2010, the Obama-friendly Huffington Post ran a headline: “President Takes Populist Message on the Road.” Even some of his staunchest and most serious supporters, among them Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, have commended Obama for “turning toward populism.”
By “populism” these observers were referring to divisive “us against them” appeals meant to rile up and energize a base.
What the president’s supporters add by way of explanation, if excuses for employing the “little arts of popularity” are still necessary, is that Obama is only responding to an unprecedented series of attacks from his detractors.
But this explanation misses the main point, which is not the alleged behavior of gatherings of citizens, but the norms and standards of the presidency. Many past presidents endured harsh criticisms from the press and from popular movements of their day, but considered it unpresidential to respond in kind. Not Barack Obama, who has found his comfort zone in magnifying and then assaulting any kind of opposition. This excuse for Obama’s style also overlooks that he does not want for other means to get his message across. Obama has at his beck and call a staff of professional spokespersons, not to mention the editorial page of the New York Times.
Barry the Bland has all he needs to do what his handlers require of him. He reads well, postures grandly, and is more at home hanging curtains than clearing out that skanky ass brush from the back 40.
Precisely the president his followers desperately needed. As lame as they in most instances, but placed in a position demanding respect.
A geeks nirvana.