Strange doings on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times these days. Two Obama stalwarts — Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman — have de facto defected, perhaps sensing that their man has not only lost his mojo, but probably never had one.
Dowd is the most direct, writing in a recent column titled “Dreaming of A Superhero”:
The president who started off with such dazzle now seems incapable of stimulating either the economy or the voters. His campaign is offering Obama 2012 car magnets for a donation of $10; cat collars reading “I Meow for Michelle” for $12; an Obama grill spatula for $40, and discounted hoodies and T-shirts. How the mighty have fallen.
Ouch. Cat collars? But this is the least of it. Dowd wonders if Obama is really up to the task of leading.
The legendary speaker who drew campaign crowds in the tens of thousands and inspired a dispirited nation ended up nonchalantly delegating to a pork-happy Congress, disdaining the bully pulpit, neglecting to do any L.B.J.-style grunt work with Congress and the American public, and ceding control of his narrative.
A word often used to describe Obama is “aloof.” “Distant” is also frequently heard. But Dowd seems to imply that these adjectives might be in fact euphemisms for a more fundamental failing — a lack of real substance or conviction, and those who thought they had elected a visionary with a passion for progressive action suddenly find themselves confronted instead by Robert Redford’s “The Candidate,” who, once elected, looks up with a lost expression and says “What do we do now?”
Dowd quotes Obama’s boss at his community organizing job in Chicago, Jerry Kellman:
“He was not unwilling to take risks, but was just this strange combination of someone who would have to weigh everything to death, and then take a dramatic risk at the end. “
We have seen the first part, but the “dramatic risks at the end” have turned out to be strangely wrought. High-speed rail? “Green” energy? Where’s the originality, the insight, the bold strokes and high concepts that define an agenda and help sell it to the electorate?
But our topic here is not Obama, but Dowd. This is a remarkably hostile piece, in its way, and little effort is made to qualify or blunt some very harsh words. There are the usual asides about a stubborn congress and so forth, but that leads us to our next point, which Professor Krugman illustrates so vividly in his piece today, “This Republican Economy.”
Never mind the Democrat in the White House; for all practical purposes, this is already the economic policy of Republican dreams.
Well, you gotta love it. “Republican dreams?” I somehow doubt any Republican ever asked for of an economy in this state of disrepair, or managed in the way this one has been. But that’s Krugman, who is ever more a disciple of the Big Lie. Here, Krugman doesn’t even try to justify Obama’s economic performance any more; he says, astonishingly “Never mind the Democrat in the White House.” What? Well, what about the Democrats who control the Senate? Do the Republicans “control” Beinecke and Geithner? Never mind. This is a “Republican economy.” Don’t look at the reality — buy the vision, because whatever ability Obama may lack in spellbinding his audience these days, Krugman seems now to lay claim to. We’re supposed to take his word for it.
When one of your chief apologists calls you a wimp, and the other declares you irrelevant, maybe you start asking yourself some questions. But whom can he turn to? Larry Summers? No, he was banished because the President found Valerie Jarrett’s economic advice superior to his. Rahm? Oops. He’s up to his neck in Chicago, which has its own conundrums. Daley? Nope — pushed out because he was too willing to compromise with the Republicans. Who’s left? I don’t know, but, if I listen closely, I hear a strange, haunting noise. Maybe it’s those cats, mewing for Michelle.