"President Obama likes to be alone," is the lede of Maureen Dowd's column today. What follows is a completely plausible sounding, totally BS 800 words that I just can't help but excise and comment on, bit by bit.
"When he speaks at rallies, he doesn’t want the stage cluttered with other officeholders. When he rides in his limo, he isn’t prone to give local pols a lift. He wants to feel that he doesn’t owe his ascension to anyone else — not a rich daddy, not a spouse or father who was president, not even those who helped at pivotal moments. He believes he could do any job in his White House or campaign, from speechwriter to policy director, better than those holding the jobs."
So here she is, in her second paragraph, headed right off the deep-end. Based on no sources but her own psychic abilities, Dowd decides that President Obama is a loner because he thinks that he's better than everybody else at everything. This is the guy who said, "you didn't build that," by the way, acknowledging that all of our accomplishments have a social context. Dowd called that remark "chuckleheaded" in August. So either Obama is a chucklehead or an arrogant jerk. The guy just can't win when there's a 800 word hole to fill!
"So Obama knows that he alone is responsible for his unfathomable retreat into his own head while 70 million people watched. He hadn’t been nailing it in debate prep either, taking a break to visit the Hoover Dam, and worried aides knew his head wasn’t in it. When the president realized what a dud he was, he apologized to flummoxed and irritated advisers."
So, one paragraph ago, he's an arrogant prick. Now the President is a modest and humble man, apologizing to he advisors for his shortcomings. Also, taking a break to visit the Hoover Dam took his head out of debate mode, it had nothing to do with maybe having to manage the crisis of Turkey nearly going to war with Syria.
"Once during the 2008 campaign, reading about all the cataclysms jolting the economy and the world, Obama joked to an adviser: “Maybe I should throw the game.” This time, he actually threw the game. And shaved points right off his poll ratings. The president is good at analyzing the psychology of other world leaders, and he wrote an acclaimed memoir about his long, lonely odyssey of self-discovery. But he doesn’t always do a good job at analyzing his own psychology to avoid self-destructive patterns."
Based on a joke from 2008, one that I figure every candidate for higher office must make at one point on the trail, Dowd now implies that Obama is (consciously or not) throwing the election. An anonymous advisor tells Dowd this. This advisor is an expert in behavioral psychology. I mean, it doesn't say that in Dowd's piece, but why else would she quote this person about Obama's "self-destructive patterns?"
"David Maraniss, who wrote biographies of Bill Clinton and Obama, said that both men had recurring themes. Clinton would plant “the seeds of his own undoing” and then “find a way to recover.” Obama’s personality, Maraniss said, was shaped by his desire to avoid traps created by his unusual family and geographical backgrounds, and the trap of race in America.
It helped explain his caution, his tendency to hold back and survey life like a chessboard, looking for where he might get checkmated,” Maraniss wrote in “Barack Obama: The Story,” adding that it also made Obama seek to transcend confrontation."
I have no beef with quoting Maraniss' opnions. But look where this goes...
"While Mitt Romney did a great job of conjuring a less off-putting and hard-right Romney, Obama walked into a trap of his own devising."
Okay, we're back to the psychobabble. Obama didn't just have a bad debate, he devised a trap for himself. Because, you see, he is (consciously or not) throwing the election.
"It was a perfect psychological storm for the president. He performs better when his back is against the wall; he has some subconscious need to put himself in challenging positions. That makes it hard for him to surf success and intensity; he just suddenly runs out of gas and stops fighting, leaving revved up supporters confused and deflated. “That’s just his rhythm,” said one adviser."
Okay, remember that earlier in the column, Dowd says that Obama knew he was doing a bad job at prep and knew he was losing the debate. So, if he performs best when his "back is against the wall," then what happened here? Well, it could be that Romney basically came into the debate with a totally different set of policies and ideas than he'd been running on. It could be that Obama just had a bad night and is not sabotaging himself.
"Because Obama doesn’t relish confrontation, he often fails to pin his opponents on the mat the first time he gets the chance; instead, perversely, he pulls back and allows foes to gain oxygen. It happened with Hillary in New Hampshire and Texas and with Republicans in the health care and debt-ceiling debates. Just as Obama let the Tea Party inflate in the summer of 2009, spreading a phony narrative about “death panels,” now he has let Romney inflate and spread a phony narrative about moderation and tax math."
Dowd's column runs a week after the debate. Everybody else who is interested has already had this argument/tooth gnashing session. If Dowd is really concerned about Romney spreading a phony narrative, she should... write about it in her column and lead us to the truth. It'd be a better use of the space than this exercise in presidential mind-reading.
Also, Dowd is breezy with her history. Did no editor at The Times question Dowd's assertion that Obama could have stopped the Tea Party from forming? What was he supposed to do, freeze the bank accounts of the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey's FreedomWorks?
"Even though Obama was urged not to show his pompous side, he arrived at the podium cloaked in layers of disdain; a disdain for debates, which he regards as shams, a venue, as the Carter White House adviser Gerry Rafshoon puts it, where “people prefer a good liar to a bad performer.”"
I don't know whether or not Obama disdains presidential debates. Neither, apparently, does Dowd. But, she knows what a former Carter advisor thinks and so... here you go!
"Obama feels: Seriously? After all he did mopping up Republican chaos, does he really have to spend weeks practicing a canned zinger? Should the man who killed Osama bin Laden and personally reviews drone strikes have to put on a show of macho swagger?
Plus, he’s filled with disdain for Romney, seeing him as the ultimate slick boardroom guy born on third base trying to peddle money-making deals. Surely everyone sees through this con man?
Just as Poppy Bush didn’t try as hard as he should have because he assumed voters would reject Slick Willie, Obama lapsed into not trying because he assumed voters would reject Cayman Mitt."
How did she get inside Obama's head like that? Is she a Betazoid? Or is she just making shit up? I have at least seen it reported elsewhere that Obama respected McCain as a war hero and longtime Senator and that he has less respect for Romney's credentials. But that's pretty weak evidence that Dowd may or may not be using to support her unlikely argument that Obama just isn't trying to win.
"The president averted his eyes as glittering opportunities passed, even when Romney sent a lob his way with a reference to his accountant."
Or maybe, as President, Obama didn't want to get into a namecalling match that would risk undermining the stature that he has because of his office. Reasonable people can disagree about the tactics, right?
"Obama has been coddled by Valerie Jarrett, the adviser who sat next to Michelle at the debate, instead of the more politically strategic choice of local pols and their spouses. Jarrett believes that everyone must woo the prodigy who deigns to guide us, not the other way around."
Of course! He's being coddled by some woman!
"At a fund-raising concert in San Francisco Monday night, the president mocked Romney’s star turn, saying “what was being presented wasn’t leadership; that’s salesmanship.”
It is that distaste for salesmanship that caused Obama not to sell or even explain health care and economic policies; and it is that distaste that caused him not to sell himself and his policies at the debate."
Obama should just change all of his positions over night, too! That'd be great for democracy.
"His latest fund-raising plea is marked “URGENT.” But in refusing to muster his will and energy, and urgently sell his vision, he underscores his own lapses in leadership and undermines arguments for four more years."
First, just about every fundraising plea I get, from politicians and charities, is marked "urgent."
Finally, Dowd's conclusion here is that Obama has undermined his case for re-election. Meaning that Dowd must think that Romney is now a reasonable choice for the White House, in spite of the fact that in this very column, she calls him a liar. To Dowd, the truth doesn't apparently matter as much as an enthusiastic pitch.