Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman
Some political talking heads and pundits are increasingly using the political-kiss-of-death phrase “another Jimmy Carter” to describe President Barack Obama’s rocky Presidency.
Carter never recovered from his “malaise” speech ““ a word he actually never used but was put in his mouth by critics and Republicans. His name now means an incompetent, over-his-head, unable-to-connect President.
Obama is still grappling with living up to his campaign 2008 image and unmet expectations of what would happen when he took office: tangible signs of economic recovery with more jobs, a post-partisan, post-racial era and a different foreign policy. But his crisis may be even more profound.
It could have once been argued that we might be seeing a new Presidential type:Â someone with a different concept of goal-setting not perceived by the media. Could it be that Obama was FM while pundits were on AM? Or maybe it’s simpler: maybe he’s simply a weak AM station.
Some pundits are writing Obama off as a failed President who can only win in 2012 if Republicans gift him an opponent easy to caricature. But IS he another Carter?
In 1976 Carter wooed and wowed America, which considered him a broom to sweep away memories of Richard Nixon, Watergate and Gerald Ford’s Nixon pardon. Carter promised “I’ll never lie to you.” He was smiley, sincere and unity oriented rather than fixated on divide-and-rule politics. But once in office his sweater and smile vanished, his political skills proved shockingly deficient, he alienated Congress, faced a divided party and was basically out of his league.
If Ronald Reagan was “the Teflon President,” Carter was “the Velcro President.” So is Obama.
Obama in office is different from the campaign 2008 Obama. His highly touted charisma is often out to lunch. His talk about economic and transformational change often seems more based on hope than political and economic realities. If Chicago’s two Mayor Daleys used Obama’s political style of “Chicago politics” they never would have been elected.
The political timing and judgment of Obama and his team have often proved flat-footed and tin-eared. Obama sometimes seems to want to fly against political winds as a political kamikaze. In the furor surrounding the building of a mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero, Democrats reportedly felt they dodged a silver bullet since Obama originally said it was a local issue. Then Obama backed the mosque and clarified his remarks which critics labeled a “walk back” and the White House insisted wasn’t — as GOP strategists salivated. So Obama has now created a national campaign issue.
Nevada Sen. Harry Reid jumped ship on Obama’s position issue faster than anyone jumped from the Titanic.
Which is what some now liken Democratic prospects to in November.
GOP strategist Ed Rollins suggests Obama was like the hapless former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis in taking a stand opposed by nearly 70 percent of Americans. Obama also resembles Dukakis in not responding to damaging Republican attacks quickly. Remember James Carville’s “War Room?” It was to ensure that Democrats didn’t make the political-timing-and-response mistakes Dukakis did. Obama is making those mistakes.
Any day now, can we expect to see Obama riding in a tank with a silly helmet on his head?
Obama key problem is that that compromise has not worked in a mega-partisan age with a weakened political center. His political instincts seem poor and others easily define him. Leftists call him a corporate center-rightist; rightists call him a liberal socialist. Cartoonists on both sides show him morphing into George Bush.
Could it be that rather than talk about Obama being “another Carter,” future historians will call a future President “another Obama” ““ with the jury still out on what that means?
Right now what seems certain is: no one is suggesting Obama is proving to be another Lincoln, FDR, JFK or Ronald Reagan. Still, the conventional wisdom does have a way of changing abruptly. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it.
We might see the tank and helmet first.
Copyright 2010 Joe Gandelman
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.
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