Saturday, January 02, 2010

So Far After Almost a Year, He Doesn't Seem to Like the Job Much

Remember when you were a kid and you made a face and your mother said to you, "You'd better stop doing that, or your face will stick that way"? Does anyone think Obama is actually enjoying his job as POTUS? I know he enjoys the perks, but I don't think he enjoys the job that goes with the perks. With Obama telling George Staphanopoulos in September that he's "pining" for his Christmas vacation (and he's barely been in the job six months)--come on, isn't that a red flag that things aren't going so well in the new job?

Karl Rove has a perceptive and hilarious opinion piece in the WSJ today: "New Year's Resolutions for Washington." Here's a couple of resolutions from Mr. Rove for Mr. Obama:
  1. In 2010, Mr. Obama should work on his habit of leaving a room of people with deeply divided opinions thinking he agrees with all of them. That leads to disagreements over essential issues, like the meaning of his pledge to begin withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2011 and the nature of the new military mission there.
  2. Mr. Obama should work on meaning what he says. He didn't last year with all those health-care deadlines and tough talk supporting the public option. Now Mr. Obama will pivot to jobs and deficit reduction. As he tries to do that, voters will wonder if it's just a ruse to save Democrats.
Karl Rove has further New Year's resolutions for Joe Biden, White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, Homeland Security SecretaryJanet Napolitano, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Congressional leaders, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, Tea Party members, and last, but not least, Karl Rove himself.

I found an interesting article at a site that's new to me, techPresident. I have no idea what sorts of articles normally appear on this site, but the article I read there sounds like it's written by a disappointed Obama supporter, shooting a dagger into the heart of the job that Obama and his team have done in 2009--"The Obama Disconnect: What Happens When Myth Meets Reality."

I like the way the article starts out:

How did this:

Produce this:

The article gives an answer to that provocative question, but before reading on, I could give an answer, too: Because they didn't mean it, not once, not ever!

What we were told by Obama and his Team:
  • “The theme of the campaign, direct from Obama, was that the people were the organization.” -“Trusting a community can produce dramatic and unexpected results."
  • "It was going to be something organic. It was going to be bottom-up,"
  • Obama didn't just take their money. He gave them seats at the table and allowed them to become players."
  • “Obama owned the Web because Plouffe [David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager--remember him?] believed in a few smart kids and let them go a little nuts.”
The truth about Obama and his Team:
  • Early money (the most influential money in politics): more than a third of his total came from the financial sector, as opposed to 28% for Hillary Clinton. Nearly half of Obama's funding came from people giving over $1,000 or more. So much for "hope-n-change."
  • The Obama campaign wasn't about giving control to the grassroots; the campaign shared tasks with its supporters but didn't share power. So much for "hope-n-change."
Micah L. Sifry, the article's author, recommends a couple of books that have recently been published about the Obama campaign: two new books have come out that enable us to draw a much clearer picture of the relationship between Obama and his base, the role of the internet, and the gaps between myth and reality, what was and what is.

First is the book written by Obama campaign manager David Plouffe: The Audacity to Win. Plouffe writes about how the campaign emphasized building a vast cadre of campaign volunteers who were expected to be small donors, local organizers and message spreaders. Plouffe writes that ultimately Obama's delegate edge--his margin over Hillary Clinton--was due to these volunteers' efforts.

So the question asked of Plouffe by Sifry: Given the power of the grassroots support in the campaign, why wasn't more done by ObamaTeam after the election to give them a real say in shaking up Washington?

Sifrey's answer to that question echos my own simple answer, given above: Plouffe and the rest of Obama's leadership team, wasn't really interested in grassroots empowerment. They never really meant it, not once, ever.

The second book about the campaign mentioned in the article is Electing the President 2008: The Insider's View, edited by Kathleen Hall Jamieson of Annenberg Public Policy Center. [One of the center's most notable initiatives is the website.]

We learn from the Jamieson book that when it came to planning for being in government, it turns out that Plouffe, along with David Axelrod, was a chief advocate for bringing in then Rep. Rahm Emanuel as Obama's chief of staff. Sifrey points out, Rahm Emanuel came up in politics the old-fashioned way; organizing and empowering ordinary people are the least of his skills.

Obama's campaign was hugely favored by an "enthusiasm gap" between Obama's supporters and the other candidates', most notably Hillary Clinton's. Now, writes Sifrey, there is another enthusiasm gap, but this one is not in Obama's favor: That's because you can't order volunteers to do anything--you have to motivate them, and Obama's compromises to almost every powers-that-be are tremendously demotivating.

So what we see is that Obama as POTUS has dismissed and downgraded the grassroots arm of his campaign. He won the election with these people, writes Sifrey, by overwhelmingly winning most of the votes of the 15 million people who voted for the first time in 2008.

As one young Marine Captain we know is fond of saying, When you lead people, it's important, every now and then, that you turn around and make sure they're following you. Leaving a room of people with deeply divided opinions, thinking they all agree with you, as Karl Rove suggests; demotivating the very grassroots base that put you into office, as Sifrey asserts: Obama needs either to change his ways, or he should get used to the idea that he will be a one-term president. Since he doesn't seem to much like the job anyway, I think we're in for pretty much more of the same from him for the next three years.

Enjoy those perks while you got 'em, BO.

Rasmussen Presidential (Dis)Approval Index for the last day of 2009: minus 18.

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