Addison Gardner: Always Right
August 18, 2009
When our 44th president was sworn in 30 Tuesdays ago, anchormen wept, while hoary flower children commingled with capitalists hawking Obama collectibles.
ABC’s Bill Wier spoke of “awed seagulls” on “World News,” and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell likened flashing cameras to stars in the firmament, “…when our new president finally emerged … transformed into the leader of the free world.”
Al Roker, NBC News’ African-American weatherman, wept, and anchor Brian Williams noted, “Al, I’d love to tell you … that everybody here kept their emotions thoroughly in check during the ceremony, but I’d be lying to you, my friend.” Tom Brokaw – presaging the dawn of post-racialism in America – told “bigots and rednecks” to “Take this, you know?”
So began the most celebrated (not to say “hyped”) presidency in American history.
But, this summer – amidst Teleprompters crashing to the floor – Americans began to shake their narcosis, and the press started rubbing its eyes, first.
The honeymoon may have ended in early July, when an incensed Helen Thomas read Press Secretary Robert Gibbs the riot act from her folding chair in the White House Briefing Room. Referring to Obama’s policy of pre-selecting town hall questioners, she chided the administration, saying, “We have never had this in the White House. I’m amazed that you people … call for openness and transparency.”
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Last week, at a New Hampshire town hall, the staging continued apace, when 6th-grade student Julia Hall asked Obama a question that had been written for her, beforehand, by her mother, Kathleen Manning Hall, an Obama campaign contributor and coordinator for “Massachusetts Women for Obama” during the election.
“I saw mean things [on signs] about reforming health care … How do kids know what is true, and why do people want a new system that can – that help more of us?”
President Obama smiled at the child and selected his Titleist five-iron – knocking that totally random question tidily onto the green – amidst cheers from the totally random town hall gallery.
Little Julia Hall was rewarded with a presidential hug and a signed picture after the event.
One of the virtues of “transparent” things is that – when sober – one can see through them. The Obama administration has achieved “transparency,” though not necessarily in the context the president intended during his campaign.
An increasingly sober public is reassessing this White House, and presidential approval numbers tell the tale. Nobody likes to feel manipulated, and nor do voters enjoy being talked down to – not even by one whose celebrity bore him aloft to the furthermost reaches of the heavens.
The health care voter mutiny – punctuated during recent days by the Democratic leadership’s observations about “un-American protesters” (and much worse) – is a reflection of what happens when waxen wings brush the sun.
Who would’ve thought, just seven months after this “historic election,” that the hapless Republicans (despite an almost complete lack of leadership, ideas or nerve …) would be favored over Democrats in generic Congressional polling, 43 percent to 38 percent?
Who would have guessed that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, would have a personal approval rating near that of George W. Bush? Or that, by a 2-to-1 margin, voters would reject “single-payer” government health care, or that only 35 percent of Americans would say the country is “headed in the right direction,” with President Obama running the show?
The Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment decreased to 63.2 in August, the lowest level since March. Since consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity, investors have seen the air knocked out of a premature Wall Street recovery.
What has gone awry with this presidency, and is there a road back for Obama, for Congressional Democrats, and for America?
There is a road back, but it’s one that features a newly chastened president listening to Americans, instead of lecturing them. It’s a road that features traffic in two directions, instead of leadership by decree and legislation via one-way-street.
It’s a well-illuminated road, and one traveled by President Clinton after the voters sent him a message in November ’94.
There are two, brightly illuminated signs: “Slow down!” “Listen!”
And a third, more distant, sign: “Exit, here!”