What’s a girl to do?
After plighting her troth to a superhero, a man who could solve all the world’s problems, one day Maureen Dowd woke up and discovered that her superhero was a cartoon.
If you are Maureen Dowd and you find yourself abandoned by the mirage you took to be a superhero you write a column. Dowd makes news today because she comes out and admits that she had been duped.
The great Obama, her superhero, was not who she thought he was. Worse yet, he was not who he thought he was.
In Dowd’s words:
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.
Once glowing, his press is now burning. “To a very real degree, 2008’s candidate of hope stands poised to become 2012’s candidate of fear,” John Heilemann wrote in New York magazine, noting that because Obama feels he can’t run on his record, his campaign will resort to nuking Romney.
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.
Dowd does not mention Edward Klein’s inside account of the Obama presidency, The Amateur, after a label that Bill Clinton affixed to Obama, but she does offer a useful psychological portrait, via David Maraniss’s forthcoming book, Barack Obama: The Story.
Maraniss portrays Obama as detached and disengaged, watching his life as though it were a movie. For many years now, Dowd continues, Obama has been on “an intense odyssey of self-discovery.”
What is Obama doing in the White House? Why, he’s trying to find himself.
The phrasing comes to us straight from the therapeutic lexicon. Paradoxically, Obama found himself in the White House but he has still not found himself.
Meaning: he woke up one morning in the White House and did not know how he got there. The leap from the Illinois State Legislature to Pennsylvania, after a brief stopover in the U. S. Senate, had been too large, so being in the White House did not make any sense, first to him.
When he found himself in the White House Obama was lost.
In Dowd’s words:
In some ways, he’s still finding himself, too absorbed to see what’s not working. But the White House is a very hard place to go on a vision quest, especially with a storm brewing.
She might be thinking about the political storm that is about to come ashore. Or she might be thinking of the European financial crisis that is heading straight for us.
Whatever the problem, Obama seems no longer to be the solution. The grinning idealist has no pragmatic streak.
Obama is so far in over his depth that he has to expend all of his energy trying to stay afloat. He doesn’t even have enough perspective to see what’s not working.
How could he? He’s busy campaigning to keep his job. Perhaps he believes that he needs another four years to finally find himself.
Dowd seems to be thinking that it’s time for Obama to return home to Chicago and get real.