Maureen Dowd is right to suggest that President Obama has improved his skill at connecting with the American people. It’s called improving on a natural talent.
THE graying man flashing fury in the Rose Garden on behalf of the Newtown families, the grieving man wiping away tears after speaking at the Boston memorial service, is not the same man who glided into office four years ago.
President Obama has watched the blood-dimmed tide drowning the ceremony of innocence, as Yeats wrote, and he has learned how to emotionally connect with Americans in searing moments…
Now, if only Dowd or her Times editors would learn how not to split infinitives, the world would surely be a better place.
Anyway, we will give Dowd a pass on the split infinitive—“to emotionally connect”—because she offers an astute analysis of Obama’s failure to govern:
Unfortunately, he [President Obama] still has not learned how to govern.
How is it that the president won the argument on gun safety with the public and lost the vote in the Senate? It’s because he doesn’t know how to work the system. And it’s clear now that he doesn’t want to learn, or to even hire some clever people who can tell him how to do it or do it for him.
It’s unbelievable that with 90 percent of Americans on his side, he could get only 54 votes in the Senate. It was a glaring example of his weakness in using leverage to get what he wants. No one on Capitol Hill is scared of him.
Even House Republicans who had no intention of voting for the gun bill marveled privately that the president could not muster 60 votes in a Senate that his party controls.
President Obama thinks he can use emotion to bring pressure on Congress. But that’s not how adults with power respond to things. He chooses not to get down in the weeds and pretend he values the stroking and other little things that matter to lawmakers.
Apparently, the president does not know about positive psychology. He began with the premise that things were not going to turn out well. They did not turn out well. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In Dowd’s words:
The White House had a defeatist mantra: This is tough. We need to do it. But we’re probably going to lose.
When you go into a fight saying you’re probably going to lose, you’re probably going to lose.
Obama does not like to negotiate. He does not like to deal with human beings. He believes that Congressmen and women should follow his lead because he connects with the American people, and besides, he’s Barack Obama.
Dowd explains his failure:
There were ways to get to 60 votes. The White House just had to scratch it out with a real strategy and a never-let-go attitude.
Obama hates selling. He thinks people should just accept the right thing to do. But as Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, noted, senators have their own tough selling job to do back home. “In the end you can really believe in something,” he told The Times’s Jennifer Steinhauer, “but you have to go sell it.”
Of course, Dowd is assuming that the Senate gun-control bill would have been a good thing. For all we know, Obama’s ineptitude on this issue might have produced a positive outcome.