Monday, February 08, 2010

Let Obama Be Obama

There's an episode in The West Wing's first season called "Let Bartlet be Bartlet," wherein the Josiah Bartlet White House, one year in, is gripped by paralysis over constant battles with congress and the inability to get anything meaningful done.  The solution?  Free President Bartlet from the constraints of constant politicking and allow him to be the person who voters had elected.

That's what I felt over the last two weeks after watching President Obama in two televised Q&A sessions, first with congressional Republicans and then with senate Democrats.  There was the pres, unfiltered and answering questions with poise, confidence, and above all credibility.  After a year and change -- an eternity in politics -- Obama was being Obama.  So what the heck took so long? 

Offering a potential answer to this query is Edward Luce's extensive and fascinating look into the Obama inner-circle and its constant framing of key legislative matters in purely political cost/benefit terms. In that sense, things haven't changed much from one administration to the next, but still baffling is their clubfooted approach to issues that are beneficial to, and favored by, voters.  Case in point, the following:
“Historians will puzzle over the fact that Barack Obama, the best communicator of his generation, totally lost control of the narrative in his first year in office and allowed people to view something they had voted for as something they suddenly didn’t want,” says Jim Morone, America’s leading political scientist on healthcare reform. “Communication was the one thing everyone thought Obama would be able to master.”
The mere fact that we're still having a conversation about healthcare reform in terms of whether it'll happen at all, and not about how sweeping said reform will be and when it'll kick in, is an indicator of just how badly the folks in charge have managed to scotch things so far.  Let's hope there's still time to right things before the ship has listed irretrievably.

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