It’s hard to know whether to be more amused at the disillusionment or baffled that John Cook at Gawker claims that he can’t figure out why Barack Obama’s campaign has changed so much since 2008.
One of the many little thrills of being a part of the Obama campaign four years ago was a deep and abiding sense that, finally, a political leader had come along who could live up to our highest aspirations. Yes, Obama was cool and played basketball and was conversant in ironical youth culture, but when it came down to it, he was overwhelmingly serious. The other guys were hauling unlicensed plumbers onstage and suspending their campaign at the drop of a hat, but Obama kept his eyes on the prize and played the grown-up. Now he’s talking about “Romnesia.”
…Maybe “Romnesia” is a funny, handy term that usefully carries an important anti-Romney message. But even if it is, it is just too juvenile and jokey to be coming from the president. He shouldn’t be making jokes based on his opponent’s name. That’s what vice presidents are for. Put it in John Kerry’s mouth. He’ll say anything.
But when Obama says it, it comes off as unserious and jocular. It’s the kind of joke that, had a speechwriter proposed it four years ago, 2008 Obama would have smirked at and said, “OK guys, let’s get down to work.” The term, it bears noting, was apparently coined on Twitter by a guy going by the name of @breakingnuts. This is not how you put away childish things.
Nor is it by holding up a binder at your stump speech, as Joe Biden has taken to doing in mockery of Romney’s “binders full of women line.” The “binders” meme is just that—a funny little Twitter and Tumblr belch, an acerbic diversion. For the vice president of the United States to pick up on it and amplify it in an attempt to harvest a perceived opportunity is to confuse dumb gags with arguments. It’s what John Ellis calls the “trending on Twitter” campaign, and it’s beneath Obama. Twitter—as with other social media that both campaigns are desperately working—is just as empty and mindless as the cable news void Obama decried so effectively four years ago. For his campaign to routinely venerate its judgments today is fundamentally at odds with Obama’s sense of himself as the adult in the room.
First of all, Barack Obama was “overwhelmingly serious?”
He was Barney the Dinosaur with a teleprompter.
His whole campaign boiled down to Hope, Change, Unity and “I’m not George Bush.”
Since he was running against a weak Republican candidate while the economy was collapsing on the watch of a Republican President with a 25% approval rating, that was enough. He could just read his uplifting speeches off the teleprompter, give pat responses to the underhanded softballs reporters tossed at him, and then bathe in adoration.
Now, after turning in one of the worst performances by a President in America’s history, despite the incessant protection of the press, Barack Obama is having to answer a few questions about topics other than how he became such a wonderful person. This is making him cranky. This is getting him to go off teleprompter so that people can see a little bit of the real Barack Obama, as opposed to the “cool,” “intellectual,” “charismatic,” and apparently even “overwhelmingly serious” mirage created by the press.
Barack Obama may really have a “sense of himself as the adult in the room,” but as he has proven since he became President, he will never be able fill that role.