Saturday, July 25, 2009

How Obama Stumbled

Anyone who presumes to understand what happened to our prez this week must tread carefully. His long-winded answers on health care reform at his press conference followed by his off-message remarks on the Gates arrest left the impression that the Obama persona is fracturing.

He was so tightly wound and obsessed with getting his health reform talking points across, is it any wonder that his improvised reflections on Gates spun in the other direction?

Am I the only one to speculate that his blurt about the Cambridge police behaving stupidly was a projection of his feelings about himself at the moment?

Anyway, it’s easy to point out what he did wrong and insist he behave differently. Here are my two cents:

Stop acting like a control freak at press conferences. Forget the scripted opening statement, answer the reporter’s question quickly and move on to the next one.

At the health reform town hall in Cleveland the following day, he was charming, comfortable and relatable, which says something about his capacity to recover. So let’s give the guy a chance to regain his balance. He’s under some pressure. You think?

And finally, to my friends who regularly advise me to pay more attention to substance than style, this post will probably confirm my enduring lack of depth and analysis. Frankly, I prefer leaving the most complicated policy questions to those serious thinkers on my left and right.

I’m with many Americans who have an enormous emotional stake in Obama. For them and me, this was a painful week.

Let’s hope we’ve all learned a thing or two.

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