By Dave Andrusko
There is probably no worse cliché—yet one that is remarkably telling—than the “perfect storm.” This refers to a rare confluence of events that together greatly exaggerate the (negative) outcome. (It comes from author Sebastian Junder’s best seller, “The Perfect Storm,” a mesmerizing book and movie.)
That’s what appears to have happened to pro-abortion President Barack Obama. Obviously the backdrop for everything is the economy—specifically the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poor’s last Friday. That was one huge wave of negative news.
For Obama, that was bad enough. But then there was the savage attack by Prof. Drew Weston in the Sunday New York Times that we talked about yesterday, followed by a presidential “pep talk” Monday that was universally mocked, derided, and ridiculed. During the course of Monday and today, pundits vigorously competed for the title of Obama’s hardest and most dismissive critic.
All this is important to us for a couple of reasons, beyond the obvious fact that we are all citizens who are affected by the economic tailspin.
First, honest to goodness, what’s happening really is a variation of the Emperor has no clothes fable. What was transparently true from his earliest days as a presidential candidate is now fast becoming conventional wisdom.
Mr. Obama came to the White House with no executive experience, very limited time in the legislative branch (an early and very sympathetic profile talked of how he was already bored his freshman year as a United States Senator and thinking about running for President), and, paradoxically for a man with a reputation as an orator, a wooden speaking style as stiff as it is rife with clichés. Carried aloft by the winds of other people’s soaring expectations, Obama is coming close to a crash landing as he fails to meet even minimal standards.
Second, POLITICO wrote today (under the headline “Obama plan: Destroy Romney”) about the Obama campaign’s intention to conduct a campaign of mud-slinging and character assassination. For those who continue to cling to outworn mythology, the opening five sentences of the story by Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin ought to curl their hair.
Barack Obama’s aides and advisers are preparing to center the president’s reelection campaign on a ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney’s character and business background, a strategy grounded in the early-stage expectation that the former Massachusetts governor is the likely GOP nominee.
The dramatic and unabashedly negative turn is the product of political reality. Obama remains personally popular, but pluralities in recent polling disapprove of his handling of his job, and Americans fear the country is on the wrong track. His aides are increasingly resigned to running for reelection in a glum nation. And so the candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent.
To which “a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House” add, “Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney.”
Two quick points. First, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney may or may not be the GOP nominee. Some of the lowball tactics mentioned in the POLITICO article may be specific to Romney (although largely not). What matters is the mindset on display—desperation compounded by a willingness to do ANYTHING to be re-elected—that will be employed ruthlessly against whomever is the Republican nominee.
Second, this is EXACTLY the tack that Prof. Weston has for years counseled Democrats to use. The question before the journalistic community is whether they will call the President on the carpet for this ugliness or—as is MUCH more likely—blame in on Republicans who we will be told incessantly “started all the negativity.”
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