By Dave Andrusko
Okay, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank is not CBS’ Walter Cronkite. Nor is his lament that Obama has made governing and campaigning one and the same equivalent to Cronkite’s highly pessimistic editorial on the progress of the Vietnam War in 1968.
But if the unhappiness of the likes of Milbank and others who long ago pitched their objectivity overboard grows much deeper, maybe someday Obama will mutter the equivalent of what President Lyndon Johnson told aides at the time. Instead of “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America,” it would be “If I’ve lost Milbank, I’ve lost the chattering classes.”
Milbank’s piece yesterday was titled “President Obama, campaigner in chief.” For someone who has carried as much water for Obama as Milbank shamelessly has, his first two paragraphs are a quite remarkable admission. They are a pitch-perfect illustration of how Obama’s failure to lead and 24/7 politicking is unnerving and discouraging some of his higher-profile media supporters. Milbank wrote,
“The preezy of the United Steezy is making me queasy.
“I’m not troubled by President Obama’s slow jam with [CBS’] Jimmy Fallon, who dubbed the commander in chief ‘preezy’ during Obama’s appearance on late-night TV. No, preezy is making me queasy because his nonstop campaigning is looking, well, sleazy — and his ad suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have killed Osama bin Laden is just the beginning of it.”
I’m guessing, but I think Milbank is queasy that a combination of President Obama’s sacrifice of governance to the demands of incessant campaigning will eventually convince the electorate that columnist Peggy Noonan was right: Obama is not a serious man around whom “there is a growing air of incompetence.”
Think about these amazing statistics, which Milbank takes from “The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign,” a soon-to-be published book written by Naval Academy political scientist Brendan Doherty.
- “the president has already set a record for total first-term fundraisers — 191 — and that’s only through March 6. Measured in terms of events that benefit his reelection bid, Obama’s total (inflated in part by relaxed fundraising rules) exceeds the combined total of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.”
- “Obama was the first commander in chief in at least 32 years to visit all of the presidential battleground states during his first year in office. He has kept that pace, devoting nearly half of his travel to 15 swing states that account for just over a third of the population.”
As Milbank ruefully conceded, “The election is still six months away, but it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish Obama’s political events and speeches from the official ones.”
Milbank ends by posing the question, “Shouldn’t presidential leadership be about setting an example?” Instead Obama
“is erasing the already blurred lines between campaigning and governing. During his ‘official’ speech to the [AFL-CIO’s building trades union section] Monday, he hailed Tim Kaine as ‘the next United States senator from the great commonwealth of Virginia,’ and his partisan speech spurred audience members to shouts of ‘Vote ’em out!’ and ‘Gotta throw ’em out!’
“’Not everything should be subject to thinking about the next election instead of thinking about the next generation,’ Obama said of the Republicans. ‘Not everything should be subject to politics.’”
To which Milbank added the equivalent of an “amen.”
“He should follow his own advice.”