A friend sends along an email attachment—a handwritten letter by his 8-year-old son, Peter. It’s addressed to First Lady Michelle Obama. “It all started because he saw something about school lunches [and] how ketchup is bad for you, and that Michelle Obama wants to limit the amount of ketchup” in schools, my friend explained. When the boy’s mother reminded him he attends a private school, making the ketchup rationing a nonissue, “He said something about wanting to ‘give a voice to the voiceless.’”
But ketchup is actually the least of the boy’s concerns, as he then continues onto foreign policy, the crisis in the Middle East, and the need for boots on the ground. (“He also disipionted millons of Americans by not bombing Syria.”) In addition, Peter recommends that the president urge the United Nations to send peacekeepers to Ukraine.
On the lighter side, the departure of Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau seems to be noted, as Peter points out, “I also think your husband needs to work on his speeches.”
“We found it on his desk,” said his father. “He started it in October, but did not finish it until a couple weeks ago. He said he was ‘too angry’ to go on.” (Peter does, however, conclude his letter by asking the first lady, “Is the White House comfortable?”)
From almost the moment President Obama assumed office, observers began calling attention to his unusual proclivity to use the pronoun I. In one of the earliest notices of this practice, an alarmed Terence Jeffrey of CNS News counted 34 I’s in the president’s speech on the federal rescue of General Motors but, ominously, just one mention of “Congress” and none of “law.” Stories documenting Obama’s fondness for the personal pronoun have dotted newspapers and blogs ever since.
Another presidential “pivot.” Having “pivoted” from Europe to Asia, Barack Obama’s White House has announced another pivot. This one, according to Politico, “to re-focus his oft-meandering message back on the economy.” It seems that voters are less interested in Obama’s drive for gun control (he couldn’t rally many in his own party to that cause), or his continued effort to toss billions at renewable energy just when the country is set to become a net exporter of fossil fuels than in seeing the unemployment rate come down.
Peter Baker of the New York Times writes that President Obama is doing things differently in his second term. The president is operating behind the scenes and employing stealth rather than public persuasion in the:
Thomas Buch-Andersen, host of the Danish TV show Detektor, mocked President Obama's political rhetoric in a recent episode. "Obama used a metaphor from boxing to explain Denmark's role in the world," says Buch-Andersen, introducing the segment.
In the tradition of the proverbial carpenter and his nails, if you're Barack Obama, every political problem looks like 2008. Today, the DNC signaled its willingness to use 2008's rhetoric to win in 2010 with a half-hearted rallying video recorded by Obama asking his base to show up at the polls in November.
It's the same message Obama used to pitch Creigh Deeds for governor in Virginia, Jon Corzine for governor in New Jersey, and Martha Coakley for Senate in Massachusetts. It's also the same pitch he made for health care—the one instance in which it actually worked, at least on the Hill, but health care's numbers are still about on par with Corzine's, Deeds', or Coakley's.
Spot political problem, apply speeches, lather with inspirational rhetoric, repeat. What Obama seems to miss, however, is that his inspirational rhetoric worked because he himself was inspirational. Conferring his inspiration upon any old hack Democratic cause or candidate that comes through the DNC has not proven fruitful.
In this video, he is Barack Obama. He is the man whose problems are still inherited. He is the man who fights the health insurance companies... whose product he's requiring that every American buy, battles the big banks... who bankrolled his campaign, and stifles special interests... with whom he meets behind closed doors to hash out deals on legislation. And, he posits, all of this should inspire those who voted for the first time in 2008 to vote again on behalf of all the uninspiring Corzines, Deedses, and Coakleys who will in some unspecified way guarantee the uplifting change at sometime in the unspecifed future that Obama himself has not delivered. Fired up and ready to go!
It's hard to say whether this is more pathetic and phoned in or cynical and disingenuous. They're neck-and-neck. Obama uses what Ben Smith at Politico calls "unusual demographic frankness," when he exhorts, "young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women" to come to the polls. Drudge calls it the "race card," though like Ed Morrissey, I'm not sure I'd go that far.