The latest midterm presidential campaign tactic is for President Barack Obama to meet ordinary Americans in their backyards and dens to discuss the happenings of our country.
Yesterday's stops included Albuquerque, N.M. Today's include Des Moines, Iowa, and Richmond, Va. The intent is to humanize the president, often viewed as coolly cerebral, for Obama to connect on a personal level with voters. The last Democratic president was Bill Clinton, who was and is still known for his intense charisma and his ability to empathize, to feel the pain, of ordinary Americans.
While Clinton received his law degree from Yale, his formative years were spent in Hot Springs, Ark., where he attended Hot Springs High School. Obama, in contrast, spent his formative years primarily in Honolulu, graduating from the Punahou Academy, a private school, before attending Columbia University and Harvard Law School.
Obama can't hold a candle to Clinton in his ability to connect with ordinary people. And Obama's struggle to connect, to empathize, is not helping his popularity.
The attempt to humanize Obama coincides with a drop in his polling numbers (49 percent disapprove, 46 percent approve), according to a Gallup Poll released on Sept. 28. The economists may have declared the recession ended, but with a 9.6 percent unemployment rate, ordinary Americans are hurting, and they want their president to understand their pain.
If only Hillary Clinton were president, her husband could be the consoler in chief.
Instead, we have Obama chastising his base to "shake off -- buck up -- step up."
The closing tone of Obama's interview with Jann Wenner for the Oct. 15 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, titled "Obama Fights Back," is feisty all right, but not at the Republicans, as one would have expected. Instead, he is all but wagging his finger and shaking his head at his Democratic base during his 364-word closing rail.
Wenner noted that Obama had left the room at the close of the interview, but returned for a closing remark, delivering it "with intensity and passion, repeatedly stabbing the air with his finger."
Obama was not quite finished delivering his message.
"One closing remark that I want to make: It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election," Obama said.
Earlier in the interview, Obama had laid out his belief that he had done his job: "I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we've probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do -- and by the way, I've got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum."
His underlying message: It is now time for others to do their jobs.
"I think we've moved the country in a profoundly better direction just in the past two years," Obama declared earlier in the interview.
The contrast of this statement of "moving in a profoundly better direction" with the Rasmussen Reports Sept. 27 poll, which noted, "Twenty-nine percent (29 percent) of likely voters now say the country is heading in the right direction," is startling.
The disconnect between Obama and likely voters is too great for even barbecue to bridge.
Obama continued his closing soliloquy to Wenner by commenting on irresponsibility. "The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible," he said.
Irresponsible? It might be irresponsible to declare the president's job done when almost 10 percent of the population is unemployed and only 29 percent of likely voters believe we are heading in the right direction.
"We have to get folks off the sidelines. People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up. If you're serious," Obama said as he finished his rant, "now's exactly the time that people have to step up."
Shake off, buck up and step up. This might be easy for a president who believes he has done his job to say as a challenge. But it's not helpful for those who are unemployed and hurting due to the economy.
Wenner opened his piece with a comment regarding his initial interaction with Obama for the interview. "The president began by complimenting my multi-colored striped socks." Obama said, "If I wasn't president ... I could wear socks like that."
An attempt at a personal connection that falls a bit flat. However, in the not-so-distant future, Obama might very well have the opportunity to wear multi-colored striped socks.
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