Obama has never been good at that. There was a lot of talk in the late stages of the Democratic primary about how Obama couldn't "close." People liked the Hope and Change stuff, but he fell short on convincing people he could transmogrify the rhetorical gold into reality. Sure, he won in the end. It was a change election, and he was the ultimate change candidate, with no real record to serve as ballast for all of his hot air.
But then came the governing, when the steak needed to outrank the sizzle. Obama has had remarkable success cramming his agenda through Congress -- often thanks to the sorts of backroom deals he swore to oppose -- but he hasn't made a sale outside of the Beltway. For instance, despite a year of infomercial-level hawking, Americans still don't want his health-care reform (The American people loved the fantasy car he described, but they've balked at both the clunker and the financing). He's gone straight from messiah to Michael Dukakis.
In fairness, he's tried to sell. He claimed the Gulf oil spill proves we need cap-and-trade. He told us from the Oval Office this week that we owe it to the troops to unite around his economic agenda. But these weren't arguments so much as condescending harangues. No one who doesn't already agree buys such nonsense. Rather, they ask, "How stupid does this guy think we are?"
Just as often, Obama confuses explanation for persuasion, as if simply telling us that because he thinks X, then X must be the way to go. More infuriating, nearly all of his explanations assume that disagreement with him must stem from ignorance or villainy. That pose worked a little when he could claim that opposition was synonymous with Republican partisanship. But now that disagreement has moved to the mainstream, he seems to have an adversarial relationship with the people he's supposed to represent.
I'm not shopping for a Clinton version of the "Miss Me Yet?" T-shirt, but I do miss having a Democratic president who didn't seem to think the job was beneath him.
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