Suddenly, "Cool" Isn't So Cool

Posted: Mar 12, 2010 1:36 PM
Dee Dee Myers warns President Obama that he is losing his connection with "the people" -- and points out, rightly, that without it, it's difficult to enjoy their support and trust.   (As I argued last night, perhaps the most damaging toll the entire health debate has taken on the President is the diminution in popular trust that now confronts him.)

Myers' prescription is for Obama to become more like Bill Clinton -- warm, needy of the public embrace, empathetic, engaged, interested.  Sounds good.

But the problem is that's not who the President is.  The Democrats are now finding that the "cool" temperament -- lauded in the campaign as evidence of his god-like superiority -- is a knife that cuts both ways.  But telling the President to solve his problems by changing his personality is, well, like having advised Bill Clinton to solve his problems by keeping himself to himself when it comes to the ladies, and exercising discipline in all facets of his life.  In theory, the advice is absolutely correct, but in practice, it's impossible for the particular individual.

Certainly, Bill Clinton has a real feel for the "common touch" in large part because that's just who he is.  But, in addition, he actually dealt with real people -- retail politics -- in his numerous campaigns for Arkansas governor (and had the chastening experience of losing, early in his career, when he lost touch with his constituents and went too far left).

In contrast, Obama has never had to seek election on anything but the friendliest political terrain.  Either he was running in liberal enclaves -- or in a year when the gravitational pull of events went as strongly in the Democrats' direction as one could possibly imagine. 

He hasn't had to develop empathy with normal, moderate/independent/conservative voters, ever in his career.  He's been raised, from at least law school on, to believe that he is bright, beautiful and an asset to the world.  That's how he sees himself. 

And the rest of us are paying the price.