Politics

Apologetic Obama Blames Self For Insufficiently Communicating How Awesome He's Been

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Obama will have to think about this for a long time.

President Obama is sorry. Sorry that Democrats lost a bunch of seats in Congress. Sorry that the public hasn't warmed to some of his most consequential policy choices. Sorry that the economy isn't better. And on 60 Minutes last night, he admitted that he's made some mistakes, saying that he takes "personal responsibility" for some of what has gone wrong. What mistakes, exactly? Here's a sample quote from Politico's highlight reel:

"We were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that, yeah, leadership isn't just legislation, that it's a matter of persuading people and giving them confidence and bringing them together, and setting a tone," Obama said in an interview conducted Thursday for airing Sunday on CBS's 60 Minutes. "We haven't always been successful at that, and I take personal responsibility for that. And it's something that I have to examine carefully as I go forward."

The same Politico article also notes that "Obama stopped short of expressing public regrets about specific policy decisions." He's coy, isn't he? But look: You can call it a failure of leadership, as Obama does here. Or you can call it a failure of messaging, as a lot of the president's allies have in recent weeks. But what it boils down to is the idea that despite public opinion, the Obama presidency has actually been pretty awesome so far, and if Obama had just done a better job of explaining this, a lot more people would agree.

It's an argument that conveniently allows the administration and its supporters to explain significant public discontent with their policies without admitting that the policies might be flawed in some way. Obama gets to look contrite and say he takes "personal responsibility" for things that have gone wrong without admitting any problem with the substance of his policy decisions, which obviously couldn't possibly be part of the problem.

One problem with the notion that Democrats could've messaged their way out of the political hole they've been digging is that it conflicts somewhat with the other popular Democratic explanation for why they lost. That argument posits that A) first-term presidents almost always see midterm losses for their party in Congress and B) those losses were compounded this time around by the fact that the economy remains in the smelliest part of the septic tank. When unemployment is this high, voters tend to take out their anger on whichever party is in power. If this argument is true, and to some degree I think it clearly is, then voters were responding to economic fundamentals. Better messaging of the exact same policy decisions—which is what Obama is indicating should've happened—wouldn't have changed those fundamentals, and so couldn't have helped very much.

Obama's comments also suggest that when it comes to presidential rhetoric, his team is stuck thinking in mostly obsolete campaign terms. Obama was actually pretty effective at "persuading people and giving them confidence and bringing them together, and setting a tone" while on the campaign trail. But that sort of inspirational rhetorical fluff works a lot better when making promises than it does when justifying previous decisions. It's salesmanship versus self-reporting. It's one thing to convince voters who are largely unfamiliar with you that they're probably going to like you and the things you plan to do sometime in the future. It's something else, though, to convince them that, despite strong feelings about the decisions you've made, they really should like you and all the awesome stuff you've done.

NEXT: Over There: Back in the USSR

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  1. I was just thinking how much more smoothly that whole farm collectivizing thing woulda gone if I had run a few radio ads or done some direct mail with kulaks smiling as their crops and livestock were confiscated by the State.

    Oops, time to go get sodomized by the flaming penis of Asmodius. Catch ya soon, Barry!

  2. I’m sorry you people are too stupid to understand how great I am.

    1. Well to be fair heller, it is partly your fault. You are doing a poor job of communicating to us why you are awesome.

  3. His whole problem is that he doesn’t talk enough.

    1. I agree. He should do some speeches on TV. Preferably during American Idol so he can reach the highest percentage of idiots he’s trying to explain things to.

      1. Yes! More of him being “Perfectly clear” about some shit. No one gets tired of that.

      2. He should say ‘fuck it,’ go all-in and sing a balad on American Idol.

        Preferably something very self-pitying, along the lines of getting his spurned white girl back.

        Because the white girl ditching him is kind of what happened to him last Tuesday.

        1. “Night Moves”

          1. “Like a G6”

        2. “The Tears of a Clown”

        3. “Backstabbers”

          What they do!

        4. “Brown Sugar”

        5. I’m so Ronery

  4. And if the people are not persuaded, Mr. Obama? If they cannot be brought around to your point of view? What then? Do you just pass the legislation anyway? Say, isn’t that exactly what happened?

    Hey, remember those health care town halls?

  5. It’s an argument that conveniently allows the administration and its supporters to explain significant public discontent with their policies without admitting that the policies might be flawed in some way.

    It goes much deeper than that.

    One particularly clueless yet committed lefty I know told me a few weeks ago that “I wish Obama had just rammed his initiatives through Congress.”

    I looked at him and said “So what you’re really saying is that you wish that your side had a tyranny of the process of law making. In essence, you’re wishing that our government was, in fact, a dictatorship with your guy in charge, so that it didn’t have to deal with all the arcane annoyances such as transparency and the democratic process. You’re somewhat happy that there is a opposition party, since that confers a certain amount of legitimacy to your administration and something for you to rage against, but in reality you want them there just for show.”

    He didn’t have a repsonse.

    1. No response, but I’d bet that he went straight to the HuffPo boards to tell everyone there about this buffoon he just talked to.

      The problem, JW, is that you’re just too stupid to see his logic. That’s why he didn’t answer. You just wouldn’t have understood his enlightened perspective.

    2. Don’t you understand that the people do want want Obama thinks is good for them? It’s just that they think they don’t. It’s all very complicated; just trust Obama on this, because he’s much smarter than you.

      1. Back in the day when Ollie North was running guns to the Contras in return for freeing hostages in Iran, or whatever – I was in high school and don’t remember the details – my mom was outraged that this fine young soldier was being prosecuted for helping his country and his President.

        I said um, Mom – he lied to Congress, the President was circumventing the Constitution and that’s not good, is it?

        And she said – well, the President HAS to circumvent the Constitution because Congress is in the hands of the Democrats and Democrats are evil.

        So in other words, I said, it’s okay when your side does it but it’s horrible when the other side does it? And she said something like “shut up.”

        And I vividly remember reading a letter to the editor around the same time – would’ve had to have been in the New Orleans Times Picayune – from a lady who said Oliver North was a true hero, and what our country needed was a dictator, just a temporary one, to take control and do all the things the country needed that Congress (i.e., Democrats) wouldn’t do. A benevolent dictator, a military guy, ideally Ollie North himself.

        Tony and Shrike read this and think “See? SEE? Republikkkans are fascist thugs! They shouldn’t be allowed to vote!”

  6. I feel sorry for Barack…He just didn’t have the opportunity to let us know all of the great things he has done. Him and Pelosi never even got a chance to tell us what was in healthcare.
    I wish there was a way for him to communicate with the American people. The only tools he has are the 24 hour TV news cycle, newspapers, the internet, radio, and the actual legislation he has signed into law.

  7. Let me be condescendingly clear…

  8. I didn’t see the interview. Did he remember to also blame Citizens United? You know, Teh Secret Money from Teh Evil Corporations?

  9. With apologies to The Shat:

    http://knowyourmeme.com/system…..irk_5_.jpg

  10. The interview is worth watching. Obama makes an excellent case for limited government – although it was not intentional.

    He points out the enormous size and complexity of the health care system, including the masterful observation that “we have a large country.” At one point he says businesses aren’t hiring because “they have learned to do more with less.” Those sons of bitches. Of course, the notion of government doing “more with less” is not only impossible, but this very concept of doing “more with less” seems to elude our super duper intelligent dear leader.

    Steve Kroft, of course, is a hack.

  11. I know people who still say “but but but but…give him more tiiiime! He hasn’t had enough tiiime!”

    One of them is gay. I was too busy rolling my eyes to point out that her hero is actively fighting to keep DADT in effect.

    1. I think he modified his position to “Now that the Republicans have said no fucking way, I really wish we would have prioritized it.” Pansy.

      If I was the Republicans, I’d call his bluff. Strip it from the defense bill and put it up by itself for a vote. See if it even got to the Senate floor.

  12. So Obama is doing what some libertarians do. He said the reason people aren’t on board is because they A) are too stupid and B) he hasn’t explained things well enough. I happen to disagree with those libertarians who take that tack. I’m in the camp that thinks people A) fear change and B) don’t like being told they’re wrong.

    We’re not that different than Obama in any way other than policy. Oh, and being totally outnumbered. We’re so fucked.

    1. Having never had the bully pulpit of the Presidency, our tendency to lean on that false crutch is a bit more understandable, in my opinion.

      1. I agree that there’s never been an absolutely pure libertarian on every issue at the bully pulpit, but there have been times where libertarian issues were advanced by the president. For instance, social security privatization in early 2005 when Bush was still fairly popular.

    2. You could explain libertarianism to people until you were blue in the face.

      It ultimately comes down to the government either giving or doing shit for people and they don’t want the wheels coming off of their gravy train.

      1. I think when you explain to people how f’d up the democrats and republicans both are, they get that. That’s a good start.

      2. I think the brand needs changing. The word “libertarian” has been misused and misunderstood for so long that it’s not useful.

        Why not something more simple and to the point? Liberty party, freedom party, limited govt party, or something to that effect?

        I think many people identify with libertarian ideas, but don’t associate them with libertarianism.

        1. The “We Won’t Fuck You Up the Ass” Party. It has a nice ring to it.

    3. So Obama is doing what some libertarians do. He said the reason people aren’t on board is because they A) are too stupid and B) he hasn’t explained things well enough. I happen to disagree with those libertarians who take that tack. I’m in the camp that thinks people A) fear change and B) don’t like being told they’re wrong.

      You forgot c) heard, understood, and recognized the holes in your argument.

      Same goes for most disagreements. Sometimes people can’t convince others because they are, well, just wrong, or, at least, not completely right.

  13. God, the selflessness of The Man Hisself – so lost in doing stuff – for us…all of it for us! – that he didn’t have time to explain it all to the lessers, who otherwise just wouldn’t understand absent his flawless translation.

    Thank you, Mr. President! Thank you for your selflessness! And Godspeed for better treatment of you by your subjects We the Peoplez in the next two years!

    *gets a case of Teh Vapors*

    1. He still fails to grasp that as POTUS it’s his job to do what The People tell him to do.

      The Hugo Chavez is strong in this one.

      1. Up here^^

  14. The election was a referendum on the economy. It stinks; Obama’s party took a huge hit. There’s really nothing else here.

    1. Look up^^

  15. So this is basically the “I’m sorry you feel that way” non-apologetic apology.

    Nice…

    1. Exactly.

      Or maybe “I’m sorry you made me hit you. Look what you made me do!”

      1. Say there, Vermont Gun Owner… I might be in Vermont in the near future. Are there any ranges you’d recommend?

        -jcr

    2. It is the classic “I am sorry if what I said offended anyone” apology. Basically he is apologizing for everyone else being so stupid.

    3. Yes, and it’s actually somewhat comforting considering I’ve usually heard it from my girlfriends that soon became my ex-girlfriends as a result.

  16. I can’t hear it as anything other than a message to his base: “Those who disagree with us are just too stupid to understand the brilliance and elegance of our positions and no amount of explaining is going to get through to them, cause, damn, I’ve tried.”

  17. Like listening to Nixon’s resignation speech; just makes you want to grab a baseball bat and knock the radio over the fence.

    1. Funny, when I listened to that speech, I wanted to knock Nixon over the fence.

      -jcr

  18. Apparently a bunch of other countries are failing to see the awesomeness of his economic policy.

    Obama sounds like more of a cowboy than Bush every day.

  19. “I’m also sorry I cannot yet, by Executive Order alone, have John Boehner renditioned to Guantanamo. I need at least one more Supreme Court Justice.”

  20. I sometimes use MSNBC’s Morning Joe, American society’s pinnacle of middle-of-the-roadism, as a determinant of just how unbelievable a politician’s statement is. If the feces on a fence rail on that show appear skeptical, its a definitively absurd statement.

    They weren’t buying Obama’s backhanded compli-pology this morning.

    1. According to Politico, MSNBC is headed for better days now that they’re “in the opposition”.

      Yes, they really said that. Apparently having only the White House and the Senate under your control puts you in the opposition.

  21. “Obama was actually pretty effective at “persuading people and giving them confidence and bringing them together, and setting a tone” while on the campaign trail.”

    No he didn’t. He didn’t convince people of shit. He never ran on issues. He ran as a meaningless vessel that wasn’t Bush and allowed nitwits to feel better about themselves for voting for a black man. If he had run on actual policies, he wouldn’t have had to ram his policies through Congress.

    Obama has never moved public opinion about any particular policy one inch. Viewed from the perspective that a President’s job is to convince people to support his policies, Obama is the worst rhetorical President in decades. Even Jimmy Carter convinced people that deregulating the airlines and gas industries were a good idea. He is just awful. And worse, he is so awful that he doesn’t even know how awful he is.

    1. We had to elect him to find out what was in him!

      1. Nah, I could see he was an empty suit back when Hillary was busy self-destructing.

        -jcr

  22. Obama’s pretty great, huh?

    1. Great president, or greatest president?

      1. As MNG tells us, school children will be reading his speeches for hundreds of years into the future.

        1. Just like he does now.

      2. he’s the president!?

      3. Greatest since the civil war.

    2. yeah, I got some game. I am like Labron baby. Get a load of my bad self.

      1. Please feel free to take your talents to South Beach.

  23. Are you serious? Are you serious?

    1. Will someone tell this bitch to put me down already!

      1. Oh, the places you’ve seen!

  24. Great president, or greatest president?

    I’m still waiting for a reverse Colbert Report clone where someone libertarian or conservative plays a liberal pundit.

    1. For that to work, liberals would have to have a sense of humour about themselves…just sayin…

    2. I’d watch that show.

    3. Pitch it to Fox.

  25. Turbo Barf-Mode Unlocked!

  26. The election was a referendum on the economy. It stinks; Obama’s party took a huge hit. There’s really nothing else here.

    So, leftists who take this line are conceding that the President can’t really do a damn thing to help the economy, yes?

    Because this position, by absolving Obama of any responsibility for the economy being in the shitter, assumes that there wasn’t anything he could have done to get it out of the shitter.

    Doesn’t it?

    1. It also put lie to “It’s Bush’s Fault” ™.

  27. Maybe the way for Obama to get his message out is to require giant posters of himself everywhere. A new stimulus bill aimed at getting a billboard of Mr. Hope and Change in every town would fix the economy AND help the commoners realize Obama’s greatness. Two birds with one stone! I’m still amazed Rove didn’t get Bush to do this.

  28. Throughout the years, the people have been modeling and looking to Inspirational Leaders as a source of inspiration for achieving goals for themselves. Inspirational quotes from great leaders have since become daily brain food for people wanting to create better lives for themselves.

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