Column: The Sloppy Incumbent
The once-invincible Obama campaign team has become mistake-prone
The sound and fury of the Republican primary has distracted political observers from one of the most interesting political developments of the cycle thus far: President Obama’s reelection campaign is a pallid imitation of his 2008 juggernaut.
The merits and importance of that campaign have been exaggerated, of course. Show me a candidate from the out-party running in an environment in which the incumbent averages 29 percent approval in the run-up to the election, in which the economy is in a recession and credit crisis, in which U.S. troops are deployed overseas in two unpopular wars, and I’ll show you a winner. The fact that Obama’s general election opponent chose to ignore his greatest vulnerability only eased his passage to the White House. The favorable political landscape and the media’s hosannas obscured weaknesses—Obama’s remoteness, his dependence on scripts, his partisanship, and his inflated sense of his powers of persuasion—that would harm him after the Inauguration.
Obama for America 2008 may not have been, as the president put it on Election Night, the “best political campaign, I think, in the history of America.” Nor was it, as a former editor of the New Republic once wrote, “the political equivalent of crossing a Lamborghini with a Hummer.” But Obama’s first presidential run was formidable in at least this aspect: The then-senator and his top lieutenants were careful in projecting a “good-government,” squeaky-clean halo over his candidacy. Obama pledged to operate within the system of public financing. No lobbyists were allowed to donate to the campaign. No lobbyist, it was said, would be allowed to serve in an Obama administration. Such an administration, moreover, would be committed to “creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”
Such promises, more than any specific policies, were crucial to the burgeoning conceit that Obama’s candidacy was “potentially transformational.” That Obama held to a supposedly higher standard than Hillary Clinton or John McCain added to his “cool” factor and helped him excite young voters. But the pledges lasted only as long as they were politically useful. As soon as the Obama campaign realized that it could raise more money outside than inside the public system, it revealed how empty its rhetoric had been. Obama, an outspoken supporter of campaign finance reform, became the first candidate in the post-Watergate era to reject the public financing system.
The Republicans working against Obama’s candidacy in 2008 were both frustrated and impressed by his campaign’s thoroughness in quashing potential scandals. Try as they might, Republican researchers four years ago could not uncover any major lapses in the Obama campaign’s vetting procedures for donors and bundlers. Sure, the Republicans uncovered minor mistakes here and there, but the material was small fry. Chicago was fastidious. And the money came flowing in: $750 million, the most money raised by any candidate for office in American history.
The turnabout on public financing, meanwhile, set the pattern for future reversals. First comes the flowery profession of left-wing ideals. Then the grubby realities set in and Obama and his team backtrack on earlier pledges. The switch causes a brief news sensation in which partisan Democrats declare that Obama was forced into abandoning his position because of Republican perfidy. The media herd nods its collective head and the breach is quickly forgotten.
One of the Common Obama Myths is the “He Ran a Great Campaign” meme. The truth is he always sucked.
How is this possible? He won, didn’t he? He must of done something right.
Obama had a huge money advantage with millions of dollars in donations coming from Wall Street and other 1%ers. He was the media darling. He had the secret support of the Democrat establishment. Despite all of that he nearly lost in both the primary and the general elections.
Obama raked in $99 million during 2007. That is more than all the other Democratic candidates except Hillary were able to raise combined. In 2008 he raised (and spent) $650 million. With that kind of money you can hire people who can sell ice to Eskimos.
The media refused to investigate Obama’s background. When negative information came out anyway the media tried to ignore it. Meanwhile they kept insisting that Obama was the inevitable nominee and that Hillary had no chance of winning.
Despite the advantages of money and media support, Obama failed to beat Hillary. When the primaries were over she had a slight lead in votes and they were in a virtual tie for pledged delegates. So the Democratic establishment declared him the winner anyway.
Obama was and is a crappy candidate. He is pissy, rude and fails to connect to ordinary people. He is a lousy debater and commits numerous gaffes, especially when he speaks without a teleprompter. He has no core beliefs except himself.
The Obama we see today in the Oval Office is the same Obama we saw on the campaign trail four years ago. Those of us that were not wearing Koolaid goggles could see back then he is a stuttering clusterfuck of a miserable failure.