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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Barack Obama is in denial

Toby Harnden

Toby Harnden is the Daily Telegraph's US Editor, based in Washington DC.


Barack Obama is in denial


Toby Harnden 

Last updated: January 26th, 2010


Barack Obama is in trouble. His signature health care reform has been doomed by the Democrats losing their Senate super-majority. He needs to reconnect with ordinary Americans, his advisers tell him. So what does he do? He does a long interview with Diane Sawyer, the new ABC News anchor, in which he states that his big mistake was “we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right”.

Then the White House pushes out the disastrous Valerie Jarrett – who recently and hilariously described the Obama administration as “speaking truth to power” by bashing Fox News – to tell Politico that “there’s no one more frustrated than President Obama” and that the Scott Brown Massachusetts massacre was, er, nothing to do with Obama. “I don’t think it was directed at Barack Obama,” she said. “In fact, Senator Brown said himself he didn’t run against the President.”

This comes after Representative Marion Berry of Arkansas, announcing he would not fight an election he would almost certainly lose in November, revealed that Obama had told Blue Dog conservative Democrats that the difference between 1994 and 2010 was that “You got me.”

So which is it? It’s nothing to do with Obama but then again it’s all about him? Good luck with that message in November.

Democrats who (unlike Obama) face re-election in November are noting that the President campaigned for candidates in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts – all of which he won comfortably in 2008 – but they still bombed.

The Obama line that Massachusetts is about disgust with “process” not policy and the Jarrett line that it is about some vague unfocused frustration lead to the inevitable conclusion that this White House just doesn’t get it.

As William McGurn in the WSJ points out, the central problem is that Americans – only 20 per cent of whom view themselves as liberal – view the Obama agenda as too far Left. “There’s no sign that Obama buys any of this,” writes McGurn. “His team argues, apparnetly oblivious to the inherent condescension, that no intelligent American could possibly oppose his health-care agenda on substance.”

Yep, the mindset is one of: sooner or later these dumb Americans will realise that we know what’s best for them.

Obama also gave the game away during the Sawyer interview when he yet again compared governing the US to the election campaign.

“I’ve gone through this before,” he said. “I went through this through the campaign. When your poll numbers drop, you’re an idiot. When your poll numbers are high, you’re a genius. If my poll numbers are low, then I’m cool and cerebral and cold and detached. If my poll numbers are high, well, he’s calm and reasoned.”

So in the parallel universe that Obamaland has become, this is just like the summer of 2007 when the poll numbers of the man who Oprah Winfrey would call “the One” were slumping and Hillary Clinton was riding high – and then America woke up and realised that Obama was the answer to all their problems.

Well, I’d say that although Obama and his team have not moved on, Americans have. Things are different from the campaign. It’s now all about Obama only to the extent that his policies and their results are now being judged. It’s not all about Obama in the sense that his transcendent personality will trump everything in November.

Obama himself doesn’t seem to be able to grasp this. He’s suffering from what his predecessor George W. Bush was so often accused of: he’s in a state of denial.

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