It’s a bit shocking when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd hits the same note as Brent Bozell. In a Wednesday column titled "Losing the Room," she slammed President Obama for jarringly pressing “ahead with his political attack, briefly addressing the slaughter before moving on to jab Republicans over the corporate tax rate and resistance to Obamacare.”
But Dowd sounded sad: “The man who connected so electrically and facilely in 2008, causing Americans to overlook his thin résumé, cannot seem to connect anymore.” Dowd wrote Democrats no longer think of him as a “cool cat,” but as a “weird cat”:
As Peter Baker wrote in The Times, the president is finding himself increasingly “frustrated” by the defiance of Democrats who are despairing of his passive, reactive leadership.
Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana on the banking committee, told Jonathan Martin for Politico in February, after he scraped through to a second term, that the president was not engaged with the Hill, that he had not met with Obama at the White House since 2010, and that he was sorely missing aides like Rahm Emanuel, who tirelessly worked and stroked Democrats in Congress.
Tester was one of three Democrats who spurned the president on his favorite to run the Federal Reserve, Larry Summers. The White House didn’t call Tester until Friday, when it was too late; Summers was allowed to twist in the wind, like Susan Rice before him.
Top Democrats who used to consider Obama one cool cat now muse that he’s “one weird cat,” as one big shot put it.
Of course, Dowd had to calibrate by knocking conservatives:
Obama still has a secret weapon: Congressional Republicans, who might yet shut down the government or cause a cataclysmic default and make the president look good.
But, for now, puzzlement grows over the contrast between Obama’s campaign leaps and his governing lassitude. Obama biographer Richard Wolffe notes that the 2012 campaign had some of the same problems with leadership and direction, but looked good compared with the mid-20th-century Romney crowd, “who couldn’t get an app to work.”
Dowd concluded by expressing distaste for Obama’s haughtiness in a weekend interview with a very friendly George Stephanopoulos:
Unlike Bill Clinton, who excels at boiling down complex arguments to simple ones, Obama prefers to wallow in the weeds, reminding people that he’s the smartest man in the room and expecting their support because he feels he is only doing what’s complicated and right...
ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos asked the president about criticism of the administration’s serpentine Syria policy, citing a frustrated backer of the plan to strike Syria, Senator Bob Corker, a Republican of Tennessee. Corker said that the careering around left Obama diminished as president, and he observed that the president seemed caged in the role, like he wanted to “slip the noose.”
“I think that folks here in Washington like to grade on style,” Obama said dismissively of his Syria critics.
But why is it so often the president’s style to be unable to sell the substance — even on issues where most people agree with him?
Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus – like Dowd, a longtime “objective reporter” before her columnist days – also disliked the Stephanopoulos interview in her column "Losing on Style" Wednesday:
Style points? Seriously? Style points? That’s what President Obama thinks the criticism of his zigzag Syria policy amounts to?
As presidential spin, this is insulting. As presidential conviction — if this is what he really believes — it’s scary.
Marcus also looked at the domestic picture around the budget and concluded: "So Obama enters yet another treacherous period in a weakened state, with his political allies distrustful and his political opponents caught up in their own dysfunction. Machiavelli advised that it is better to be feared than loved; at the moment, in Congress, Obama is neither."