When I started thinking about this post, I was trying to find a way to talk about President Obama’s two distinct personas. Campaign Obama was fiery, quick and eloquent regarding both our country’s biggest problems and his role in solving them. President Obama has taken a much more cerebral approach and his inner wonk took over. His politics have been measured and deliberate. Even his speeches surrounding ObamaCare were more specific and policy-driven than flowery and idealistic. What’s interesting to me is how Presidents attempt to strike a balance between rhetoric and governing.
The funny thing is I couldn’t really figure out what else to say because there’s no right answer. If Obama is heavily focused on policy, legislating and governing, there is often a disconnect because the American people (and the media) are waiting for a classic Obama-style speech. I mean, how else will we know how to feel? If Obama is scheduling and delivering powerful speeches and “selling” his vision, there is likely going to be questions about what he actually working on and who is organizing the White House while he’s stumping. It’s probably one of those lose-lose moments where the media will find a story regardless of which side a president favors.
On the other hand, I was surprised that it took till this morning on Today for President Obama to begin showing signs of anger. I’ll be thrilled when we reach full-on rage. Over the past few weeks, one of the things I’ve found frustrating about President Obama was his inability to embody our collective feelings. One of the best things a President can do is reflect or mirror the public sentiment. I don’t know about you but my feelings regarding the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are a mix of nausea, disappointment and anger. It seems and feels hopeless. If Obama cannot bring us hope, he should at least show the American people that he understands our anger.
I understand, intellectually, that there is probably nothing he can do at this point to make any type of significant change to the situation. But, emotionally, I want him on my side. I want him telling me that he’s just as angry as I am and this isn’t politics, it’s personal.
While I think he was about 2-4 weeks late with his comments, it is nice to see that he’s now getting fired up publicly and showing some of the emotion that I’m certain existed privately before today. Ironically, I feel like a cliche because the media has begun writing this exact story and now I’m just one of the uninteresting mass media stories. On the other hand, some journalists, like this story on CNN.com, are starting to try to guess the greater meaning. It’s amazing to me that there might be a racial component even in our reaction to this disaster but anytime there are high powered emotions are involved so is our latent subconscious.
More broadly, I’m also interested in the fact that the types of stories written about Obama and his administration are changing. There are stories about his deliberate reaction to the Deep Horizon disaster, about the angry voters of the Tea Party and far Left, and about his role as campaigner in the Democratic Party (to be published in this week’s New York Times Magazine).
I know we’re in an instant gratification culture where we want to have our cake and eat it too. Meaning, we want Obama to be everything to everyone – campaigner, rhetorician (is that a word?), speechmaker, governor, Leader of the Free World, and expert policy maker. I trust him. But I would still like him to take control of this story, offer some perspective and become the mouthpiece of the American people.