Daily Archives: September 10, 2012

Mr. Cool(ed) Off

So, what really matters to voters in Ohio and beyond this election cycle? Let me put it to you this way: having confidence things will get better…not metaphorically, but literally.

In 2008, then Senator Obama was viewed unequivocally as the ‘cool’ candidate. He related to the younger generation and demonstrated a politician could understand the culture we live in and be a contributing voice in it. Senator Obama was the presidential candidate Hollywood had before only dreamed about. To them, he said all the right things in the right way and everything seemed perfect…but we all know what tends to happen next in this script.

Two months from now, the American people will either resign President Obama’s contract or go in a different direction with Governor Romney. The latter is portrayed by Democrats and the Obama campaign as a boring, straight-laced unemotional CEO with a cut-throat businessman mentality with no sympathy for his common man, woman or child. However, after the Republican National Convention, the aforementioned image is hard to completely believe.

Today, politics has become a profession exclusively meant for men and women with a celebrity quality. Ladies and gentlemen, here is the problem.

The United States has produced presidents who have connected with the public in ways that were above the fray of the normal responsibilities of the one in the Oval Office. JFK, Reagan and Clinton captured imaginations with charm that resonated beyond politics and routine policy issues. In a way, their personalities were as big as the office they held. They were not just presidents, but famous too. This is a rare quality, which is why it has been celebrated by those on the left and the right. Being personable is a valuable characteristic and can be used to deflect criticisms with a simple smile and witty remark. It’s endearing to say the least.

President Reagan, for example, was able to work with his political polar opposite in Tip O’Neill. Before 6:00 p.m., some famously nasty things were said by Speaker O’Neill aimed at Reagan. But regardless of disagreements and harsh words, a tone of civility was a reliable constant of this Oval Office. There was always a rapport of friendship between these two Irishmen. Ultimately, big things were done. They understood how to play ‘the game’ with charm and some good humor. Ronald Reagan knew being a successful president required a combination of effective communication and leadership of that communication. It’s nearly impossible to achieve success without one or the other.

On the historic November night when President to be Obama spoke in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, he gave a grand acceptance speech. It was so moving it forced Oprah and Jesse Jackson to weep at the sight of the first African American elected president of the United States. The enormous crowd constantly erupted in applause and cheers. As Obama famously said about the consequences of the election, “Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.”

To many, it was a new day and era in America. He had the country’s ear from the get-go of his presidency. It was truly a unique opportunity. Moreover, it was an American moment and the moment was his.

Fast forward to the end of summer in 2012 and the candidate who lit up the faces of disappointed Americans with inspiring words and an aura of coolness that earned him the nickname, “No Drama Obama” has re-polarized a nation he promised to unite. As President Obama set his priorities and progressed with major legislation that was catapulted thanks to the help of a completely Democratically controlled Congress, reality set in. A man with no record of problem solving was constantly faced with a barrage of problems that needed solving. How did he handle the pressure?

Economically, the issues ranged from health care to regulations to spending to the debt limit to the deficit and to jobs.

This is an excerpt of President Obama speaking about a proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan who was invited to be in the audience of the televised address:

“Disguised as a deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism.”

An account from Bob Woodward’s new book, “The Price of Politics” was described by a writer for politico.com:

‘Ryan quickly left the scene — and when White House National Economic Council director Gene Sperling caught up to him, Ryan told him, “I can’t believe you poisoned the well like that.”’

President Obama has evolved from ‘Yes We Can’ to ‘thinly veiled social Darwinism.’ The tone has changed and the people have been listening.

Despite the shellacking of Democrats in the 2010 Midterm Elections that established a Republican majority in the House of Representatives due to the emergence of the Tea Party, the president pressed on. His mentality was that his perceived struggles, miscues and failures directly correlated to the unwillingness of the unreasonable House Republicans to compromise on anything. Republicans were countering President Obama’s liberal convictions with their own conservative convictions. It was frustrating to one side of the spectrum and refreshing to the other. The debate for the independents (and fiscal truths) had begun.

Beginning with the voluntary injection of rising health care costs as the most urgent issue of a country whose economy nearly fell of a cliff to the ongoing presidential campaign, President Obama has articulated a tone of growing blame and negativity. It’s as if he’d forgotten his own words from his acceptance speech and his inaugural address. Words matter and upon review, it’s clear he guessed wrong on the moment and what it represented that November night four years ago. Maybe the words he spoke so eloquently and proudly that evening were just words.

In 2008, the country was not experiencing a, sad to say, textbook recession. This was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It was not his fault, but Obama’s presidency was the rare opportunity for a truly grand vision of the future that would be reminiscent of spring: that a rebirth of American greatness was on the horizon. The policies and discourse should have been focused on issues of urgency with a genuine willingness to state the problem and institute a solution. Sadly, the debate was lowered to, “the swamp” of Washington, as one former president described the capital of politics.

Honest debates and disagreements are expected and encouraged in this great democracy, but not efforts fueled by insulting language used to deride and belittle an entire political party because of opposing views. His rhetoric has endured a progressively steep decline since Grant Park.

President Obama campaigned as a moderate and “post-partisan,” yet has governed as a liberal defined by partisanship. Words matter and people have been paying attention:

“You didn’t build that” and “The private sector is doing fine” are just two of his insightful gems in 2012.

The president’s 2012 Democratic National Convention Speech was again big in language, but small in particulars. It was eerily similar, and disheartening to many, to his past speeches about funding education (whatever this means), alternative energies (Solyndra?) and so forth with few specifics on how the next four years will be any better or different than the past four. Detailed solutions and reassurances did not make the final draft, instead patience was urged. Eight years requires a lot of patience.

It’s important to underscore that actions speak louder than words and people know the results. Communication without leadership is just talk and a lot of Americans are increasingly feeling the sentiment that ‘talk is cheap.’

The 2012 Presidential Election is between President Obama and Governor Romney. Mr. Personable vs. Mr. Boring Businessman. The unemployment rate has been stagnant at over 8% for 43 consecutive months, health care costs for many are rising, gas prices have doubled since early 2009 and 58% of the jobs created are of the low wage variety. Our family members, friends and neighbors are struggling with anxiety a night’s sleep cannot cure. Obama’s negative rhetoric has been met with negative results.

Perhaps Hollywood icon Mr. Eastwood is correct after all.

(About Obama in Grant Park) “I was even crying. And then finally — and I haven’t cried that hard since I found out that there is 23 million unemployed people in this country. Now that is something to cry for because that is a disgrace, a national disgrace…When somebody doesn’t do the job, you’ve gotta let him go.”

Sensible and honest. Well put.

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