Obama in the Fog

I know, it’s easy to continue to beat the I’m-disappointed-in-Obama drum from the comfort of my MacBook. But there’s a couple of new news items that are adding fuel to my sickly fire.

Let’s begin with the older item, one reiterated by Maureen Dowd a few days ago.

In Cannon Falls, Minn., the president compared negotiating with House Republicans to negotiating with his wife. That’s right. I sincerely hope Obama doesn’t really think this analogy is anywhere close to apt:

“In my house,” Obama noted, “if I said, ‘You know, Michelle, honey, we got to cut back, so we’re going to have you stop shopping completely. You can’t buy shoes; you can’t buy dresses; but I’m keeping my golf clubs.’ You know, that wouldn’t go over so well.”

In Decorah, he said: “Everybody cannot get 100 percent of what they want. Now, for those of you who are married, there is an analogy here. I basically let Michelle have 90 percent of what she wants. But, at a certain point, I have to draw the line and say, ‘Give me my little 10 percent.’ ”

Let’s unpack this, shall we? First of all, in a marriage, as we understand the concept in this century, the two partners have chosen to be together, they love each other. In politics, the two parties actually put all their efforts into preventing the other party from participating. Because that’s what they’re supposed to do.

Yes, in theory, the two parties simply have competing visions about reaching the same goal: the betterment of American society. But since what each party considers “betterment” is also incompatible, the marriage analogy is still widely off the mark.

And what’s with the “my wife buys a lot of shoes” cliché? I know Obama wants to appear “traditional,” but does that mean he has to trade in archaic stereotypes?

This smacks of cluelessness, as though he and his advisors are in some sort of fog. They can’t tell what decade they’re in, and they can’t suss out how to translate a desperate, ugly, combative situation (their relationship to the hostage-taking Republicans) into a framework that the general voting public understands. If they think they’ll get the message across with this absurd and wrongheaded matrimony analogy, I despair at how they will make their case for reelection as the months go by in this horrid economic climate.

Speaking of being in the fog, the Times reports today:

President Obama will call on Thursday for the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, to step down, and will issue a new executive order providing for additional sanctions, an official said. It will be the first time the United States has explicitly called for Mr. Assad’s departure from power.

Well thank goodness the administration is so on top of this situation. The attacks on Syrian civilians have been going on since March. I wonder at what point the administration determined that, like Qaddafi, Assad has lost the “legitimacy” to lead.

Look, I understand that foreign policy is deeply complicated and terrifyingly sensitive business. So I realize that the seemingly glacial time scale it took for the Obama administration to determine that, hey, yeah, this Assad guy is maybe not an acceptable head of state, had myriad incomprehensible factors weighing on it. But if that’s so, help us understand that. If Qaddafi’s illegitimacy was so obvious moments after he began to attack his own people (and he’s been remarkably resilient considering that pronounced illegitimacy), why was the Assad situation so different? Again, I grant that there may be a lot of good reasons why it is different, but the president has not made those reasons clear, or even attempted to make up a reason.

So again, it is as though he is in a fog. If not in reality, in perception; something clearly unacceptable is happening in the midst of a peaceful revolution in line with American values, and it’s taken months for the administration to call out Assad so specifically (as opposed to earlier sanctions). Why was it not a priority to help Americans understand why the administration was doing what it was doing (or not doing)? And if the Syrian situation itself was not on their radar, why not?

Perhaps this is all part of Obama’s fabled expertise at “the long game.” If so, I don’t even remember what the game is anymore. To me, the president seems lost in the fog: billows from the metaphorical wreckage of our economy and political institutions, and the real human wreckage around the world.

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