Today's NYT contains an op-ed by Maureen Dowd. It's called One and Done? and you can read it here.
Dowd's column is interesting because you can actually watch her transform from mechanical supporter and reflexive demonizer of the right to open dissatisfaction with Obama.
Her initial attempt to characterize the President as just a guy "in a bad spot" who's expectations of the opposition were overly hopeful falls short being accurate. I think that's just her conditioning coming through. It's ridiculous to suggest that Obama is the victim of circumstance at this point; his ideas have been few and far between, and the ones we have seen and that have been implemented have been losers. Obama has had over two and a half years in office; for the first two years his party controlled both houses of Congress. The fallout of those two years resulted in the Democrats losing a supermajority in the Senate, and losing outright control of the House; Nancy Pelosi lost her job and Harry Reid nearly lost his (Harry Reid would have lost his re-election bid had the Republicans run a reasonable candidate in Nevada, but that's another story). Dowd's efforts to paint Obama as a reasonable man are laughable. The Debt Ceiling talks disclosed Obama as a major obstacle, not a facilitator. The compromise was reached only when the players involved bypassed Obama. Grand Bargain? Obama never articulated a plan; he simply wanted to continue to negotiate, moving the goal line every time he sat down.
Dowd says that Obama's re-election strategy is to paint the Republicans as "disrespectful." I have never understood this strategy. First, the President, like everyone else who isn't a monarch, has to earn respect. George Bush failed to earn the respect of millions of Americans, notably the media and late night talk shows and comedy programs. Obama used his inauguration speech to slam Bush - as Bush sat a few feet away. Obama used his State of The Union address to lie and disrespect the Supreme Court as many of the Justices sat 20 feet in front of him, prompting Justice Alito's expression of disbelief. Has Obama earned anyone's respect? He has proven that he can't lead, has no ideas, is thin-skinned and somewhat mean-spirited.
But then Dowd gets to the heart of it. She cannot escape her frustration and apparent disgust with Obama. I actually think she captures the essence of it quite well when she writes:
If the languid Obama had not done his usual irritating fourth-quarter play, if he had presented a jobs plan a year ago and fought for it, he wouldn’t have needed to elevate the setting. How will he up the ante next time? A speech from the space station?Dowd does not end her piece with a redemptive tone; she instead concludes ruefully that Obama is not The One. When Maureen Dowd has finally gotten to this point and the NYT is printing it, perhaps we can start to believe that reality is finally dawning on America, and Obama's shine is wearing off as time wears on.
Republicans who are worried about being political props have a point. The president is using the power of the incumbency and a sacred occasion for a political speech.
Obama is still suffering from the Speech Illusion, the idea that he can come down from the mountain, read from a Teleprompter, cast a magic spell with his words and climb back up the mountain, while we scurry around and do what he proclaimed.