President Barack Obama is succumbing to the same malady that infected his predecessor, George W. Bush — falling in love with the sound of his own voice.
Bush would begin his news conferences with a rambling discussion of something or other, and then as the media representatives asked questions, he would get really revved up, and his answers would get longer and longer and more and more rambling. Even Mr. Bush’s very last news conference before he left office on January 20th, was excruciating to watch and listen to; as the soon-to-be ex-President rambled on and on about the accomplishments of his soon-to-be ex-presidency, and obviously enjoying what he apparently perceived as eloquent and insightful bloviating. Of course, the former President’s answers to media questions were, like his more formal speeches, anything but eloquent.
President Obama, who is by any objective measure, a gifted speaker and clearly more knowledgeable about sentence structure and word useage than his predecessor, does not help himself or the policies he seeks to implement by his increasing tendency to pontificate. The still-novice President appears to find it increasingly difficult to do what at least some of his predecessors (not including George W. Bush) were able to do — answer questions clearly and make the points they wished to make concisely, and then move on.
Instead, Obama more and more is starting to repeat himself, restate positions unnecessarily, and return to topics best left alone. Perhaps Mr. Obama actually believes it beneficial to deepen the hole in which one finds oneself, by returning to a prior mistake. Or maybe he really does just like to listen to himself talk. What is clear is the President is talking too much but saying too little. Two examples — health care “reform” and the “Professor Gates” case.
Regarding health care “reform,” the President just a few days ago consumed an hour of prime time television discussing once again his proposal. Apparently unaware of the adage that the person who keeps repeating the same thing either has something to hide or doesn’t himself believe what he’s selling, Mr. Obama offered up the very same simplistic answers and “explanations” as he had done for the previous several weeks. His comments are woefully short on facts.
The problem Obama faces is that such sound-bite ruminations will carry you only so far, and sooner or later people will see through such rose-tinted rhetoric. The President’s crack aides might remind their boss that one of his historic mentors, Abraham Lincoln, was right when he noted that even a president can only “fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people only some of the time”; but that no one can “fool all of the people all of the time.” Recent polls suggest the public has reached the saturation point for empty administration rhetoric on health care “reform.”
Mr. Obama over the past week or so, has enmeshed himself in another issue that should not have occupied the public attention of the President — the controversy between Harvard Professor Henry Gates and Cambridge Police Sgt. Crowley. He voluntarily stepped into that briar patch before arming himself with the facts, and then kept returning to that same thorn bush. At one point in one of his several public pronouncements on the Gates-Crowley controversy, Obama urged his listeners (press and public alike) to “step back” and defuse the situation; even as he kept stepping into the melee and igniting the very fuse he lectured others to snuff out.
Unfortunately, in this last situation, the result of all this presidential attention has been to create and focus on a racial scenario that obscures the real problems the Cambridge incident brought to light – questions involving the sanctity of one’s own home; the proper basis for a police search and arrest; the burden of proving one is who one says they are in their own home. But these are topics for perhaps a next Blog.
For now, let’s hope this President quickly educates himself so he understands and accepts the value of short, clear, accurate, fact-based answers to questions. Ahhh, wouldn’t that be refreshing?