I was talking to an old friend last night, an Obamabot. After I told her some of the things he was up to re: Social Security and Medicare, she said, “No, I don’t believe he’s capable of that sort of malice. I don’t think he has it in him. I don’t care what you say, I’ll go with my own feeling on that.” No matter what I told her, I got the same serene response.
My oldest son goes nuts around people like that. “Obama is not your boyfriend,” he mutters. “He’s a politician.”
HuffPo’s Dan Froomkin just reviewed Ron Suskind’s “Confidence Men” in a careful deconstruction of spin vs. reality, and brings out an important point: Ultimately, intent doesn’t matter. Results do.
Perhaps more than anything else, not living up to his word has hurt the president across the board.
“It’s about the connection between word and deed,” says Suskind. “At day’s end, what got George W. Bush re-elected was straight-shooter credit.”
Consider what progressive hero Elizabeth Warren told Suskind in a September 2009 interview:
“You can’t run a policy based on a misdirection, on a fiction,” she said. “I don’t know what the president is thinking. I don’t see the president. He meets with bankers. He doesn’t meet with me. But if he’s involved in this at all, he’s got to know that his angry words at Wall Street, at their recklessness and dangerous incentives in compensation, about how they do their business in ways utterly divorced from what’s actually good for the economy — that he can’t just say that sort of thing, and then dump money in their laps and be credible.”
So what does Obama need to do to persuade people that he means what he says? “Words are not enough,” says Suskind.
“Right now, after the record that has expressed itself across four years, the only thing that will be proof of change is deeds — meaning he takes on the assembled power of the financial capital in an ‘either them or me’ way.”
He could also level with the public about the errors he made, and what he’s learned from them.
He could fire Geithner — like some people have been suggesting for nearly three years. (Although the New York Times recently wrote, in a gushing profile, that “Mr. Geithner’s departure could signal additional instability to financial markets.”)
Ultimately, the biggest question for voters who are troubled by Obama’s failure to confront Wall Street despite his words is whether it reflects a weakness of character, a weakness of will, or a weakness in management style. Presumably the latter would be easier to correct in a second term.
But Suskind has no opinion — and wonders if there’s really much of a difference. Either way, it’s a reflection of how Obama wields power. And until something dramatic happens, there’s no reason to think it’s going to change. “This White House,” Suskind says, “is the one he constructed and presides over.”