Friday, April 09, 2010


Sorry, but the president's response to Sarah Palin's nuclear criticism is just pathetic:

... "I really have no response to that. The last I checked, Sarah Palin is not much of an expert on nuclear issues," Obama said in an interview with ABC News.

Pressed further on Republican criticism that his strategy restricts the use of nuclear weapons too much, Obama added:

"What I would say to them is, is that if the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are comfortable with it, I'm probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin." ...

No, no, no. You're the president of the United States. You wave it off dismissively and just say, "Well, a lot of people say a lot of things, and I have more important things to concern myself with than what somebody says in some speech." That thwarts Palin's desire to make you her debating partner.

Which is not to say you allow her to go unchallenged. But you don't do it. You're supposed to have sharp-elbowed low- and mid-level surrogates -- quite a few of them: members of Congress, maybe your vice president, and also Democrats who aren't currently in office -- who can take her (and Liz Cheney and Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich and Glenn Beck and all the other yammerers) on at a peer level, rebutting them and knocking them down a peg. But there need to be a lot of surrogates, and they need to have coordinated talking points, because -- on this and every other issue -- Republicans have a well-developed narrative. There needs to be an equally well-constructed counternarrative. Because what you want is swing voters walking away from the TV concluding that, well, maybe that Sarah Palin or that Glenn Beck doesn't really have a point. Palin and Beck just think they're all that, but maybe they just have an overinflated sense of their own rightness and their own importance, because the president's defenders sound very certain and quite sensible.

Obama's reaction is the worst of both worlds -- he's personally walking into a back-alley fight with a two-bit punk and he's doing it with inadequate firepower. This reinforces the seeming solidity of the right-wing narrative in the eyes of wary swing voters (and also, obviously, in haters' eyes) and it elevates his opponent.

Obama just hasn't figured out how to rebut bad right-wing narratives that are relentlessly promulgated in every medium 24 hours a day. He still doesn't seem to think he needs to rebut those narratives. Only on health care has he tried, and he seems to be contenting himself with saying what he believes ought to persuade people, and not bothering to determine what actually does. On every other issue, he just lets Republicans dictate the debate terms.

And this, plus an utter failure to deal with immediate economic pain, or justice for evil banksters, puts him and his party at new lows in the polls. As Obama slips below 50%, and now below 45%, with the 40% floor quite possibly about to give way, I feel as if I'm watching the obliviousness of second-term Bush. Voters want economic relief now the way, four years ago, voters wanted to get the hell out of Iraq. You can't blame them if they think Obama isn't feeling their pain. Especially when he can't, or won't, defend his actions (or inactions), and when on one issue at least he elevates a much-mocked but still-prominent critic in the process.

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