Monday, August 08, 2011


Jonathan Chait and Steve Benen weren't particularly impressed with Professor Drew Westen's New York Times article "What Happened to Obama?," which chides the president for failing to push for progressive change and failing to rally the country to that kind of change. Chait cites one refutation in particular:

The most inexcusable factual errors in Westen's essay have been documented by Andrew Sprung, who points out some of the occasions Obama has used exactly the kind of rhetoric Westen accuses him of refusing to deploy.

Benen says, contemptuously,

Perhaps most notably, Andrew Sprung scrutinized Westen's piece and discovered that Obama has publicly and repeatedly stressed some of the identical messages Westen wanted to hear from the president. Maybe the professor missed those speeches; maybe he didn't check.

Here's the problem, though: Sprung's post includes four quotes that echo messages Westen says he wishes Obama had emphasized -- but three of the four took place when practically no one in America, apart from the Beltway journalist/wonk/politician community, was paying attention, for the perfectly understandable reason that the remarks occurred during most people's workday.

Sprung twice quotes a speech the president gave at Georgetown University on April 14, 2009 -- at 11:30 in the morning. Once he quotes remarks made near the end of an all-day health-care summit; the quoted excerpt came during an afternoon session. Only once does Sprung quote a prime-time speech, in this case a health care address on September 9, 2009 -- one that, in fact, temporarily raised public approval of Obama's health care approach.

But Obama's prime-time addresses and news conferences are very rare -- it's as if he doesn't want the words heard, or doesn't understand that the average American isn't going to kick back after a hard day's work and watch a six-hour unedited C-SPAN rebroadcast of a health care confab.

So, no, the existence of these remarks isn't proof that Obama is communicating well with the populace -- unless you're talking about the populace of Wonkistan.

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