January 24, 2011

NYT: Obama needs to share more

Matt Bai in the New York Times worries that poor President Obama isn't successfully bypassing the traditional media:
For Obama, Getting Message Out Online is a Challenge
Truly taking the presidency online would not only enable Mr. Obama to get his message to some voters without passing through the traditional news media.

Because the establishment media has always been so skeptical and unfriendly toward Obama that he needs to go around them to connect directly with the average voter.
Mr. Obama is probably the most talented writer to occupy the office in the television age; his political career was made possible, in large part, by the candid memoir he wrote as a younger man. 

"Candid" is about the last word that comes to mind for "Dreams from My Father." The book sold 11,000 copies in the nine years up until he became a superstar at the 2004 Democratic convention. It's sold millions of copies since then, although I doubt that millions of people have finished it. I doubt if his memoir was a net benefit to his political career at all. It didn't hurt much because it was written in such an opaque style as to be unquotable, but it didn't help much other than to reconfirm the "What a fine young gentleman" feelings that many people already felt for him after seeing him on TV.
So it is hard to understand why the president hasn’t tried to use that talent the way Mr. Kennedy capitalized on his personal charm. You can easily imagine Mr. Obama sitting in front of a keyboard at the end of a long day, briefly reflecting on the oddity of a personal encounter or on the meaning of some overlooked event, or perhaps describing what it is like to stand in the well of Congress and deliver the State of the Union address. It could be that in order to expand the reach and persuasiveness of the modern presidency, Mr. Obama simply needs to be his online self — not so much a blogger as a memoirist-in-chief, walking us through history in real time. 

Yeah, but that would cut into the vital time the President devotes to having a cig, watching ESPN SportsCenter, getting in a quick 18 holes, stepping out for a Lucky Strike, shooting hoops, taking a mental health break for a smoke, daydreaming, etc etc.

The idea that Obama wants to share his thoughts unfiltered and unvetted with the American public is ridiculously naive. It took him four years to get Dreams from My Father finished. He, in effect, stole part of a large advance by not delivering it to the original publisher. The manuscript for his second book was vetted by 28 experts before being sent to the publisher. Do you really think he wants to have to have more Beer Summits every time he accidentally reveals his inner feelings?

What he is good at is the occasional set piece oration that he's rigorously prepared for, like tonight's speech, where he gets to tap into all the good will in America toward eloquent black men. That, and being tongue-bathed by the press. In contrast, the more we see of him on a mundane basis, the more we notice that there's not all that much there.
Nigeria’s leader, Goodluck Jonathan, has been called the “Facebook president” for posting his own frequent meditations for a country of 44 million Internet users. 

Yeah, my spambox is already full of emails from Lea Abiba Mangou, Mbebe  John, Thompsons Ngowa, Hassim Uhuru, and Barack Obama, all asking for my help. I think Obama should definitely step up his online efforts. Like the Mineshaft Gap in Dr. Strangelove, Mr. President, you cannot afford to allow a Nigerian Spam Gap to emerge.

C'mon, the Real Obama didn't get elected President in 2008, that was the Fake Obama, a collective delusion. The Real Obama has no intention of running in 2012 as the Real Obama, either.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Apologies, Steve, for the off-topic post, but I really wanted to get this out there.

How come the right (mainly Fox News) doesn't take stuff like this and wring it for all it's worth. Spend the entire day highlighting it, pointing out what's wrong with it, and then demand, ala MSNBC, all day long that liberal guest after liberal guest denounce it publically?

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/1/24/938558/-TWO-NICE-JEWISH-BOYS-IN-CONGRESS:STEVE-COHEN-AND-ERIC-CANTOR

Aaron B. said...

His memoir helped him politically by existing, regardless of the contents, because it helped people think he was smart. Only smart people write big thick books, right? So it played right into his "I'm a brainy academic who's figured out how to fix everything" meme. It's probably a plus that no one read it.

polistra said...

@Anonymous, Fox News won't do that because Fox is NOT right-wing. Fox is Republican, which means they agree with CNN on absolutely everything except income tax rates. CNN thinks rich people should pay very low taxes, and Fox thinks rich people should pay zero tax. Everything else is identical.

Anonymous said...

"The book sold 11,000 copies in the nine years up until he became a superstar at the 2004 Democratic convention."

Wow. I didn't know that. So he failed as a writer too.

Johnson said...


Nigeria’s leader, Goodluck Jonathan, has been called the “Facebook president” for posting his own frequent meditations for a country of 44 million Internet users.


Do people ever post on his facebook wall basic questions like: Why can't your government provide basic services?

RKU said...

"polistra": Fox is Republican, which means they agree with CNN on absolutely everything except income tax rates. CNN thinks rich people should pay very low taxes, and Fox thinks rich people should pay zero tax. Everything else is identical.

Yep, that sounds about right---the great debate in America politics is "Low Tax vs. No Tax." Well, the decaying Byzantines had their chariot races or whatever between the Blues and the Greens. Given the colors of our flag, here it's the Blues and the Reds...

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but there is more nature -vs- nurture nonsense in the news today.

Yahoo screenshot here; full story here.

Chicago said...

The collected writings of Enver Hoxha stretch out to about 60 volumes; 6 volumes of selected writings, some of it is actually entertaining. Compare that with the self-centered drivel that Obama supposedly wrote, which just displays the grandiosity of the then unknown future messiah. They should pass a law that if a president delivers a speech it must be certified as having actually been written by him as a form of truth in advertising. And destroy all teleprompters; they've led to the evil of politicians giving the impression of looking you straight in the eye while lying.

Thripshaw said...

When Sailer gets elected president (probably 2016) we'll get daily iSteve updates about the state of the nation. Because the president in the 21st century should be the "blogger in chief" - ignoring national security briefings and cabinet meetings so he can opine on some half-assed inconsequential columns written in the MSM while also providing trivial biographical details - "President Steve played golf with Tiger Woods in Hawaii today..."

agnostic said...

So if Obama kept an online diary, blog, or whatever -- would it have comments? And what would be the comment policy?

If no comments, then everyone whines that he's still stuck in the web 1.0 days, and views him as a dictator rather than an imaginary best friend.

If there are comments, they would obviously be screened. Everyone still whines that he's a dictator, and to really handle the job Obama would have to pull a Bush and start up another bogus cabinet position -- Department of Online Comment Moderation.

The DC metro is full of souls both intelligent and altruistic enough to serve their country when it calls, so talk about a shovel-ready project.

If that falls through, they could always try to bribe a bunch of geeks away from their lucrative career of editing Wikipedia.

Dennis Mangan said...

Your funniest post in awhile, Steve.

Steve Sailer said...

""President Steve played golf with Tiger Woods in Hawaii today...""

I would definitely have better taste in where I'd play my Presidential golf than Obama has so far shown:

"President Sailer played 36 holes at Cypress Point today while ignoring the collapse of the Japanese economy, the 9.6 earthquake in Chicago, and the outbreak of tank warfare on the Korean peninsula. Tomorrow's schedule shows him playing holes 4 through 10 at Pebble Beach before taking Air Force One to Bandon, Oregon for "some serious golf.""

Whiskey said...

Bai and the NYT can't figure the reality. Obama got the nod, because he looked more credible than the collapsed Bush administration and its heir McCain.

NOW HE's judged on results. He has collapsed credibility. He sold ObamaCare as reducing your health care payments while keeping your plan and doctor. Neither apply, Blue Shield and Blue Cross are raising rates up to 75% in some cases. While doctors are dropping off health care plans like crazy.

Meanwhile we get stagflation. Income flat or falling, while commodity prices rise every day, driving up every day items like gas, food, electricity, water, clothing and such. Who cares if the latest electronic junk from China is cheaper if your paycheck is gone by the end of the month on food and gas and electricity?

No job creation (or even promise of it), no wage increases, continued "Mexodus" and the like. Caterpillar created 18,000 jobs last year -- in China, opening three new factories. GM is hiring ... in China! Opening new factories there.

Obama's problem is not messaging. Its results. He's like Denny Green, Mike Singletary, Kyle Willingham, Perry Fewell, Herm Edwards, and Karl Dorrell. Fans, owners, colleges, all expect results. Wins. Being the "first Black" is all nice and everything, for about five minutes. Then its results, results, results. Something Obama can't do.

David said...

Share what?

The NYT assumes Obama has a Vision, a Passion, a Big Idea. Because he wears the suit, he is thought to be the equivalent of JFK, FDR...heck, even van Buren would be nice.

Noticed today that Rahm was disqualified from running in Chicago. Hm. Are the kingmakers abandoning Suit Obama?

Anonymous said...

"Rahm was disqualified from running in Chicago. Hm. Are the kingmakers abandoning Suit Obama?"

Rahm will be back. Minor bump, nothing serious.

Fred said...

"He's like Denny Green, Mike Singletary, Kyle Willingham, Perry Fewell, Herm Edwards, and Karl Dorrell."

Perry Fewell has done a decent job so far. If there's a weak link in the coaching staff there, it's with the offensive coordinator, who happens to be white (or with the QB, who throws to defensive backs almost as often as to his receivers).

Truth said...

"Obama's problem is not messaging. Its results. He's like Denny Green, Mike Singletary, Kyle Willingham, Perry Fewell, Herm Edwards, and Karl Dorrell."

Hey Sport, you forgot Mike Tomlin, Ron Washington and Doc Rivers!

The Dude said...

How can you vote for a man who writes a book telling everyone he gets queasy when him momma goes off on her black male sex fetish in a movie theater.

Do we need to know this? Do our children need to read this in their school libraries?

"Too much information!" my wife says, clapping her hands over our daughter's ears.

Harry Baldwin said...

If Obama had a blog, would it be anymore more fascinating than his video preview of his SOTU speech, in which he says things like, "It is clear that the moment we now face demands a vision for how we as a people will win the future."

I hate to quote a psycho, but "What is government if words have no meaning?"

Anonymous said...

why won't you just admit that you don't like the brotha because you feel that he has had too many easy breaks in life.

because white-folks want to promote a black guy like that and that infuriates you.

Anonymous said...

how can you claim to know so much about the brotha (based on his 'Memoirs' book) and simultaneous say that he hadn't revealed anything in it??

hmmmmmm???????????????

Anonymous said...

all the charges that you have leveled against the man can be lobbed against ANY politician, they're all like that. it's the nature of the game.

Anonymous said...

How about "the media need to CARE about doing their job"?

Kylie said...

From the hilarious NYT article:
"You can easily imagine Mr. Obama sitting in front of a keyboard at the end of a long day, (Glad that he can use blogging as an excuse to sneak a smoke) briefly reflecting on the oddity of a personal encounter ("I can't believe I had to remind that fool, Boehner, that I'm the President.") or on the meaning of some overlooked event, ("Typical of white people to cling bitterly to the Fourth of July. Who says you can't play golf as a way of celebrating freedom?") or perhaps describing what it is like to stand in the well of Congress and deliver the State of the Union address ("All eyes are on me, which is as it should be")...Mr. Obama simply needs to be his online self — not so much a blogger as a memoirist in chief, ("Damned straight I'm not just some blogger. I'm a memoirist. A Presidential Memoirist.") walking us through history in real time. ("History=His story. I like that. Maybe I should issue an Executive Order and have that added to the Presidential Seal up through 2017.")

Observer from the Antipodes said...

Eleven thousand copies here in Australia would earn the book best-seller rank; testifying not so much as to Australia's number of inhabitants as to our general want of curiosity.

Also you're too severe on Nigerian authors. Nigerian native and Brown University Professor of Africana Studies, at Brown Uni Providence, R.I., Mr Chinua Achebe, a master of belles-lettres, had the profound thoughtful criticism of Joseph Conrad that he was a "bloody racist". None of the artifice of Charles Lamb or pedantry of John Gibson Lockhart for Professor Achebe.

I think a Nobel or Legion of Honour, or canonisation, may be in the offing for the good Nigerian scholar.

unamusementpark said...

"So if Obama kept an online diary, blog, or whatever -- would it have comments? And what would be the comment policy?"

Hah, good point. You're probably pretty close with your "shovel-ready project."

But if they did allow real feedback, I wonder how subtle you would need to be to get sarcasm past the censors. I'm thinking of something like Sailer's "the establishment media has always been so skeptical and unfriendly toward Obama that he needs to go around them to connect directly with the average voter."

josh said...

"CNN thinks rich people should pay very low taxes, and Fox thinks rich people should pay zero tax. Everything else is identical."

What do you consider very low? I once saw the check my parents (lawyers, one partner, the other DOJ, but not super rich) sent to the IRS. I felt sick to my stomach.

Peter A said...

Ironically, Steve's descriptions of Obama make him seem much more likable - the Obama Steve describes is clearly no Socialist with a racial or Islamic agenda to destroy America. Steve's Obama is a smart but fairly lazy guy who enjoys the good life, loves his family, and doesn't really like the hard policy work of being President. In other words a half-African George Bush. If more Republicans come to understand that, Obama will be re-elected in a heart-beat.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

all the charges that you have leveled against the man can be lobbed against ANY politician, they're all like that. it's the nature of the game."

Yes, that's true. But the New York Times does not feel the need to publicly fellate them, like they routinely do for Obama.

holmegm said...

I thought Obama was the very one who "got" the whole digital new paradigm thing, while his opponents were the clueless n00bs ... I guess that's gone down the memory hole now too.

Simon in London said...

Peter A:
" the Obama Steve describes is clearly no Socialist with a racial or Islamic agenda to destroy America"

I read Steve's book and that wasn't exactly my impression. It seems to me that Obama, as with much of the left, has cultural Marxism as a religion; Obama's version having a particular emphasis on black nationalism/anti-white racism. But Obama, unlike his pastor Rev Wright, is not a fiery zealot of the Church of Destroy America; his commitment is lukewarm and waffley.

He's like those 'moderate Muslims' we hear so much of, only Obama is a 'moderate' socialist-black nationalist. That doesn't mean he only wants a wee bit of Socialism, and sees genuine value in classical Liberal Democracy or free market capitalism. It just means he's fairly apathetic, most of the time. If you push him, he will always come down on the same side of the line on any question.

Kylie said...

"Ironically, Steve's descriptions of Obama make him seem much more likable - the Obama Steve describes is clearly no Socialist with a racial or Islamic agenda to destroy America."

"Much more likable" is pushing it. But otherwise, I agree. Obama doesn't want to destroy America, he just wants to redistribute its goodies.

"Steve's Obama is a smart but fairly lazy guy who enjoys the good life, loves his family, and doesn't really like the hard policy work of being President. In other words a half-African George Bush."

Not a point in O's favor. I didn't like W, either.

"If more Republicans come to understand that, Obama will be re-elected in a heart-beat."

You apparently don't read the same blogs and messageboards I do so here's a helpful hint: on them, Bush and Obama are equally reviled; Bush, in part, for paving the way for O's election. RINO's would probably vote the way you suggest, though.

Anonymous said...

What caught my eye in Steve's post was "the more we see of him on a mundane basis, the more we notice that there's not all that much there." That's true of his wife as well. They remind me of the black couple in the old sit-com The Jeffersons. They'd suddenly become rich (maybe won the lottery?), and the theme song of the show was something like, "Moving on up to the East Side, To that great big apartment in the sky." The Obamas did win the big lottery, largely because of the dirt-dumb "idealists" who swooned over a black (actually, mulatto) man becoming president. What irritates me most is that now these two nonentities get to eat all that great food and at taxpayers' expense.

peter A said...

RINO's would probably vote the way you suggest, though.

that's exactly what I mean. I'm not suggesting the hard right would, or should, start liking Obama. But the more Steve's image of an unmotivated, moderate, golf loving Obama starts to circulate - the more the far Right's hatred for the man will look a little silly and then more moderate Republicans may consider Obama acceptable. The reality is an unmotivated light-weight Marxist is not going to move the country as far left as a motivated liberal technocrat (i.e. a Clinton). From the conservative point of view Obama is a much better President than Clinton or Edwards would have been.

Truth said...

"the Obama Steve describes is clearly no Socialist with a racial or Islamic agenda to destroy America. Steve's Obama is a smart but fairly lazy guy who enjoys the good life, loves his family, and doesn't really like the hard policy work of being President. "

Well, if you think about it, there is a good reason you are reading his blog instead of the reverse.

"They remind me of the black couple in the old sit-com The Jeffersons. They'd suddenly become rich (maybe won the lottery?),"


They got rich by opening a string of dry cleaners, Sport, just a you have stayed poor by opening your mouth.

Kylie said...

"I'm not suggesting the hard right would, or should, start liking Obama. But the more Steve's image of an unmotivated, moderate, golf loving Obama starts to circulate - the more the far Right's hatred for the man will look a little silly and then more moderate Republicans may consider Obama acceptable."

Got it. Thanks for clarifying.

Mr. Anon said...

"Truth said...

""They remind me of the black couple in the old sit-com The Jeffersons. They'd suddenly become rich (maybe won the lottery?),""

They got rich by opening a string of dry cleaners, Sport, just a you have stayed poor by opening your mouth."

I for one was inspired by the Jeffersons, a plucky can-do family who picked themselves up by the boot-straps and, by sheer dint of hardwork and a plot device concocted by Norman Lear, earned for themselves a little piece of the american dream. And they did all that despite the fact that they don't actually exist. Truly, they were an inspiration to fictional black families everywhere.

Mr. Anon said...

"peter A said...

From the conservative point of view Obama is a much better President than Clinton or Edwards would have been."

Other than Obama Care, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagin, and whatever else the next two years may bring.

Bill Ayers said...

"It took him four years to get Dreams from My Father finished."

For the last time, I wrote the goddamn book, and it only took 6 months once I took over.

none of the above said...

Mr Anon:

The thing is, the Jeffersons seemed a lot more like real humans (petulant greedy man who got to the top by being nitpicky and greedy and domineering, fat pushy, loudmouthed wife--yeah, I've known people like that) than, say, the Huxtables. One part of accepting blacks as normal human beings is that they're allowed to be real people, instead of some kind of sanitized images of people with all the rough edges smoothed off. I think that was easier in the 1970s than in the 1980s, for cultural reasons.

For much the same cultural reasons, the public image of MLK has been polished into a plaster saint, instead of a flawed but really interesting and impressive person who accomplished something damned hard and worthwhile, but also held a lot of bad or at least controversial ideas, apparently slept around with various women, etc.

We're still getting some of that effect with Obama. Clearly, Obama is a pretty impressive person--even with all the stars lining up for you, getting elected president is a very hard thing to do, and whatever benefits he got from his race in terms of media love and white-guilt votes, he probably lost more from people who just flat wouldn't vote for a black guy. But the media seem to do an even worse than usual job of giving us a picture of the real man, or reporting his actions straight, than they usually do. (Though they were spectacularly bad with W, too.)

none of the above said...

Mr Anon:

So, you think Hillary Clinton wouldn't have tried to enact some kind of health care reform? What about her history could possibly make me suspect she'd have an interest in that?

Or you figure she'd have nominated substantially different justices? (Perhaps different ones, but different kinds? Indeed, the same ethnic identity considerations would have applied to her first pick, and she might well have made exactly the same picks.)

How about Edwards, whose rhetoric was much more left-wing than Obama's? You really figure he'd be more of a centrist than Obama is? Maybe so--politicians say what they think will get them elected, not what they really believe. But I doubt it.

My guess is that Clinton would have been more effective (thanks to more experience in Washington and better connections), and so would have moved policy in a somewhat more left direction. And that Edwards would have been less effective (even less experience and connections than Obama, plus the whole "ma, ma, where's my pa?" scandal distracting him), but would probably have tried to do more left-wing stuff.

none of the above said...

It's extraordinarily hard to know who Obama is day to day. Partly, that's poor coverage for various reasons, but more importantly, Obama has had big political ambitions for a long time now. That means anything he's written or said in public for at least the last 10-15 years was written or said with the goal of furthering (or at least not hindering) those ambitions.

After he leaves the white house, he may well write a lot more freely, because he'll have no more reason to self-censor. And we may find that he's got a lot to say. Or not.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should have paid much closer attention to the old sitcom The Jeffersons, Norman Lear's Hollywood fantasy concoction. Sadly, their affluence, won through hard work and grit, is not much reflected where I live, a big city in the northeast. Here what I notice are the clusters of black youths menacingly hanging out on the streets and the vast over-representation of blacks in crime statistics and on welfare rolls. Of course there are decent blacks. It's a question of proportions. How come there are so few whites wanting to move into black neighborhoods? As for the mostly older whites stuck there, maybe Hollywood will produce a series on their plight?

Mr. Anon said...

"none of the above said...

Mr Anon:

So, you think Hillary Clinton wouldn't have tried to enact some kind of health care reform? What about her history could possibly make me suspect she'd have an interest in that?"

No, I'm sure she would have attempted to do everything that Obama has done. The difference is, she would have had less success. For one, she appears to be pretty ham-handed; her campaign was pretty lame, and she's screwed up most everything she's laid her hands on. She also galvanizes conservative opposition in a way that Obama doesn't. She isn't black, so it's possible to criticize her without drawing accusations of racism.

Once McCain had sewn up the republican nomination, I figured Hillary was the least bad choice of the three of them (Obama, Clinton, and McCain), especially in terms of ramming through some kind of amnesty.

Mr. Anon said...

@none of the above:

I agree with everything you said. The sarcastic nature of my post was not in response to what you wrote, but was occasioned by a post written by that automat of black resentment, who unreflectively and embarassingly calls himself "Truth". He seemed especially insistant on defending the honor of one of his race, even if that person does not, you know, technically, even exist.

Truth said...

"The sarcastic nature of my post was not in response to what you wrote,"

I think you're afraid he's going to KICK YOUR BUTT!

Truth said...

"He seemed especially insistant on defending the honor of one of his race, even if that person does not, you know, technically, even exist."

And who exactly did I defend? I just cleared up an factual error on "the Jeffersons."

Are you off your medication again?

David said...

One must admit "Truth" occasionally is logical and pithy, and wins.

Mr. Anon said...

"David said...

One must admit "Truth" occasionally is logical and pithy, and wins."

How so wins? By resorting to school-ground retorts? Pithy, yes. Logical, practically never. Intelligent? Doubtful.

Has he ever enlightened your mind with his beliefs about water-powered cars, or quantum healing, or any other such nonsense he gleans from the web? He apparently listened to Art Bell, and took him seriously.

Truth said...

Why thank you, David.

Anon; you're behind the times, Sukka...It's George Noori now.