Maureen Dowd is the quintessential New York Times writer, and thus a perfect example of what ails the mainstream media. Her piece in yesterday’s Times at first seems to reflect a growing liberal disenchantment toward Obama, but it actually fits the mainstream media’s basic narrative of the Obama presidency, a narrative concocted by Obama himself: that any failures have been caused by shortcomings in the ability to communicate the wonderfulness of all things Obama-administration to the general public, and this failure is to be blamed, in large part, not on Obama but on the public itself, who are just too selfish and blind to understand the value of gigantic government.
In doing this, Dowd compares Obama to a famous movie star of the past:
“You can make the case,” Weinstein said of Barack Obama, “that he’s the Paul Newman of American presidents.”
I interviewed Paul Newman. I knew Paul Newman. Paul Newman was an acquaintance of mine. Mr. President, except for the eyes, you are sort of like Paul Newman.
“I’ve been accused of being aloof,” Newman told me. “I’m not. I’m just wary.”
The star scorned the hoops he was expected to jump through in his profession and did not like feeling beholden. He said he dealt with fame by developing “selective insensitivities.”
Some might describe Newman’s attitude as snobbery or elitism, especially when Dowd describes it as “scorn” for the parts of his job he finds least appealing, something the less fortunate cannot afford. In any case, Dowd suggests that such a Newmanesque distancing is what’s really hurting Obama, not the horrifically bad unemployment rate, economic stagnation, and aggressive government intrusions into ordinary Americans’ lives:
Obama smashed through all the barriers and dysfunction in his life to become a self-made, self-narrating president. His brash 2008 campaign invented a new blueprint to upend the Democratic establishment. So it’s understandable if Obama, with his Shaker aesthetic, is not inclined to play by the rococo rules of politics. Yet, as the president struggles to stay ahead of Moneybags Romney, his selective insensitivities may be hurting him.
This description may or may not be true, but it does nothing to explain the radical decline of Obama’s appeal to the general public, who have had no experience of Obama’s lack of gratitude or graciousness toward big donors and his fellow pols. All the general public knows is what has done as president, and that is enough to turn anybody off, quite frankly. Dowd’s claim that Obama’s popularity decline is based on the public’s inability to appreciate his personality is simply fatuous. If unemployment were at 4 percent and gasoline prices dropping instead of double what they were when he took office, Obama’s ability to connect with the general public would be unquestioned.
Even when a New York Times columnist tries to think out of the box, she can’t do it. I leave it to the reader to deduce whether she can think her way out of a paper bag.