Obama reflects on his biggest mistake as president
July 12, 2012
President Obama’s biggest mistake during his first term, he told CBS News in an exclusive interview, has been putting policy over storytelling.
Mr. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sat down Thursday with “CBS This Morning” anchor Charlie Rose in the White House Blue Room, where they discussed the failures and successes of his administration as he heads into another election, among other things.
“When I think about what we’ve done well and what we haven’t done well,” the president said, “the mistake of my first term – couple of years – was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. And that’s important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.”
Mr. Obama acknowledged the dissonance between others’ perception of his strength as an expert orator, and his own.
“It’s funny – when I ran, everybody said, well he can give a good speech but can he actually manage the job?” he said. “And in my first two years, I think the notion was, ‘Well, he’s been juggling and managing a lot of stuff, but where’s the story that tells us where he’s going?’ And I think that was a legitimate criticism.”
Pressed by Rose about what he felt he needed to explain better to the American people, the president corrected that he wanted to do more “explaining, but also inspiring.”
“Because hope is still there,” Mrs. Obama added.
Why does it sound so wan and, well, hopeless, when Mrs. O says, “Because hope is still there”? It sounds like what you tell Great-aunt Sukie as Great-uncle Jake lies there hooked up to the heart-lung-kidney machine. “Don’t give up, Aunt Sukie. Where there’s life, there’s hope, dear.”
Sure. The problem, see, isn’t your policies. It isn’t that you mandated we buy our health care from for-profit companies and didn’t set a limit on what they could charge us, or that you whitewashed the BP oil spill, let them off the hook and then allowed even more deep-water drilling in the Gulf and the Arctic while at the same time insisting that the Gulf seafood drenched in Corexit was safe to eat. It isn’t that you didn’t go after the Bush administration. It isn’t that you refuse to go after the big financial firms who are still raping the economy and stealing everyone’s homes, savings, and everything else of value across the globe. It isn’t that you do go after the whistle blowers who might shed some light on what the fuck is going on in this nuthouse. It isn’t that you keep bombing the hell out of countries with whom we are not at war, or demand that we spend even more money on weapons and military bases, or let the wealthy keep amassing improbable amounts of cash and assets while we give up jobs and lose more and more of the fragile, minute security offered by food stamp programs, unemployment benefits and the like. It’s not that you stack your administration with Goldman, Sachs and Monsanto guys. It’s not that you sign secret deals to give away our sovereignty and wreck what few ecological safeguards we have left, or that you keep letting the security agencies expand their spying on us and control over us. It didn’t bother us when you invaded another country, killed Osama bin Laden without a trial, and dumped his body in the briny deep like you were some mafioso thug. Hell, we’re going to make a movie of it, which we will pay a couple hours’ worth of wages to watch. No-one complained when you utterly ruined Libya and had its leader tortured and assassinated. It isn’t even that you decided you could kill any of us you wanted or jail us indefinitely – without trials, hearings, judges or juries – for whatever reason you pulled out of your ass. Or for no reason at all.
It’s not the policies, which are just about perfect. It’s that you didn’t spend enough time spinning the stories.
Gee, and being able to spin a good
lie story is why the oligarchy picked you for the job. But don’t fret, sir. We have reached the requisite level of idiocy now where you can just tell the bald-faced truth without picturesque narrative attached. Notice how most of us these days seem to buy the shit that the wealthy create jobs? You can tell us right out front that you are going after Iran for no legitimate reason whatsoever, and no-one cares. Hardly a peep when you announced you were assassinating Americans just because you felt like it. Congress doesn’t bother to restrain corporations from poisoning our food, water and air; we are swilling toxic sludge, eating it and breathing it, and yet the people are convinced that regulations are the bane of society. You guys don’t have to spin the stories any more. The beachhead has been softened and the country is ready for the final plundering. Don’t lose sleep over the imagined need for fanciful, yet believable, story-lines. We welcome the opportunity to be groped at the airports and bus terminals and have completely discarded our silly notions of civil rights – you don’t even have to make up any imaginary terrorists any more. So just take a page from your friend, Jamie Dimon. Tell us you are going to take all our stuff and then take it.
We’ll let you. We love that shit now.