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February 5, 2009
The only thing we have to fear is catastrophe itself
The public discourse style of Barack Obama underwent an abrupt shift when hope and change gave way to threat and forewarning.
Early on during the campaign, audiences at Obama's primary post-election rallies cried and swooned during his speeches, and the media heralded him as a new kind of politician. Transformational. Near epiphanic. An inspirational language event.
Obama the President has morphed into something different. Obama the Scolder. Here's a sample of his new tone.
He will not tolerate it.
His revised style fully surfaced in his Inaugural Address where motivating gave way to moralistic lecturing. The core message of President Obama's first address to the nation was this: Americans must grow-up and become responsible. It conveyed a tone that stands in stark contrast to FDR's 1933 Inaugural Address.
FDR uplifted; BHO chided.
This shift in verbal histrionics continues, and it's being noticed.
Just as archeologists sift through small pieces of broken pottery vessels they call sherds searching for clues to understanding ancient societies, media sherds indicate an emerging sensitivity to this shift in tone. For example:
The media reports focus on Republicans, emerging fresh from private talks with the President, who assure us that he's more than willing to listen to, and even consider, alternative viewpoints. Those comments seem aimed to allay any notion that he's a close-minded dogmatist. What's that about?
CBS News gushed praise on Obama the Candidate. Now, in the wake of his harsh criticism of bonuses at some bailed-out Wall Street firms, the network ran an article profiling the perquisites that come with being President. Why'd they do that?
The Daily Kos defended Obama when an Associated Press article commented that "The new president, seen by some as arrogant, was anything but on Tuesday." The Daily Kos accused the AP of continuing "to badmouth President Obama." "Continuing?" Dissention builds in the ranks. What's happening here? What it is ain't exactly clear.
While a few sherds don't indicate a thriving culture, evidence is starting to pile up.
So, is the chaotic process of appointing key administration staff dialing up the pressure in other venues of Obama stress? If so, other personnel appointment challenges are cuing up to potentially make matters worse.
Leon Panetta, the nominee for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has strong lobbyist connections according to the Wall Street Journal.
It's only a matter of time before a reporter asks White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, looking more like Scott McClelland every day, for a definition of the moral difference between being a registered lobbyist and being a well-paid political advisor to a group of registered lobbyists. Someone, please ask.
Add to Panetta the emerging case of Secretary of Labor Nominee Hilda L. Solis who, as Treasurer of the American Rights at Work while a member of congress, seems to have lobbied herself. One can't make up this stuff.
The water well of convincing explanations that run through the aquifer of incredulity is not bottomless. Circling fins are slowly gathering at the outer rings of the press corps, swimming in strange waters.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times (FT) notes that,
But FT suggests that the sale may hit international roadblocks because,
In that case, the remedy to a warehouse of unsold oriental rugs will be to turn up the speed dial on the money-printing presses and awaken the ugly beast of inflation.
Character emerges most clearly under pressure. That look on Obama's face when Joe Biden made an off-the-cuff comment about Judge Roberts was a brief glimpse inside a berating and controlling personality. A smile and head shake would have worked nicely. After all, it was vintage Biden; we know Joe.
One way or the other, many questions concerning the character of our new President should be answered for us by the spring.
For now, though, he told us that the only thing we have to fear if his stimulus plan isn't passed is catastrophe itself. Not good.