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Well, now, that didn’t take long, did it? Less than two months into Barack Obama’s presidency and the doubters are already coming out of the woodwork – among them several big-name pundits who, just an hour or two ago (or so it seems) were still in full swoon mode for the Miracle Man sent to lift and cleanse us from the hellish Bush-Cheney miasma.
Newsweek’s Howard Fineman may have got the ball rolling when he wrote on March 10 that “in ways both large and small, what’s left of the American establishment is taking [Obama’s] measure and, with surprising swiftness, they are finding him lacking.” The blasphemy having been uttered, albeit ever so meekly, other worshipers began putting down their hymnals and singing a new, more skeptical tune.
In a column titled “Obama Needs to Discover His Inner Dirty Harry,” Bloomberg.com’s very liberal Margaret Carlson wrote, “It’s up to the new sheriff in town to put things right…. Unfortunately, it’s hard to scare the bad guys when your new Treasury secretary comes across like Barney Fife…. The new team took over with a whimper, not a bang.”
Meanwhile, Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift – yes, that Eleanor Clift, for two decades the resident screeching liberal of “The McLaughlin Group,” incapable of uttering a good word for Republicans or a bad one for Democrats – asked in an online column, “Who would have thought that 55 days into this administration we would be asking the question, what did he know and when did he know it? Word that a provision in the stimulus bill gave the green light for AIG to hand out bonuses using taxpayer money sent the media bloodhounds hot on the trail of whoever is the culprit…. President Obama likes to remind voters that he inherited a mess, and that’s true, but this one is of his own making.”
And then there was Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter who during the campaign never made a secret of her soft spot for candidate Obama, now suddenly complaining in The Wall Street Journal that the president “is willowy when people yearn for solid, reed-like when they hope for substantial, a bright older brother when they want Papa, cool where they probably prefer warmth…. Isaiah Berlin famously suggested a leader is a fox or a hedgehog. The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing. In political leadership the hedgehog has certain significant advantages, focus and clarity among them. Most presidents are one or the other. So far Mr. Obama seems neither.”
Some of the sharpest words came form Vanity Fair’s media columnist Michael Wolff, who on his Newser.com blog delivered the ultimate insult to a Democratic president: “Sheesh, the guy is Jimmy Carter.”
Wolff continued, reacting to Obama’s appearance on the “Tonight” show, where he was feted by a typically craven Jay Leno: “The guy just doesn’t know what to say. He can’t connect. Emotions are here, he’s over there. He can’t get the words to match the situation…. He’s cold … he’s uncomfortable; he’s not funny; and he’s getting awfully tedious…. So Jimmy. It’s instructive and humorous to remember that Carter ran a brilliant campaign that succeeded largely because his voice was new. Simple, direct, basic, human. And then, of course, he turned into a sad-sack twit.”
Obama’s approval rating remains strong – though as pollsters Douglas Schoen and Scott Rasmussen noted in a March 12 Wall Street Journal op-ed column, his numbers are actually lower than George W. Bush’s at a similar point in his presidency in 2001.
But the polls indicate, wrote David Warren in The Ottawa Sun, that Obama “had better start selling his policies harder, because they are showing signs of not going over very well.”
Especially, added Warren, since “the unpolled elites, including those within the Democratic Party, have started to ask questions aloud about whether their man is competent; and as we know from painful history, such uncertainties from an elite tend to ‘trickle down.’”
Back in June 1993, just five months into his presidency, a miniaturized Bill Clinton (the media’s anointed candidate in the 1992 campaign) appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Above him, seemingly pushing him off the page, were the words, in huge type, “The Incredible Shrinking President.” Would-be saviors turn fallible all too quickly.
Jason Maoz can be reached at email@example.com
About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.
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Obama went to begin the Arab Spring in Egypt which is still his target; Israel is just the lever.
Qatar’s wealth and Turkey’s size should not preclude us from telling it as it is: Qatar and Turkey are among the worst villains in the Gaza tragedy.
New Delhi would do well to remain aware of the predicament of Israel today.
his Tisha B’Av, and this Tu B’Av, remember: Hashem will protect us if we unite and rally around Him
Israel’s morality is underscored by its unprecedented restraint and care for loss of life.
The Gazan octopus arm is a test case, as the rest of the arms are closely watching it.
Obama has chosen shaky ally on the way out over strong ally solidly in the American orbit.
World War I had sown chaos throughout the centuries-old Jewish communities of Eastern Europe.
The IDF pounding continued and it again seemed only a matter of time before Hamas would be forced to accept the Egyptian proposal.
Nothing is ever so clear in the complex and often brutal calculus of urban warfare.
These are not necessarily the best all-around biographies or studies of the individual presidents listed (though some rank right up there), but the strongest in terms of exploring presidential attitudes and policies toward Israel.
What really makes one wonder about the affinity felt by certain Jews for Grant was the welcome mat he put out for some of the country’s most pernicious anti-Semites.
With 2013 marking half a century since Kennedy’s fateful limousine ride in Dallas, the current revels are exceeding the revisionist frenzies of years past, with a seemingly endless parade of books, articles and television specials designed to assure us that, despite everything that has come to light about him since his death, JFK was a great president, or at least a very good president who would have been great had his life not been so cruelly cut short.
As someone who for the past fifteen years has been writing a column that largely focuses on the news media, I’ve read what is no doubt an altogether unhealthy number of books on the subject. Most of them were instantly forgettable while some created a brief buzz but failed to pass the test of time. And then there were those select few that merited a permanent spot on the bookshelf.
George W. Bush has been getting some positive media coverage lately, with recent polls showing him at least as popular as his successor, Barack Obama, and a big new book about the Bush presidency by New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker (Days of Fire, Doubleday) portraying Bush as a much more hands-on chief executive than his detractors ever imagined.
Readers who’ve stuck with the Monitor over the years will forgive this rerun of sorts, but as we approach the fortieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War – and with the stench of presidential indecisiveness hanging so heavily over Washington these days – it seemed only appropriate to revisit Richard Nixon’s role in enabling Israel to recover from the staggering setbacks it suffered in the first week of fighting.
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