|Barack Obama, Bubble Boy|
By Troy Senik
Thursday, October 04 2012
Parents with the good sense to resist the hysterical impulses of modern child-rearing – where the young are handled with a delicacy previously reserved for antique porcelain – have long understood a counterintuitive fact: Kids who get filthy, run around outdoors and even eat the occasional serving of dirt tend to have fewer health issues over the long run. The reason: because the constant exposure to adverse circumstances boosts immunity.
And as Barack Obama proved in Wednesday night’s presidential debate, the same principle holds true for politicians.
Obama, it must be remembered, has lived a charmed political existence. As an Illinois State Senator, he represented the South Side of Chicago, the sort of liberal playground where the very expression of a conservative sentiment is grounds for seeing a pharmacist. Running statewide in deep blue Illinois for his 2004 U.S. Senate race wasn’t much of a challenge either, particularly with the Republican nominee dropping out of the race and being replaced by the utterly implausible Alan Keyes.
Even the presidency seemed to fall into his lap. While he endured a bruising primary against Hillary Clinton in 2008, the general election couldn’t have been more tailored to Obama’s needs. What more could a Democratic presidential candidate ask for then a wildly unpopular Republican incumbent, a sharp economic downturn and a bumbling, erratic opponent? Essentially, all Obama had to do during the 2008 presidential debates was not light his podium on fire and the presidency was his for the taking.
Four years later, it’s a different story. When Obama walked onto the stage at the University of Denver on Wednesday night, it was the first time in his political career that he couldn’t effectively play the role of critic. There was no George W. Bush to run against (though he tried), and no imagined Republican injustices to point to. The candidates were debating the state of a nation Obama himself had governed for four years. And, remarkably, the president seemed unprepared for the task.
Throughout the evening, Mitt Romney was simultaneously authoritative and gentle, rebutting virtually all of Obama’s arguments with the mental acuity of a top-tier consultant and the patience of an even-tempered father.
When Romney spoke, Obama was consistently unable to make eye contact with him. When Romney corrected him (as when the governor responded to Obama’s claim that American companies can get tax breaks for moving jobs overseas by saying, “I’ve been in business for 25 years and I have no idea what you’re talking about.”), Obama was regularly unable to so much as respond. At one point during the discussion of economic issues, the beatdown became so severe that Obama actually invited moderator Jim Lehrer to change the topic. It was, in short, one of the worst performances in the history of televised presidential debates.
This is what happens when a politician is sheltered from the outside world. For the past four years, President Obama has been catered to by a lickspittle press corps. He has systematically avoided White House press conferences. He has opted to sit down with ESPN or the ladies of “The View” rather than taking tough questions from adversarial journalists. And, as a result, he’s become hermetically sealed off from a nation that often regards him as inept or unwise in equal measure.
To the extent that he acknowledges such criticism exists, he always seems to be winking at the fact that he considers them the product of slightly deranged minds. As a result, the man on stage in Denver came across as out of touch with reality.
Republican partisans will delight in the outcome of Wednesday night’s debate, which left Romney looking like a capable executive and Obama like a man utterly fatigued by his failures, yet still supremely confident in his abilities. That’s an understandable impulse, but it overlooks the note of tragedy struck by the president’s lackluster performance.
Eight years ago, as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention, Obama first captivated the nation’s imagination with a call to greater understanding and bipartisan comity. Today, he’s a man so detached from public opinion that he’s capable of totally walling himself off from the criticisms of half the nation. When future generations look for the moment when “hope and change” died, it’s quite possible that they’ll look to an October night in Denver, Colorado.
Related Articles :