Fineman: Chicago Style Isn’t Working

Howard Fineman piles on to the burgeoning — if thus far unfoundedObama overexposed and Obama fatigue memes with an uncharacteristically harsh column.

In addition to contending Obama gives too many speeches with too little substance, her goes further:

There is only so much political mileage that can still be had by his reminding the world that he is not George W. Bush. […] Members of Obama’s own party know who Obama is not; they still sometimes wonder who he really is. In Washington, the appearance of uncertainty is taken as weakness—especially on Capitol Hill, where a president is only as revered as he is feared. Being the cool, convivial late-night-guest in chief won’t cut it with Congress, an institution impervious to charm (especially the charm of a president with wavering poll numbers). Members of both parties are taking Obama’s measure with their defiant and sometimes hostile response to his desires on health care. Never much of a legislator (and not long a -senator), Obama underestimated the complexity of enacting a major “reform” bill. Letting Congress try to write it on its own was an awful idea. As a balkanized land of microfiefdoms, each loyal to its own lobbyists and consultants, Congress is incapable of being led by its “leadership.” It’s not like Chicago, where you call a guy who calls a guy who calls Daley, who makes the call. The president himself must make his wishes clear—along with the consequences for those who fail to grant them.

It’s not entirely clear what “consequences” the president can mete out to members of his own party in an independent branch of government who fail to do as he wishes.  Aside from petty exclusion from the reindeer games that surround the Head of State trappings of the White House — signings, dinners, awards ceremonies, and the like — he needs them more than they need him.

The reason Obama needs to more clearly articulate what he wants isn’t to scare the Congress but rather to inspire the people.  By “going over Congress’ heads,” presidents can leverage their popularity to put pressure on the legislature.

But the truth may well be that, as personally popular as Obama remains, people aren’t necessarily enamored with the specific policies he wants and can’t be talked into changing their minds.  If that’s the case, then going on TV more won’t help.  But it’s not clear what else would.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Congress, US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Is two frontpage posts by different authors quoting the same column a record?

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    Nothing will help. The policy changes for health care are simply wrong and the American people see them as wrong.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Is two frontpage posts by different authors quoting the same column a record?

    I’m sure it’s been at least tied! But I didn’t notice the update before writing this post.

  4. Mr. Obama, unlike Mr. Fineman, understands that the date is 2009, not 1999. People under the age of 100 (I approximate Mr. Fineman’s age) understand that in this era we are all irritatingly in-touch and available. In all media, at all times.

    There’s no such thing as “overexposed” anymore. The web, email, paparazzi, 24 hour news channels, cell phones, Twitter, Facebook . . . ubiquity is no longer declasse, it is rather, de rigeur.

    Ah, for the good old days when we could say, “God bless and keep the Tsar (or President) . . . far away from us.”

  5. Triumph says:

    Hussein’s problem is that he is a yellow-bellied liberal who stole the Presidency thanks to his buddies at Acorn.

    We see through that and understand that the only response to his injurious sedition is: “You Lie”

  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Actually Tri, judging the person by the company they kept, I suggest Hussein II might have communist leanings. Frank Marshall Davis was a communist. Obamas’s dad, Hussein I was a communist. His mother had communist leanings. He reveres the teachings of Saul Alinsky. He went to schools who instruct far left politics. Obama attended a church in Chicago which spews black liberation theology which some have said is communistic. Lastly, Obama grew up in Chicago politics. If Obama has his way, I wonder how you are going to react to having to pull up stakes and move to the collective where you get to muck out the barns. You should be good at it because you sure shovel it here.

  7. G.A.Phillips says:

    Hussein’s problem is that he is a yellow-bellied liberal who stole the Presidency thanks to his buddies at Acorn.

    We see through that and understand that the only response to his injurious sedition is: “You Lie”

    Ditto! Triumph you are the only liberal around here that ever makes any sense……

  8. Marty says:

    I suspect that Fineman is simply writing under the editorial direction of the ‘new’ Newsweek – mainly being provacative for provacativeness’ sake.

    This is the rag who’s two recent covers included “The Case for Killing Granny” & “Is Your Baby a Racist?”

    It’s been an embarrassing turn for a once respectable magazine.

  9. spencer says:

    Given the rebound in the polls favoring health care reform and Obama this looks like the right trying to argue against something by Obama that is effective. If it was not working why would the opposition be making so much of it?