When it comes to empathy for the electorate., Barack Obama continues to show that he's no Bill Clinton. Clinton, warts and all, had an innate connection with the evolving whims and feelings of the people. On top of that, he genuinely likes and enjoys interacting with all sorts of people.
As of 2010, the passionate sure-footed candidate of 2008 is gone. He's been replaced by a careful, tempered, detached President, riddled with doubts. Worst of all, his deep attachment to his sense of the world as it was for the 2008 candidate continues to threaten his future viability. And his effectiveness as a President in the upcoming months.
He is clinging to the elephant of two years ago. But the economy didn't bounce back as he promised, making people doubt the wisdom and efficacy of the stimulus. The healthcare reform he was sure people wanted in 2008 has given way to the bastardized reality of a package that improved access but failed to address the real problem of cost. A package that was bought only at the price of ALL the political capital he had.
Yesterday, Obama showed he wasn't entirely clueless by stressing that the nation has urgent business and that he is ready to work with both parties in congress to do it. Then he went on to show that he is still wedded to the kinds of approaches that sounded good to some in 2008, but which many Americans are deeply skeptical about in 2010.
How long will Obama persist in believing in expanded rail and other expensive public works projects without any demonstrable acid test of regard for whether any given project is truly necessary. Necessary beyond providing short-term employment at taxpayer expense, that is.
And how much longer will Barack Obama remain so cool, so tempered, so detached, so careful in tumultuous times? He would do well to talk to Mike Dukakis, who learned the lesson of the value of passion and fight too late. Obama needs to find passion and fight, and he needs to find the lyrics to the right song. Vy that I mean a song that resonates with the public circa today, not 2008.