Monday, January 16, 2012

How Many Ways Can You Avoid Saying, "It's Because He's Black?"

Remember Chris Matthews's devastating and revalatory critique of the President back in November when Chris was just beginning to pimp out his book his book tour?

Here's a reminder from his interview with Alex Witt:-

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Remember Matthews saying that the President and First Lady were unhappy being in the White House? Remember Matthews waxing nostalgic about the President not pressing the flesh with politicians enough, not schmoozing, not smarming their egos in a future effort to call in some debts? Remember him saying how so many Dems on Capitol Hill felt slighted at not receiving their fifteen minutes of fame from sitting with the President that they were now behaving like recalcitrant schoolchildren?

Remember Matthews saying the President was arrogant?

Now Justin Webb, formerly the BBC's North American correspondent (until he began to go native), weighs in with his assessment of the Jodi Kantor's work of quasi-fiction concerning the First Couple.

And guess what? Webb's reached the same conclusion as Matthews ... that the President didn't schmooze enough. That he failed from the getgo with that infamous 2009 Super Bowl get-together wherein, instead of back-slapping and interrupting guest's enjoyment of the game, the President actually watched the game. As you do.

But that was a massive fail, and Webb weighs in with his own research and conclusions:-

Years ago one of Reagan's chiefs of staff told me why he had taken the job. At first he had refused. His wife had refused. His current employer had refused. Reagan rang him. One of his children answered the phone: "It's the president, for you."

He took the job.

So the revelation in this book that a tool used by presidents since its invention to cajole and impress and flatter went unused by Barack Obama is quite a piece of news. It explains a lot. The job was delegated, an insider says, to staff. That's not the same.

Now you may say, good for him! He was a serious chap with a serious agenda and when he talked about his love of his family he actually meant it. He preferred to talk to Michelle and the kids than some blowhard nitwit in his 50th term in a congressional safe seat. Bravo.

You might be right. But politically the Obama approach was little short of disastrous. It left him, when the going got tough, short of friends, short of people who owed him, short of people who felt that the White House was interested in them. It doesn't take much for a president to impress a fellow American, but for this president it has, too often, been too much.

This is about more than a natural reticence. Obama does not give the impression that he really likes folks that much. As Kantor puts it: "Being in the White House seemed to intensify one of his best traits, his natural seriousness, along with one of his worst, his conviction that he was more serious than anyone else."

His own staff, we are told, often come out of the Oval Office so thrilled by the conversations they have just taken part in that they relive them, "going over the best parts out loud".

This mindset may help to explain the odd decision the White House took to accept the Nobel peace prize in late 2009, before actually achieving any peace. They did not need to: a friend of mine who worked for Obama said they seriously considered politely turning it down, thus gaining kudos without the risk of looking silly. (My friend said they joked about getting the prize for chemistry as well with the citation: "He's got great chemistry.")

In other words, they knew this was potentially a bit suspect but they decided to go with it anyway.

Kantor writes of the trip to Oslo: "For one day the Obamas lived the dream version of their presidency instead of the depressing reality." Friends who had travelled with them marvelled at how the members of the Nobel committee had read all the president's books. They knew about his policies too.

Kantor makes little of it but the trip to Oslo – and the ill-concealed suggestion that the Obamas were happier there than in Washington or Cleveland or St Louis – was an unnecessary political own goal, coming as it did in the midst of efforts to get his healthcare reforms passed by Congress.

The Obamas come across in this book as humane and decent and well-meaning but as naive and isolated. Their story is not yet finally written but Jodi Kantor's early draft of history should serve as a warning. Pick up the phone, Mr Prez.

I remember Webb's time as correspondent for the BBC in the US - more than a decade, actually, during which time, he acquired an American wife and a couple of kids who sport American as well as British passports. This was why the Beeb called him home. Justin was becoming too favourable in his reports from the States. It's always mete for the Beeb (and The Guardian) to present us colonials as slightly uncouth and undereducated tribals who really, secretly want to belong to the Commonwealth once more.

If this were a book written by a British author who had only interviewed David and Samantha Cameron's staff and then presumed to interpret the mindset of Samantha Cameron regarding certain situations, then Webb and the British media would, quite rightly, have skewered the author and left her to marinate in her own juices, which is exactly what CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Piers Morgan did to Kantor last week. And Morgan is a Brit, who was a high-ranking member of the British media.

So when did Webb lose his journalistic integrity to the point that he takes Kantor's presumptuous piece of fluff as a stark warning for the President?

I can tell you.

Back in 2009, as the Inauguration approached, Webb related a story on one of his broadcasts from the States. His two daughters were students at Sidwell Friends, the school which Malia and Sasha Obama would shortly attend. In fact, both Webb's daughters were the same age as the Obama daughters and would, presumably, be in the same class. The girls, needless to say, related Webb, not without a bit of personal hopefulness, himself, were looking forward to sleepovers at the White House. (And Webb was looking forward to chatting with the First Dad, no doubt, on the sidelines at a soccer game, which would lead to an up-close-and-personal interview which would, inevitably, result in advancing his career at the Beeb ... That Justin Webb, you know, he's, like, friends with Obama. His girls go to the same school as Sasha and Malia.)

Gee, guess that didn't work out. So now Justin Webb joins the long line of Left-leaning journos who feel personally affronted for some reason by the President and are now engaging in the continuous and slightly pejorative hobby of creating more and more euphemisms to mask their disappointment that the President is black.

1 comment:

  1. So that's what this is about. I can't sleep at the foot of his bed so I'm going to kick up dust. "Sleepovers at the White House?" What the hell do they think this is? My contempt for these jackoffs increases by the day. Why isn't there anyone in the media commenting on Sully's Newsweek article about Obama's dumbass critics?