Yes, I know he's out there at fundraisers and rallies, clinging to Big Bird for dear life. I guess he has to do something.
Polls show a tightening race. My gut tells me it's in danger of falling apart.
David Axelrod, Obama's longtime aid and campaign guru, has said that a Presidential campaign is an MRI of the soul. Obama's MRI shows ambivalence. Does he want to be leader of the free world, or leader of the Choom Gang? Does he want to watch ESPN, or does he want to do some hardnosed debate prep? Does he want to get in Mitt's grill, or maintain Obama cool … sly, ironic, and avuncular?
We all know, intuitively, that there are some days or moments when you absolutely have to show up; bring all that you have to the task at hand. Eli Manning showed up against the Patriots in the Superbowl … twice. John Kennedy showed up against Nixon in 1960 and in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Martin Luther King showed up on the Mall in Washington in 1963, and many other times in other places. Barack Obama showed up in the 2008 campaign, and in his command of the Osama Bin Laden mission.
Obama didn't show up at the debate in Denver. He was unprepared, awkward, and, worst of all, fearful. If you were for him, it was shocking, sickening, and infuriating. The passage of time has not dissipated those feelings. It raises the question, is Barack Obama like George H.W. Bush. Bush Sr. had a passion to become President, but was ambivalent about staying President. He got his way on both counts … he beat Dukakis, and lost graciously, like a well-bred New England aristocrat, to Clinton four years later. Is that what Obama wants to do? Glide smoothly off the stage with a wan smile? We'll know if he's willing to fight for it when we see the next debate October 16.
I have to hope he's still in it to win it. With that thought in mind, allow me to offer the following Motivational Exercises and Debate Instructions to Obama, who clearly needs both.
1. Imagine the content of the giddy telephone conversations going back and forth between Benyamin Netanyahu and Sheldon Adelson after the debate. They knew they'd get you. They just didn't think you'd roll over and play dead as easy as you have.
2. Read and reflect on Peggy Noonan's column October 7, 2012 in the Wall Street Journal. She starts by stating that if you open the window of the debate hall, you would hear, "The soft hiss of air departing from a balloon." She's talking about you, Mr. President. She's saying that you're a balloon and that there's nothing inside you but air, and even that is wasting away. She used the following adjectives to describe you and your performance: passive, listless, effete, detached, and dull-brained. She said that Romney looked at you like you're a, "cute little shrimp" and that you were unable to look at him.
3. Imagine January 20, 2013 about 11am. You and Michelle are standing at the North Portico of the White House, awaiting the arrival of President-Elect Mitt Romney and Ann Romney, at which time you will ride together to the Capitol. You will have a good seat for the swearing-in and Inaugural Address of President Romney. If President Romney agrees, a government plane will be made available to take you back to Chicago. Everybody will wish you well. They just won't have much time for you. They have to get ready for the celebrations.
1. Learn how to explain, in two minutes, your position and Romney's position on all significant issues in language that a 12-year-old of average intelligence would understand. If you can't, you haven't prepared.
2. At the next debate, look at the person asking the question when that person speaks. Look at Mitt when he speaks, and look at the camera when you speak. Looking down at the peculiarities of the wood grain on the lectern may be fascinating, but it's not advised.
3. When you have been making a point for over a year (tax breaks for companies moving overseas) and you make it again in a debate, and Mitt says, "I have no idea what you're talking about," do not take that as your cue to reinspect the surface of the lectern. Hello! Tell him what you're talking about. It's a debate. You are not only allowed to defend your positions, you are encouraged to do so. Your supporters are happy with you being, "No drama Obama," but they expect you to have a pulse.
4. Spend a little time looking at some old newsreels and doing some reading on the great Al Smith. He didn't go to Harvard or Columbia like you. He left school at age 12 to work at the Fulton Fish Market on the Lower East Side of Manhattan … $15 a week, and all the fish he could carry home. He found his way into the State Legislature, and was elected Governor of New York four times. FDR, who succeeded him as governor, called him, "The Happy Warrior." In addition to his cheerful disposition and fighting spirit, the secret to his success was that he knew the issues of the day better than anybody else. He did his homework. You'll be appearing at the Al Smith dinner in New York with Mitt Romney on October 18. It wouldn't hurt to be prepared.
5. The other day, you said that Romney, "didn't show leadership at the debate, he showed salesmanship." I'd get rid of that line. There's nothing wrong with being a good salesman. It would be a good idea for you to become a better one.
Obama should know by now who Romney is. He's clever and elusive. He adopts positions if they have utility; when they become a liability, he discards them and adopts new ones. In his mind, positions have merit only if they serve his goal, which is to win the election.
Voters are not shocked or put off by a public figure who changes position from time to time, assuming it is not so frequent and compulsive as to render the individual a caricature … a hollow man. Someone with no core. Romney is getting perilously close to that tipping point in the public eye. The tragedy of the first debate is that Obama did not open that area and present it for public inspection.
There is no mystery about what Obama has to do. There is a mystery about whether Obama has the will to do it.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Name and town if you wish to opine. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.