Richard Cohen’s piece today on the sorry schmoozing skills of Barack Obama, particularly when compared to Bill Clinton’s, strikes at what Cohen calls Obama’s paradox. How can he be simultaneously a rock star who draws huge, adoring crowds to speeches and someone his colleagues find aloof and unfriendly? And how much has personal animus — when he doesn’t return a call or reacts dismissively to someone important — kept him from being as effective legislatively and politically as he could have been? Cohen claims that other politicians, even Democrats, believe that Obama lacks basic political skills. Can schmoozing really be that different from oratory?
kea_ has a theory: Obama’s an introvert, and appearing otherwise is tiring work. But ideally a president shouldn’t have to be one way or the other:
Maybe Cohen is right that it takes an extroverted personality to get things done in Washington. There are too many people who will turn on you if you don’t stroke their egos. But if that’s the case, it’s sad.
bbface21 basically agrees, but says schmoozing is an important part of the job:
Perhaps, but even introverts will schmooze with the best of them if he has to. I think Obama is just arrogant.
richardstbernard argues basically that people who like a president will see him as presidential, and people who don’t, won’t:
It is legitimate to criticize Obama for his failure ... to engage his colleagues in Congress in the ways they expect, and for spending too much time with his family and his golf game.
But he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. For example, some opponents insist he is cocky, arrogant, conceited, and has delusions of grandeur, even while others say he doesn’t carry himself with the authority and gravitas of a president.
paultaylor1 says, well yeah, but we’ve had a bunch of presidents who weren’t Clinton:
There are different kinds of people; different kinds of politicians. Sure, Clinton is one of the best, of the political genre. But not all can be so good at glad-handing, camaraderie politics. Not all can feel your pain, quite so convincingly. Clinton is the master. And why should we hold him up as the standard, when he is so rare?
dogwolf says Clinton’s seeming trustworthiness actually made him less trustworthy:
Clinton was and is the best car salesman to occupy the White House in at least the last half century. Brilliant at understanding what the audience du jour wants to hear, articulate and eloquent at framing delivering the words, and utterly shameless at being willing to spout them as his own deep convictions, regardless of whether he actually cares one jot. He would say anything to anybody if he saw benefit — principles be damned.
And felix155 pares his or her opinion on Obama down to the basics
He is a promiser, not a deliverer.
PostScript is old and young enough to have been totally grossed out during Clinton’s impeachment trial, and it’s sort of funny to her that anyone remembers Clinton as the president people in Washington liked. Cohen points out that Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson also had to fight politics tooth and nail to get what they wanted, but they won over political opponents with their interpersonal skills. It’s hard for PostScript to imagine what that would look like now.