The Washington Post

Obama wastes his political assets

The president gave a fine speech in Kansas. President Obama has given some great speeches. Good speeches are not his problem. The problem with voters is that they believe that they have heard it all before.

As Carter said, “The speech had a powerful moral dimension.” Well, that is not difficult to do in writing. Who can’t deploy carefully crafted words that are lofty and noble? President Obama has done that, and perhaps only that, more than any other politician in recent memory.

The problem is that he must govern, and the governed are waiting. His too-frequent righteous phrases and lofty verbiage have become part of his problem, not his solution.

Truthfully, I quit reading the speech about halfway through and scanned it after that. It was plain where the speech was headed. Inequality exists. So what does Obama want to do about it? He doesn’t really say. Robin Hood? There aren’t even enough rich left standing to make a massive confiscation fulfill his promises. Unlock private enterprise? He doesn’t know how, and he does not think the collective is well served by individuals pursuing big dreams.

The president has a great political asset that he is wasting. That is, a lot of people wish him well — some even feel a little sorry for him. But they wish him well as president, not as a candidate on the road saying nothing of substance and bashing the other side.

If he officially launched his campaign on Tuesday, it was a mistake. He will be unable to keep it up without exhausting the goodwill of those who still want him to be an effective president.

He needs to be viewed as an earnest, ethical president, one who is trying hard. But President Obama can’t resist a big speech or a big forum. He doesn’t have handlers who will challenge his ego and tell him to use the White House to demonstrate his plans instead of using the teleprompter to talk about how good he is.

Blah, his posturing even disillusions me.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.


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