Let’s play a game. Call it “Who Said It and About Whom?” Here’s the first quote:
He’s kind of lame, and he’s really … annoying. He keeps saying these … things, these incredibly off-key things. Then he apologizes immediately—with all the sincerity of a hostage. Or maybe he doesn’t: sometimes he whines about the subsequent attacks on him. But the one thing he never does? Man up, double down, take his lumps.
Anyone who read the title of this post probably already guessed that the paragraph wasn’t written by a conservative and isn’t a thumbnail of Barack Obama. In fact, careful readers will submit that it couldn’t be about Obama because of the third sentence, which is a dead giveaway. Obama never apologizes for the “incredibly off-key things” he says, and their number is legion. When he offended 38 million Poles in a speech in May by referring to a Nazi prison in Poland as a “Polish death camp,” he sent one of his lackeys out in front of the TV cameras to remind the world “that the president had visited the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial while in Poland and that he has repeatedly discussed the bravery of Poles during World War II.”
How serious a gaffe was the offending statement and the administration’s namby-pamby attempts at glossing over it? So serious that the Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky—as arch-left a political commentator and big-time an Obama supporter as you can find—felt impelled to blog “It’s the first time he’s ever embarrassed me as president.” Tomasky beseeched (his word) Obama’s handlers to “encouarge the boss to correct this record”—which a couple of days later he did, more or less. Obama sent a letter (a letter!) to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski stating “I inadvertently used a phrase that has caused many Poles anguish over the years” but still offering no apology.
That was then and this is now. And now the same Tomasky has penned a cover story for Newsweek that contains the opening quote. But this time the recipient of the unflattering descriptors is Mitt Romney, who Tomasky finds too insecure—too wimpy—to be president.
Tomasky begins by marching Romney to the tool shed over his gaffe in Britain last week. “It was an astonishing faux pas,’ Tomasky writes, “one of many packed into his brief visit. And it makes one wonder: if elected, Romney is going to have to work hand-in-glove with Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders on the ongoing global financial crisis and other issues. What unintended offenses are going to tumble out of his mouth then, when he’s representing our nation on the world stage?”
The possibilities are limitless. Romney could diminish the Special Relationship between the U.S. and Britain by declaring on the international stage that we “don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than … the French people.” But that’s already been done. In fact it’s quote number 2 in the game. Did you guess who said it? Maybe you recall reading about it in the news in January of 2011. It was covered extensively in the British press. One major UK tabloid quoted a former English military commander who upbraided the speaker—President Obama, during a White House press op with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy—that “it’s Britain that has had more than 300 servicemen killed in Afghanistan, not France.”
As for “kind of lame,” what could be lamer than a man sized up thus?
[S]o compelled to take both sides of every issue, encouraging voters to project whatever they want on him, and hoping they won’t realize which hand is holding the rabbit. That a large section of the country views him as a socialist while many in his own party are concluding that he does not share their values speaks volumes—but not the volumes his advisers are selling: that if you make both the right and left mad, you must be doing something right.
The words are those of psych professor and crestfallen Obama enthusiast Drew Westen, writing in The New York Times. The criticism, published in August of 2011, reverberated through the liberal blogosphere, prompting one left-leaning commenter to draw comparisons between Obama and a president many on both sides of the aisle used to consider the worst in modern history, Jimmy Carter. That was TIME’s Joe Klein in a piece titled “Lame Obama.”
Whines about the attacks on him, never mans up. It takes an extraordinary measure of self-delusion for a journalist 100 days out from the election to attempt to fit that shoe on the opponent of the man who has worn it nearly threadbare over the past 1,300 days. But these are unprecedented times. All the usual metrics historically used to gauge a president’s success—the unemployment rate, GDP growth, consumer confidence, approval rating—have been cast aside. The choice from 2008 has been carried over to 2012. Many who voted for hope then will vote for it again now, the numbers be damned. Only this time America’s fate really hangs in the balance.
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