Cool man Barack

She: I love you.

He: Thank you.


Wow. That kind of cool repartee, by a young man courting a young woman, says a lot about the style and temperament of our president. David Mariness’s book excerpt in the recent Vanity Fair includes stories about President Obama’s college days in New York City, from which this telling “romantic” exchange took place.

ADVERTISEMENT
That cool, detached quality captures the character of the President Obama the country has come to know, and is an insight into the successes and disappointments of his presidency. In the appeal and excitement of candidate Obama’s run for the presidency, flashing that magical smile, his public loved him. He calmly accepted that. The cool image he projected — unflappable, polite, proffering an image which admirers could fill with their own projections — worked like a charm. Blacks and whites aspiring to a race-neutral society saw him as the answer. He was, and is, the symbolic answer to that, and this is his remarkable accomplishment — simply being what and where he is.

His promise to introduce a collegial, compromising government that would act in the public interest was hopeful, but naïve. His constant attempts at compromise led to failed proposals and the disenchantment of allies who were impatient to see the passion they hoped for, and provided to him. His call for change proved to be empty oratory; it made us feel good, if ultimately disappointed. Little has changed in the ways of Washington politics.

Yet, because he is cool in a hateful, heated political climate, his personal popularity remains high, even though his programs displease some on the left and please none on the right and his base is sagging. It’s the old but true explanation about politics being poetry (in campaigns) and prose (in office). He’s been excellent at the seduction, slow in delivery. The crush has ended. 

Commitment is the next step. Thus, as the 2012 election approaches, the left feels disappointment about his lackluster approach to dealing with Congress, his indulgence in Bush administration war powers, his prolonging our misadventure in Afghanistan, about questionable political judgments and weak Cabinet members.

The Republicans could have beaten him; but absent unpredictable though possible intervening events, it now appears they won’t because of their mindless campaign and lackluster campaigners. Democrats will vote for him as much because the alternative is far worse as in satisfaction with his administration.

We are likely to get four more years of cool Barack Obama. Hopefully, he’ll heat up. But given his nature, don’t bet on it. The love affair is over. Like his old girlfriend, we remain friends. Thank you.