Our political Quote of the Day comes from Andrew Sullivan, on President Barack Obama’s truly terrible week — a week when the narrative has now definitively shifted to Obama and the Democrats being in disarray and not even on the defensive: just, plain scrambling to stop the political bleeding (some of it self-inflicted). As the GOP seems more unified and more politically slick, the Dems now seem more divided and outmatched in terms of political smarts, operation, and (in Wisconsin) judgment — not to mentioned battered by an economy that keeps delivering lousy news:
As for Obama, he’s been hazed before; he will be hazed again. This election campaign is going to turn him into a pinata of projection and distortion and blame. It will be like the battle with Clinton only far, far more brutal. His only option is to do what he did then: relentlessly counter distortions with truth. He needs to tell the story of the last three years clearly and honestly, and to make the case for what he will do in the future, without being distracted by the 24 hour nonstop chatter that now convulses the attentive body politic. He has a strong case on the content of his record and on what he plans to do going forward and how it all fits together. He has to make it. Again and again. With ever more clarity and concision.
To be more precise, he must make it plainer that, in this country’s politics, he is still the change agent. If he weren’t, why would they have done so much to stop him? And why are they so desperate to prevent a second term? What Obama needs to do is to connect the opposition he now faces to the campaign he ran in 2008. He did what he said he’d do. But he needs another term to get it to stick. They know that. He knows that. But do his 2008 supporters see it yet?
It’s going to be hard. And it’s not always going to be fair. But the stakes now are as large as they were in 2008. And the wind, rather than being at his back like last time, is blowing with increasingly irrational ferocity in his face. I feel no pity for him. When you take up the mantle he has, you accept that you will alternately be blessed and cursed by fate as well as your own judgments. And he’s had plenty of his own luck in getting to the White House. He’s going to have to earn every inch of it to stay there.
This is where we see, of course, if he really has got it in him – and if those of us who saw him as a change agent have the stamina in us as well. Few have achieved so much in the presidency so tenuously. But that was always the risk of the long game.
In that long game, as they say on cable news, the critical period starts now.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.