What's the difference between a defining moment and a kerfuffle? (hint: nothing)


by digby

Jonathan Alter has written a long article on the right wing lies about Obama and tells us that to counter it they're going to have him talk about Jesus and appear on The View more often. Yeah, that'll work.

This is evidently how they see it:

For Axelrod, the challenge is to choreograph adept responses to media feeding frenzies but not confuse them with something deeply important and lasting: “So much of governing in this hair-trigger media environment is not chasing rabbits down a hole. We have to react to the kerfuffle of the moment but not buy into the hysterical notion that every story is a defining event, because they’re not.” The BP oil spill, for instance, while still serious, has not turned out to be “Obama’s Katrina.” Health-care reform was seen by many cable chatterers as shaping the outcome of the November midterm elections but almost certainly won’t. Nor will the flap over the planned mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero. To make sure, Obama defended the constitutional principle at stake, but backed off on the specific siting. Why get tied down by another hot-button distraction, especially one that keeps the Muslim story alive in ways that help no one but the media? The collapse of the Greek economy, by contrast, is an example of something real, not hyped by cable news, whose reverberations first spoiled Obama’s PR plan for a “Recovery Summer” and now could sink the Democrats in the midterms.

You know, I get that all the DC yuppies just loved the "no drama Obama" thing and find him to be unalterably cool and awesome but this is just nuts.(Alter writes at the end: But at least the president is keeping his legendary cool... It’s a measure of the very otherness that harms him that Barack Obama is not “any person” and that he remains consistently sane as he works this fall to paint himself out of his corner.) Get a room.

Axelrod's problem is that he fails to understand that these "kerfuffles" are symbols of much bigger cultural and social fault lines --- and the damage they inflict have cumulative effect. Does he actually think that the health care battle was just a kerfuffle? Is this spreading hatred towards Muslims, blacks and Hispanics a kerfuffle? (Meanwhile, Alter says the Greek crisis ruined Recovery Summer. Oy vey ...)

The country is going to hell in a frigging handbasket because of bad decisions piled upon bad decisions, years in the making, and the White House acts like the country's various expressions of its fear and angst are inconvenient side trips that they just have to avoid or barrel through on the way to reelection. There's a very real sense that they just don't get it, which is, in my view, the thing that's making people very, very nervous. One person's cool under pressure is another's cold and indifferent.

Michael Tomasky approached this question in his column on Friday, posing several possible reasons for the disconnect between the campaign and the governance. I'll let you read it and consider whether any of them are reasonable. (Number six for me. I've always thought they were highly overrated.) But regardless of the reasons, I think Tomasky hits the nail on the head with this:

I did expect much more out of these people. I still think Obama can be an accomplished president. Maybe a great one. Way too early to write him off. But the political thinking in that White House is just way off right now.

Rudy Crew, a former New York City schools chancellor, once described a really interesting image to me. I asked him what the job felt like. He came to New York from Tacoma, Washington, maybe 1/30th the size.

He paused. Then he started talking: Imagine you're on a moving walkway, like at the airport. And it's fine, it's nice. But then it starts moving faster. Then, a few arrows start coming at you. Then the walkway goes faster and faster and faster, and the arrows start coming faster and faster and faster. That's what nearly every day is like.

I'm sure that's what nearly every day is like. But you have get off the walkway and reflect and plan. It's hard, but you have to. I don't see them doing that, from the Potus on down.

During the first year I remember having a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I saw that Obama promo for The George Lopez show. I could see the arrows flying, but it seemed as though they thought they were made of armor. From what Axelrod said above, I'm not sure they still don't think so.

Bitching about how much the modern media enables criticism isn't going to do it, btw. Rebut, refute, confront or agree with the criticism. But whining about it is weak.