Making it Work
Yglesias, Atrios and DeLong all take Obama to task for his somewhat bizarre statement that he lost altitude because they were so obsessively focused on policy that they didn't do the politics well or communicate successfully to the public. It should be fairly obvious that regardless of the politics, if your policies don't succeed you've got trouble.
[P]olitical success and policy success are deeply intertwined in a recession, and a White House that thinks “too much policy focus” has been its big sin is unlikely to turn things around.
I would also take issue with the premise itself. If the administration was obsessed with policy --particularly economic policy -- in the early months it didn't seem that way on the outside. In fact, it seemed as if they were all over the place, deciding to take on every possible issue all at once, holding summits and wading into controversies one after the other. There was an ADHD quality to it, and I didn't get the sense (although that may not have been correct) that they were deeply engaged, even on health care, which was mired in the congress. I'm not necessarily faulting them for that, but I do remember thinking at one point during the hysterical Tea Party summer of 2009 when I saw that the president had done a commercial for the new TNT late night talk show with George Lopez, that they might want to tighten their focus a little bit. It seemed like he was everywhere but it all was vague and unformed even though Democrats were insisting that he was the most accomplished president the country had ever seen.
But then, I'm not sure that he was really saying that they shouldn't have been hunkered down in the White house for two years. He may have been saying that they did a poor job explaining their policies. But that problem goes back to the campaign when Obama was remarkably unwilling to admit to any ideology and insisted that he was a pragmatic "technocrat" who just believed in "what worked." When you sell yourself like that, I don't think talking is going to get the job done or give people any sense of patience or investment in what you're trying to do. If you're just a mechanic, they don't want to hear about your problems, they just want you to fix the damned thing.