April 10, 2011

Obama: Playing Both Sides Against the Middle?

photo: Pete Souza

Just a cool photo of Obama to use as the April 9th White House Photo of the Day — the final day of the budget showdown and impending government shutdown? I doubt it. But then, what is it saying? does it represent Obama looking to appease both left and right?

If you read the NYT WIR, the photo seems to reflects Obama’s weakness, wanting to have it both ways and thus failing to commit. Writes Peter Baker:

Mr. Obama seems to be channeling his inner Ronald Reagan, Mr. Galston said, by presenting a “winning the future” approach rather than dwelling on the problems of the moment. The president, he added, wants to recapture some of the magic of 2008 by convincing voters he is still the inspiring figure they became infatuated with.

On the other hand, maybe the photo captures Obama’s classic front. As Booman writes:

We all complain about the Democrats’ lack of unity and fighting spirit, but they finished these negotiations completely unified and on message. Yesterday was the best performance by the Democrats that I’ve seen in years. …

As for the president, he’s playing up the cooperation and the “bipartisanship.” That was one of his core messages during his campaign. Progressives hated it, but it helped him get elected because it appealed to a lot of people in the middle. When you’re in the trenches fighting Republicans, the president’s happy-talk can seem naive or even like straight bullshit. It’s not. It’s just politics. You can safely ignore it, admire it for its dexterity, or let it annoy the crap out of you, but it doesn’t really matter.

Looking at this picture, it’s vintage Obama. But then, whether it indicates him trying to have it both ways, splitting the difference or more shrewdly “playing both sides against the middle,” I can’t really say.

(photo: Pete Souza/White House. caption: President Barack Obama is reflected in a mirror in the Outer Oval Office as talks with Chief of Staff Bill Daley, left, and Vice President Joe Biden in the doorway of the Oval Office, April 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza))

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Michael Shaw
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