I always thought this was a particularly good one, and not just because I grew up at the intersection of I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike. I know a lot of you on the East and Best Coasts probably like to make fun of us yokels from Ohio, but like it or not, friends–those yokels will be picking your next president for you! (And this yokel, now living in another swing state, has already cast her vote by mail, helping to pick your president too.)
It’s interesting to note (based on this trip down memory lane) that President Obama’s insular tendencies–and even his isolationism from powerful people in the Democratic Party–were clearly evident more than four years ago. I know people don’t like it when I say this, but the President’s isolation, stemming from his refusal to use a great deal of the “soft power” tools of the presidency, is a political problem. (And doesn’t the debate debacle in Denver earlier this month look different, having re-read that post?)
Why people decided Obama’s isolation was evidence of his “preference for bipartisanship” or “moderation” is a mystery to me, considering that bipartisanship is usually the product of several hours spent in the company with people you may or may not personally care for hammering out deals that everyone can live with, rather than isolation and contemplative solitary thought.
But is this the reality of the modern presidency? Is this the only way for people to cope with its pressures and demands in the age of YouTube, social media, and seven bazillion hours of mindless cable TV news chatter to fill every day? Remember all of those accusations from the left about George W. Bush’s “bubble,” how out of touch and how cosseted by the same circle of advisers and confidants that was a serious flaw in the Bush style of leadership? No? The interesting thing is that if Mitt Romney wins, he’ll govern in the same aloof way that Obama has, and that Bush did before him, surrounded by a very small circle of confidants, probably to about the same effect. Every story I’ve read about his governorship and his current campaign has stressed the very tight group that Romney trusts, and his loyalty to them as well. (Come to think of it–who has Obama ever fired? I guess William Daley, his short-lived Chief of Staff, but that’s about it.)
To paraphrase Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond at the end of Sunset Boulevard: The presidency is big, it’s the presidents that got small.