Howard Fineman has long had a beef with Obama. I don't mind critics. David Brooks is a good critic. Paul Krugman is a good critic. Fineman is just a bad critic and a lazy one. I bet he's overpaid as well.
This argument of ubiquity and charisma is the laziest of all criticism of Obama because it's not only the lowest hanging fruit, it's the one that's rotting on the ground.
It's absurd because it's not relevant to anything. It's a personal attack. Fineman never does any reporting for his columns criticizing Obama. He writes the same column over and over.
Here's Fineman's lead for his Newsweek column, which has no reporting whatsoever (it's strictly an opinion straight out of Fineman's head):
If ubiquity were the measure of a presidency, Barack Obama would already be grinning at us from Mount Rushmore. But of course it is not. Despite his many words and television appearances, our elegant and eloquent president remains more an emblem of change than an agent of it. He's a man with an endless, worthy to-do list—health care, climate change, bank reform, global capital regulation, AfPak, the Middle East, you name it—but, as yet, no boxes checked "done." This is a problem that style will not fix. Unless Obama learns to rely less on charm, rhetoric, and good intentions and more on picking his spots and winning in political combat, he's not going to be reelected, let alone enshrined in South Dakota. NWI'm sure Obama isn't thinking about being enshrined in South Dakota. And after nine months in office, it's not reasonable to expect that Obama would check AfPak done or Middle East done. Come on. The Middle East problem is centuries old. Obama's supposed to have that checked off?
Obama's approach, obviously, is to tackle different issues at the same time because he has a holistic take on governing. Every piece is connected. Climate change is connected to the economy. So is Afghanistan. Education is connected to everything.
I bet, despite Obama's TV appearances, there still are people in this nation who couldn't tell you who the president was. There are people who still don't know how to spell his name. That's for sure.
The criticism that Obama is too charismatic is also a favorite criticism of the rightwing haters, such as the birthers. If the rightwing wasn't pumping out so many lies and distortions from their hate factory, Obama wouldn't have to expend so much time dispelling rumors and myths and debunking personal attacks. The burst of TV appearances wasn't a long-term strategy. It was an attempt to replace bad information with the good. Far too many people still believed in "death panels."
In addition, the problems we face need to be tackled today because they've been put off for so long. Obama has a cabinet and a large staff that work on various issues--education, healthcare, economy, foreign policy. People shouldn't be complaining that our government is doing too many things. Obama has always touted efficient government, not big government.
The argument that Obama would get more done if he tackled problems one by one is ignorant because it's not even feasible. The criticism that Obama relies on charisma is just lazy. I suspect Fineman is jealous. I suspect he is the one who battles a very large ego and thinks he sees the same in Obama. Fineman is one of those overpaid people that gets to keep his job because he's been around for so long.
For Fineman, it's personal.
He clearly loathes Obama. I suspect Obama hasn't given Fineman the time of day (and it's no wonder). This is what he wrote in Sept. 2008, some insight into the root of his criticism:
But if I were an Obama partisan I would be worried that his mistakes have a common thread - pride.In 2007, Fineman writes that Oprah out-shined Obama. Fineman didn't think Obama was charismatic enough. He also slighted Michelle Obama:
Obama seems to want to do things on his own, and on his own terms. It’s understandable. Obama has his own crowd – from Chicago, from Harvard, and from a new cadre of wealthy, Ivy-educated movers and shakers.
“He’s an arrogant S.O.B.,” one of the latter told me today. “He wants to do it his way, and his way alone.” But politics doesn’t work that way. And has Obama should know, or is about to find out, that everyone needs a little help. msnbc
Whether by instinct or design, the thin-as-a-rail, youthful looking Obama looked somehow innocent as he appeared—a man-child in this setting, doted over and presented by two powerful, commanding women (his wife and his endorser).These sentences and this lead from another Fineman column is the sign of a hack: "A knack for riding political waves" and "But now the president's skill at riding well-timed waves into history is being tested."
He said all the right things for the crowd—expressing his support for universal health care, for better public schools funding, for a defense of the nation based on diplomacy as well as military might. His biggest applause line came when he reminded the crowd that George Bush would not be on the ballot in 2008.
The pictures were great—there will be ads on the air soon from this event (the Obama staff had three cameras working it). But the candidate went on—and on—and toward the end seemed to leave the crowd less pumped up than Oprah had made it.
Barack Obama has a knack for riding political waves. I put that down to his upbringing in Hawaii, where surfing is second nature. He also yearns to make history. I put that down to his time as editor of the Harvard Law Review, where it dawned on him that a son of a Kenyan and Kansan could be president, and a path-breaker in the process. But now the president's skill at riding well-timed waves into history is being tested. In fact, he's in danger of wiping out. The reason is health-care reform. Why? Because his timing isn't good and his plan, at least what we've seen so far, isn't "reform." NW