WASHINGTON -- The day after his shellacking, the bruised president offered a sober, tripartite analysis of voters' message. First, he said, voters are fed up with Washington partisanship and special-interest politics. Second, they feel insecure and uncertain, about their economic circumstances above all.
Sounds familiar so far, right? Except here's the next part, "The third thing they were saying ... is, 'There are things we expect government to do, but we don't think government can solve all the problems. And we don't want the Democrats telling us from Washington that they know what is right about everything.'"If only poor Obama did.
That last pivot is what distinguishes -- you guessed it -- Bill Clinton 1994 from Barack Obama 2010. It's what worries me about the response of the shellackee in chief to the election results -- and, even more, the response of the soon-to-be-former House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Their instincts have tended more to blaming the dogs for not understanding how good the food is for them, not accepting that it's time to tweak the recipe.
The president's self-diagnosis in his post-election news conference was dominated by the assessment that voters had simply failed to grasp -- and that his failure lay chiefly in explaining clearly enough -- why the administration took the steps it did.
"What is absolutely true is that with all that stuff coming at folks fast and furious -- a recovery package, what we had to do with respect to the banks, what we had to do with respect to the auto companies -- I think people started looking at all this and it felt as if government was getting much more intrusive into people's lives than they were accustomed to," Obama said. "We thought it was necessary, but I'm sympathetic to folks who looked at it and said this is looking like potential overreach."
If only the poor dears had a better grasp...