Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 2010 21 Tishrei, 5771
Obama Without the Magic Wand
By Roger Simon
When it comes to the midterm elections, just five weeks away, we sense on the part of some, including some working in the White House, a sense of weariness.
They work horrifically long hours, barely seeing their families if they see them at all, pushing the boulder up the mountain each and every day. But this is a different kind of weariness.
It is the weariness the comes from fearing that their hard work will not matter, will not change things, and that every day the mountaintop is just as far away.
And while this has been a draining and fatiguing two years for Barack Obama, this fatigue may be nothing compared to what ordinary voters are feeling.
Velma Hart has become a national symbol of this. She is the African-American woman who stood up at a CNBC town hall last week conducted by John Harwood and in calm, measured, yet emotional tones lowered the boom on Obama.
"I'm one of your middle-class Americans," she told him, "and quite frankly, I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for ... .
Obama straightened up on his stool, slapping a huge, but defensive grin on his face. He said "right" as Hart continued, "... and deeply disappointed with where we are right now."
She went on, and it didn't get any better.
"I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class," she said. "I'm one of those people, and I'm waiting, sir. I'm waiting. I don't feel it yet. And I thought, while it wouldn't be in great measure, I would feel it in some small measure."
Obama gave her a smooth and sincere answer. "Times are tough for everybody right now, so I understand your frustration," he said and then talked about the billions of dollars he had provided in college aid and how credit card companies could not change their rates without notifying people and how health care companies could no longer drop people.
Watching the exchange was like listening to people talk in completely different languages.
A "whole host" of things were better, Obama assured Hart, even if a bad economy had made her feel like she was "treading water."
Interviewed later by Michelle Singletary of The Washington Post, Hart said: "I was operating off expectations he set during the campaign trail. I thought there was something special and secret he knew that would make things operate differently."
Hart admitted her expectations were unrealistic and Obama has been in office for only two years.
"But I guess I started to believe, on some small level, that he had a magic wand," she said.
And that is what millions of people of all races wanted to believe of Obama without really admitting it: He had "special and secret" solutions "that would make things operate differently." He had "a magic wand."
By now, we know there are no wands; he has no magic. He is not a wizard, not a superhero. He is not able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
He is just a very smart guy with a very smart team faced by very tough problems and very tough opponents willing to undercut him at every opportunity.
Even the newly popular Bill Clinton has no real fix for him.
"He's being criticized for being too disengaged, for not caring," Clinton told Politico's John F. Harris and James Hohmann last week. "So he needs to turn into it. I may be one of the few people that think it's not bad that that lady said she was getting tired of defending him. He needs to hear it."
And he did hear it. So what is Clinton's advice?
"So I just tell him to sort of try to get the country up again without being — looking — naive or la-la, but be optimistic about our future," Clinton said. "Embrace people's anger, including their disappointment at you. And just ask 'em to not let the anger cloud their judgment. Let it concentrate their judgment. And then make your case."
Which Obama has been doing for months. He recognizes people's disappointment and anger but blames it almost exclusively on a bad economy. Then he says that as bad as things are now, they would be worse under the Republicans.
Obama might be right about that, and as the economy improves — as it probably will — his poll numbers may rise again.
But it may be something more than the economy.
It may be that people are realizing that without a magic wand, Obama is just doing everything he can to cut through the malaise.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
© 2009, Creators Syndicate