FINEMAN REFLECTS ON OBAMA’S SENSE OF ‘AURA’…. Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman criticizes President Obama in his latest column, but after reading all 766 words of it, I’m not entirely sure what it is Fineman is unhappy about.
It seems to have something to do with Fineman’s desire to see less of the president on television and more bill-signing ceremonies. “He’s a man with an endless, worthy to-do list … but, as yet, no boxes checked ‘done,’” the columnist argues.
That’s not necessarily a ridiculous argument. Except the stimulus bill that prevented an economic collapse, the most progressive budget bill in a generation, banning torture, getting a Supreme Court nominee confirmed, lifting the ban on stem-cell research, expanding S-CHIP, passing a national service bill, passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, passing new regulations of the credit card industry, passing new regulation of the tobacco industry, and achieving some key counter-terrorism successes, President Obama hasn’t been able to check many boxes “done” after just eight months in office.
But it’s the way Fineman presents his case that’s especially odd.
Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words “I” and “my.” (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.
I’m not sure what an “aura” is, and I haven’t noticed the president expressing pride in his own.
More importantly, Eric Boehlert took a closer look at the U.N. speech that Fineman found annoying self-referential. The context for the words “I” and “my” make quite a difference.
I come before you humbled by the responsibility that the American people have placed upon me, mindful of the enormous challenges of our moment in history, and determined to act boldly and collectively on behalf of justice and prosperity at home and abroad. I have been in office for just nine months — though some days it seems a lot longer. I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world. These expectations are not about me. Rather, they are rooted, I believe, in a discontent with a status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences, and outpaced by our problems.
Sounds to me like Obama was downplaying his personal significance, not touting the brilliance of his aura.