Saturday, March 21, 2009

Barack Obama Is a Terrible Bore


March 20, 2009 | 8:59 AM | by Michael Wolff

Sheesh, the guy is Jimmy Carter.

That homespun bowling crap on Jay Leno, followed by the turgid, teachy fiscal policy lecture, together with the hurt defensiveness (and bad script for it) that everybody in Washington "is Simon Cowell… Everybody's got an opinion," is pure I’m-in-over-my-head stuff. Even the idea of having to go on Jay Leno to rescue yourself from the AIG mess is lame. Be a man, man.

The guy just doesn’t know what to say. He can’t connect. Emotions are here, he’s over there. He can’t get the words to match the situation.

This began, I’d argue, from the first moment. He punted on the inaugural. Everybody ran around like crazy trying to praise it because if Barack Obama couldn’t give a speech then what?

But now, at week 11, we’re face-to-face with the reality, the man can’t talk worth a damn.

You can see the fundamental mistake he’s making. Having been so successfully elected, he’s acting like people actually want to hear what he thinks. He’s the great earnest bore at the dinner party. Instead of singing for his supper, he’s just talking—and going on at length. The real job of making people part of the story you’re telling, of having them hang on your every word, of getting the tone and detail right, the hard job of holding a conversation, he ain’t doing.

He’s cold; he’s prickly; he’s uncomfortable; he’s not funny; and he’s getting awfully tedious.

He thinks it’s all about him. That we want him for himself—that he doesn’t have to seduce, charm, surprise, show some skin.

So Jimmy.

It’s instructive and humorous to remember that Carter ran a brilliant campaign that succeeded largely because his voice was new. Simple, direct, basic, human. And then, of course, he turned into a sad-sack twit.

What happens when you move into the White House?

Well, shit, of course. The true secret of the power of language is in quickness. Barack Obama can’t keep up. He evidently needs too much preparation. And then there’s the organization. He’s undoubtedly got too many people debating what he should say. That’s the other secret of language: You’ve got to just go for it. Can’t think too much about it. It’s like hitting the ball. And then there’s knowing who you want to be—which is different than knowing who you are. You’re on the stage. You’re acting. You’ve got to make yourself believable, cleverly make yourself up as you go along.

This guy is leaden and this show is in trouble.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com

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