As I watched our president on ABC’s Obamamercial for his healthcare plan, a few thoughts came to mind. One was a no-no. No one is allowed to mention it, for fear of being branded a hater.
The other thought was that ABC could hardly have stacked the deck more in the healthcare plan’s favor. The audience was 164 hand-picked supporters. Every single one said they felt that healthcare needed to be changed. That is nowhere near the sympathies of the American public. Huge majorities are pleased with their healthcare. Majorities far higher than in other countries - countries that have health systems that resemble what the President wants to move toward.
Back to the no-no thought: President Obama is boring. Please don’t castigate me for suggesting this. He is dull. Period. Even when fully prepared for the discussion. Even when the questions are softballs. Vapid is his name, without his teleprompter. And this is why his staff lug those prompters everywhere but the bathroom for him. They know he is boring.
Well, Tom, you are not supposed to say such things about such a handsome, popular president on his honeymoon. Sorry, but to a lot of Americans it is the truth. We keep waiting for a flash of genuine, unscripted humor. We know that somewhere he must hide some emotions that will win our hearts.
Will this dullness spoil his presidency? Probably not. However, in this age of instant and heavy coverage it can do some damage.
Does he remind me of presidents I remember?
Truman communicated clearly, colorfully, crisply. People hated him.
Ike put the cameramen to sleep at press conferences. He could make strawberry shortcake sound like cabbage soup. People loved him.
Kennedy was gifted. In the gab department. As well as in popularity.
Nixon might have won his election against JFK if he had been a more lively guy on television. Even when he finally became president, after lots more practice, he still came across as the heavy.
Lyndon Johnson did a good job of communicating with the public. His drawl put off the Boston and northeastern elite. But it did not lull them to sleep.
Gerald Ford WAS asleep. When scripted. When ad-libbing. When greeting folks. ZZZZZZ.
Jimmy Carter was as rigid as his lecturn. In interviews he relaxed somewhat. But people saw more of him behind a lecturn and were left with the impression his suit was frozen. And that he did not want to wriggle around too much for fear of shattering it.
Reagan was like JFK, probably better. For reassuring, for inspiring confidence, for stirring his viewers and listeners he was a master. And he used those talents to persuade millions to pressure their representatives to do his bidding.
Clinton was as good a communicator as Reagan, I think. Never boring. If he put anyone to sleep it was women who thought of bed when they thought of him.
George Bush? Yawwwwn. George Bush II? Yawwwn II. In interviews, Bush the Second certainly exhibited charm and humaneness even though he was somewhat tongue-tied.
Now, does it matter? Not a lot. Ninety percent of what a president does he does out of our sight. However, any lack of charm can hurt him in his negotiations with congressional politicians. (Not that Obama has to do any negotiating at this point.)
If the Democrats lose many seats in the mid-term elections (not unusual) the President could get bogged down with a less friendly congress. If he does, he is not likely to do well skirting congress to inspire “the people” to get behind his programs. After a few years of his press conferences he will need to send out NoDoz to viewers before he appears without a teleprompter.
From Tom ... as in Morgan.
For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.