President Obama, just back from another vacation. Needs something for the cameras. To show new year action. Something important. Decisive. A closed lunch with Biden doesn’t really work.
Why not fly Air Force One to Ohio to do something he could easily do in the White House, pick another fight with Congress by announcing a possibly illegal recess appointment?
Obama goes to Ohio a lot. One time he flew four hours roundtrip for a 12-minute event that shut down the jobs he was there to hail.
Crucial swing state. Republicans haven’t won the White House without Ohio in more than a century. McCain went to Ohio in 2008 to introduce Sarah. Didn’t work. Obama took Ohio. This year maybe not.
Dem gov tossed in 2010. Couple of Dem reps too. Dem senator in trouble this year. So, more POTUS attention could be good. Wednesday’s the day. And to guarantee a friendly reception, Obama aides send him to Ohio’s most Dem district up by Cleveland. Obama gets off his big plane.
Hello there. GOP Gov. John Kasich tweets: “Welcome back to OH, Mr. President. You’ll find our budget balanced, our taxes cut, and jobs coming back. Time to do it in DC.”
Obama goes to Shaker Heights High School. With Obama, these choreographed crowd events have a rigidity, a predictable faux friendliness. He’s been doing them so long, even before Oprah helped four years ago.
First time you see this presidential show: He’s fun. Pretty cool to see POTUS. He’s good with these people at a distance. Can work a crowd from the stage. Second time: Things feel a little familiar. But he looks comfortable. Says the right things. Pauses at the right times.
Third time: Geez, is this a tape? Or Wayne Newton’s Vegas show? Obama’s saying/doing the same old same old.
Bounce onto the stage. Usually remove coat. Sleeves up. Walking mic.
Hey, Hello, (Insert state here). It’s great to be back at (insert school name here), home of the (insert sports team name here).
Cue adoring shout. “Mr. President, We love you!”
Pause for surprise. “I love you back. and I’m glad to be back.” (Applause)
Then comes the first act, an endless series of thank you’s and acknowledgments and shout-outs to every conceivable elected or appointed official “in the house.” Mention the principal, maybe joke about dodging detention. Bring up the basketball team (if they’re good). Nominate yourself to play with them but claim your eligibility is up.
Before you get into the guts of the speech, the part about how much you care about the economy and creating jobs and protecting the middle class and how screwed up Washington is because of other people and their sadly chronic partisan ways, you set up the audience with some genuine sappiness.
It’s worked every time. Something seasonal that allows you to show, seemingly offhand, how regular you are and how dedicated to the job you are. And really caring.
“I want to wish everybody a happy New Year,” Obama told the Ohio crowd Wednesday afternoon. “2012 is going to be a good year. (Applause.) It’s going to be a good year.”
“And one of my New Year’s resolutions is to make sure that I get out of Washington and spend time with folks like you. (Applause.) Because folks here in Ohio and all across the country — I want you to know you’re the reason why I ran for this office in the first place. You remind me what we are still fighting for.”
Then, out of the blue Wednesday, came a tiny incident. A minute moment. There had been no signs of trouble, nothing to reveal that the Real Good Talker’s real good talking had lost his touch or control of his sitting subjects. The rest of the speech continued normally. Many there probably didn’t even notice.
The president of the United States has said the next line so many times over these 1,080 days of his reign. He says it as a kind of democratic gesture, a compliment to a crowd of American citizens, a public obeisance that the most powerful man in the world is profoundly connected to them.
Obama said, “You inspire me.”
And you know how the members of that crowd in the most Democratic district of Ohio responded to that campaigning Democratic president’s professed sincerity this time?
They laughed at him.
“Okay,” Obama insisted, “you do.”
And the president, like a pro pol, continued with his speech, as if nothing had happened.