Monday, November 21, 2011

"Is this as good as it gets?"

Chris Matthews:
In the above interview, Chris Matthews mourns the lack of a narrative in Obama's bid for a second term:
There is no Peace Corps... There is no Moon program.... What are we trying to do in this administration?... What's he going to do in a second term? More of this? Is this it? Is this as good as it gets?
He goes on to whine that Obama doesn't invite him to late night parties and doesn't call members of Congress often enough, and that there's too much e-mail communication or something, and then there's those darned kids running the White House....

Look, Matthews is obviously under no obligation to be one of Obama's foot soldiers, but I find this idea that Obama can't win without a compelling "narrative" really annoying. Obama could promise a mission to Mars or a cure for cancer or a new season of "The Wire," and I doubt it would make a lick of different for his reelection prospects. Those would be fairly vague, if inspirational, promises about the future, when voters tend to be highly attuned to what is going on now and what has happened recently. Specifically, they will retain him in office if they are sufficiently satisfied with improvements in economic conditions, and if they're not, they won't, regardless of what he promises.

As for Matthews' dismissive "more of this" comment, I'd imagine quite a few people would be happy with that, if "this" includes health care reform, preventing a depression, financial reform, student loan reform, killing Osama, toppling Kaddafy, etc. That's a solid record to run on. I'm sorry if Matthews doesn't think it's as exciting as a Moon landing. It's just, you know, governing.


MikeC said...

I think he's right in this sense. If you aren't defining the narrative, the other side will. I don;t get the sense of whining at all. I think he's slipping them advice over the airwaves. Yours is a very partisan view of his comments.

Seth Masket said...

But isn't the other side always pursuing its own narrative anyway? What would it even mean if Republicans defined the narrative? Democrats took the House and Senate in a rout in 2006, and it's not obvious to me that they had any coherent narrative.

I'm just not sure we have a working definition of "narrative" or if such a thing even has any electoral power.

christian said...

Matthews is an insulting buffoon. This political brain who voted for Bush and praised his "swagger" is now giving his JFK advice to Obama and insulting his wife in the process.

metrichead said...

Seth, they did have a defining narrative in 2006; Nancy Pelosi referred to it as a "Republican Culture of Corruption" in the wake of numerous scandals by the Bush administration and GOP Congressman like Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, and Mark Foley. And that's not even half of those who had a name to a scandal. And of course, when voters thought of the Bush administration at that time, they also thought of how badly the Iraq War was going.

FWIW, I agree with Christian's comments about Matthews. I can remember in my undergrad years, he had a huge following by college age students, myself included.

reflectionephemeral said...

Matthews also said a few days earlier on his Sunday show that Pres. Bush Jr. was "successful" because he convinced the US to invade Iraq, whereas Pres. Obama hasn't done anything quite so awesome.

It's politics as entertainment, with zero discussion of public policy. Rather a bummer, as the reason that we care about the government is because it implements policies that affect people's lives.

If Chris Matthews were writing the politics blog for People Magazine, I would be among his most vociferous defenders. But he (& Maureen Dowd) is held out as experts, as someone whose views on politics should count at the highest levels. This is bad news for everyone who likes America.