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June 27, 2011

Obama: I've Spent The Last Two And A Half Years Doing It Completely Wrong

Well, that's just terrific.

Good to know this now.

Wait, we already knew this for a long, long time. I guess Obama was the last to know.

In the first two years of Obama’s presidency, his top aides had grown accustomed to a process in which Obama drew out and explored the views of his full team and searched for a consensus — decision by ballot, some called it.

Increasingly, however, that process has changed, according to a wide group of Obama’s personal friends, informal advisors and top aides interviewed during the spring. In recent months, they say, the president has been relying more heavily on his own instincts and feeling less impelled to seek accord among advisors. …

“I think he reached a point where he had to trust his instincts, and there was nothing left to inform his decision except to do that,” said one advisor who is intimately familiar with the president’s thinking on foreign policy matters and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Ed digests a little more:

The catalyst for this was supposedly the Osama bin Laden raid. However, according to all reports at the time, that was a consensus decision.

So what is this?

Well, it's two things. First, it's a recognition by Obama that the Obama Reign is, what's that phrase?, a miserable failure. Having finally recognized the fact of failure, he now casts about for a reason for it. And, as people do, such as during job interviews when asked to name their worst flaw, Obama discovers, shockingly, that his worst flaw is actually something that's not very bad at all.

See, he was a little too concerned with consensus, a little too focused on other people's beliefs, a little too determined to come to decisions through a rational process by consultation with High Experts.

Another way to say this is: Obama's greatest flaw for the last two and a half years is that he was too modest. He was too modest for not realizing that his own instincts and his own intellect were of such a remarkable caliber that any adulteration of these finely-honed mechanisms of truth-discovery by intermixing with the instincts and intellects of others would yield worse results than strict reliance on the power of his own faculties would achieve.

I don't know how you guys see it, but this is exactly what I've been thinking for 28 dismal months. Over and over again I've wondered, "Gee, why doesn't this Prometheus of the Mind just trust himself more?"

I'm guessing you have too, and I'm guessing further that you will credit Obama for nailing it so exquisitely in his mid-term post-mortem.

Here's the second thing. The Act Two moment of truth.

Obama's campaign was essentially a Hollywood production. It had a simple narrative, a Hero for whom we were supposed to root despite not having any strong reason to do so, except he sort of looked like a Leading Man and his opponent sort of looked like a Character Actor playing the Villain, and terrific set design and punchy visuals and a script which, if a little shallow, nevertheless achieved the only things that are truly crucial in a script, emotional investment and narrative (dramatic) momentum.

Hell, they even had an MTV-ready tie-in single and plenty of surprise cameos and an international promotional campaign to make sure they got plenty of overseas Box Office.


Well, that was Act I and about 60% of Act II. But now we're nearing the end of Act II. Act II requires that the Hero be reduced to his lowest state -- he must come to a low state if his triumph is to mean anything -- and, in these dark moments (I see a charged, Oscar-bait scene of accusations and revelations and painful self-examination with his aides Richard Dreyfuss, Morgan Freeman, and an idealistic young communications director played by Scarlett Johansson), the music tenses, the LOW ANGLE camera slowly MOVES IN as our hero defiantly RISES from his desk and PUNCHES A DETERMINED FIST TO THE DESK and delivers his Act II pledge:

OBAMA: It's time we stopped asking what is smart, and time we started asking what is right.

REACTION SHOTS of

Richard Dreyfuss, the cagey, number-crunching one shaking his head dubiously, face fraught with worry;

Morgan Freeman, eyes scanning his own thoughts as he slowly comes to realize this just could actually work, then nods with growing confidence; and

a BEAMING Scarlett Johansson, face flushed with triumph and hope, as the Young President has taken the advice suggested by her Jerry Maguire-style brief.

You always need this Act II pledge to signal that the Final Conflict is approaching. In Terminator II: Judgment Day, I think the line used to suggest the Act II pledge was "Fasten your seatbelts." In Star Wars, I think it was Han Solo's reluctant, embarrassed Godspeed to Luke: "May the Force be with you." In Titanic, it came pretty late, but it was Lenoardo DiCaprio vowing: "This is it!"

And of course, in Bad Boys II, it was:


Notice they attempt to tie this Act II pledge to the greatest dramatic moment of this administration -- the killing of Usama bin Ladin at the Act II climax. Doesn't matter that these two things didn't have anything to do with each other; when you're doing drama, you need simple connections between dramatic turns.

You usually need this sort of pledge to underscore to the audience that it's time for a change of direction in the script, that we're now moving from Hero Burdened By Loss and Setback to Hero Triumphant. It prepares the audience, lets them know we're about to see some real movement towards the Climax and Finale.

Who's the audience for this script? Well, the most important audience is the media, who would love to now move to the Obama's Comeback Montage, but aren't quite sure how to prepare that narrative.

Enter Obama, who gives them the Act II pledge -- writes their story for them, because of course they're too dumb to write it for themselves -- and now they have a Character Arc hook to hang every coming Obama Victory on, a cute six-word plot-point to explain why everything that was so wrong before will now start to be made so right.

It's a little early for the Act II pledge, in movie terms -- in a movie, this would come 30 minutes before the conclusion -- but in real life terms, Obama needs a great deal more time to start to move voter opinion in his favor.

See, in a movie, they'd just do this in a six minute montage, but life, unfortunately, doesn't let you gloss over the hard work of a comeback via a montage.

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posted by Ace at 02:50 PM

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