What’s the Matter With Barack Obama?

May 17, 10 | 7:52 AM   byMichael Wolff
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This: He’s boring. Devoid of electricity. Square. Stiff. Goody-good. Without charisma.

As much as the lagging economy and the health care bill, the Obama flat, blunted, dead-on-arrival affect is what’s hurtling the Democrats to oblivion in November. Obama’s done a bait and switch. Elected to be the most transformative, bewitching, moving, and eloquent president in modern history, he is instead tight, remote, abstracted, and often, it seems, absent.

Even the two books about Obama and the first year of his presidency—one by David Remnick, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama, the other by Jonathan Alter, The Promise: President Obama, Year One—with each author granted extraordinary access to the president in one of the most fraught years of recent history, are snoozers. Obligatory. Lifeless. (And with such labored titles!)

How’d it happen that image and reality have diverged so dramatically?

Obviously, the theoretical excitement of the transformative possibilities and the historic turn-around of electing a black man president, overwhelmed the facts at hand. Obama was positioned as John F. Kennedy when really he was Adlai Stevenson. Even when his real nature was hinted at, the description tended toward cool and cerebral, when it should have tilted toward detached and academic.

True, there are a few instances in Obama’s remarkable ascent of a noteworthy eloquence, but at this point what’s most obvious is the opposite: a wall of chewed-over, tedious, preachy words. Most of the time, the guy can’t talk for nothin.

He’s a square. There’s no spark. He’s so…constipated.

The other day he made some studied virtuous remark about technology—he didn’t participate in all this stuff that was taking up everybody’s time. Harrumph harrumph.

That’s his strong suit: studied virtue.

One of the big scoops in the Jonathan Alter book is that Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who has confessed that she and President Sarkozy once kept a head of state waiting while they had sex, supposedly asked Michelle Obama if she and the president had “had ever kept anyone waiting that way.” Alter reports: “Michelle laughed nervously and said no.”

It could be they're hiding the real stuff—afraid to be too expressive. Too black perhaps. But the result is that these people seem less sexy than the Bushes.

Such dogged goodness, conformity, and self-congratulation doesn’t play. It’s not just that people don’t know who you are, it’s that they stop caring.

Compared to the Obamas, the crazy Republicans seem absolutely captivating.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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