OFF THE GRID

Obama Isn’t Going to Sell Us Baloney—That’s Too Bad

Mar 5, 09 | 10:36 AM   byMichael Wolff
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The president is trying to be a salesman, booster, and all-round positive guy. He’s jaw-boning, trying to convince the American people it’s a good time to buy. “Buying stocks,” said the president, “is a potentially good deal,” adding with perhaps just a bit of irony, “if you’ve got a long-term perspective on it.”

So what’s wrong with this picture?

For one thing, the new president doesn’t look like a guy who has done much stock picking in his time. For another, he’s spent the better part of the last 2 years telling everybody how bankrupt—morally and then economically—the country is.

But now he’s in a tough spot. It's not just his gumption, and savvy, and political deftness, and good luck that stand between us and the apocalypse, but his optimism and salesmanship. If he doesn’t believe, nobody else is gonna go for it either.

And honestly it doesn’t look like he believes.


(AP Images)


Now, if it were Bill Clinton you know what would be happening now. There’d be daily exhortations, which would pump us into a frenzy of confidence and desire. Clinton would have done what salesmen do, cast a spell of possibilities.

The bubble having burst, the job, as the former president would have seen it, would be to blow a new one. He’d turn a steep recession into just another craven opportunity. Admit it, a sense of sleaziness—such a desire to be loved that you’ll say anything to get it—fills the atmosphere with good cheer and possibilities.

It would be wrong to say that the new president, after his 2 years on the road and his historic victory, isn’t one hell of a salesman himself. But his salesmanship has played to the moral high ground, rather than to the baser instincts of merely wanting things. Indeed, we certainly seem to have gotten what we wanted, somebody who really isn’t sleazy.

Barack Obama is a man who really seems reasonably inclined to tell the truth—even difficult truth. Which is something great.

Except if you want to sell stocks. And cars. And houses. And all other manner of consumer illusions.

He’s just not a believable barker. You can sense his hesitation, even distaste. He is, after all, an academic, a community organizer, in so many ways a throwback to simpler, better, thriftier, more dignified times.

He seems like he’s really going to speak to our better selves, instead of our greedy, grasping, wanting, economy-driving nature.

Maybe we should have been more careful about what we wished for.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column.
He can be emailed at michael@newser.com

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