The president has been so wan, [Christie] confused people into thinking that bluster was clarity. In a climate with no leadership, the bully looks like a man. If you've only been drinking water, Red Bull tastes like whiskey. Obama's ethereal insipidity made Christie's meaty pugilism attractive; Obama's insistence on the cerebral made voters long for the visceral, even the gracelessly visceral. George W. Bush was the Decider who engaged in thoughtless action. So America veered toward Obama, who engaged in thoughtful inaction. Then they careered toward Christie, another practitioner of thoughtless action. When all you have is leading from behind, there's a place in your heart for in-your-face.
The Star-Ledger's Tom Moran, for example, recently came to the conclusion that Christie probably isn't the man New Jersey thought he was. Reflecting on his paper's endorsement of the governor's re-election, Moran said, "[W]e blew this one..... Yes, we knew Christie was a bully. But we didn't know his crew was crazy enough to put people's lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor. We didn't know he would use Hurricane Sandy aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn't know that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno."
Maureen Dowd, meanwhile, is also reconsidering the political world's affection for Christie in light of recent discoveries. She's decided, however, to blame President Obama (hat tip).
I've read this excerpt from Dowd's column several times, trying to make sense of it. I'm afraid I haven't come up with much, except to appreciate the irony -- Obama's detractors still can't decide which of the contradictory complaints they're prepared to fully embrace.
This has long been a problem for the president's critics. They know they don't care for him or his style, but they've often struggled when their complaints run into one another.
He's a ruthless Chicago thug and a "wuss." He's a bystander who goes golfing too much and an activist president who engages too much. He's sticking to the Bush/Cheney script on national security and he's putting us at risk by abandoning the Bush/Cheney national security agenda. He's cutting cherished entitlement programs like Medicare and he refuses to cut entitlement programs like Medicare. He's waging a class war against the rich and he's coddling millionaires.
Obama's critics have two competing caricatures and they haven't noticed that they're completely contradictory.
In the case of Dowd's column, Christie's fans have swooned, the argument goes, but only because that rascally Obama has refused to step up, refused to lead, and refused to take chances. At this exact same moment, congressional Republicans have been nothing short of hysterical for several weeks, insisting that Obama is stepping up far too much, leading in such a way as to become a dictatorial king, abusing his powers, ignoring the Constitution, and taking the presidency to lawless and radical levels.
The problem, of course, is that both complaints can't be true. The president can't be leading too much and leading too little. He can't be "wan" and meek, while at the same time, being an out-of-control tyrant seizing control of American power.
As best as I can tell, both caricatures are wrong and rather silly, but Obama's detractors should at least try to pick a caricature and stick to it.