In The Audacity of Hope, he describes calling Michelle to crow about a legislative victory and being told to pick up some ant traps on the way home: “I hung up the receiver, wondering if Ted Kennedy or John McCain bought ant traps on the way home from work.” He knows the answer, though, and so do we. But he’s proud of being the guy who despite his big-deal status still stops for ant traps. ~Melinda Henneberger

This Slate piece will leave you with the impression that Obama is a decent family man who prizes reaching consensus with his wife.  His enthusiasm for consensus may help explain why he seems to have such a hard time criticising rivals. 

It seems to me that this intense focus on consensus does not make for an effective executive.  It may be better-suited to legislative work, especially in the Senate, but this has been one of the reasons why Senators rarely get nominated or elected.  What has been so infuriating about “the Decider” is not that he is decisive, but that he is ignorant, stubborn and oblivious to contradictory evidence and consequently makes a lot of bad decisions.  

Just as Bush likes stark contrasts that cast his opponents in the worst light, Obama seems to delight in finding the grey areas and finding the bright side of whatever it is his opponents are proposing.  This is also partly a function of the man’s congenital optimism. 

People routinely complain about “negative” campaigning and so forth, but in practice most prefer it to whatever it is that Obama does.  (Also, it makes the most sense to do it against a candidate who already has high negatives–you will damage yourself some, but make your rival radioactive come voting day.)  When he attempts to appear magnanimous and broad-minded (using his standard “I appreciate your view on that…” or “I understand your concern…”), it comes across as mealy-mouthed and condescending, and when he finally tries to “get tough” he is entirely unconvincing.  He does it in such a way that you will think he is asking your permission before ”going negative.”  You can almost hear him asking: “Mother, may I criticise Hillary Clinton for being dishonest?”  It reflects hesitation and uncertainty, which is fatal to a campaign that proposes to sell itself as the vehicle for transformative “change.”   

As John Nichols has noted:

Could there be anything less inspiring than a candidate who “tests” his plan to muscle-up a listless campaign by inviting in New York Times political reporters to vet his new “aggressiveness”? 

This reminds me of a Jon Stewart bit where he was mocking Bush as the “Meta-President,” who is continually telling us why he is giving a speech or appearing at an event rather than simply giving the speech or appearing at the event.  Obama has engaged in this as well, engaging in almost out-of-body commentary on his own campaign during campaign appearances.  This has been especially true when he has meditated on the importance of “experience.”  For instance, here he engages in one of his classic roundabout comments on his own suitability for office while deliberately not mentioning his chief rival:

“There are those in this race … who are touting their experience working the system, but the problem is that the system isn’t working for us,” he said. “There are those who are saying you should be looking for someone who can play the game better, but the problem is that the game has been rigged. The time is too serious, the stakes are too high to play the same game over and over again.”   

Now, instead of being aggressive, Obama promises aggressiveness.             

P.S.  Of course, I am hardly the first one to notice Obama as the Meta-Candidate.