But Noonan’s piece this weekend is right on target.
Headlined “He Can’t Take Another Bow,” Noonan’s column assails Pres. Obama for being obsequious in foreign policy and immaturely ham-handed in domestic affairs.
Noonan cites an Elizabeth Drew piece in Politico to illustrate the latter:
Ms. Drew reports that while the president was in Asia last week, “a critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man.” They once held “an unromantically high opinion of Obama,” and were key to his rise, but now they are concluding that the president isn’t “the person of integrity and even classiness they had thought.”
She scored “the Chicago crowd,” which she characterized as “a distressingly insular and small-minded West Wing team.” The White House, Ms. Drew says, needs adult supervision—”an older, wiser head, someone with a bit more detachment.”
On the foreign policy front, Noonan points to Obama’s routine bowing to foreign leaders:
The Obama bowing pictures are becoming iconic, and they would not be if they weren’t playing off a growing perception. If the pictures had been accompanied by headlines from Asia saying “Tough Talks Yield Big Progress” or “Obama Shows Muscle in China,” the bowing pictures might be understood this way: “He Stoops to Conquer: Canny Obama shows elaborate deference while he subtly, toughly, quietly advances his nation’s interests.”
According to Noonan, the pictures reflect a basic misunderstanding/disregard of protocol, “of what has been done before and why, and of what divergence from the traditional might imply.”
When a great nation is feeling confident and strong, a surprising presidential bow might seem gracious. When it is feeling anxious, a bow will seem obsequious.
The Obama bowing pictures are becoming iconic not for those reasons, however, but because they express a growing political perception, and that is that there is something amateurish about this presidency, something too ad hoc and highly personalized about it, something . . . incompetent, at least in its first year.
Exhibit A: The Excellent White House Adventure last week of two reality-show wannabes who crashed the state dinner for Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.
Exhibit B: The rumpus over the conduct of Obama’s White House social secretary Desiree Rogers (via The Daily Beast):
Breaking with tradition, Rogers was a guest to the state dinner, which honored Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife. She arrived solo, in a cream-colored Comme de Garcons dress, a curious choice that has since been the subject of considerable sniping online.
In the past, White House social secretaries have worked, not partied, on the nights of major events, racing around to make sure everything is going according to plan.
Of course, everything did not go according to plan. But that’s the inevitable result of an administration that wants to reinvent the wheels of government.
Which results in a lot of wheel-spinning.
Which, in turn, results in a lot of media-spinning.
Which is what the Obama administration will be doing on the Sunday morning squawk shows.