Obama Is Crumbling: The Denver Shark-Jump
Do you remember when the Brady Bunch added Cousin Oliver? Or how about Fonzie’s infamous waterskiing stunt that signaled the end of Happy Days and added the term “jump the shark” to the American cultural lexicon? At the time, nobody knew for sure that these events heralded the end of those shows . . . but they sensed it. They felt it. And then hindsight soon proved them right.
When Obama loses—as is looking increasingly likely (though not yet certain)—will we look back at a particular event and say, “That is the precise moment when his campaign jumped the shark”? Or will we cite a series of events, a long chain indicative of a slow collapse?
Either way, we are now looking at a campaign in slow-motion decay. There is no there there. Yes, they have an amazing fundraising machine and a powerful ground game. And yes, they have the support of many millions of ensorcelled, fawning throngs who still believe the hype. But the man at the top is an empty shell. He stands upon the ruins of his own failed presidency. The media are doing their best to shield him, but even their strength wanes as the reality begins to dawn on them. The pollsters are using unrealistic turnout models to keep him buoyed as long as possible, but they too must eventually bring their polls in line with reality or risk becoming discredited. Already, we are seeing articles from the left talking about whose fault his loss will have been.
Peggy Noonan captures a lot of this atmosphere today in When Americans Saw the Real Obama. She covers the now inescapable reality that it was the first debate that did Obama in.
Why was the first debate so toxic for the president? Because the one thing he couldn’t do if he was going to win the election is let all the pent-up resentment toward him erupt. Americans had gotten used to him as The President. Whatever his policy choices, whatever general direction he seemed to put in place he was The President, a man who had gotten there through natural gifts and what all politicians need, good fortune.
What he couldn’t do was present himself, when everyone was looking, as smaller than you thought. Petulant, put upon, above it all, full of himself. He couldn’t afford to make himself look less impressive than the challenger in terms of command, grasp of facts, size.
Though she poses a number of questions about why he may have failed, the title of her piece itself is the giveaway. He failed because he’s not nearly as impressive he has been made out to be. He never was. The real Obama was the one we saw in the first debate: dismissive, petulant, arrogant, and not nearly as commanding as has been portrayed by the hagiographic mist that has been woven around him for so long. The Obama in the second two debates benefited from massively lowered expectations as a result of his historic loss in the first, but in reality, he was little better. He was more energetic and more aggressive (which is often mistaken for “winning” a debate), but in the end, he was the same hollow shell. Retread ideas from his failed four years. Dishonest attacks, delivered with a disdain for his opponent that the country could not help but notice.
When we look now at unfolding events, we can see lots of little shark jumps. The disturbing Lena Dunham ad. Obama’s jab at Romney, barely worthy of a kindergartener, about how “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.” These are the moments when we perceive a campaign falling apart.
But when we’re looking back, years from now, and the littler events fall away, the first debate will be remembered. That was the moment when America got to see Obama without the cover he has enjoyed for so many years. That was the moment when America discovered what many have been trying to get them to understand for so long: Obama rose to a position for which he was not qualified, a position he did not deserve.
As we look at the current state of the race, it is looking increasingly likely that America is on the cusp of correcting that error.