Note to Obama: Get Down off the Mountaintop

Obama needs to embrace politics if he wants to win this thing

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IllustratIon by OlIver Munday for TIME; Obama: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

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When I asked several close Obama associates about the President's reluctance to sell his policies, they admitted their frustration. They said he hates doing things that he considers transparently political. He hates the idea of inviting a bunch of pols over to the White House for a drink or a movie, because they'd see it as an obvious bribe. He'd have to fake small talk; they'd try to Holbrooke him. He hates press conferences because the gotcha questions are calibrated to generate heat rather than light. He hates the notion of launching precooked zingers in debates. He hates debates, period, with their false air of portent and stage-managed aggression. These are inconvenient prejudices if you want to be re-elected. Such ceremonies are the price of admission if you want to be a politician.

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There is a second aspect of the President's public straitjacket. His campaign staff has been brilliant when it comes to painting Romney as a hapless plutocrat but has been AWOL when it comes to promoting a second-term vision for the President. The only policy proposal I can recall in his debate performance and convention speech was to add 100,000 math and science teachers. How lame and formulaic, especially for a politician sensitive to the empty platitudes of his trade. Now that Mitt Romney has established himself as something other than an automaton, Barack Obama is going to have to come clean, descend from the mountaintop and make his best case for keeping the job.


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