Obama’s Ennui

"Obama's Ennui: And Romney's Achievement," Weekly Standard, 15 October 2012.


Two things were notable in the debate on October 3: the ennui of Barack Obama and the twist made by Mitt Romney.

President Obama looked ill at ease, as if he were tired of his office. Does he really want to stay for another four years? Certainly he wants to run for a second term; he enjoys campaigning and he is good at it. But the direct, personal confrontation with Romney was a reminder to him of the necessities of governing, best shown in the infighting of compromise and the building of majorities. Outside on the hustings are speeches, applause, and acclaim; inside Washington are the deliberations of choice and the deals that result. For all his partiality to -government, Obama is an outside-the-Beltway man. When it comes to governing, he loses his steam and looks as if he longs to be elsewhere.

Mitt Romney, however, accomplished a twist from private to -public. In the primaries against Republican opponents he was the businessman, as opposed to his rivals who had spent their lives in government. In the debate he made three passing references to how his business experience made him aware of actions by government that people always in government might not see, regarding regulation, overseas jobs, and health care. He also related anecdotes of his experience in campaigning. But above all, Romney made a point of his experience as Massachusetts governor—as a politician. As a politician he knew how to work with both parties; he could be bipartisan and govern successfully in a Democratic state.

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