The Buzz

Campaigner in Chief

Dana Milbank is known for his lighter fare over at the Washington Post, but his column this week illuminates some new truths about Obama as “campaigner in chief.”

While The Buzz concedes that the perpetual campaign began long before Obama, it appears the president has outpaced even his most fundraiser-happy predecessors. “Measured in terms of events that benefit his reelection bid, Obama’s total…exceeds the combined total of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.” 

According to Milbank, it’s become “increasingly difficult to distinguish Obama’s political events and speeches from the official ones.” Drawing upon a recent Obama visit to the AFL-CIO building trades section, Milbank’s describes an official appearance turned all-out political rabble-rouser. With the crowd chanting the Obama campaign slogan “Yes, we can,” the tone of the address was anything other than staid:

‘Time after time, the Republicans have gotten together and they’ve said no,’ [Obama] said.

‘Boo!’ the audience responded.

‘I went to the speaker’s hometown,’ Obama said, referring to a trip to House Speaker John Boehner’s battleground state of Ohio, ‘stood under a bridge that was crumbling.’

‘Let him drive on it!’ somebody shouted.

This responsorial is straight out of a campaign rally. While Obama certainly can’t control the crowd, it would do his office proud to conduct himself with more impartiality during official appearances. To be sure, the lines between the official and political in this town have always been thin. But formal appearances are not the place for partisan rhetoric, and while the president is mostly guilty of going along with a flawed status quo, Milbank rightly asks, “Shouldn’t presidential leadership be about setting an example?”

Indeed it should. One doesn’t need to be a political analyst to understand the difference between campaigning and governing, and Milbank’s notable piece appropriately urges the president to strive for something a little greater.