Obama's Poor Boston Performance

The fate of health care reform and the Democratic agenda in Congress depends on the success of getting Martha Coakley elected as the next senator from Massachusetts. Yet Barack Obama acted as if she were running for state senate. Just when he needs to wake up Democrats who've mostly slumbered for 50 years putting Ted Kennedy back in office, Obama just kinda... wimped out.

The president could have ripped Republicans for getting America into trouble and refusing to help fix it. This is, you know, what parties do in election years: fight against each other. Instead, Democrats got a recitation of Coakley's resume and biography, with a few deeply-intoned calls about the need for change. The Boston performance had a veneer of inspiration, but it didn't seem particularly stirring. Obama was drained of the hot blood that animated him hours earlier while speaking to a church in Washington, D.C. where the audience was rapt.

The Boston audience didn't pay attention to Obama when a heckler harangued him. The president stopped speaking, looked at the heckler, tried repeatedly to return to script, then awkwardly said "We're OK" as the audience looked at the heckler. Obama seemed as feckless to control the crowd as a substitute teacher can be to a class. You can dismiss this as a silly episode, but it shows clearly the president doesn't like to fight and is not spontaneous.

It may have been the tough week -- the disaster in Haiti and endless negotiations on health care. But it is also true that Obama just doesn't enjoy fighting. If Coakley loses, Obama will have to get much tougher on the GOP than he was with that heckler. Otherwise, Coakley will be far, far from the last Democrat to lose this year.

Presented by

Justin Miller was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 to 2011. He is now the homepage editor at New York magazine. More

Justin Miller was a associate editor at The Atlantic. Previously he was an assistant editor at RealClearPolitics, a political reporter in Ohio, and a freelance journalist.

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Politics

Just In