Howard Fineman! The editorial director for the Huffington Post has this:
Like his boxing hero Ali, Obama is floating like a butterfly -- essentially untouched -- thus far in his presidential prizefight with Mitt Romney.
And that is not good for anybody: for the country, for the voters, for the political parties or even for Obama and his administration.
What, exactly, does Fineman mean by "untouched"?
Look at the numbers. A year ago, the president's job approval rating was an abysmal 42.1 percent, his disapproval rating at 51.3. Today, his approval rating is 50 percent, his disapproval 46.3 -- an upward swing of more than 12 points…
And of course the president is well ahead on the Electoral College trends.
He has managed to do all of this without having to seriously and substantively defend his first-term failed promises or shortcomings, and without having to say much, if anything. about what, if anything, he might do substantially differently if he is fortunate enough to win again.
Unless I missed it, the president has yet to give a detailed answer to why he has failed to meet or even come close to his promises about reducing the unemployment rate. Saying that the task was harder than he initially thought isn't (or shouldn't be) a convincing explanation.
Fineman provides a long list of obvious and important questions that the President has not had to answer. Those first two are rather important. Besides blaming George W., what went wrong in your first term? Why has unemployment remained so stubbornly high? Why have incomes dropped more in the recovery than in the recession itself? Was there nothing you might have done that would have resulted in a better outcome?
More importantly, is there nothing you might do in the next four years that will work better? While we are on the subject, what exactly do you intend to do with four more years? Does anyone have a clue as to what the President's agenda will be if he does win?
Fineman fixes blame on a number of culprits, three of them being Mitt Romney. Fair enough. He also recognizes that the press shares a lot of the blame.
Obama was such a cool and uplifting story to so many in the media in 2008 that they essentially ceded ground to him that they have yet to reclaim. He ran a tightly controlled message campaign then, and has run an even more tightly controlled White House, with few press conferences and deep access only to those most likely to write positive stories.
Of course, it wasn't just the President's cool or his inspiring story that corrupts the press. It is the fact that they want him to win a lot more than they want answers to any of the questions that Fineman asks.
Fineman's original point is important. It's bad for everyone, including both parties, the next President, and the American people, that so many questions are swept under the rug now. Of course, Fineman himself seems to be in the perfect position to remedy the problem he alerts us to. Surely an editorial director could direct his writers to start doing their jobs. Could he not, starting now, arrange for a series of hard hitting pieces raising just these questions? If the Obama campaign fails to answer, then the HuffPo could bring attention again and again to that silence. Of course he can't do that. If he did, he wouldn't be editorial director for another day. The election still might be close. Obama might not win.