According to a piece in Wednesday’s New York Times, one of the political shortcomings of President Obama is that he “does not expend much personal energy when it comes to stroking donors: More than a dozen Obama supporters interviewed for this article described the president as an introvert who views big-dollar fund-raising as an unappealing, if necessary, chore. If the situation were a movie, one donor said, it would be titled: ‘He’s Just Not That Into You.'”
By contrast, Bill and Hillary Clinton have perfected a style of relating to big donors and potential donors as what the Times piece called a “full embrace.”
From the story, which starts out with an event at which Bill and Hillary Clinton were raising funds for their buddy Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for governor of Virginia:
Now, with political givers viewing the McAuliffe campaign as a way to curry favor should Hillary Rodham Clinton decide to run for president in 2016, the chatter among the donor class is about the striking contrast between the Obama and Clinton approaches.
“It’s a whole different shtick,” said Arthur L. Schechter, a Houston-based lawyer whose support for Mr. Clinton led to an ambassadorship in the Bahamas and who has also raised money for Mr. Obama. “The Clintons have a way of making people feel like they’re part of something and important to what’s going on, and I found that lacking in the Obama team,” he added.
Allow me to be willfully naive for a moment and confess that everything about this double portrayal makes me respect Obama a little more and the Clintons a little less.
As I said, willfully naive. I know full well that you can’t get anywhere in politics without a gift for fundraising, and the most efficient way to raise it is in large donations from the kind of people that can make large donations and are willing to exploit all the disgusting loopholes that have opened up in what we laughingly call the regulation of campaign finance.
We get very accustomed — perhaps too accustomed and too comfortable — to seeing the celebration of attributes that help candidates politically, but which have less to do with the skills — boring things like brains, good values, good judgment, good character — that should matter once in office. Instead, we wonder how much weight Chris Christie needs to lose to contend.
And, having been around political players for a few decades now, I know that the sucessful ones are relentless fundraisers who are willing to spend hours every day on the phone dialing for dollars, flattering and charming rich people, and then begging for contributions.
But while realism requires us to acknowledge how this figures into the big picture, and you can’t accomplish any of the good things you want to accomplish if you lose the election, and blah blah blah. But the idea that something inside Obama that prevents him from being really as good as he should be at sucking up to rich people — and that he somehow managed to get elected and reelected despite this shortcoming — makes me smile in a willfully naive way.