Viewpoint: Obama’s Campaign Diminished the Presidency

In stark contrast to the hope and optimism he stirred in 2008, President Obama won ugly this time

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Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Obama waves to supporters after his victory speech at McCormick Place in Chicago on Nov. 6, 2012

Like many Republicans across the country, I woke up on Thursday morning deeply depressed, my mood soon matched by the falling stock market. I’m distressed not only because of the outcome of the presidential election but also because of the way it was won.

In stark contrast to the hope and optimism he stirred in 2008, President Obama won ugly this time. During his first election, although I didn’t agree with his proposals or philosophy, I was among those who found myself inspired by Obama’s call for our politics to be higher and better. Unfortunately, the way he has governed and the way he conducted this campaign undermine that central and hopeful promise.

(MORE: Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win)

I felt that I was watching a shrinking presidency as the campaign unfolded, with Obama getting smaller each day. He often came across as peeved, petty and not presidential. Onstage during the first debate, he looked as if he wanted to be anywhere else, and his comments about his opponent were cutting and deeply personal. The final blow came with his comment to supporters in the final days that “voting is the best revenge.” The mind-set that comment reveals is deeply disturbing: an election as a weapon to be wielded against our fellow Americans.

The central message I took away from the President’s re-election campaign was: Stick with me — we are inching forward, and things could be a lot worse. Not exactly a hopeful agenda on which to build.

Only the President can fix this. In the days after the divisive 2000 campaign, my former boss, President George W. Bush, worked hard to reach out to all Americans. The night he won, he spoke from the Democratic-controlled chamber of the Texas house of representatives and was introduced by the Democratic speaker of the house. He met with Democratic leaders and invited them to the White House for business meetings and social events. He asked members of Congress to join him at a picnic dinner on the traditional marker of his 100th day as President, signaling that governing was a shared endeavor and not just about him.

(MORE: The Obama Election: Deeds Beat Words)

In the days ahead, we will hear much talk and much blame about the gridlock in Washington. Only the President is big enough to reach across the partisan divide, because only the President has the powerful microphone and executive authority to be the nation’s leader.

To bring the country together, to begin to erase the bad taste of this campaign, Obama has to set a positive vision for the future. He should go to Capitol Hill, every day if necessary, and show Americans he is committed to working with members of Congress. He should reach out to Mitt Romney, perhaps ask him to lead a special effort to focus on rebuilding jobs. He needs to work toward optimistic goals that members of both parties can support.

How the President’s second term will be judged begins now. For the sake of our country, I hope the President will be something he has not been during this campaign: bighearted and gracious. Otherwise, all we’ll get is four more years of what we’ve had, and that thought is truly depressing.

MORE: The Day After the Election

252 comments
elotrolado8
elotrolado8

4 more years of what we've had compared to Romney and his continuing denigration of 47% of the nation? Romney lost being much uglier than Obama has been as the ultimate winner.

pweaver@csumb.edu
pweaver@csumb.edu

Yes, Ms. Hughes. It is true that we Democrats, whom you are fond of calling "Communists", "Traitors" etc. are unable to appreciate the gravitas and dignity of the great statesmen and stateswomen of the Romney campaign. Karl Rove, Orly Taitz, Ted Nugent, Hank Williams Jr., Reince Priebus, Todd Akin,, Sean Hannity, Richard Mourdock, Paul Ryan, and Mitt Romney all just have intellects too highly evolved, too nuanced, too brilliant for us freeloading urban latte-swillers to wrap our little third world brains around. So naturally the Obama campaign reverted to it's street fighting ways, rallying around knuckle dragging hate mongers like the Clintons, General Colin Powell, America's fire-fighters, the National Education Association, The national Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood and the rest of the xenophobic, foamy-mouthed hate groups that make up the Democratic base. You had the better candidate by far but the delicate sensibilities of your campaign just came across as effete and hoity-toity to us regular Americans You should come back in 2016 with the same message. I am sure this whole voting-for-terrorists fad will have blown over by then and everything can go back to normal...

mcohen
mcohen

Are you kidding Ms Hughes? Your paragraph goes like this "In the days after the divisive 2000 campaign, my former boss, President George W. Bush, worked hard to reach out to all Americans. The night he won, he spoke from the Democratic-controlled chamber of the Texas house of representatives and was introduced by the Democratic speaker of the house. He met with Democratic leaders and invited them to the White House for business meetings and social events. He asked members of Congress to join him at a picnic dinner on the traditional marker of his 100th day as President, signaling that governing was a shared endeavor and not just about him."

Then you simply stop, fall off a content cliff, and do not mention a single policy he carried out in the next eight years. You have not honestly examined the catastrophic reign of the affirmative-action-for-the-rich-and-powerful moron you supported and your then majority party . Is Bush one of the worst ever presidents or not? And in relation to your theme wHat did he actually accomplish in a bi-partisan way? As usual a dearth of facts. Why should we listen to anything else you have to say? (McCain on choosing qualified candidates for high office would be another , any Tea-Party republican on bi-partisanship falls into the same category)

btt1943
btt1943

It does appear the US presidential campaign is getting more like a derision, a deceptive talk-show, albeit extremely costly and wasteful. (btt1943, vzc1943)

BGoodfellows
BGoodfellows

And one must never forget those Purple Heart band aids, which demonstrated unequivocally and irrevocably how Republicans truly viewed those who actually served, while elected someone who managed to avoid the war zone.

JohnOrr
JohnOrr

Please!!!!!!  You are just upset that the democrats finally used some Republican strategies.    Demeaning  Sen. Kerry's military service, making up news about viewpoints on capital punshment etc.  All presidents have to win ugly and the Republicans started it!!  This time time the Democrats just did it better!!  Now if your comments were directed to both parties, I could agree but your targeted comments are so pathetic!  Kind of like a bully who finally gets hit back, id you know what I mean! 

MarkFrench
MarkFrench

Dis she forger about all the lies told about the President. Obama never lied about Romney's faith or birthright.  It was never an issue. Can the Republicans say the same? 

tsmangrum
tsmangrum

TL;DR version: WAAAAAAH. WAH-WAAAAAAAAAH.

baseballgal
baseballgal

"In stark contrast to the hope and optimism he stirred in 2008, President Obama won ugly this time." Ms. Hughes, that's rich coming from a top Bush administration operative.  How soon we forget that during the 2000 South Carolina primary, the Bush team circulated flyers claiming that John McCain's adopted daughter from Bangladesh was actually his illegitimate black child, all in an effort to smear a war hero so that your boy could win the primary.  How about blowing smoke throughout the country in 2004 about patriotism first, but then smearing yet another highly decorated Purple Heart candidate just for the power of the presidency so all of you could continue your Yeehaw Cowboy BS for the next four years.  So please, spare me and the rest of America your indignation.  The only thing really truly ugly is the mess that you and your team of imbeciles left behind for the rest of us to clean up.   

Reed
Reed

Ms. Hughes, you disgust me.  If I had anything to do with the failed policies of the Bush administration, I would hang my head in shame and never come out in the open again.  How dare you malign this president.  You make me sick.

GarySBerman
GarySBerman

Just like a bully who finally gets the punch in the face he deserves.  The Republicans now crying because the President and the Democrats were too tough and ruthless.  How ironic is that?

WorkatHomeGuy
WorkatHomeGuy

Sorry, Karen, but the Presidency was diminished by your crowd - the lying, cheating, baseless attacks.  

Oddly, enough, I don't blame your ex-boss.  It was everyone else in 42's administration who made his presidency a failure.

maysmusicdiary
maysmusicdiary

I worried Obama's victory only made people--his supporters, left-leaning pundits and African-Americans--become even more blind than it has already been. In the booming echo chamber, he may be praised highly, which may boost his ego. Based on my observation, I doubt if he is really that remarkable. I hope I am wrong.

maysmusicdiary
maysmusicdiary

I was a supporter of Obama in 2008, but the past four years of his presidency has disappointed me because he never fought for anything.

This election cycle provided me a chance to see his true color. He appeared to be ruthless, cold and arrogant. I detected a mean streak in him, which is not appealing. He certainly can be eloquent but I didn't feel it is derived from true convictions but phoney idealism.

As this article states, his campaign style especially turned me off. He seemed to lack of confidence winning by merits. Instead, he tried to paint his opponent totally in the ideological line, which he is supposed to oppose in the past, as an outright liar with no redeeming qualities, which was unacceptable to me.

In the end, he is no different from other politicians who are eager to win at any cost. I wonder he wants to win to satisfy his ego or really for the good of people

JohnDunphy
JohnDunphy

A Republican supporter bemoaning attack ads? Seriously? Then to ad comedy to insult the author cites George W Bush as an example of bipartisan good will? The man who targeted American minority citizens, gay people in order to secure his election? The man who did more than any other to make his opponents out as unpatriotic and 'un-American', whatever that means. This is a ridiculous article.

emenyonu99
emenyonu99

Karen Hughes ought to be ashamed of herself.  She was part of a campaign that had a sitting president who dodged the draft swift boat an American war hero and she has the audacity to talk about decency and diminishing the presidency? No two individuals diminished America more than Cheney and "He tried to kill my daddy Junior."  

Thousands of precious souls were killed when her irresponsible administration led us in to a war in Iraq that had nothing to do with 9/11. And how did they go against the will of the people to get us in there?  They lied and fabricated evidence.  Karen I think you maybe be dyslexic.  What you meant to say is Obama is rebranding a presidency severely tarnished by Bush.

LeslieMcCulloughCasse
LeslieMcCulloughCasse

After the Republican vitriolic punditry and multi-millions in negative ads from Karl Rove's corporate minions...please....spare me this pablum.  Maybe a better audience would be your tea party friends over a spot of tea.  

THagley
THagley

Bush misled the nation into a war that cost almost 5k American soldiers their lives but what really diminished the presidency was a hard fought campaign. Give me a break and give my regards to the Whigs, you'll be joining them soon. 

Robbert5
Robbert5

I understand that this makes sense in the republican echochamber.  It actually pretty much sums up how the GOP bigwigs really feel.  Unfortunately, reality is different.  I hope that you will do better soon Ms Hughes, with your own delusional mind.

Anna888
Anna888

I think maybe Ms. Hughes' depression affected her memory, but if she wasn't under a rock for the last 4 years she would remember President Obama reaching out again and again to the Republicans in Congress. The only response from them was: NO. That's all Repubs have to say. Just like my 2 y.o. during a tantrum. The only thing is that in 4 years my 2 year old learned cooperation and to temper her tantrums, but that's beyond most Republicans. They have a perpetual tantrum. Just look at the responses like formerlyjames. 

Does Ms. Hughes remember the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell declaring that the ONLY thing the Republicans were interested in achieving, was to make sure Obama was a 1-term president? And that was when the country was grappling with 2 wars, unprecedented fiscal crisis, unemployment and terrorism? (caused, BTW, by the policies of her former employer, President G.W. Bush, who almost destroyed this country.) It really makes you wonder about the Republican priorities. You, Republicans, are so blinded by hate to anybody who thinks differently than you, that you are becoming irrelevant in this country. 

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

Karen is a true patriot.  She is telling us that the negro, Kenyan, Indonesian, Muslim, communist president must come clean, play fair, and not suggest that Romney might pay more taxes and reveal his secret finances.  This is her duty as a   Republican patriot, and it's for our own good, in the spirit of enlightening us all who voted for President Obama.

cd47
cd47

A man digs a deep pit aiming to trap wild animals - only there aren't any wild animals. He had dug recklessly and too deep and wide and finds that instead of wild animals unsuspecting fellowmen fall into it and break their arms and legs. He grins foolishly at the tangled mass and then whistling, goes on his way saying that his shift is over and the next man in will take the people out of the pit. A new man comes in and though the pit isn't of his making does his best to extricate the people from the mess inside. At the end of the day some people are still inside the pit and some have been pulled down but are bruised and hurting and need medical care. Instead of supporting the brave new man people standing round blame the new man saying that he was incompetent and could not do anything for anyone. Karen Hughes is doing that. She knows full well that the economy took a toss because of the stupid actions of Bush Jr and that Bush Jr left behind a crippled economy where no one had any money and no job and no investments and prices of essentials skyrocketed. Most industries were in deep freeze and ruin stared everyone in the face. Obama tried his best to revive this dying creature and began succeeding towards the end of his first term. Instead of giving him a helping hand, what Karen and others like her want to do is hold Obama responsible for the mess. They do not want to compliment the man for what he has done!. Karen, bias and bigotry are huge evils and hopefully you will feel chastened again.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

Dear Karen, have you no faith?  Don't be so fast contriving right wing talking points until the final tally is in.  Karl Rove is still working on the count, and I know you have him on speed dial.  Also, Ricky P., your secret bf, is planning a prayer meeting for a miracle.  Hang in there sweetie, hope springs eternal in the right wing, religious, Republican wing-nut universe.  Just sit on it for 4 more years.

dhiagaymyrraeth
dhiagaymyrraeth

Fixing the government isn't a "one-man" job. The President isn't the end all, be all of politics (have you forgotten the Supreme Court's ability to impeach?). For bipartisanship to work, extreme right leaning people from your own party have to be willing to sacrifice and compromise, just as extreme leftists have to learn how to reign in their ideology.

OpenMindedness
OpenMindedness

Plan for economy:  1.  Take money from (Hope and Change Campaign)

                                2.  Put toward advertising to inspire those in poor conditions who feel its easier to collect welfare, and show them that                       income feels a lot nicer when it is earned from hard work.

                                3.  They'll in turn show their descendants this fact, and push them to go to school, work hard, find a job, ect.

                                4.  Suddenly, number of food stamps decrease, poverty decreases.  Socialism stops and taxes lower on the middle class & upper classes.

ramu.kanthamneni
ramu.kanthamneni

Great Karen Hughes  .. What about 2000 elections, when your buddy George W. Bush stole the election in Florida ? and again in Ohio in 2004 (Cyohoga couty) ? 

foghamar
foghamar

There comes a time to stop kvetching, look inside yourself and see what you bought to the table that contributed to this result.  To point fingers at the President when my former party was acting like a bunch of hoolligans is simply pointing fingers back at yourself.  The primary was insane - most of the people who ran for the office were whackos of the first order.  I voted for Romney for governor of Massachusetts and 2 years later I was appalled at what I'd done. He had literally no core values, no ethics, nothing. So if you are to blame anyone - blame the choices made by my former party.  The Republicans left me behind a long, long time ago as they propel themselves into what amounts to the Stormfront Party.  Good gad.  Take this time to take a look at what you've all done to the party of Ike Eisenhower and ask yourself why Jon Huntsman (my candidate) failed and why General Powell will not run under a Republican banner.  When you get the answer you'll understand the problem.  It has nothing to do with the President.  

JoeSmith
JoeSmith

What is it with you people? The election is over, and now it's time for us to work TOGETHER to solve the problems our country faces. We all have to give up something so that we can ALL gain something. To the conservatives, there are plenty of liberals who are willing to work with you to help get this country back on better fiscal ground, even if it means cutting some social programs. To the liberals, there are plenty of conservatives who are willing to save the vital elements of our social programs if we do it in a fiscally responsible way.

OpenMindedness
OpenMindedness

"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money" -Margret Thratcher

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." -Thomas Jefferson

Galen
Galen

poor victimized Bushie, Karen.

he is twice the man and president your fart-for-brains boss could even hope to be. he brought a lot of hope no matter how you deminize or spin  his first four years of helping this country get on the road to recovery after following worst president in history, as well as yourself.

so all of a sudden you woke up depressed :) and found yourself a victim of the Rovian tactics that brought your brother George to power. how does that medicine taste now !? rather depressing wouldn't you say ;0

RushGotItWrong
RushGotItWrong

@OpenMindedness

Are you seriously suggesting an advertising campaign can end poverty, unemployment, and the lack of a quality education?

seancmcgee
seancmcgee

@OpenMindedness

Your disconnect from reality is stunning. The only "people" who want to be on welfare are corporations.

CharlesMcGill
CharlesMcGill

@foghamar Interesting post.  The entire political spectrum has shifted leaving Huntsman at the far left edge of the Republican party that has already shifted beyond reasonable people like Charlie Christ, Lincoln Chafee, Mike Castle, Christie Todd Whitman, etc.  The Democratic party has similarly shifted and Obama is probably not a far left as Eisenhauer.  The only true liberals are Kucinich and Bernie Sanders.  While we see Republican congressmen who could fit right into the John Birch Society people like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin are nowhere to be found.

Galen
Galen

@JoeSmith  shes a poor victimized conservative :) !

please be so kind to point out these willing and able cons who can be worked with, that are serving  in either house.

OpenMindedness
OpenMindedness

@JoeSmith I agree arguing means nothing at this point.  All both parties can do at this point is come together and wish our president the best.  If he fails this term, he doesn't get another chance, lets just hope this term goes better than the previous.

RushGotItWrong
RushGotItWrong

@OpenMindedness

And yet Thomas Jefferson also believed Americans and should have access to a free education provided by the government, funded by tax on the wealthiest Americans.

Your argument rests on the assumption the all or most receiving government aid are unwilling to work. I think most receiving assistance do work, some paying entirely for the benefits they receive with work performed earlier in life. Some with pay later after they have escaped poverty or illness.

How about some numbers on the percent of those receiving aid that refuse to work? I am betting you don't have a shred of evidence - just amateur psychoanalysis.

FiscalCliff
FiscalCliff

@Galen

Keep attacking George Bush if it makes you feel better! President Obama first big mistake was picking Joe Biden as VP. He is starting to make Sarah Palin look smart! Just judge the Prez on his debt reduction. Oh that's right 8 years later with 30 trillion in debt it will be Bush's fault. President "O" had a poor first term & I am just hoping he gets his shit together moves to the center & governs for once!

OpenMindedness
OpenMindedness

@Galen Hope* not results*  You can't keep leaning back against the Bush backrest.  Will you blame his terms as president these next four years when you president fails again?

OpenMindedness
OpenMindedness

@seancmcgee To stay away from offending races,  you forget the people (Black, Blue, Polka dotted) who find it much easier to abuse the welfare system and child care system as opposed to getting out and working...  Who's disconnecting from reality..

RushGotItWrong
RushGotItWrong

@FiscalCliff

The contest between Mr. Biden and Ms. Palin was decided in 2008. Polls had Mr. Biden by a 2:1 margin the winner. Not to mention - she lost the most important poll, and Mr. Biden won.

seancmcgee
seancmcgee

@FiscalCliff

$808434796801 spent so far on Iraq and Afghanistan. Is that your definition of fiscal conservatism?

RushGotItWrong
RushGotItWrong

@OpenMindedness @Galen

I believe people will stop blaming President Bush for the economic disaster that occurred on his watch, that he had a full year to solve but instead left for the next administration, as soon as his supporters stop publicly pretending it never happened.

RushGotItWrong
RushGotItWrong

@OpenMindedness @seancmcgee

The majority of people receiving welfare are white. Red states are net receivers of welfare money, contributed by blue states.

seancmcgee
seancmcgee

@OpenMindedness @seancmcgee

Take a look at the federal budget and compare the amount spent on social welfare to the amount spent on defense. The Romans didn't want to pay the taxes required to maintain their empire either.

RushGotItWrong
RushGotItWrong

Oh, and by the way:

Ronald Reagan =/= Romney, Gingerich, Santorum, Trump, Palin, McCain, Paul Ryan, etc.

RushGotItWrong
RushGotItWrong

@FiscalCliff

Gotta love false equivalence.

Jimmy Carter = Jimmy Carter.

President Obama = knocked over Ghaddafi without losing a single American life.

President Barack Obama = overcame the worst economic crisis a President has been left by his predecessor since President Roosevelt overcame the Great Depression left to him by the Republican President Herbert Hoover. President Hoover responded to the crisis in his day by reducing spending, by the way, exacerbating the spiral downward.

President Obama = expanded civil rights for non-heterosexual Americans.

President Obama = organized the world to put in place the strongest economic sanctions against Iran in history.

President Barack Obama = Vigorously pursued America's enemies abroad, capturing or killing many more high value terrorist targets than the previous administration in half the time, including giving the order to pursue Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan. By comparison, President Bush, Senator McCain, and Governor Romney all stated clearly on the record they would not violate Pakistan's sovereignty in the pursuit of bin Laden, meaning - none of them would have given that order.

Of course, the President has had many domestic policy successes, expanding freedom for American citizens that had previously been persecuted.

Joe Biden = Dan Quayle? Please. The man didn't understand that Murphy Brown was a fictional character. By the way, Joe also beat Congressman Ryan in their debate. You may not think so, but even Fox News poll had Joe beating Mr. Ryan with independents.

Who would you support for President in 2016? There is no possibility of a Ronald Reagan, as Reagan was willing to talk to our enemies, and talk to members of the othe party - he and Tip O'Neill had a cordial working relationship that allowed them to pass effective legislation.

Or more importantly, what should republicans offer democrats in order to reach a deal?

President Obama nominated many members of the previous administration to powerful cabinet posts.

Democrats gave up stimulus dollars for massive tax breaks.

Democrats gave up single payer to achieve health care reform.

The President didn't close Guantanamo Bay.

Democrats haven't pursued gun control.

So you tell me, how will a compromise be reached if Republicans won't offer to accept any Democratic proposals, and won't offer to give up any of their goals?

RushGotItWrong
RushGotItWrong

@FiscalCliff

I don't think Joe will run. I think there are better candidates.

I have numerous disagreements with the President's policies. However, this election we, the people did not select a reasonable alternative. Mr. Huntsman seemed like a viable alternative, but it seems the Republican primary process rejected him as not sufficiently uncompromising. I also like Mr. Johnson, but he is far from the mainstream of Republican Party politics at this time.

I do think the Republican Party has a real problem. I think it's bad for the country that there is no reasonable opposition party. I find it worthy of exasperation that a number of members of the house science committee do not understand science or believe in the scientific process.

FiscalCliff
FiscalCliff

No you said "lost the most important poll" that is a clear indication that you meant election.  Polls are opinions and are used to by campaigns to read the electorate.. The VP  candidates are a side show on the ticket!  Sarah & Joe were great fodder for SNL! Now lets let hear your opinion on Joe Biden & Barack on where you feel they rank as President & VP.

Here is mine.

Barack Obama = Jimmy Carter : The similaraties are scary with the only difference Barack beat a weak GOP candidate &Carter lost to an Icon!

Joe Biden=Dan Quayle.  After 2016 Joe will disappear like Quayle did and both will be punch lines til they disappear into the sunset.

RushGotItWrong lets hear your opinion about Joe Biden as the Democratic nomination for 2016.  I notice you have alot of info on your posts, but you always defer blame 100% blame to the republican and never point out BO or Joe's short comings!

RushGotItWrong
RushGotItWrong

@FiscalCliff

No, Joe beat Sarah in the debate, and doesn't have problems answering questions about what he reads.

FiscalCliff
FiscalCliff

@RushGotItWrong

The race was between Obama and McCain and the point I was making is Joe is the male version of Sarah. Yet Sarah gets hammered in the press, and Joe gets " that's Joe being Joe!". Both are not deserving to be our VP, but history has proven me wrong. I know the Bidens all too well being a life long resident of Delaware.