President Obama, explaining his "biggest mistake" which was "thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right" and missing that "the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times."
The people who voted for him, including me, really did expect him to bring the country "a sense of unity and purpose and optimism," but I don't think a "story" is what we needed. He came to us with a story — his life story, told in his "Dreams" book, and somehow that led to people imagining him able to bring the country a new sense of unity and purpose and optimism. He chose, however, to do policy that simply wasn't unifying. It was highly partisan and divisive, and for the longest time it has felt as though he is simply running for reelection. So the "story" of Barack Obama, the President, is not a compelling story at all.
And now, he seems to be saying: I'm such a great speechmaker, so if only I'd speechified more I could have sold all my policies as a good story, like I sold myself in the first place as a good story. As if all he really needed was more words. He's so good with words.
Oh, that reminds me of something from the David Maraniss biography of Obama, which is, interestingly, called "Barack Obama: The Story" (pp. 299-300):
One of his English teachers at Punahou was Barbara Czurles-Nelson.... Barry was not the most talkative student in her class, she recalled. He would sit near the back of the room, relaxed, waiting for his opening in the conversation. One day they were dealing with a philosophical question about what people should most fear. The answers included loneliness, death, hell, and war. Then Barry straightened up. That was the sign that he was ready to participate, Nelson thought, when he was sure to sharpen the class discussion. “Words,” he said. “Words are the power to be feared most.… Whether directed personally or internationally, words can be weapons of destruction.”Words! How fearsome! If only he could put them in the right order, into a story, this would all work out all right. Does he really believe that?