I suppose he meant it to be a beau ideal of journalistic balance. But somewhere in the logical tangle required to achieve the balance he so earnestly sought, the NY Times' Frank Bruni has instead wrangled a whopper of a non sequitur.
His principal argument is this: Despite the economy, despite the race question, and despite all the right's super PAC cash raised and spent--which has been less influential than most observers suspected--President Obama should be waltzing his way to reelection. (I agree, assuming a rational, informed electorate.) He has, in his favor, America's shifting demographics, the power of incumbency, an opposition party brimming with "clums[y] extremists" and "grandstanding windbags," and most of all he has Mitt Romney, unquestionably the most inept presidential nominee ever.
I think Bruni too casually dismisses the economic and race complications, and he altogether neglects the virtual immutability of today's partisan polarization as an electoral constant. Nonetheless, let's stay with his larger argument, which is, again, that Obama should be winning handily--and he would be doing just that, had he not "disappointed, confused and alienated some of the voters who warmed and even thrilled to him four years ago."
Why the iciness and apathy? Says Bruni: "During his first term, he at times misjudged and mishandled his Republican opposition. As a communicator, he repeatedly failed to sell his policies clearly and forcefully enough."
OK, let's accept that, if, for no other reason, the sake of Bruni's argument. But then comes the whopping non sequitur. Bruni adds that Obama is compounding his present problems by "markedly chang[ing]" his "tone" from that of 2008, "a tactical decision that may not be the right one." To compensate for Denver's debate loss, Obama, writes Bruni, has "had to turn truculent" and thus he "undercut his high-minded, big-vision brand."
Whoa, whoa there, Tex. You just finished telling us that Obama had alienated his base by having "repeatedly failed to sell his policies clearly and forcefully enough" as well as by misjudging and mishandling the opposition, whose chief campaign tactic is the Goebbelsesque Big Lie. Yet now that Obama is forcefully pushing against the latter, through the proper execution of a corrected judgment, he's guilty of changing his tone, which is somehow alienating the very base which became alienated because he hadn't changed his tone.
Well, Mr. Bruni, at least you achieved journalistic balance, however scrambled the result.