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From Newsweek

Out to Lunch?

President Obama addresses criticism he's out of touch.


Obama stopped to have lunch with some locals in New Orleans in late August. (Jewel Samad / Getty)

It’s the question of the month, or certainly of the election season—whether President Obama, comfortable in his whitewashed ivory tower, has lost touch with the common folk and the middle-class families who have yet to believe that an economic recovery is even happening. How did the community organizer and gifted orator slide so far off track?

It comes back, as it often does, to the economy. During a live interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Obama addressed the lingering critique. "I feel it, acutely," he said. "And, you know, the fact of the matter is that as long as unemployment is as high as it is, as long as we haven't recovered as quickly as we should have, people are going to be hurting. And even if they think that I know they're hurting, what they're asking is, when are you going to be able to do something concrete that allows me to get a job or make sure that I can pay my bills or make sure that I don't lose my house. All I can communicate to the American people is that every single day, the thing that I wake up and the thing that I go to bed with is the fact that there are too many people out there who are doing the right thing, working hard, and are having a tough time in this economy. We're doing everything we can to make sure they have an opportunity to live out the American Dream."

It’s a valid point. Not having a job, or knowing someone who doesn’t, makes it pretty tough to think the president is doing a good job. Administration aides also admitted privately to Michael Scherer of Time that the initial hope in Obama’s ability to do magical things may have been inflated. Then there’s the factor that Obama is not a man accustomed to showing emotion. President Clinton always made sure audiences knew what he was feeling, and that he “felt [their] pain.” Obama’s professorial style has cost him impact, as well as votes. Despite an increased travel schedule and many more backyard barbecue events, Obama's approval numbers have yet to budge from the mid-40s range they've hovered within all year.

During his interview, Obama also addressed for the first time the Pledge to America doctrine that congressional Republicans unveiled last week. He called some of his opponents’ ideas “irresponsible politics” and stopped just short of calling the whole thing a sham—the effort to balance the budget with only $15 billion in discretionary spending cuts. Republicans’ likely response? Calling the president part of the spending and taxing problem in Washington. And alleging he’s out of touch.

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