Obama Seeks to Change the Narrative at DNC Meeting

A tieless Barack Obama ditched his presidential limo in favor of an SUV this morning and made a short trek up 16th Street in snow-covered D.C. (four minutes, according to the pool report) to fire up the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting.

If one thing has become abundantly clear about Obama throughout both his campaign and his time in the Oval Office, it’s that he is most energized when his back is against the wall. For all the talk about the woes his administration is facing, the president brought his game face today, his feisty demeanor demonstrating he’s in the mood for a fight. And he’s not giving up on health-care reform. “We are moving forward,” he forcefully declared, twice, to a rousing ovation from the audience.

Knowing that uncertainty and apprehension are quickly taking hold of his party, the president sought to combat the increasingly accepted narrative that his administration has achieved little. Not true, he told Democrats, as he listed his achievements, including SCHIP extension, Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation, a new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and commencing the process of leaving “Iraq to its own people.”

Obama also reiterated a theme of his State of the Union, tying the importance of his initiatives to America’s place in the world. He argued again that the rest of the world isn’t waiting for America to recover. "We can't return to the dereliction of duty," he said. "America can't afford to wait, and we can't look backward.” As E. J. Dionne noted yesterday, a new meta-narrative appears to be slowly emerging from the White House, “transforming a listless national argument about the stimulus and health care into a larger debate over how to maintain American preeminence.” Invoking patriotism has been a winner for past presidents. Obama’s ability to pull it off, though, may depend less on the public than getting a few recalcitrant Republicans to help him pass legislation.