Free Markets, Free People
Six months and counting: Team Obama looks pretty pitiful at this point
I have not posted much lately. Busy. Very busy. I don’t see how McQ does it. He’s a machine.
But I have been paying attention, and I must say Obama is as amusing during his first six months as I had hoped, and maybe more. Here’s a brief summary of where he’s at as far as I’m concerned, categorized into various types of success and failures on the political front.
He killed a fly while being filmed, thereby demonstrating that there’s nothing wrong with his reflexes. Other than that, I can’t think of one.
Passing his stimulus bill was a partial success because (1) he looks pretty silly now claiming it would keep unemployment under 8%, and (2) the increased debt and pork-laden nature of the bill are long-term liabilities. If we don’t see some positive moves on the economic front soon, it could move into the failure bucket.
It’s pretty clear Team Obama had no clue whether the stimulus would help. They were counting on things getting better in any event, and the stimulus would ensure that they could claim credit for it. The flip side of that is that they (rightly or wrongly) get the blame now as things don’t appear to be getting better.
Poll ratings on Obama personally
He has kept his favorability ratings in pretty good territory, apparently using sheer force of personality (which I don’t see, but others apparently do.) However, the erosion has been steady and rather fast by historical standards. He’s now around 50% according to Rasmussen. Not awful, but the trend isn’t good. The polls on major issues indicate an even bigger disconnect between Obama and the American people.
So far, that’s going pretty well for Obama. Sure, she has said things and done things that would sink a conservative candidate (assuming, for example, “wise Latina” and “white man” were switched in the equivalent comments). But the press have done a good job of covering for that. There have been no serious fireworks in the confirmation hearings, even though she’s basically contradicted her previous self on several things. So I think Obama’s choice here can be considered a reasonable political success for him so far. It looks like he’ll get a justice as reliably liberal as Souter, and maybe more so.
European and Middle Eastern Tours
His Europe trip didn’t come out much like the way he wanted it. He looked amateurish, and didn’t accomplish any goals I could see. He got some good sound bites, and looked reasonably presidential, and his biggest failures were probably behind closed doors where the public will never hear about them.
The Middle East Tour was about the same as the European tour, plus he managed to look soft on terrorism. I’m sure some of the despotic rulers in the Middle East were quite pleased to hear what he had to say.
There’s a new one every few weeks it seems. When your main selling point is how upstanding and moral and caring you are, hiring or attempting to hire one tax-cheat after another is very bad for your image. It looks like you’re combining incompetence and hypocrisy. It also gives lazy headline writers some easy licks when one of your tax cheats comes out and talks about raising taxes.
GM/Chrysler strong-armed restructuring
I don’t see how this one can be considered a success by anyone but the unions. Large sums of money were spent in a probably futile effort to keep these companies long-term viable, rule of law was undermined, and capabilities for strained companies to get investment capital were seriously eroded (who will now loan to them knowing the government may change the rules on the fly?). Popular sentiment about these policies runs two to one against or worse.
Even though this bailout began under Bush, Obama was much more activist and went much farther than Bush ever did. Firing the CEO of GM was an egregious misuse of government power, and that plus other Obama activism means he now owns this issue. That’s not a good thing for him.
De facto backing of the theocrats in Iran
I think it’s a defensible position that Obama should have kept quiet about it, even though I don’t agree. But when the House votes 405-1 for a resolution supporting the protesting dissidents, it’s clear that Obama was out of step with popular sentiment, from across the entire political spectrum. He had a chance to look like a leader, out in front of something big, at no cost to speak of since the Iranian mullahs aren’t really going to give him anything of consequence anyway. But he blew it off, and now risks looking like a wimp in his first major foreign policy flash point.
Not Obama’s fault, of course; the roots go way back, with Clinton and Carter contributing more than their share to the current mess. But even though it’s not his fault, he can’t blame this one on Bush. While W didn’t do much towards a long term solution for North Korea, at least he looked tough enough that they didn’t get too frisky. Clearly they don’t feel the same way about Obama. North Korea is the poster child for why you don’t want your president to be perceived as a gutless pu$$y, as Bill Quick is fond of calling him.
How many ways can this one go wrong for Obama? So far, we’ve seen his own party refuse to fund his request/demand/promise for Gitmo closure. After spending a trillion plus on his other stuff, denying a few measly millions to close Gitmo looks pretty bad, and if Congressional Democrats claim it’s to save money, even the Washington Post will laugh in their face. Then we had a couple of the guys that were released swimming down in Bermuda. Those pictures have got to be worth three or four percent on Obama’s negative rating all by themselves. (“Look Marge! That d*mn Obama is sending terrorists to swim in Bermuda! WTF? *We* can’t afford to go there!”) So he’s stuck his neck out a mile, and it still looks like he won’t get it closed any time soon. This is another case where pleasing the froth-speckled far left pretty much means pi$$ing off most everyone else.
What was he thinking? Shoring up support among his minority base? Simply shooting off his mouth? Based on his meandering non-apology a couple of weeks ago and the silly “Beer Summit”, we’ll never know, but it blew his whole “post-racial” schtick straight to hell.
The real cherry on this sundae was having the cop he accused of racism turn out to be a trainer of other cops on race issues. Yep, Obama really stepped in it on this one, and it’s a completely unforced error since he could have droned out some “it’s a local issue and I have no comment” generic answer and he would have been fine.
I don’t expect a lot of obvious blow-back after this dies down. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty obvious rejoinder to those who want to assert how special and post-racial and smart Obama is.
Still in progress, but not looking good for Obama
It’s looking very likely that the stealth-single-payer “public option” is off the table. The CBO hammered it. Congressmen are cancelling town meetings to avoid protestors, for whom healthcare is issue one. Barney Frank let the cat out of the bag on how it’s really just a stepping stone to single payer.
There’s plenty more reasons to think Obama is in trouble on this one. Nobody in their right mind in Congress is going to vote to tax current healthcare benefits. Last month, governors from both parties lined up against whatever flavor-of-the-day the healthcare bill happened to be in at that point, and there appears to be such a rift in Congressional Democrats that they cancelled a bunch of sessions just to talk about it.
Obama also has problems when he asserts with a straight face time after time that he wants healthcare reform in order to save money and help with our economic problems. That’s so transparently stupid that only extremely delusional leftists with zero understanding of economics believe it.
Assuming that the “public option” and the de facto tax increase are both untenable, there are two possible outcomes. The whole thing could die, or the Democrats could cobble together some face-saving bill with a slew of minor but damaging items that will be packaged up into a “bipartisan” reform bill. There are enough gullible Republicans for this option to work, if the Democrats have the political smarts to do it. I’m not sure it will happen, since putting “political smarts” and “Pelosi” in the same sentence doesn’t really flow.
If they manage it, it gives Obama his photo-op signing ceremony with ABC News anchormen solemnly assuring us that Obama has “fixed healthcare” even though the bill won’t do that, Obama didn’t craft the bill, and he didn’t get a single major item he wanted in it. The bill would accomplish nothing positive of consequence, but it probably wouldn’t be any more damaging long term than Bush’s Medicare Rx bill.
Strictly speaking, this ought not to be Obama’s problem. California has world class idiocy in their Democratic legislators, plus a governor who gives a whole new dimension to the term “RINO”.
But since much of the media has set Obama up to be somewhere between Merlin and God, he’s expected to help fix it anyway. That, plus his natural itch to interfere (he does like ordering people around, doesn’t he?) probably means he’ll be right there in the middle of it when things start really going bad. That might be pretty soon if people stop accepting Monopoly money from the California government. The administration statement put out a month or so ago basically said “We’re not going to bail out California – yet.”
Cap and Trade
My intuition says this one is DOA for this year. There are some fanatic leftist Democrats that really, really want it. Which makes sense, since it’s the ideal platform for them to order other people around, remake society in their own vision, and get a stealth tax increase to boot. But outside the population of Al Gore groupies, it’s not a hot button, especially in those areas of the country setting record cool levels this summer. The damaging effects are too severe and affect lots of different interests, while the supposed positive effects are nebulous, uncertain, and in some cases merely symbolic. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another Obama cut-and-run on this one if present trends continue. This is another candidate for some face-saving “bipartisan” bill that contains some stupid stuff but doesn’t do that much.
Inspector General firings
I once thought that this mess might blow up in Obama’s face, but so far it looks like he might skate. There’s still some chance to see this become a real issue, with the lawsuit filed by Walpin to bring it back up later. No matter what happens, this doesn’t reflect particularly well on Obama. But with light and confusing press coverage, I doubt that the average voter knows anything about it.
Apparently Obama learned the wrong lesson from his Iran debacle. He thought he needed to get out in front with a forceful statement. Unfortunately, his apparently instinctive hostility to freedom and sympathy for leftists led him to the wrong forceful statement when he backed Zelaya right away.
Even though Obama’s State Department seems oblivious to it, Honduran law was followed, and prevented a Chavez wannabe right at the outset. And, to add insult to foolishness, Obama is repaid for his support of Chavez’s buddy Zelaya by having Chavez call him an ignorant black (according to translation by my Honduran buddy, Hector Figueroa ).
This would have been the right issue to at least say “It’s their business, not ours.” Even better would be to have his people actually look at Honduran law, and recognize the new government as being completely legit. With this mishandled issue on top of Iran, Obama takes another blow to his image on the foreign policy front.
It’s obvious that the Hondurans are just going to run out the clock. If the status quo there remains until November, they will have a new round of elections there, and a new president in January. Normally, those events would be invisible to the larger population, but this time they will stand in contrast to Obama’s position. At some point, he’ll have to give in and say, “OK, the new president is legit.” That will signal that his previous position was pointless and ill considered.
There are other areas such as immigration reform, aka amnesty, that are on the radar but further out. Obama’s got enough to worry about now that there’s no point looking at those.
Since he didn’t get some action on some of his hot button items by the August recess, their natural attention span will probably expire for this year, and for most of them prospects will be worse next year going into the election. Healthcare reform is the primary example; if it fails, he loses momentum on just about every other leftist wet-dream program he wants to enact. He’s now under time pressure to get a lot of movement, and I have not seen the leadership and organization skills in his adminstration to think he’s going to be able to do it.
I’ve read accounts by adoring Obama fans that he has a “world class intellect” and a “world class temperament”. I’ve seen no evidence of either one. I won’t buy that “world class intellect” thing until I start seeing some better judgment than he has shown so far. And it’s pretty easy to display a good temperament when the reporting on you is being performed by acolytes instead of journalists. Even now, he shows flashes of bad attitude that will probably get worse if a few of his media lackeys get over their tingly thighs sometime soon and start being 1/10 as tough on Obama as they were on Bush.
Obama’s real risk is that his silly, unforced missteps such as Honduras and Gates, coupled with his lack of ability to get his socialist programs passed, solidify at some point into disillusionment among the press. Those guys move as a herd; if a few key journalists start an “Obama is having real problems” narrative, the others will jump right in. Obama probably won’t handle that scenario well, because he has no experience with it.
I can’t deny that I’m amused by the whole thing. I never saw in Obama what his swooning supporters saw, and I thought they were deceiving themselves into thinking he was brilliant and capable. So far, that evaluation is looking reasonably good.