Free Markets, Free People
A poll out today shows that even with all the early debates and attention GOP presidential candidates have gotten to this point, most Republican voters remain uncommitted:
About eight in 10 Republican primary voters say it is still too early to tell whom they will support, and just four in 10 say they have been paying a lot of attention to the 2012 presidential campaign, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
Herman Cain, the former restaurant executive, is riding a wave of support among Republican primary voters that has placed him in a statistical dead heat with rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, in a race that has been characterized by momentum swings among the candidates.
The poll found Mr. Cain with the highest level of support, with 25 percent of Republican primary voters, and Mr. Romney with 21 percent. This difference is within the poll’s margin of sampling error.
Adding to the fluidity of the contest, about one in 10 Republican primary voters say they would like to see someone else nominated.
As bad as President Obama might be, it is clear that there is no particular love to be found for the present Republican field. Perry has all but imploded, Bachman continues to marginalize herself, Paul has a rabid but small contingent of supporters but can never seem to get beyond that, Gingrich has way too much baggage, Santorum is a marginal candidate at best and Mitt Romney is the nominee of last resort.
The reason, in my opinion, that Herman Cain has risen in the polls is because he comes from a background of business success. He reflects a desire by many to have someone who can take the reins of the government and steer in such a way that it becomes a help to our economy, not a hindrance and drag. His increased support speaks to a desire for someone in office with economic and business experience.
But I think there’s also a great desire, so far unfulfilled, for someone who has a clear vision that can be articulated and that captures the imagination and revives the spirit. And while Cain may fill the practical side of the equation, at least to an acceptable extent, he’s not been able to fulfill the “vision quest” part. As gifted an orator as he might be and despite the fact he’s got practical and successful business he’s not been able to persuade enough Republican voters to come to his side to put him in the unassailable lead.
And of course neither have any of the others.
Republicans are still looking for Ronald Reagan. A man or woman who can not only lift the malaise but lift the spirit as well. Who can not only apply practical principled solutions to our problems but make America feel good about itself again.
Right now, that person isn’t yet in the race, or if he or she is, they’ve not emerged as such. This country is in desperate want of inspiration, reassurance and practical experience. The current candidates just aren’t measuring up to that want or need. Thus the poll results.
Is there a Ronald Regan out there? Is there a candidate that will finally step forward and fulfill those voter wants as Reagan did when running against Jimmy Carter.
I often wonder what the outcome might have been had any of these candidates running for the GOP nomination today had been the choice against Carter. I’m not so sure Carter would have lost.
Obama is prone to liken himself to Ronald Reagan at times (and Abe Lincoln at others). If you remember the Reagan/Carter race, the question in the title is a paraphrase of the question Reagan rhetorically ask of voters during the campaign. Obama is definitely on the wrong side of that Reagan question. You can expect a resurrection of that question (if the GOP has any sense at all) in the 2012 election.
The answer to the question manifests itself in a recent poll and it is not very encouraging for the incumbent president. An NBC/Washington Post poll just released gives the latest “atmospherics”:
Despite those hundreds of billions of blown stimulus dollars and almost as many upturn promises from Joe Biden, 82% of Americans still say their job market is struggling. Ninety percent rate the economy negatively, including half who give it the worst rating of "poor."
A slim 15% claim to be "getting ahead financially," half what it was in 2006. Fully 27% say they’re falling behind financially. That’s up 6 points since February.
A significant majority (54%) says they’ve been forced to change their lifestyle significantly as a result of the economic times — and 60% of them are angry, up from 44%.
So, you say, doesn’t it depend on who voters blame as to who this poll negatively effects? Well, yes, of course. And here’s an indicator of who that might be:
Strong support among liberal Democrats for Obama’s jobs record has plummeted 22 points from 53% down below a third. African Americans who believe the president’s measures helped the economy have plunged from 77% to barely half.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the fact that independents have been deserting Obama for quite some time. We just had a Pew poll that said many whites that previously supported him have left him. And it gets worse for Obama:
Obama’s overall job approval on the economy has slid below 40% for the first time, with 57% disapproving. And strong disapprovers outnumber approvers by better than two-to-one.
That prompted Bernie Sanders, Socialist – Vermont, to exclaim the other day:
"I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition."
He’s not the first to float that heretical idea either. And that sort of talk is a sure sign of crumbling support within one’s political base. When even the “homers” aren’t happy (and the reason really doesn’t matter) then you can be assured most of the rest of the voters aren’t happy either. Obama is trying desperately to run to the center and all he’s really accomplishing by that run is to lose base support. It doesn’t appear the big middle is warming to his attempts to woo them as support for him in all areas continues to drop.
Standard disclaimer applies – in political terms it is still light years to November 2012. That said, these are trends we’re talking about here. They’ve been developing over quite some time. Looking into the future, and given the economic reports we’re seeing, it’s hard to see how this all improves enough for Obama to offset the high negativity that is building right now.
And despite continued efforts to push this off on Bush, this is now considered to be Obama’s economy, whether he likes it or not. The excuse was good for a year or so as many were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on that. However, now it’s considered whining. Obama ran for the job, got it and is now expected to perform up to the standards or expectations he established in his campaign. On all fronts, he’s falling woefully short and most people have no patience for the continued attempts to pass his failure off on someone else.
So …. are you better off than you were in January, 2009?
Very few Americans find themselves able to answer “yes”, at least at this point.
What’s up with Ron Reagan Jr’s claim that his father was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in the White House (except as a hook to sell his book)?
What has he to back this claim up?
Apparently, not much. As an aside, if Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s during his presidency he still outperformed the vast majority of presidents I’ve seen in my life time.
Paul Bedard of US News takes on Ron Jr’s claims:
Let’s start with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It was announced in 1994. While it prompted some to suggest they knew Reagan had the disease as president, his four White House doctors said they saw no evidence of it. But Ron, who became a liberal and atheist, disappointing his dad, suggests he saw hints of confusion and "an out-of-touch president" during the 1984 campaign and again in 1986, when his father couldn’t recall the names of California canyons he was flying over. Arguing his case in the book, Ron adds that doctors today know that the disease can be in evidence before being recognized. "The question, then, of whether my father suffered from the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s while in office more or less answers itself," he writes.
Hmmm … believe 4 White House docs or Ron Jr.? Yeah, not a toughie at all, is it? In fact, in the article cited by Bedard, the physicians say:
But even with the hindsight of Mr. Reagan’s diagnosis, his four main White House doctors say they never detected any evidence that his forgetfulness was more than just that. His mental competence in office, they said in a series of recent interviews, was never in doubt. Indeed, they pointed out, tests of his mental status did not begin to show evidence of the disease until the summer of 1993, more than four years after he left the White House.
So the first indication of the disease didn’t show up until ‘93. Forgetfulness, as anyone who is over the age of 60 will tell you, does not equal Alzheimer’s – which is apparently what amateur doctor Ron Jr. is attempting to conflate. And, you know, it’s not like Presidents aren’t constantly checked and rechecked and monitored and checked again by medical personnel – often among the best. 4 doctors say, “no signs”. Ron Jr. says, “signs”. I go with the docs.
Not content with playing amateur doctor, Jr. decides to try to rewrite a little history. I.e. an operation that no one else remembers or can find any record of:
Besides playing amateur doctor, Ron Reagan reveals, if true, brain surgery on his dad never before reported. He accurately reports that Reagan, after leaving the presidency, was bucked from a horse on July 4, 1989, while in Mexico. Ron tells of how his dad, after initially refusing medical help, was transported to a San Diego hospital. "Surgeons opening his skull to relieve pressure on the brain emerged from the operating room with the news that they had detected what they took to be probable signs of Alzheimer’s disease."
So when you open the skull, “probable signs of Alzheimer’s disease” are evident, eh? Yeah, I don’t think so. Not that it matters because everyone else says the operation never happened:
Several Reagan associates, however, say there was no surgery in San Diego.
What’s more there is no reporting about any San Diego operation on Reagan. News reports at the time of his fall say Reagan was flown to a hospital in Arizona, where he was treated for scrapes and bruises and released after five hours.
There were no reports of Reagan with a shaved head or skull stitches later that month when he served as a guest TV announcer at the July 11 baseball All-Star Game in Anaheim, Calif., or when he was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City on July 21.
So 7 days later, a man who was supposed to have had brain surgery, or at least had his skull opened, was serving as a guest TV announcer and 17 days later was being inducted into a hall of fame.
Reagan did actually have a procedure done at the Mayo Clinic to drain fluid buildup on his brain as a result of the fall in September, two months after the fall. Not mentioned by Jr. However, Jr. does claim that Reagan went to the Mayo Clinic in 1990 for tests that “confirmed the initial suspicion of Alzheimer’s”. Now note, this is important for Jr’s White House timeline. The date of the ‘93 diagnosis just don’t serve his purpose. Way too late in the game.
As for his ‘90 Mayo Clinic claim? No record of such a visit. None.
And his doctor from ‘84 through Reagan’s retirement told the NY Times that the former president showed no “tell-tale” signs of Alzheimer’s until ‘93.
Who to believe … who to believe.
Look, Reagan stood up in ‘94 and did a tremendous thing – he announced he had the disease and gave it a visibility that it sorely needed. It is another positive in an already outstanding legacy. The topic of his Alzheimer’s and when it was evident enough to be diagnosed has been a topic for years and years. We’ve been all over this ground. People much more intimately informed about his medical condition (with the bona fides to reach such diagnostic conclusions) have said over and over again that the disease didn’t manifest itself until 1993. Those that worked intimately with the man said they observed nothing that would validate Jr’s claims. And we have the apparent made up nonsense about brain surgery in San Diego (when in fact he was treated and released in Arizona) to boot.
You have to wonder, given the seemingly incorrect facts and fiction of Jr’s account, who in the hell really has Alzheimer’s. OK, I’m just kidding and Alzheimer’s isn’t anything to really kid about, but I personally find it disgusting that a son would do what appears to be a hatchet job on his father’s legacy. Why?
Just as importantly, if in fact none of the events happened as he claims, how in the freakin’ world did he think he’d get away with claiming they did in his book?
Questions which will most likely never be answered by the weasel we all know as Ron Reagan Jr. It’s also a good reason not to buy the book.
As mentioned the other day, when I first heard Obama’s UN speech I wondered if I was just reading too much into what I’d heard. Then I saw Michael Gerson’s column and felt some relief about the fact that I wasn’t the only one which felt that way. Today I discover Howard Fineman, a pretty avid Obama supporter, is feeling a bit uneasy for precisely the same reasons Gerson and I did.
The president’s problem isn’t that he is too visible; it’s the lack of content in what he says when he keeps showing up on the tube. Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words “I” and “my.” (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.
Even I didn’t count the “I’s” in his speech so it obviously bothered Fineman greatly. The speech apparently made the same sort of impression on him as it did others.
Additionally, Fineman notes something Obama is fond of using but that is beginning to wear very thin:
There is only so much political mileage that can still be had by his reminding the world that he is not George W. Bush. It was the winning theme of the 2008 campaign, but that race ended nearly a year ago. The ex-president is now more ex than ever, yet the current president, who vowed to look forward, is still reaching back to Bush as bogeyman.
He did it again in that U.N. speech. The delegates wanted to know what the president was going to do about Israel and the Palestinian territories. He answered by telling them what his predecessor had failed to do. This was effective for his first month or two. Now it is starting to sound more like an excuse than an explanation.
Remarkably, Fineman invokes – get ready for it – Ronald Regan as someone Obama badly needs to emulate:
The model is a man whose political effectiveness Obama repeatedly says he admires: Ronald Reagan. There was never doubt about what he wanted. The Gipper made his simple, dramatic tax cuts the centerpiece not only of his campaign but also of the entire first year of his presidency.
Obama seems to think he’ll get credit for the breathtaking scope of his ambition. But unless he sees results, it will have the opposite effect—diluting his clout, exhausting his allies, and emboldening his enemies.
And, as Fineman notes, that’s already begun to happen. Domestically his agenda is in a shambles, support is eroding faster than a pizza at a Weight Watcher’s convention and his political enemies are in full voice against him. Internationally, you can see the pack beginning to circle gauging how weak their prey is and what piece they can rip off of him before the bigger predators take their chunk of his hide.
Fineman’s other point is why that’s happening – Obama seems to think that if he appears enough times and says something enough times his words will carry the day. It is as if he thinks that constitutes leadership. If Obama does model himself after Reagan, it is only to emulate his communication ability while ignoring Reagan’s leadership abilities.
Fineman’s first paragraph really makes a worthy concluding one:
Despite his many words and television appearances, our elegant and eloquent president remains more an emblem of change than an agent of it. He’s a man with an endless, worthy to-do list—health care, climate change, bank reform, global capital regulation, AfPak, the Middle East, you name it—but, as yet, no boxes checked “done.” This is a problem that style will not fix. Unless Obama learns to rely less on charm, rhetoric, and good intentions and more on picking his spots and winning in political combat, he’s not going to be reelected, let alone enshrined in South Dakota.
So it isn’t just me, or those on the right who’re imagining things. In fact it seems our assessment was pretty objective. When the Howard Fineman’s of the world (don’t ever look for the leg-humping Chris Matthews or those of his ilk to have this sort of an awakening) begin to notice, it should be fairly obvious to everyone. If words were action, Barack Obama would be master of the world. But they’re not. The problem, as Fineman and other are learning, is Barack Obama has never had to put his words into action. That requires leadership – something he has never learned, never exercised and increasingly seems unwilling to take on (witness the delaying on A’stan while he sprints off to Copenhagen to do what he does best – talk – about the Olympics).
Fineman has defined the problem. But he can’t provide the solution. That can only come from one man. And to this point he hasn’t demonstrated he understands the problem much less the fact that he must provide the solution. In fact, as Fineman notes, he seems more caught up in himself and his words than ever. It could mean a long three years for both the Democrats and the country. And Fineman’s right, unless things change fairly rapidly, reelection is not something Obama should count on in 2012.
Today Paul Krugman attempts to make the case that “government intervention isn’t always bad”. However, he says such an argument has a tough time establishing itself because the “zombie ideas” of Reaganism just won’t die, i.e.”government intervention is always bad.”
You know, I don’t remember it that way at all. In fact, few will argue that all government intervention is bad, to include Ronald Reagan. Reagan did say that most times not only is government not the solution, but it is the problem. But I’m not sure that translates into what Krugman is claiming.
As we’ve said many times, the primary function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens and it does so by protecting them from force or fraud. That obviously requires some level of government intrusion and intervention. I don’t think Reagan saw it any differently. As I recall, he, unlike Krugman, just didn’t see government as the solution for the vast majority of problems we encountered.
So what Krugman has erected is a strawmen argument. Most see some role for government that they’d deem necessary and legitimate. But not necessarily in all areas. What Reaganism said was that there are areas of our life and economy which are much more efficiently run by the private side. Government should stick to the protection game – something it actually does relatively well – and leave the rest to private enterprise.
That, of course, doesn’t sit well with the “government is always the answer” crowd. It is a battle they’ve been fighting – and losing – for decades. What is really bothering Krugman is he is seeing it happen again at a time when he believes it should finally be clear sailing for the government intervention crowd.
This how Krugman begins his argument today:
The debate over the “public option” in health care has been dismaying in many ways. Perhaps the most depressing aspect for progressives, however, has been the extent to which opponents of greater choice in health care have gained traction — in Congress, if not with the broader public — simply by repeating, over and over again, that the public option would be, horrors, a government program.
You have to appreciate his choice of wording. Krugman has come right out and said that he sees the public option as one that could “evolve” into what he prefers, single-payer. Yet within two sentences, he tries to brand those who are against the public choice trojan horse as “opponents of greater choice in health care”. Nice try, but no cigar, Mr. Krugman.
He then launches into a fairly incoherent attempt at “proving” Reaganism (as he’s defined it) failed.
But in fact, it didn’t fail. People remember the ’80s and the prosperity they brought with some fondness. It’s one of the reasons voters were willing to give an uninspiring Republican VP a shot, before turning him out of town for another smooth talking Democrat who promised “change”. But what should you believe, Krugman’s version or your own lying eyes?
Krugman transparently attempts to erect this strawman of Reaganism, declare it thoroughly discredited, further declare its “zombie” ideas to be worthless and proclaim that since he’s destroyed the zombie, the opposite (don’t try to apply logic here) must be true – i.e. government intervention is good. And if government intervention is good, then it follows it must then be good in all areas, to include health care.
Of course even Krugman’s hero, Barack Obama, in a Freudian moment, mentioned that it wasn’t UPS or FedEx constantly in financial trouble, no siree – it was the good old, government run USPS that couldn’t quite cut the mustard.
But some of the blame also must rest with President Obama, who famously praised Reagan during the Democratic primary, and hasn’t used the bully pulpit to confront government-is-bad fundamentalism.
My goodness, you’d think praising Reagan was akin to praising some fascist who made the trains run on time, wouldn’t you? But for those who are deacons in the church of “government intervention is good”, that’s probably a valid comparison. Because everyone knows history is rife with examples of government intervention success stories . That’s why people are constantly trotting them out instead of attempting to discredit arguments about government that were never made.
Disgust is a bi-partisan concept. Michael Goodwin again:
Ronald Reagan’s famous line that “government is the problem” kept going through my head as the AIG hearing demonstrated the dangers of Washington’s role in the economy. The very people, Republicans and Democrats alike, who can’t balance America’s budget now claim the expertise to run banks, insurance companies and automakers.
If we let them, we’re dumber than they are.