Sen. Chuck Schumer (D- Outer Space) has made a prediction that just doesn’t ring true for me.
“I predict that by November those who voted for healthcare will find it an asset and those who voted against it will find it a liability,” Schumer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Uh, yeah, I don’t think so.
Anyone been following the first effect of this bill? Billions of dollars in new charges against the earnings of businesses who were able, previously, to write off a subisdy and all of health care coverage they paid (for prescription drugs for retirees) that they can no longer do.
Now you’re probably saying, “libertarian dude – I thought you were against all government subsidies”. I am. And there’s nothing different about this. I’m actually rather pleased to see the subsidy ended. However that’s not the point of the post. This development runs counter to two promises the administration and Congress made concerning this bill -a) your coverage wouldn’t change and b) it would cost less.
In fact, given the fact that accounting laws require companies to immediately restate their earnings when the law changes and they take on an increased tax burden. What the likes of AT&T, Deere and Caterpillar are doing is complying. That means a) if you work for AT&T or the others your coverage will change (most likely it will end and they’ll end up on Medicare’s much less generous drug program) and b) it will cost more.
How much more? Well, if you look at the loss Caterpillar will take, it works out to about $1,200 dollars per employee. That 100 million they’re talking about in increased cost has to be made up somewhere. If that’s true about all large companies – even those with union contracts which aren’t ending anytime soon – then that equals one heck of a lot of PO’d pensioners. Certainly not a good sign for those that voted for this, is it?
As I covered previously, Verizon has sent word to its employees that coverage may cost more. That gives the company a couple of choices – it can maintain the level of coverage and raise the price to meet the increased cost, or it can cut benefits to match the present cost. Either way, either a) or b) end up being incorrect.
This has Democrats a little flustered. And Henry Waxman, (D-Odius) has decided that these evil corporations must answer to him for this since all those billions in charges they’re having to take against earning wasn’t the intent of this legislation – so he’s going to have hearings to get to the bottom of this. After all, according to Waxman, in the letter he sent to these businessmen their findings just can’t be right (I mean, face it, these businesses want to take a hit against earnings of billions of dollars just to show the Dems up, huh?):
“They also appear to conflict with independent analyses. … The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from leading U.S. companies, asserted in November 2009 that health care reform could reduce predicted health insurance cost trends for businesses by more than $3,000 per employee over the next 10 years…”
You’ve got to love it – Waxman’s strongest case is an association comprised of some CEOs who “asserted” – got that? “asserted” – that health care reform “could” – again, “could” – reduce cost trends.
In other words, instead of actually doing the work of checking with authoratative sources that could have actually run the numbers and vetted the requirements of the law, he, Waxman, went with the assertions of a bunch of CEOs because they said what he wanted them to say. Reminds you a bit of the IPCC, doesn’t it?
Another entity with a bit more credibility has actually taken a look at the law and its impact and come up with this interpretation:
The Employee Benefit Research Institute says this exclusion—equal to 28% of the cost of a drug plan—will run taxpayers $665 per person next year, while the same Medicare coverage would cost $1,209.
In a $5.4 billion revenue grab, Democrats decided that this $665 fillip should be subject to the ordinary corporate income tax of 35%. Most consulting firms and independent analysts say the higher costs will induce some companies to drop drug coverage, which could affect about five million retirees and 3,500 businesses.
And that brings us back to Schumer. Why does Schumer think that it will be all unicorns and rainbows for those who voted for this monstrosity?
“It’s going to become more popular and here’s why,” Schumer said. “The lies that have been spread, they vanish because you see what’s in the bill.”
“The No. 1 lie that bothers people is that you’ll lose your insurance if you have it now and are pretty happy with it,” Schumer said.
Yeah, well, so far, not so good on that front, huh Chuck?
And fyi – polls aren’t supporting the Schumer claim either. Most are running against the bill. The one mentioned in the article with the Schumer quotes has it 50-46 against. My guess is that was before the news broke about the charge offs and the effect on pensions.
But hey, it’s all theirs now and they can whistle past the graveyard if they want too – it’s not going to change what happens in November one bit.
Way back during the Bush years, we saw the rise of the netroots premised on the idea that Bush was the worst thing that had ever happened to America. Also boosted by the Bush years was the circulation of liberal magazines. The passion of the opposition was readily apparent to anyone who took the time to read either the liberal blogs or pubs.
That was then, this is now. Suddenly the opposition came to power and instead of spending their days throwing bombs and spit wads, they’ve had to defend what they helped bring about – a seemingly inept and drifting administration focused on the wrong things (they’re having a “health care reform” summit today, instead of talking about jobs) in a time of economic downturn and joblessness.
Vanity Fair has “discovered” that “hate sells”. It sold throughout the Bush years and now it is selling in the Obama years. Liberal magazine circulation is down from their Bush hating highs and conservative magazine circulation is up. I don’t know if it is true, but I’d guess that liberal blogs are suffering a bit of a downturn too. It is much easier to criticize (and I’ll be the first to admit that as I do it daily and find plenty of fodder for such criticism) than to defend. And criticism is usually much more passionate and seems to draw more passionate responses than does a defense.
What has happened to the liberals is they’ve gone from being the opposition – their usual position – to the establishment. They’re not comfortable (or particularly good) with being the establishment. They’re also not comfortable with having to defend their positions as they try to put them into effect via law. What they’re finding is it’s no fun being the establishment, and it is many times hard to summon the passion to defend their actions and ideas when they’re under assault from all sides.
One of the things these circulation numbers tell us as they swing from one side to the other is the measure of the “enthusiasm gap” (that all important gap that usually indicates which party’s GOTV effort will turn out the most voters in any upcoming election). As has been the case depending on which party holds the White House or Congress, there is usually more enthusiasm on the opposition’s side than on the establishment’s side. That seems to be the case now. Welcome to American politics. In fact, it is nothing new and should the GOP capture Congress or Obama be a one-term president, the left will rise again.
In the meantime, they learn what it is like to be on the receiving end of what they dealt for 8 years. But they should also understand that the passion has deserted the left and now resides more on the right (although the Tea Parties indicate a bit of a wild card). And they know full well what that tends to mean in terms of politics and elections. The circulation numbers cited by Vanity Fair are only an indicator of that.
According to Chris Cilliza of The Fix, Charlie Cook, one of the best of the Democratic Party election handicappers, isn’t high at all on the chances of House Democrats of retaining the majority. Watch the video – he immediately says the same thing I’ve been saying – there is no “communication problem” with President Obama. Instead he’s sees what has happened to Obama and the Democrats as being “fundamental and total miscalculations” on their part.
Cook also finds it hard, after discussions with what he calls the brightest of House Dems, he finds it very hard to “come up with a scenario in which the Democrats don’t loose the House”.
Interesting comparision: Bush/Iraq = Obama/Health Care. Now, I don’t know if I’m as pessimistic as Cook seems to be (and trust me Cook knows this infinitly better than I do as he’s proven election after election), but it is certainly true that I think House Democrats will loose a significant number of seats and their easy majority will become a difficult one next January where they’ll actually have to take Blue Dogs seriously since it might be that bloc that provides the swing votes necessary for either side to have their way.
Cilliza finds another respected election handicapper who disagrees slightly with Cook – not with Democratic losses, just with the amount:
Stu Rothenberg, another noted political handicapper in Washington, has pegged Democratic House losses as between 24 and 28 seats. He writes: “We currently expect Republicans to fall short of the 40 seats they would need.”
In a polarized House, the loss of between 24 and 28 (I think it could actually be a little higher than that) is significant. The health care bill passed the House by 3 votes if my memory serves me correctly. As I point out above, controversial bills would have to be toned down and take a much more conservative tone to pass the House if those gains above are realized.
But to this point, all of the above is idle speculation. In terms of an election 9 months is an eternity. What I think will help cement either Rothenberg or Cook’s prognostications, however, is if the Democrats manage, by hook or crook, to pass health care legislation – especially with no Republican votes for it. Then I think Cook has it right. I think the voter’s wrath will be such that any name on the ballot with a “D” after it will be fair game.
I get a kick out of Thomas Friedman, because for a guy who travels around as he does and sees what he sees, he can seem so clueless at times. So here’s how he sets his article up:
A small news item from Tracy, Calif., caught my eye last week. Local station CBS 13 reported: “Tracy residents will now have to pay every time they call 911 for a medical emergency. But there are a couple of options. Residents can pay a $48 voluntary fee for the year, which allows them to call 911 as many times as necessary. Or there’s the option of not signing up for the annual fee. Instead they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help.”
Welcome to the lean years.
Yes, sir, we’ve just had our 70 fat years in America, thanks to the Greatest Generation and the bounty of freedom and prosperity they built for us. And in these past 70 years, leadership — whether of the country, a university, a company, a state, a charity, or a township — has largely been about giving things away, building things from scratch, lowering taxes or making grants.
But now it feels as if we are entering a new era, “where the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people,” said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum.
A “new” era where government is going to be about “taking things away from people”? How in the world do you suppose we were able to have the “fat years”. Because government had been taking things away from those able to pay for years. Decades.
Suddenly those they were taking things away from no longer have a job or the income to support all the fat the government built up for so many years. We’re not in the “lean years” – we’re in the PAYGO years. Now, suddenly, the subsidies are drying up because tax revenues are down – way down. Want the services? Pay for them instead of expecting others to do so. And yes, we’re a compassionate country, we can make exceptions for things like 911 service. Provide it free to the elderly and poor. Just make sure “elderly” doesn’t start at 50 and poor is actually poor – i.e no way they could afford a $300 call.
Note that Friedman naturally makes an attempt to equate charity and government when he talks about “giving things away”. Of course it goes without saying that private charity is given voluntarily while government give always come from coerced tax money. Relativity at its finest.
Anyway, Friedman figures that President Obama is missing the boat. As he says “for a politician who speaks so well” he’s mystified why Obama can’t put together a “compelling narrative” from which to explain his politics and polices. The short answer, of course, is that despite the continued belief by the left that the problem lies with the how the message is delivered, in fact the problem is with the message itself. The “narrative” has been heard and examined by the nation and it’s been found wanting – severely wanting. Obama and Friedman could come up with the best narrative in the world and it would still come down to money we can’t afford and more government control/intrusion into our lives that we don’t want.
But let’s hear from Friedman:
Mr. Obama won the election because he was able to “rent” a significant number of independent voters — including Republican business types who had never voted for a Democrat in their lives — because they knew in their guts that the country was on the wrong track and was desperately in need of nation-building at home and that John McCain was not the man to do it.
They thought that Mr. Obama, despite his liberal credentials, had the unique skills, temperament, voice and values to pull the country together for this new Apollo program — not to take us to the moon, but into the 21st century.
Alas, though, instead of making nation-building in America his overarching narrative and then fitting health care, energy, educational reform, infrastructure, competitiveness and deficit reduction under that rubric, the president has pursued each separately. This made each initiative appear to be just some stand-alone liberal obsession to pay off a Democratic constituency — not an essential ingredient of a nation-building strategy — and, therefore, they have proved to be easily obstructed, picked off or delegitimized by opponents and lobbyists.
So “Obamism” feels at worst like a hodgepodge, at best like a to-do list — one that got way too dominated by health care instead of innovation and jobs — and not the least like a big, aspirational project that can bring out America’s still vast potential for greatness.
Friedman begins with a false assumption – the belief that Obama won to do what he’s trying to do now. Instead Obama won because of a general dissatisfaction with the way things were aggravated by two wars. There was a mood to punish the Republicans. Obama was an attractive candidate when compared to old man John McCain. Friedman interpreted the win as a mandate to do the things Friedman and the left have always wanted done. In fact it wasn’t that at all. It was the right man in the right place at the right time with the right nebulous message that others wrote for themselves. And it comes as no surprise then when their premise is put to the test (“this is why America elected Obama”) it comes up snake-eyes. It is the usual delusion we’ve been talking about for years – it is never, ever the message/premise/narrative. It is always about how it is delivered. It’s just not being properly explained, packaged or marketed. If only the right way to present it could be found, the public would go “ah, of course” and all would be right with the world.
Obamism has, in fact, been presented in every way possible and has been rejected each and every time. It is time that Friedman and the left stop the self-delusion and recognize that it isn’t a problem with delivery or packaging, it is a problem with what what they want to do. It’s not what the majority of Americans want to do and the route to a one-term presidency and minority in Congress is to keep believing it has to do with “narrative” and pushing the present Obamism agenda.
With yesterday’s surprise retirement announcement by Evan Byah, another Senate seat moved into the “probably Republican pickup” column. Some think Bayh is positioning for a primary run against Obama in 2012. Like most senators, I expect Bayh does have presidential aspirations, but step one in serving that goal is to avoid a possible career-ending loss in a possible Democrat meltdown. He’ll likely decide later whether to make his presidential run in 2012 or 2016, depending on how vulnerable Obama looks in a couple of years.
A few days before that announcement, this article offered a good summary of the Senate races and their current status. As we already knew, things are getting dicey for the Democrats. The article lists North Dakota (Dorgan’s retirement), Delaware (Biden’s old seat), and Arkansas (Lincoln) as likely GOP pickups. Nevada (Reid), Colorado (Ken Salazar’s old seat), and Pennsylvania (Specter) are also not looking good for the Democrats. Other seats are rated as competitive, including Illinois (Obama’s old seat!), and Indiana. (If you’re keeping score, don’t forget to now promote Bayh up to “likely pickup”.)
The article even floated the idea of a GOP takeback of the Senate, though most think that’s still a distinct longshot. They put it this way:
Picking up ten seats and the majority is almost certainly out of reach for Republicans, although, with a few more strong recruits and some breaks, what recently seemed an impossible dream has become a remote possibility.
The GOP is defending in some places too, and the idea of an anti-incumbent fever eroding some of their gains is certainly a possibility.
I notice that the list of races in the article did not include two that could easily end up being competitive: California (Boxer) and Washington (Murray). Not much polling has been done in either, but what little we’ve seen didn’t show overwhelming strength. Boxer has already drawn some high-profile opponents, and seems to have worked hard to make herself look like a pretentious politician in the last couple of years, which is a bigger liability than usual in this year’s environment.
If the GOP picks up at least four more to go with Scott Brown, that pretty much writes the end of Obama’s collectivist wish list because it overcomes the power of squishes such as Snowe and Collins to hand him a victory. They now look likely to get that many.
Ten looks much harder, but even if they don’t make it, the more they score this time around, the better positioned they are to gain a majority in 2012.
Unfortunately, I don’t expect them to do much with increased power except thwart leftist Democrats. I don’t see a lot of senatorial GOP candidates who are significantly different from the current crowd or from the Lott/Frist group that handed Bush all his big-government requests and the unconstitutional campaign finance bill to boot. Rubio is about the only one with some promise.
If the Tea Party influence continues to grow, perhaps it will result in a few GOP senators considering spinal implantation instead of becoming dreary, complacent politicians assisting the drift to ever bigger government, spending, and debt. But in the Senate, at least, that possibility looks a lot more remote than the GOP taking back control.
*** Update 12:30 CST ***
Neo points out that 86-year-old NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg is in the hospital after a fall. Recall that the Republican Chris Christie scored a surprise upset in the governor’s race there. So yet more uncertainty for the Democrats, because if Lautenberg has to be replaced, it will likely be a Republican replacement.
And, in related news, Obama has decided that the problem is so serious he needs to apply more cowbell to it: Obama’s Save the Senate Tour.
That isn’t particularly surprising since we recently cited a Gallup poll saying the number was 75%. Suffice it to say the vast majority of the country doesn’t like how the federal government is doing its job.
What’s even more fascinating though is how CNN chooses to report that:
But the ABC News/Washington Post survey, released Thursday morning, suggests a partisan divide, with 8 out of ten conservative Republicans viewing how the federal government works in a negative way, but nearly 6 out of ten liberal Democrats saying they were enthusiastic or satisfied.
The 67 percent dissatisfaction level is the highest in ABC News/Washington post polling since it peaked at 70 percent in March 1996, in the months after the a federal government shutdown led by Republicans.
So which political party gets blamed for this dissatisfaction? A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll indicated that nearly half the public said they were angry at both political parties, with 11 percent angry only at the Republicans and 9 percent angry only at the Democrats.
So assuming, given the first paragraph, that “conservative Republicans” and “liberal Democrats” cancel each other out, what is the source of all this dissatisfaction? Well never mentioned are the independents. Obviously this number is being driven primarily by the dissatisfaction of independents who, as any political neophyte knows, are the key to elections.
And I’m sure there are a number of politicians out there who will misinterpret the part which says only “11 percent angry only at the Republicans and 9 percent angry only at the Democrats.” That’s not good news for either party – they don’t like any of you. See again “Tea Party”. Understand they are only the tip of the iceberg the good ship USS Congress is blithely approaching at full speed.
For the CNN poll, these are the highest dissatisfaction numbers since 1996 when they peaked at 70%.
This is another in a long line of polls which seems to be pointing to a very interesting midterm election season. It’s not going to be exclusively a “throw the Democrats out”. I think we’re going to see more of a “throw the incumbents” out. And I think the driving issue for most of the public – you know the teabagging, unwashed, clueless electorate – is fiscal sanity. They just aren’t seeing it, and they want it and they want it now.
A bunch of interesting polls have emerged today. One finds Obama at his lowest job performance rating yet. Of course, as you might expect, Republicans mostly disapprove of his job performance. Democrats, on the other hand, generally approve. But what gets his job approval rating to 44% approval, 47% disapproval in this Marist poll are the independents. They’re very dissatisfied with his performance – only 29% approve while almost twice that number, 57% disapprove.
Remember it was the independents who put Obama over the top in 2008. Also remember it was they who put Scott Brown over the top in MA and were key in the elections in VA and NJ.
As for Obama’s personal popularity, that too has suffered.
And while GOPers strive to avoid attacking Obama personally, for fear of offending voters who see him in a favorable light personally, even that aura of invincibility is wearing off. Independent voters view Obama negatively, too, by a 39% favorable to 52% unfavorable margin. All registered voters still see Obama favorably by a 50%-44% margin, but that’s down 5 points in just 2 months.
However, there’s more to this than just Obama’s job approval and personal ratings. Also found in this poll is a strong trend toward anti-incumbency:
Meanwhile, members of Congress should brace for a difficult election year. 42% of registered voters said they would back their current member of Congress, while 44% said they would support someone else — a drop of 9 points in support of the incumbent in just 2 months.
Rassmussen has a poll out that begins to flesh out why that trend is building. Three-quarters of the public, according to his latest polling data, express some level of anger at the policies of the federal government. That’s up 4 points from November. It is also why I call the Tea Parties the “tip of the populist iceberg”. There are a whole lot of unhappy voters out there.
So how does it break down? Well, not as Jacob Weisberg and the “ignorant, childish voters who want to live in Candyland” crew would have you believe.
Part of the frustration is likely due to the belief of 60% of voters that neither Republican political leaders nor Democratic political leaders have a good understanding of what is needed today. That finding is identical to the view last September, just after the tumultuous congressional town hall meetings the month before. But only 52% felt this way in November.
And, as time goes by, this trend continues to grow. Note that the leaders of both parties are identified as being clueless by this 60%.
So this week let’s revisit the comparison between the Political Class and the Mainstream (you proles in flyover land) voters. And as we saw last time we checked it out, the PC bunch is totally clueless:
The divide between the Political Class and Mainstream voters, however, is remarkable. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of Mainstream voters are angry, but 84% of the Political Class are not. Those numbers include 57% of Mainstream voters who are Very Angry and 51% of the Political Class who are not angry at all.
But then 68% of Mainstream voters don’t think the leaders of either major political party have a good understanding of what the country needs today. Sixty-one percent (61%) of the Political Class disagree.
By comparison, the majority of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliateds don’t believe the current political leaders have a good handle on what is needed today.
Older voters and higher-income voters share that belief most strongly.
Thus the Tea Parties and the very negative reaction by the PC to them. They simply don’t get it. Which is why we’re suffering through this spate of leftist pundit tantrums in which they damn the people, democracy, and the opposition for being unwilling to roll over and submit to their sublime enlightenment, ability to know what is good for us and benevolent despotism. We’re seeing laments about how the good old day before the damned internet, talk radio and 24 hour cable let the enlightened elite do as they wish.
Look around you my friends – to this point that’s worked out just wonderfully hasn’t it?
Rasmussen lists a bunch of reaction which pretty much outline what you’re hearing from the most vocal of the Tea Partiers:
Most voters oppose the now-seemingly-derailed health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats for months. They continue to have very mixed feelings about the $787-billion economic stimulus plan approved by Congress last February.
Looking back, most voters still don’t approve of the multi-billion-dollar government bailouts of the financial industry and troubled automakers General Motors and Chrysler.
Forty-nine percent (49%) worry the government will try to do too much to help the economy, while 39% fear it won’t do enough.
As the economy continues to stumble along, 59% of voters believe cutting taxes is better than increasing government spending as a job-creation tool, but 72% expect the nation’s elected politicians to increase spending instead.
Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.
Voters have consistently said for months that they have more confidence in their own economic judgment than that of either the president or Congress.
Charles Krauthammer calls this “The Great Peasant Revolt of 2010”. And in a very real sense it is. What Republicans haven’t yet grasped is this revolt is pretty non-partisan. The reason Republicans seem less threatened by it is because of their fiscally conservative, limited government philosophy. Democrats, on the other hand, suffer more because of their tendency toward fiscal profligacy and government expansion. The problem for Republicans, however, is the country is no longer in a mood to see them give fiscal conservatism and limited government lip service. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this Iowa poll:
A third of Iowans from across the political spectrum say they support the “tea party” movement, sounding a loud chorus of dissatisfaction with government, according to The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa Poll.
Neither party has a lock on these restless advocates of limited government and fiscal control, according to the poll. However, their conservative leanings appear to give Republicans a greater opportunity than Democrats to make gains at the dawn of a volatile election year.
Is the GOP listening?
It should be clear to both sides that we’re moving into an era of “do what you say or be gone”. The days when incumbents only left office when they assumed room temperature, as did Jack Murtha today, are coming to an end. What the Tea Parties signal is a much more connected, networked and activist population which has been empowered by the communications technology of today – much to the chagrin of the elitists.
The fun is just beginning. Barack Obama and the Democrats may not realize it, but the era of big government is over.
UPDATE: Gallup also has polling numbers out today. They run different approval ratings for Obama on 9 different issues.
At 36%, Americans give President Barack Obama his lowest job approval rating yet on his handling of the economy. By contrast, the president’s 51% approval rating on handling foreign affairs is up slightly from last month.
As I’ve noted any number of times, the foreign policy’s crisis is yet to come. 2009 was a year of checking out the new president and assessing his strengths and weaknesses. 2010 will be the year that actually tests his foreign policy skills and abilities.
On domestic issues, Obama’s approval rating is in the tank at 36%.
Most interesting though was the fact that in the list of 9 issues, both foreign and domestic, independents did not once give Obama a majority approval rating, again making the point that indies are not at all happy with his administration.
Marion Berry, Democratic Representative from Arkansas, has decided to retire from Congress voluntarily instead of chancing an involuntary retirement via the ballot box. Berry is considered a “blue dog” Democrat and is from a nominally conservative state whose voters have made it clear they don’t support the policies or agenda of this Congress or this president.
Berry relates an incident that struck me as the ultimate in hubris and arrogance:
Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.
“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.” [snip]
What got me laughing was how badly that statement may come to haunt Obama. They certainly have him, but as the political stars are aligning right now, “me” may end up in worse shape than did Bill Clinton. He’s already seen a super-majority go by the boards in the Senate – something Clinton never had – and it isn’t at all impossible that what most people would consider prohibitive majorities in both houses of Congress could be significantly reduced or, possibly, flip – although the latter is unlikely.
The only reason it wouldn’t be like ’94 is because there are enough Democratic safe seats to prevent the flip. But then, after Massachusetts, one has to wonder how many really safe seats there are. And what if the GOP trots something like this out in the interim?
In a recent interview with Diane Sawyer, President Obama said:
“I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.”
There is a third option which he obviously avoided. He could end up being a very mediocre and Carteresque one-term president the way things are trending.
The WSJ carries a story this morning entitled “White House Toughens Tone”. The essence of the article is the White House intends to use the State of the Union address to push an even larger agenda and isn’t about making any “abrupt policy shifts”. He will, however, be stressing jobs.
OK. So what? I think we’ve seen a year of speeches which, for the most part, pushed a nebulous agenda but then saw an ineffectual White House unable to push any of it through. What will be different with the SOTU address (other than the fact his use of his teleprompter will be in front of adults vs. sixth graders)?
The article also touts the fact that David Plouffe will be joining the staff of the White House. That is a purely political move, having little effect on policy or its accomplishment. Plouffe is a spin-meister whose preferred venue is a campaign where claims are rarely questioned. That’s not the venue he will find in the White House. And again, if nothing in terms of leadership from the White House follows the SOTU speech, the result will be much the same as it has been all year, Plouffe or no Plouffe.
“People are working harder,” White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” referring to the economy. “If they have a job, they’re working harder for less. They’re falling behind. That’s been true for a decade. They look at a wave of irresponsibility from Wall Street to Washington that led to that. And those were the frustrations that got the president elected in the first place, and they were reflected again on Tuesday” in the Massachusetts election.
All that Republican can hope for is David Axelrod and the White House keep believing this. The frustration he’s seeing from voters has little to do with Wall Street, despite the White House’s attempt to make it a populist cause. What is “frustrating” the voters is the out of control government spending and the massively increasing size of government and it’s continued intrusion into their lives. Yes, they want government focusing on the economy and jobs. But not if the “answer” is throwing more money we don’t have at it. Do what is necessary with tax cuts (such as an immediate one for payroll taxes) and rolling back some of the regulatory regime to encourage business to hire and expand. But Democrats and the White House seem oblivious to the fact that 56% of the country opposed the so-called “stimulus” and still do. So I look for Obama to promise massive spending increases to support whatever “focus” he brings to jobs in the SOTU address.
As for Republicans? Well, they have it wrong as well:
Republicans, meanwhile, said their victory in Massachusetts was spurred by opposition to the health overhaul. “The message in Massachusetts was absolutely clear,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “The exit polls that I looked at said 48% of the people in Massachusetts said they voted for the new senator over health care. Only 5% mentioned any other issue. The American people had a victory in Massachusetts, and they were sending us the message ‘Stop and start over.’ ”
Certainly health care was the immediate issue that is most identified as a reason for voting for Brown, but Brown’s overall theme was less spending, less taxation and smaller government. The voter’s disapproval of health care was just part of a broader disapproval of an out of control government spending them into penury. People are finally frightened by what they see. Over the decades the increases in the size, scope and spending of government has been relatively slow and incremental. But within the last year, it has been so massive that even the most disinterested of citizens has been alarmed by it. Democrats are seeking to raise the debt ceiling by 1.9 trillion dollars – again.
This sort of spending is recognized as “out of control” by even the least informed among us. If Republicans focus only on the Brown victory being about health care, they will, as usual, have missed the real problem and the real issue. And that’s unfortunate because it is an issue that plays to their strengths much better than it does those of Democrats. Scott Brown is going to Washington DC because he’s talked about making government smaller, less intrusive and less expensive. He ran a good campaign focused on those primary core issues. It is a blueprint for the coming midterms if the Republicans are smart enough to figure that out and use those broad issues against this Congress and President. They need to get over gloating about stopping health care and make the point that it’s about stopping explosive government growth and the spending that goes with it. It’s about telling the people we can’t afford this and they’re the ones to right the ship of state and cut back on its size and expense. For once, it appears the people are ready to listen to that message. I’m not sure how many more hints they have to throw the Republican’s way before they finally figure it out.
We have two examples today and they’re each interesting because of who they are.
The first is a self-identified independent – Jill Dorson. She voted twice for Bush, but, as she admits, fell hard for the hype Obama put out there. She was also put off by the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate.
I voted for hope and change and all the intangibles that Obama was peddling in the wake of the financial crisis, Sarah Palin, Sept. 11 and all the other ills that shook our country in the last decade. I wanted something new. Something different. What I got was, I suppose, exactly what I voted for – a spin doctor. And not a very good one at that.
She speaks of how quickly “hope” and “change” went by the boards. How she watched the same sort of policies she thought she had voted against continued. And the bailouts, huge spending programs and the like horrified her.
It was clear after just 90 days what a mistake I’d made. My taxes have gone up and my quality of life has gone down. Hope has given way to disgust and I see now that change is simply a euphemism for “big government.”
Like many others, my view is narrow. I vote for the candidate I think will be best for me. I often define myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. But above all, I want to feel safe and I don’t want to feel that I am being ripped off. I want a president who inspires me and cares about my contribution to the fabric of the country. I want a president with experience and savvy, a Commander in Chief who puts our country and its citizens first.
I only hope the Republicans can find him the next time around.
She nails three points – one, Obama’s a fraud and hasn’t even come close to living up to his promises; two, his “change” was to bigger and even more intrusive government; and three, none of that will matter in 2012 unless Republicans can find a good candidate that year (and, as you can tell, she’s made it clear that’s not Sarah Palin).
But the bottom line is, she’s open to another “change”,. In fact, she’s begging for it. And, I think, she’s indicative of the feelings of many independents (not necessarily for the same reasons) – this is not the change or the guy they thought he was.
Which brings us to the second example of buyer’s remorse – this one is scathing and it’s from a “progressive”. He entitles it “How to Squander the Presidency in One Year” and then David Michael Green spends at least a 1000 words describing how that has been accomplished in detail, calling Obama the Conan O’Brian of presidents. You may not agree with much of what he says, historically, but when he finally gets to Obama he doesn’t hold back.
One point he makes resonated with me as it is a point I’ve been making for a while, in fact, as recently as Friday:
* He does not lead. Americans, especially in times of crisis, want their daddy-president to pick a point on the horizon and lead them to it. Often – especially in the short term – they don’t even care that much which point it is. They will happily follow a president whose policies they oppose if he will but lead.
Everything after the first sentence is a load. But even Green has figured out that Obama isn’t a leader and has never demonstrated any leadership. And that has consequences. Green comes to the very same conclusions I voiced Friday:
* He has therefore let Congress ‘lead’ on nearly every issue, another surefire mistake. Instead of demanding that they pass real stimulus legislation – which would have really stimulated the economy, big-time, and right now – he let those d*ckheads on the Hill just load up a big pork party blivet of a bill with all the pet projects they could find, designed purely to benefit their personal standing with the voters at home, rather than to actually produce jobs for Americans. And on health care, his signature issue, he did the same thing. “You guys write it, and I’ll sign the check.” Could there possibly be a greater prescription for failure than allowing a bunch of the most venal people on the planet to cobble together a 2,000 page monstrosity that entirely serves their interests and those of the people whose campaign bribes put them in office?
Bingo. And Green goes on and on and on. Be sure to read it all. The point, of course, is he’s managed to alienate not only the voters who would be the determining factor in any election – the big middle – but his base, which held so much “hope” for his presidency and now realize they bought a pig in a poke and should have known better. What that translates into is an “enthusiasm gap” which is going to be hard to bridge if things don’t change. And, if nothing changes, Indies will vote for the other guy (assuming the Republicans have a worthwhile candidate lined up) and Democrats will stay home.
We’ve seen president’s change before. Bill Clinton was at one time declared to be “irrelevant” yet he managed to again make himself very relevant. And George Bush was counted out more times than any president I know of, yet managed to remain relevant through the majority of his 2 terms.
Obama has got a tough row to hoe – but it is one of his own making. Back to Jill Dorson. She made an interesting statement about the last election:
You see, I felt my choice was to risk McCain dropping dead and letting the world’s most well-known hockey mom run this country …
But instead she decided on risking a junior Senator with absolutely no experience because he was so attractive:
I am ashamed to say that I was blinded by charisma. Obama was so convincing that I stopped caring about what he knew and started getting caught up in the euphoria. Imagine having a president who came from a broken home, who had money troubles, who did grass-roots community service? A young father. The first black president. It pains me to admit I got caught up in the hoopla.
Once that admission is made – and I have a feeling, bolstered by the results in VA, NJ and MA, that it is being made a lot – there’s no going back. That’s where Dorsen finds herself now. And interestingly, so does Green. Those defections translate into votes for whomever opposed Obama and an “enthusiasm gap” among his supporters which may see them sitting home.
That doesn’t bode well for Obama in 2012 unless the Republicans again run some tired old war horse that is unable to excite the base or independents, as they managed to do last time. So while Obama certainly has his problems they’re not necessarily terminal, electorally speaking, just yet. However, I’d say if the Republicans can find an attractive candidate and run a grounded, issue oriented campaign (like Scott Brown in MA) that reflects their principles of less government, less spending and fewer taxes, they have a good shot in the next presidential election.