Funny stuff. Paul Krugman, representing much of the left, has apparently finally noticed what an empty suit Obama is:
What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?
I realize that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there’s not much Mr. Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn’t even using that — or, rather, he’s using it to reinforce his enemies’ narrative.
Of course Krugman is pretty much focused on economic issues and so seemingly hasn’t been watching Obama through most of his presidency, as many of us have. He’s finally noticed the “timid guy” who doesn’t seem to stand for anything but does enjoy a good round of golf.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it has taken this long – the blinkers had to be firmly in place to elect him in the first place. You had, to quote Hillary Clinton as she addressed Gen. Petraeus about the situation in Iraq some years ago, “willingly suspend disbelief” in order to vote for the guy in the first place. What you had to suspend was the belief that experience and leadership count for something, especially when you’re talking about the highest office in the land.
This timid guy Krugman is talking about has shown the rest of us over and over he’s really unsuited for the job. And now, even the Krugman’s of the world are beginning to take some notice.
I have to admit to laughing out loud at Krugman’s example – apparently the one that finally clued him into the problem:
His remarks after last week’s budget deal were a case in point.
Maybe that terrible deal, in which Republicans ended up getting more than their opening bid, was the best he could achieve — although it looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions.
And bear in mind that this was just the first of several chances for Republicans to hold the budget hostage and threaten a government shutdown; by caving in so completely on the first round, Mr. Obama set a baseline for even bigger concessions over the next few months.
Of course Krugman, as typified by his one-trick pony policy of more and more government spending to cure all ills is bound to be upset by any spending concessions a Democrat might make. However, I loved his characterization of Obama’s bargaining style. It is true and not only does it point to someone totally out of his depth, but someone with no real principles upon which to make a stand.
Krugman turns his attention, after wondering what happened to Obama, to trying to trash everything the GOP has put forward or will put forward. But so captured is he by his discovery of what Obama isn’t that he has to return to that subject:
You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval.
What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise.
But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing.
Baloney. Krugman has to have lived in a cave if he believes the rhetoric has even come close to matching the reality of the Obama presidency. He is not a transcendent figure by any stretch. He is, instead, a true exception to the Peter Principle and has indeed risen to a level above his incompetence.
But to Krugman’s last point – Obama believes in one thing – Obama. And any objective appraisal of his performance in office these past 2+ years cannot give him very high marks on “principle” or a willingness to take a stand. There’s a reason for that. Obama traded principle for the achievement of his ambition years ago. He’s intelligent enough to talk the talk, but he seems absolutely incapable of walking the walk or even attempting to do so.
As Dale said on the podcast last night, you sometimes get the feeling that when he says something he truly believes it becomes reality. In this world you actually have to take action and lead to have things happen. Obama has no idea how to do that.
It was made without the apparent participation of the United States in the early decision making process. From Foreign Policy’s The Cable blog:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meetings in Paris with the G8 foreign ministers on Monday left her European interlocutors with more questions than answers about the Obama administration’s stance on intervention in Libya.
Inside the foreign ministers’ meeting, a loud and contentious debate erupted about whether to move forward with stronger action to halt Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s campaign against the Libyan rebels and the violence being perpetrated against civilians. Britain and France argued for immediate action while Germany and Russia opposed such a move, according to two European diplomats who were briefed on the meeting.
Clinton stayed out of the fray, repeating the administration’s position that all options are on the table but not specifically endorsing any particular step. She also did not voice support for stronger action in the near term, such as a no-fly zone or military aid to the rebels, both diplomats said.
"The way the U.S. acted was to let the Germans and the Russians block everything, which announced for us an alignment with the Germans as far as we are concerned," one of the diplomats told The Cable.
Clinton’s unwillingness to commit the United States to a specific position led many in the room to wonder exactly where the administration stood on the situation in Libya.
"Frankly we are just completely puzzled," the diplomat said. "We are wondering if this is a priority for the United States."
I’m beginning to understand the phrase "above the fray" or "stayed out of the fray" as essentially means refusing to involve or commit to anything much less make a decision. And that’s precisely what happened at the G8 meeting.
What worried diplomats even more was this:
On the same day, Clinton had a short meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in which Sarkozy pressed Clinton to come out more forcefully in favor of action in Libya. She declined Sarkozy’s request, according to a government source familiar with the meeting.
Sarkozy told Clinton that "we need action now" and she responded to him, "there are difficulties," the source said, explaining that Clinton was referring to China and Russia’s opposition to intervention at the United Nations. Sarkozy replied that the United States should at least try to overcome the difficulties by leading a strong push at the U.N., but Clinton simply repeated, "There are difficulties."
One diplomat, who supports stronger action in Libya, contended that the United States’ lack of clarity on this issue is only strengthening those who oppose action.
That “lack of clarity” can be translated as a lack of leadership on the issue. Casting around in the G8 minister’s meeting for some sort of consensus toward action or inaction, both sides looked to the US to commit. It simply refused to do so. Whether you support or oppose a NFZ, you have to be concerned that we had no strategy or apparent game plan when we entered that meeting.
Hillary Clinton tries to spin it as it being a matter of venue:
In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday in Cairo, Clinton pointed to the U.N. Security Council as the proper venue for any decision to be made and she pushed back at the contention by the British and the French that the U.S. was dragging its feet.
"I don’t think that is fair. I think, based on my conversations in Paris with the G-8 ministers, which, of course, included those two countries, I think we all agree that given the Arab League statement, it was time to move to the Security Council to see what was possible," Clinton said. I don’t want to prejudge it because countries are still very concerned about it. And I know how anxious the British and the French and the Lebanese are, and they have taken a big step in presenting something. But we want to get something that will do what needs to be done and can be passed."
"It won’t do us any good to consult, negotiate, and then have something vetoed or not have enough votes to pass it," Clinton added.
But that is patent nonsense. You had most of the movers and shakers there. In fact, it was the prefect venue to get preliminary negotiations underway, make a case one way or the other and then use the UN as the final place to seal the deal. Diplomacy 101.
Now, this is important – note the day the BBC interview was done: Wednesday. Note the day the G8 meeting was: Monday.
So what happened Tuesday?
At the start of this week, the consensus around Washington was that military action against Libya was not in the cards. However, in the last several days, the White House completely altered its stance and successfully pushed for the authorization for military intervention against Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. What changed?
The key decision was made by President Barack Obama himself at a Tuesday evening senior-level meeting at the White House, which was described by two administration officials as "extremely contentious." Inside that meeting, officials presented arguments both for and against attacking Libya. Obama ultimately sided with the interventionists. His overall thinking was described to a group of experts who had been called to the White House to discuss the crisis in Libya only days earlier.
"This is the greatest opportunity to realign our interests and our values," a senior administration official said at the meeting, telling the experts this sentence came from Obama himself. The president was referring to the broader change going on in the Middle East and the need to rebalance U.S. foreign policy toward a greater focus on democracy and human rights.
You may be saying, “wohoo, he finally made a freakin’ decision”. Well yeah, he could see how it was going and he could see where it would probably end up, so you have to wonder, was it a decision or was it more of a rationalization?
My guess it was the latter. And it is the third “strategy” for the region that the US has displayed in as many months.
But Obama’s stance in Libya differs significantly from his strategy regarding the other Arab revolutions. In Egypt and Tunisia, Obama chose to rebalance the American stance gradually backing away from support for President Hosni Mubarak and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and allowing the popular movements to run their course. In Yemen and Bahrain, where the uprisings have turned violent, Obama has not even uttered a word in support of armed intervention – instead pressing those regimes to embrace reform on their own. But in deciding to attack Libya, Obama has charted an entirely new strategy, relying on U.S. hard power and the use of force to influence the outcome of Arab events.
"In the case of Libya, they just threw out their playbook," said Steve Clemons, the foreign policy chief at the New America Foundation. "The fact that Obama pivoted on a dime shows that the White House is flying without a strategy and that we have a reactive presidency right now and not a strategic one."
Bingo – Clemons is dead on the money. There is no well thought out strategy for the Middle East – this is just someone winging it, figuring out where world (or regional opinion lies) and giving himself enough space for deniability should something go wrong. The cool kids in the world want to bomb Libya, so hey, we should probably do it too now that they’re committed – but we shouldn’t be seen as leading it in case it turns out badly”.
The rationalization for backing the action comes from the realization that it is probably going to happen, and unlike the US, France and the UK aren’t going to let Russia and Germany decide it for them without ever engaging in a fight.
So we now trot out our 3rd “realignment” of “our interests and values”? Really? Pray what are they? And what were they?
Clemons point about the fact that this points to a reactive presidency shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s part of leadership, or lack thereof. Leaders have a strategy and a plan. You may not like it, but they have one. And since it has to do with foreign affairs, it should address the best interests of the US. Three different strategies driven by who knows what in a three month period does not argue for a comprehensive or coherent strategy, much less a plan.
This is the ultimate in finger in the wind diplomacy and another in a long line of indicators highlighting the dangerous lack of leadership under which this country is now suffering.
Anne-Marie Slaughter has a piece entitled “Fiddling While Libya Burns” in the NYT. She opens with this:
PRESIDENT Obama says the noose is tightening around Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. In fact, it is tightening around the Libyan rebels, as Colonel Qaddafi makes the most of the world’s dithering and steadily retakes rebel-held towns. The United States and Europe are temporizing on a no-flight zone while the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Gulf Cooperation Council and now the Arab League have all called on the United Nations Security Council to authorize one. Opponents of a no-flight zone have put forth five main arguments, none of which, on close examination, hold up.
The Libyan rebels aren’t particularly happy with the rest of the world at all. As Gadhafi’s forces close in on Benghazi, the rebel commander has said the world has failed them.
Foreign Ministers from the Group of Eight nations failed to agree yesterday on imposing a no-fly zone. In Paris, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe of France, which along with the U.K. has pressed for aggressive action against Qaddafi, said he couldn’t persuade Russia to agree to a no-fly zone as other allies, including Germany, raised objections to military intervention.
So since Russia can’t be persuaded and Germany raised objections, no go on the NFZ. Notice who is not at all mentioned in that paragraph. Oh, too busy filling out the NCAA brackets? Got it.
"President Obama opened up with a plea for bracket participants to keep the people of Japan front of mind, saying, ‘One thing I wanted to make sure that viewers who are filling out their brackets — this is a great tradition, we have fun every year doing it — but while you’re doing it, if you’re on your laptop, et cetera, go to usaid.gov and that’s going to list a whole range of charities where you can potentially contribute to help the people who have been devastated in Japan. I think that would be a great gesture as you’re filling out your brackets.’
There that’s covered – anyone for golf?
Lybia Libya. Morning Defense (from POLITICO) says:
Here’s your readout from Tuesday evening: "At today’s meeting, the President and his national security team reviewed the situation in Libya and options to increase pressure on Qadhafi. In particular, the conversation focused on efforts at the United Nations and potential UN Security Council actions, as well as ongoing consultations with Arab and European partners. The President instructed his team to continue to fully engage in the discussions at the United Nations, NATO and with partners and organizations in the region."
Well the great gab fest is underway, or at least planned to be under way. Oh, what was it President Obama said on March 3rd?
With respect to our willingness to engage militarily, … I’ve instructed the Department of Defense … to examine a full range of options. I don’t want us hamstrung. … Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: The violence must stop. Muammar Gaddafi has lost legitimacy to lead, and he must leave.”
Uh huh. So there is a reason for the rebels in Libya to at least feel a little let down, isn’t there. There’s a reason they’re saying things like:
“These politicians are liars. They just talk and talk, but they do nothing.”
Yes sir, now there’s a group that obviously thinks much more highly of America since Obama took office. Or:
Iman Bugaighis, a professor who has become a spokeswoman for the rebels, lost her composure as she spoke about the recent death of a friend’s son, who died in battle last week. Her friend’s other son, a doctor, was still missing. Western nations, she said, had “lost any credibility.”
“I am not crying out of weakness,” she said. “I’ll stay here until the end. Libyans are brave. We will stand for what we believe in. But we will never forget the people who stood with us and the people who betrayed us.”
Fear not Ms. Bugaighis, the UN is on the job:
The United Nations Security Council was discussing a resolution that would authorize a no-flight zone to protect civilians, but its prospects were uncertain at best, diplomats said.
I think an episode that best typifies what is going on in the Obama administration (and is being mirrored around the world) is to be found in the British comedy “Yes, Prime Minister”. If this isn’t what we’re seeing, I don’t know what typifies it better (via Da Tech Guy). Pay particular attention (around the 8 minute mark) to the “4 stage strategy”. It is what is happening in spades:
In case you missed it, weren’t able to view the vid for whatever reason or just need a recap, here’s the 4 Stage Strategy:
Dick: “In stage 1 we say ‘Nothing is going to Happen’”
Sir Humphrey: “In stage 2 we say ‘Something may be going to happen but we should do nothing about it’”
Dick: “In stage 3 we say “maybe we should do something about it but there’s nothing we can do.’”
Sir Humphrey: “In stage 4 we say ‘Maybe there was something we could have done, but it’s too late now’”
Folks, there it is in a nutshell. The Obama variation, aka the “Obama Doctrine” as outlined by Conn Carroll is this:
It assumes that big problems can be solved with big words while the messy details take care of themselves. It places far too much confidence in international entities, disregards for the importance of American independence, and fails to emphasize American exceptionalism.
And gets absolutely nothing accomplished.
Oh, about that golf game …
[ASIDE] This is not a plea for a No Fly Zone in Libya. It is an assessment of the way this administration has approached almost every crisis it has been faced with. Back to my point about this president trying to defer everything that requires any sort of difficult decision to others. This is just another in a long line of examples of that and his refusal to anything more than talk and give the impression of relevant action without any really being done.
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Japanese earthquake and the implications for US nuclear policy, and Pres Obaba’s leadership style.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
John Hinderaker at Powerline hits on something I’ve been saying for quite some time about the man in the White House:
Last night Col. Ralph Peters was on Bill O’Reilly’s show, talking about Libya. Peters thinks we should act on behalf of the rebels there, but he expressed skepticism that President Obama will ever do anything. "Obama loves the idea of being President," Peters said, "but he can’t make a decision."
I think there is a lot of truth to that, even in domestic policy, where Obama has passively deferred to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi on all legislative matters. One can debate whether action is appropriate in Libya or not, but Peters is certainly right when it comes to foreign policy–it is a safe bet that Obama will do nothing, because doing something would require a decision.
Now it just so happens that I think we ought to stay out of Libya, so this is a stopped clock moment for me. I essentially agree with Obama’s non-decision.
However, to the larger point. I agree with Peters completely when he says “Obama loves the idea of President, but he can’t make a decision”. I might have said it a little differently. Obama loves the idea of being President and the trappings and perks. What he doesn’t like is the job.
I think that should be abundantly clear to anyone who has closely observed the man and taken a look at his background. I always remember the words of the managing editor of the Harvard Law Review who said that Obama loved the title of Editor of the Law Review, but he didn’t want to do the work. The managing editor said he rarely saw him except when it was to glad hand or take credit (and praise) for what was being done. Additionally, Obama never wrote a thing for the review during his tenure, something almost unheard of.
In all cases, his problem is a leadership problem – a familiar topic for regular readers here. He’s simply not a leader. He has no idea how to be a leader. But that doesn’t keep him from wanting leadership roles that offer him prestige, perks and pleasure derived from simply from being in the position.
The reason Obama can’t make a decision is he can’t reason like a leader must. He has no experience. And he doesn’t understand the decision making process as practiced by a leader. He’s never really had to make leadership decisions. So he simply tries to avoid making them. One way he does it is to ignore the problem. Another way he does this is to appoint commissions and panels concerning problems the country faces in order to defer the problem (and decision). He also like to defer to the “international community” on foreign policy or the Democratic leadership in the legislature on domestic things. Again, the avoidance of decision making.
And, in the end, he lets them make the decisions for him and then he jumps on the bandwagon with a speech full of rhetoric about how they (whichever party he is deferring to on whatever issue) have listened to him and decided on a course much like he recommended. Or something like that.
Even the Democrats are noticing how poor a leader he is. They’ve been hollering for weeks, some of them very vocally, that he needs to step up and show some leadership in the budget process. To this point he’s done much of nothing. Today he gave a press conference on energy because gas prices have increased. Essentially his line of argument, concerning domestic oil, is we’re doing fine and we shouldn’t worry.
And where has he decided to try to take a little leadership?
Umhmmm. That boiling, roiling top tier controversy that threatens to tear the world apart. On the turmoil in the Middle East, yeah, uh, not so much. France is doing just fine and besides, Hillary will be by to see you soon.
Instead of a leader, we’re stuck with this:
Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, “No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.”
Amazing. "Easier". See Peters’ words above.
I say we cut him loose in 2012 and let him take the “hope and change” show to China to make his case. They’ll be bankrupt inside of 2 years.
It is sort of surprising that it is even necessary to put this up, but as most of us know, people pay more attention to visual evidence than written. And written is sometimes open to misinterpretation. I challenge anyone to misinterpret this:
If the US were a business, this would be it’s “Income Statement”. And this isn’t a one time “it’ll get better next year” sort of statement either. Neither income nor spending are projected by the administration to be much different in its 10 year budget projections.
Note where 58% of the spending comes from. Do your own calculations -the most simple, of course is taking $2.2 trillion from $3.5 trillion and understanding that you have a shortfall of S1.3 trillion.
The chart comes from a very interesting report from a financial analyst at KPCB, Mary Meeker. She takes a look at the US’s finances as if the country was a business. Business Insider (HT: Pundit Review) lays out some of the gory details and what is discussed in the report as recommendations:
• Spending as a percent of GDP rose 3 percent each year from 1790 and 1930. Worse: It rose 24% in 2010.
• Debt levels will be three times current levels by 2030. Entitlements and interest alone will exceed total revenue by 2025.
• Only 1 in 50 Americans needed Medicaid when it was first created in 1965, 1 in 6 Americans receives Medicaid now.
• Extended unemployment benefits could set back America Inc. $34 billion in the next two years alone.
• The only good investments: technology, education and infrastructure.
• The crucial reforms: entitlement and tax policies
• There is no quick-fix to America’s deficit problem. While raising taxes could help, the only real solution is cutting costs.
• Why we should cut Medicare benefits by 53%
• Why we should increase the retirement age to 73 or cut Social Security benefits by 12%.
Emphasis mine. Essentially the ground truth about the country’s financial situation is the only way to get it in order is to commit to massive cuts in spending. Superfluous to that argument is any argument claiming certain programs or government departments or any other aspect of government should be exempt. That said, it is clear to anyone with eyes that the major problem lies in too much spending for entitlements. For instance how is it a program that was designed to fund medical care for the poor in this country and when started had 1 in 50 Americans enrolled now enrolls 1 in every 6 Americans? My guess is you’ll find the same to be true of most so-called “anti-poverty” programs today.
And the billions upon billions we throw at education through the Dept. of Education which hasn’t raised the yearly results of our students one iota since its inception. Or the Department of Energy – created in Jimmy Carter’s day to do what? Lessen our dependence on foreign oil. That’s worked well hasn’t it?
We’re talking drastic action here, folks. And we’re talking getting a grip and facing reality – not this “hey, make cuts but don’t touch our entitlements” nonsense that some polls reflect. Nor can these cuts fall victim to whining by special interests. And it would be wonderful, in an obvious era of austerity, if the White House could manage a little leadership as well:
Last July, Obama announced that he wanted federal workers to cut down on business travel and commuting by car in order to reduce emissions produced by the federal government:
The White House was announcing Tuesday that the government will aim to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from indirect sources like employee driving by 13 percent in 2020, compared with 2008 levels.
That’s for everyone else. The Obama’s of course, are exempt from such things and as an example, fly in their personal trainer every week for a workout. Imagine the reduction in emissions if they were to actually practice what they preach and hire a local personal trainer.
Pulling it all together, this is the problem we face in getting the country’s house in order. Those that are talking about (and actually trying) cutting spending are now cast as bad guys. Special interests are spooling up their sob stories. The bureaucracy is beginning to fortify the walls around its huge and expensive kingdom. And much of the public wants cuts without pain. Meanwhile, other than lip service, the so-called leadership of this country doesn’t seem to understand what leadership is, what it entails and why it is important to set a good example – that is if they’re actually serious about doing what they claim we must do.
If this were a company, as Mary Meeker lays out in her study, investors would be cashing out as quickly as they could and others would be avoiding anything to do with this wreck. The bottom line of Meeker’s report is the road down which we’ve kicked the can for decades has come to a dead-end. We’re there. We can’t kick it one single foot further.
The time has finally come and the question is, are we up to the task at hand? Do we have the political will and leadership necessary to get done what must be done? Unfortunately, I don’t think so – financially speaking and addressing the quality of leadership available, the election of the empty suit in the White House couldn’t have come at a worse time.
There are at least two ways this crisis will be solved. Deliberately through tough and painful measures enacted by a leadership that directly confronts the problem and makes tough choices, or spontaneously when we reach a tipping point and everything collapses in a heap and we’re left surveying the ruins and wondering what happened.
Any guess as to which scenario I think is most likely?
Apparently that’s what everyone expects to hear in the SOTU address. And most see it as a reflection of political reality. Independents deserted the Democrats fairly quickly after the Obama administration took office, apparently not liking what they saw developing at all. So here comes the inevitable shift – at least the perception of one – to the center in order to win them back.
The left? Where are they going to go? Who else would they vote for? They’re not going anywhere despite all their grumbling and mumbling about Obama’s attempt to move right (and yes, a move by Obama to the center means a distinct move to the right). Here’s the reality:
A labor official, who asked not to be identified in order to speak more candidly about the president’s political situation, noted that “the midterm elections freed” Obama to work independently and without regard to his party’s left.
“The left understands that the choice in 2012 will be Obama or somebody far worse,” the official said. “They will have no choice, no matter what Obama says in the State of the Union address. No matter how much we complain, he knows that at the end of the day, we will be supporting him in 2012 — and that affects what he can do now. The choice for us will be an administration that disappointed us or a Republican administration that will be out to destroy us.”
Colorful language, but you get the drift. The far left is stuck with him and Obama knows it. It is the center where elections are won, and right now they don’t belong to him.
So how does he win them back?
Well the Democrats hope that it will be through leadership. Rep Anthony Weiner lays it out:
“He’s the president of the United States, and he’s got to go in there and lean into the idea that he still has an agenda he wants to accomplish,” Weiner said. “He has to make sure he’s leading the debate and Paul Ryan is responding, not the other way around.
“He has to make it clear that he’s not going to be held hostage over issues like the debt-limit increase,” Weiner said.
But, as usual and instead, the President plans to vote “present”:
But the president’s decision not to lay out his own vision for reducing the national debt has infuriated balanced-budget advocates, who fear that a bipartisan consensus for action fostered last month by Obama’s commission could wither without presidential leadership.
"There is no way you get momentum without the president. If you don’t lead now, when is it going to come?" said Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "He has to go first and he has to be specific. He has to pivot to something hard."
And pander, of course:
The direction of Obama’s speech became apparent over the weekend, when the White House informed Democratic lawmakers and advocates for the elderly that he would not endorse the commission’s recommendation to raise the retirement age and make other cuts to Social Security – the single largest federal program.
The sound you hear, my friends, is that of the can being swiftly kicked down the road again – something candidate Obama said wasn’t going to happen on his watch.
The administration claims that it’s goals will be more specifically addressed in the budget request the White House submits in mid February. Per Robert Gibbs, the SOTU is just not the proper venue for specifics. Well, except when you want to take a shot at the Supreme Court, who, by the way, will only have partial attendance this year, with a group of conservative justices clearly deciding to show their disapproval of the partisan sniping they were victim too in last year’s SOTU.
Yup, all in all politics rules the day with the political advice being as predictable as sunrise. Obama, being the ultimate political animal, will indeed heed it, but the left shouldn’t look for any leadership to suddenly emerge where none has been evident in the past and the center should be wary of the now well-known smoke and mirrors show the administration puts on regularly – saying one thing and doing something else altogether.
Life in the Obama White House I’m afraid.
I continue to be incredulous of the blatant political opportunism this shooting of Rep. Giffords has unleashed on the left. OK, not really. But in a way, it is the Paul Wellstone memorial all over again on a national level.
First, all of this angst over political rhetoric is so overwrought and overblown as to be laughable. There has never been a time in the history of this land that the language hasn’t been rough or partisan. Never. Pretending this is the worst it has ever been is simply historically inaccurate. It may be more obvious now because of mass communications and the democratization of opinion, but it isn’t at all any different than it ever has been. Folks, do a little digging in the history books. Hell, use Google. I’m not going to do you homework for you, but trust me on this – this era isn’t any better or worse than the vast majority of the rest of them.
Secondly, the entire premise of those calling for the toning down of the rhetoric originally was that it was the cause on the attack on Giffords. Now it is becoming more and more apparent that isn’t the case. But it provides such an opportunity for the left to demonize the right that the talking heads and political advisors continue to make that point even while they walk it back a little with a disclaimer about this guy being a nut. It now goes something like “we must ratchet the vitriol and rhetoric down, even if this guy wasn’t a right wing nut influenced by it”.
Right now the only reason they can come up with is “it could happen”. When they first started harping on this nonsense, soon after the shooting, you got the impression that the left was 99.9% sure this guy was a right-wing militia member or something. As it turns out he was the .01% loon instead. But that hasn’t slowed down the messaging has it?
And, as I mentioned in another post, political strategists see this as a golden opportunity for the president to speak out on something that didn’t occur. Oh, forget the last part of that – we’ll pretend it did to give Obama’s forthcoming words some sort of foundation of relevance. One of those political strategists who are enamored with the opportunity is the odious Paul Begala:
Paul Begala, one of Clinton’s top political advisers during the 1990s, thinks Obama has a genuine opportunity to re-define the nation’s political debate – a promise he first made in his breakout 2004 speech to the Democratic convention —and reclaim moral high ground lost during the last two years of intense partisan combat.
“One of the things I learned from Oklahoma City is not to rush to judgment…We don’t know this Arizona animal’s motive,” said Begala.
“But almost irrespective of that, it wouldn’t hurt for all of us to tone things down a bit – myself included. If the President uses this tragedy to challenge us all to move to higher ground, it would be a welcome message. And if the right tries to demonize him for doing that, they will look small and petty and extreme.” [emphasis mine]
Begala learned “not to rush to judgment” in the OK City tragedy? Did he really? So why is he doing it now by attempting to tie political rhetoric (“tone things down a bit”) to the shooting in Tucson (the reason for any speech Obama might make)?
Well in reality I guess he doesn’t. Note the “but almost irrespective of that” phrase. He’s saying, hey it really doesn’t matter if the dream scenario didn’t play out (right winger shoots left wing pol), this is still a great opportunity for the President to pull a Bill Clinton and demonize the right (although he doesn’t say that specifically, that’s precisely what Clinton did – Limbaugh and the militias were the bad guys then) and connect with the people (which he sorely needs to do). And, of course, if the right fights back, well “they will look small and petty”?
What if the right fights back by throwing the facts of the case (loon, not right winger, shot Giffords not because of rhetoric, but because he’s a loon) in the President’s face and standing firmly on 1st Amendment grounds to resist the call to curb political speech, Mr. Begala? Who’ll look rather diminished then, sir?
Begala’s not the only operative salivating on the chance to capitalize on this tragedy:
Veteran Democratic consultant Dan Gerstein said the crisis “really plays to Obama’s strengths as consensus-builder” and gives him the opportunity to build a deeper emotional connection with the people he governs.
“He’ll be active, but also very careful not to appear like he’s blaming or politicizing,” Gerstein predicted.
Since when has Obama yet demonstrated he is a “consensus-builder?” On what? And when in his last two years hasn’t he “blamed” or “politicized” just about everything? If I hear anything more about his “predecessor” or about what he “inherited” I’ll puke. If Gerstein is Obama’s consultant, it isn’t at all difficult to understand why Obama is in trouble. Gerstein obviously has Obama mixed up with someone else.
Gerstein goes on:
“The biggest question about him is strength – can he be a strong leader? This tragedy will give him an opportunity to answer that question and build a closer emotional connection with the middle of the electorate that sees this as a reflection of something disturbing about our politics.”
I can answer that question – making a speech about a shooting and calling for toned down rhetoric and less partisanship (while having use heated rhetoric, blaming and blatant partisanship) does not make someone a leader, Mr. Gerstein. It doesn’t make him a strong leader or a weak leader or even a mediocre leader. Leadership is about action, decisions and consequences. It isn’t a passive word as folks like Gerstein seem to think.
Will it help him “connect” with the middle of the electorate? Have his speeches in the past done so? Sure, when he was a total unknown, his words were pretty, inspiring and hopeful. But now the “middle of the electorate” know him much better and he has an actual record of 2 years. Pretty and high-minded speeches aren’t going to impress anyone anymore.
The rest of the POLITICO article discusses the similarities and differences between Tucson and Oklahoma City as well as the differences between Clinton and Obama. But here is the nut of the premise that the left is trying to lay on the right at the moment:
And Clinton has made clear he believes that the trend he identified in the 1990s – the connection between radical speech and violent deeds – still exists.
Even though Timothy McVeigh explicitly cited Waco as his reason for bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City, this premise continues to exist as if it has been proven. Yet, again, when the violence is cited and radical speech blamed, we find little to convince us that there’s any connection. The nutcase that shot Giffords dreamed up his own reasons for going after her it seems, independent of anyone else’s rhetoric.
How inconvenient for those who would love to shut us up.
Clinton said in an oped during the time of the OK City bombing:
“Civic virtue can include harsh criticism, protest, even civil disobedience. But not violence or its advocacy,”
I don’t think any reasoning person on the right disagrees with that statement. What they will disagree with is what constitutes “advocacy” for violence.
Well, here’s a clue – it’s not crosshairs on a political map. If one can reasonably deduce what that means in context with a political campaign, you understand without a second thought that it is a metaphorical device. So are may other terms. But the left is attacking that in the normal contextless and disingenuous way they do their business:
A key ally, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), for example, explicitly called out Palin for injecting gun imagery into politics, arguing that her use of crosshairs over districts – including Giffords’ — in an email pitch to SarahPAC supporters incited violence.
“We live in a world of violent images … the phrase ‘don’t retreat, reload’ — putting crosshairs on congressional districts as targets … they invite the unstable,” Durbin told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Our political speech should not be held hostage by the “unstable”. And this latest nut is a perfect example of the point. It appears he was not swayed by anything to do with political speech by anyone but Giffords. He was obsessed with her and for all we know, he got his orders to shoot her from the chicken pot pie he ate the night before.
Durbin’s nonsense notwithstanding, we cannot and must not make ourselves hostages to what could happen if some nut decides to take something literally. There is a difference between a random nutball deciding for whatever reason to do something and a movement that advocates violence as a solution to political problem. We must not bow to the pressure to accommodate the former by denying our free speech and we must not accept the latter as a solution to anything. But what we can’t do is lump the former with the latter and just curb our speech “in case” it might set one of the nuts off. That’s precisely what Durbin and his ilk are suggesting.
Yeah, I know, what, 4 posts in and around the subject? Can you tell it hacks me off? I’m disgusted by the cold-blooded opportunism, I’m aghast at the concerted attempt to limit speech and I’m just pissed that anyone would calculate any sort of political win out of an obvious tragedy.
But then, I’m talking about the left here and nothing they do surprises me anymore.
Thundering cow patties, what is going on in the White House?
Yesterday, President Obama turned a press conference over to former President Bill Clinton. He essentially, no he actually waived away his job’s duties in favor of attending a … Christmas party.
It’s not like he had to have the news conference when he did. He’s the President, he can call one anytime he likes. Instead he demonstrated what many have come to believe about him – he likes the perks of the job but isn’t too crazy about the job itself. It reminded me of the stories about his time as the editor of the Harvard Law Review. He never contributed a single article and, according managing editor, loved the prestige of the title, but wanted nothing to do with the day to day responsibilities it held.
The bizarre picture of Obama leaving the press room while Clinton takes the stage is more powerful than a 1,000 words on the subject by 50 different pundits. What was he thinking? What were his advisors thinking? It’s easy to say he’s been ill served by his advisors, but when Obama self-identifies as the “smartest person in the room”, you have to lay quite a bit of the blame squarely where it belongs – on him. Politically, what he did was absolutely stupid. I’m not sure what word better serves.
This again goes back to a constant and repetitive theme here (and now starting to grow elsewhere) – a true lack of leadership. I’ve known real leaders in my time, I’ve been a leader in more than one instance, and Barack Obama is no leader. He doesn’t seem to have yet even begun to grasp even the fundamentals of the concept of leadership. When there is a battle, leaders step forward (especially when it is a battle they’ve fomented), they lead from the front and they use every weapon at their disposal. Obama has “set a framework” (what, get into the nuts and bolts of actually helping draft the legislation? That’s work!), given a testy presser where he talked about hostages, bomb throwers and the "purists” on the “professional left” and then, with this latest news conference, delegated his presidency to Bill Clinton while he parties.
Tom Maguire says that one of the weirdest things about Obama walking out of his own press conference was:
…watching Obama implicitly declare that while Clinton and the press talked about stimulus and the recovery and unemployment relief, he had more important things to do, namely, get to a party with Michelle. Geez, why not announce he is getting back to the Oval Office to play Farmville?
Really. Or why not just be honest and say, “hey, this part of being president is not what I like to do”.
Maybe, just maybe, some adults in the Democratic party are finally admitting to themselves and each other that they made a hell of a mistake with this guy. And maybe they’ll begin what will be a painful but necessary process to find someone to run against this man in 2012. That, in my estimation (and barring an unforeseen event which might see the citizenry rally behind the presidency and the country), may be the only chance Democrats might have – and even then it might be a remote chance – of keeping the White House.
This White House gets curiouser and curiouser as the days go by. But it is becoming clearer, even to the “deep in denial” left, that this man just isn’t up to the job of being President of the United States.
I know it’s only a poll and I also understand in the big scheme of things it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but for the humor factor alone, it’s worth a post.
George W. Bush’s job approval rating as president has spiked to 47 percent, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.
Of course, what’s obviously funny is that after the relentless attacks on Bush before and after the election by Obama he now leads the man by a point in job approval rating, at least temporarily. A little schadenfreude at least, no?
Of course the claim is that Bush’s problems have faded in memory and Obama’s are painfully evident and aggravated by the current situation surrounding him. Yeah, so. At one point it was Bush in that situation, but I don’t recall him trying to constantly shift blame on others. He didn’t talk about the horrible security situation he’d “inherited” from Clinton after 9/11. In fact, he rarely if ever mentioned Clinton, and if he did it was usually respectfully. Of course he was never accorded the same respect by Obama and the left.
So I can’t help but find this funny in a juvenile ‘thumb your nose at them’ kind of way as well. He and the left deserve it.
The lesson, however, is more profound. And while it may again change in Obama’s favor it is indeed one of those “teachable moments” he seems so fond of. Humility is a virtue, as is grace. They serve you well whenever you employ them. And they keep you from having to suffer those situations where you words come back to bite you on the rear end. Because by deploying them regularly, you never find yourself in those sorts of situations.
Unfortunately I doubt our current president will bother to consider any of that or learn anything from this quick snapshot of his standing. It’s just not in him to do so. But he could learn a lot about being a leader if he did – something for which he could use some lessons.
Bush’s rebound gives some credence to what he has long said — that history will eventually judge his presidency.
Indeed. But it also never hurts when your successor is a bumbling fool either.