Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Quote of the day – Joe Biden edition

Leave it to Joe Biden to provide the answer to the question everyone is asking: if the Democrats did so well, why aren’t they running on their record?

Democrats aren’t running on the administration’s accomplishments like health-care and financial-regulatory overhaul and the stimulus because “it’s just too hard to explain,” Biden said. “It sort of a branding, I mean you know they kind of want the branding more at the front end.”

Or maybe it’s not like “branding” at all.  Maybe it’s more like assuming that those in flyover land are too freakin’ dumb to understand the positive nuance of spending 1.4 trillion dollars we don’t have or nationalizing car companies or socializing health care.

Or maybe it’s because they know admitting to those things would kill them if they actually did run on them.  After all it’s hard to explain, among other things, why “health care reform” requires 16,000 new IRS agents, isn’t it?

~McQ

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What a strange election

Democratic Rep Jim Marshall from here in GA (GA08) has an ad out which says it all:

"Georgia is a long way from San Francisco," drawls the narrator, over images of dancing hippies.

"Jim Marshall doesn’t support Nancy Pelosi," says the narrator, citing a finding that Marshall voted with Republican leaders 65% of the time."

How desperate is that?

If those two things are important campaign issues, then electing someone from the GOP should easily maintain the non-support of Pelosi and most likely up the percentage of votes with the GOP leadership, shouldn’t it?

Heh …

~McQ

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Wasserman Schultz – Obama creating more jobs than in entire Bush presidency (update)

Tis the season where absurd and wild claims are made (to be fair – by both sides) hoping they’ll hold up at least until the election has passed. Some, however, just are too off the wall and blow up immediately upon being uttered. An example is this claim by Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

“On the pace that we’re on with job creation in the last four months — if we continue on that pace — all the leading economists say it is likely that we will — we will have created more jobs in this year than in the entire Bush Presidency,” Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Weston, said on FOX News.

On its face, you immediately say –wait a minute, that can’t be true.  To make that claim, one has to ignore the jobs lost prior to the “last four months” and disregard the total jobs created during the Bush era.  Obviously the same process was going on during the Bush administration (job losses vs. job gains) which ended with a net positive.  Wasserman Schultz would like you to ignore the meaning of “net” and job loss numbers in favor of only focusing on the pace of job creation.  And I’m not sure she’s right about that.

As Veronique de Rugy points out over at NRO, while the jobs picture during the Bush administration was nothing to brag about, there’s no way that Wasserman Shultz’s claim has any credibility in the face of an economy that has shed almost 3 million jobs in the private sector during Obama’s presidency. 

In effect, it’s a shot at getting a meme started with low information voters hoping they’ll accept it at face value and it will influence their vote.  You have to love the “all the leading economists” appeal to authority she dropped in there.  But if you want hard numbers, well, forget it. 

They do exist however.  Instead of providing them (you can see them in de Rugy’s post at NRO), a graph will do a much better job of pointing out the absolute nonsense of the Wasserman Schultz claim.  While it is possible that more than 675,000 jobs created in the next 4 months somewhere, as we just saw with the latest numbers, the economy is still shedding jobs (95,000).  It is the net that counts – not just one side of the ledger. If you “create” 1,000,000 jobs but lose 2,000,000 during the same period, it’s a net loss.  And that’s what we continue to suffer right now.   So her’s is an empty and meaningless claim that is disingenuous because ignores the whole picture in a transparent attempt to drag the left’s favorite punching bag back into the argument.

 

image

While total employment rose slightly (675,000 net jobs) during the Bush presidency, most of it was government employment.  During the Obama presidency there’s been no overall growth of employment except slightly at the federal government level and no net increase.  What Wasserman Shultz wants you to ignore is the blue bar on the left and the negative net job numbers we continue to see.   If you do that, the claim sounds good.  If you don’t, then her claim is nonsense.  

Bottom line is Wasserman Schultz’s claim is selective statistical nonsense, but I expect to see it somewhere, sometime repeated as gospel. 

UPDATE: Dale sends along the Bureau of Labor Statistics spread sheet which shows:

  • From Jan 01 to Jan 09, a net of 1,080,000 jobs were created.
  • From Jan 09 to present, 3,348,000 jobs have been lost.
  • The low point in non-farm employment was Dec 09, when there were 129,588,000 payroll jobs
  • Since that low, 613,000 jobs have been created.
  • There are 580,000 fewer payroll jobs today than there were in January of 2000.

Make sure you understand that last line.  In a nation that has increased its population during the last 10 years, we have a net job loss of 580,000 jobs since 2000.

~McQ

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Hard to lose a narrative that never existed

Andrew Sullivan today in a post entitled “Obama’s Lost Narrative”:

Nyhan goes after the Democrats for baseless attacks against the US Chamber of Commerce. It is very depressing to see them descend to this kind of stuff. What they need are not tactics and resentment, which is what we’re seeing. What we need is a narrative of recovery and reform from Obama. He has the record, and he has made a couple of great speeches. But this distracts.

He’s “made a couple of great speeches”.  That’s no longer a positive.  In fact, most have come to conclude that’s about all he can do.  However, on whole, Sullivan is right.  He should be more like Reagan than Nixon and he’s letting his inner Nixon show as he pushes this baseless and hypocritical attack on the Chamber of Commerce.

At a time he should be acting like a leader, he’s been reduced to a petty politician.  Or maybe that’s what he always was.

My view, and I’ll say it again. Campaign on ending the long-term debt. Campaign on being the man who can bring America together to solve its long-term fiscal crisis. Call the GOP out on its fiscal record and its current refusal to specify what they’ll cut. Remind people of the debt commission. Remind people we need to cut spending and raise taxes. Be the adult in the room. With a megaphone.

To be the “adult in the room”, you have to have been the adult in the room.  You can’t suddenly decide now is the time to act like one.  Again, an aspect of leadership lost on the current White House occupant.

~McQ

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VFW and VFWPAC come to a crossroads

Veterans of Foreign Wars National Commander Richard Eubank, Sr. Vice Commander Richard DeNoyer, and Jr. Vice Commander John E. Hamilton, all appear miffed at the political endorsements made by the VFW’s independent political action committee. The endorsement of Barbara Boxer (D-CA), known colloquially as “Senator Ma’am” seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. They now say they’ll be putting the question of the PAC’s termination to the membership.

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Wondering why the right is skeptical of AGW

Bill McKibben wonders why the right is so down on man-made global warming.  He’s convinced it’s the hottest thing to come along politically since woman’s suffrage.  What is it we folks on the right don’t get?  Or is it we have a vested interest in other things that run contrary to wanting to see this problem solved.

Hmmm.  First, I’ve always believed that climate change occurs.  It seems to me that the left has suddenly awakened in a world in which the climate is changing for the first time.  Obviously that’s not the case and, as someone said, the only thing consistent about the climate is change.  So to address an implied question of the McKibben piece, the right certainly understands and accepts climate change as a reality of life.

However, that brings us to the second question – how significant is man’s part?  That’s where we differ.  Most of those who are skeptics question the science that claims man’s part is significant – more significant than the natural forces out there such as the sun and clouds and, well, just about everything else.  Add into that the fact that the present “science” claims that a trace gas of which we add a trace amount is the one primary reason for the rise in global temperature.

Uh, yeah, still not buying.  Factor in that until science decided otherwise, that gas was a trailing indicator of warming – not a cause.  There in a nutshell is the objection to the thesis that says any warming (or cooling apparently) is caused by man.  And we further object to the notion that if we would just stop emitting carbon (something that is and has been an integral part of our lives since our species emerged) all this would be fine.

McKibben is sure, at least on the political side, that it’s all about the right and oil:

One crude answer is money. The fossil fuel industry has deep wells of it—no business in history has been as profitable as finding, refining, and combusting coal, oil, and gas. Six of the ten largest companies on earth are in the fossil-fuel business. Those companies have spent some small part of their wealth in recent years to underwrite climate change denialism …

But as most know who keep up with this, their contributions pale into significance with the government grant money that has flowed unceasingly to the other side for years.  And, many claim, that’s had a significant part in corrupting the science.  The most recent to say this is Professor Harold Lewis:

A TOP American professor has quit a prestigious academic body after claiming that global warming has become a “scam” driven by “trillions of dollars” which has “corrupted” scientists.

Professor Harold Lewis, 87, described his “revulsion” at last year’s leaked “Climategate” emails which appeared to show scientists at East Anglia’s world-leading Climate Research Unit rigging evidence in favour of man-made climate change.

He branded man-made climate change “the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud” he has ever seen.

The scientists involved have been cleared of wrongdoing by a series of investigations. But Prof Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has formally resigned from the American Physical Society after nearly 70 years as a member.

He claims that the APS, the society for America’s top physicists, has refused to engage in proper scientific debate about climate change and ignored climate sceptics.

McKibben offers a second reason.

Conservatives possess some new information about climate science. That would sure be nice—but sadly, it’s wrong. It’s the same tiny bunch of skeptics being quoted by right-wing blogs. None are doing new research that casts the slightest doubt on the scientific consensus that’s been forming for two decades, a set of conclusions that grows more robust with every issue of Science and Nature and each new temperature record.

After telling us it is a massive conspiracy funded by the oil companies, we’re told that it’s just a tiny bunch of contrarians doing no research.  And note how he swings the phrase “scientific consensus” around.  Really, how 20th century is that?  I thought by now even the most ardent of warmists had figured out that real science has nothing to to with “consensus”. 

Finally – note that he simply ignores those recent findings that destroy his hypothesis that no new research supports the skeptical side.  Except of course that which has talked about sun spots, the fact that there’s been no real warming over the last ten years and the trend is toward a colder climate, not a warmer one.  Skip all that and he may have a point.

But mischaracterization by McKibben isn’t confined to just global warming.  He even mischaracterizes the right’s role in the civil rights movement – a common and easily rectified mistake if one would only do some research. Speaking here about a recent poll of conservatives who found Jimmy Carter to be one of the worst presidents ever, he says:

If Jimmy Carter was the worst guy the country ever produced, we’re doing pretty well—but surely it was his nagging reminders that there were limits to our national power that account for his ranking. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote an embarrassed piece earlier this fall about the failure of conservatives to take climate change seriously—it was the ’70s, “a great decade for apocalyptic enthusiasms,” that turned many of them off, he concluded. That’s not much of an argument—it’s like saying “conservatives mostly got it wrong on civil rights, so let’s never listen to them again about liberty and freedom.”

But, of course, conservatives didn’t get it mostly wrong about civil rights – their vote was the critical part of passing the legislation that Democrats tried to filibuster and block.  Yes, they were “Southern Democrats”, but they certainly weren’t “conservatives”, i.e. “the right”.

Anyway, this all boils down to McKibben wanting a carbon tax and assuring us that if we’d do that and do it quickly we’d probably be 90% of the way to solving the problem.  Of course, no word from the sun as to whether it would cooperate if we’d just take a bit more money into government for our emissions.  After McKibben chastises his lefty friends for their desire to do away with the internal combustion engine, he gives us this simplistic “solution” in its place.  And then wonders about the right’s skepticism? 

Finally McKibben appeals to the tradition of right intellectualism hoping that it will reassert itself and go along with the Chicken Little faction.  I wonder – given his obvious unfamiliarity with the real arguments of the right and the science that supports it if perhaps that intellectualism has already “asserted” itself and is calling on the left to do the same.

Don’t hold your breath.

~McQ

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Barney Frank wants another chance to destroy the housing market

If you live in Frank’s district, this is the only reason you need to vote for Sean Bielat, his GOP opponent.  I.e. Frank is about to remake Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in his own image.  That after the two institutions that he fought so hard to support with your tax dollars and attempted to keep Congressional oversight to a minimum, tanked and almost took the economy with them.

The Washington Post has a mostly sympathetic piece (poor Barney, he only wanted to use your money to help the poor put a roof over their heads) which, if you read carefully between the lines, at least hints at most of the story.  And the rest of the story ends with us pumping $160 billion and counting into the two institutions after the government took them over.

Back when it all started, Frank identified cash cows in the two institutions which would allow him to fulfill his personal agenda:

Fannie and Freddie were in the business of buying and guaranteeing mortgage loans from private lenders, which in turn could take the money and make even more loans to prospective homebuyers or developers looking to build apartment buildings.

Democrats, led by one of Frank’s closest allies, Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez (D-Tex.), wanted to require the two companies to spend a specific percentage of their funds on affordable housing. Under the proposed legislation, the companies were to buy home loans made to lower- and middle-class people and loans going to fund development of affordable rental housing.

This represented a rich new vein of money.

But even as Democrats were looking to expand Fannie and Freddie’s mission, a small group of Republicans, led by Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, urged the government to pay more attention to the dangers posed by the firms.

Let’s see – “rich vein of money” or oversight and caution?  “Rich vein of money” of course.  So Leach’s warning were pushed aside:

The companies had been growing ever larger. Yet compared with their rivals in the banking industry, they were putting aside relatively little capital to cover potential losses. Leach proposed a tough new regulator that would restrain Fannie and Freddie.

Nah.  So onward we went, huge sums of money flowing out the door, very little oversight, with a political agenda driving the bus instead of financial sanity.  That was in 1992.  In 2003, the warnings were still coming and getting louder:

By late 2003, the firms had taken on more than $4 trillion in debt, rivaling that of the entire federal government. Yet Frank, who had by then become the top Democrat on the influential House Financial Services Committee, still wasn’t focused on the risks. He had his sights set on what else they could do to promote for affordable housing, particularly low-cost rental housing.

At a hearing called by Republicans, who controlled the committee, Frank made clear that he was reluctant to tighten oversight because it could limit the ability of Fannie and Freddie to help people get a roof over their heads.

The companies, he urged colleagues, "are two of the very important tools that we have" and had to do what "the market in and of itself will not do. "They were "not endangering the fiscal health of this country," he continued.

But, of course, they were and did endanger the fiscal health of the country.  Denial was his only weapon and he used it constantly – because his personal political agenda was apparently worth the risk – at least to him.  He even said once he wanted to “roll the dice” a little more, perfectly willing to risk the fiscal future of the country to push his political agenda.

And you all know the rest of the story. 

Fannie and Freddie proceeded to load up on securities backed by risky mortgages, such as subprime loans and no-document loans. The firms asserted that they were aggressively fulfilling their affordable housing mission, and some risky mortgages were indeed going to borrowers who couldn’t otherwise afford a home.

But many of the loans were going to people who could have afforded traditional mortgages, and the companies were bulking up on the risky loans purely in pursuit of even larger profits.

When the housing market crashed, the unprecedented surge in mortgage defaults blew a hole in the firms’ finances.

The Democrats and Frank want to deny this part of the story or pretend it is an insignificant part of it or that what happened to Freddie and Fannie were a result of Wall Street’s shenanigans. 

Not really.  The prime buyer and bundler of the sub-prime mortgages were those two institutions.   And, as the article notes, Freddie and Fannie believed they were “aggressively fulfilling their affordable housing mission” as legislatively enabled by Barney Frank and Congress.

And what has he managed to get for his effort?

For all his efforts, Frank readily acknowledges that there are more people needing decent housing than there were when he started in Congress. And with millions of others losing their homes to foreclosure, Frank asks to be judged by how much worse things would have been without him.

"In the political world, you get measured on the ultimate results," he said. "I think we’ve prevented things from getting as bad as they otherwise might have been."

Really?  Have you looked around you Mr. Frank?  This ranks right up there with the unmeasurable “saved jobs” nonsense pushed by the administration in the midst of 9.6% unemployment.  And now Frank is going to get another chance to shape the housing market’s future?

Time to put him into retirement before he can again try to do what he did last time.  Another reality of the “political world” is you should only get one chance and if you screw it up as badly as Frank did, you should join the ranks of the unemployed.

~McQ

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California Ballot Propositions for 2010

Once again, it’s time to review the ballot propositions for the upcoming election in California.  While this may seem like an item of limited interest to many of you, you should remember that these propositions, in the fullness of time, often appear in other states once California has passed them.

Proposition 19: YES

A YES vote on this measure means: Individuals age 21 or older could, under state law, possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. In addition, the state and local governments could authorize, regulate, and tax commercial marijuana-related activities under certain conditions. These activities would remain illegal under federal law.

Drug prohibition has failed.  Although, I guess that really depends on your definition of failed.  If you’re the head of drug cartel that’s made billions of dollars by supplying prohibited drugs at prices inflated artificially by government action, then I guess it’s been a rousing success.  All depends on your point of view, I suppose.

In any event, marijuana, despite being a Schedule I drug according to the Feds, is probably the least likely candidate for continued prohibition.  Perhaps there’ll be horrific outbreaks of Reefer Madness if this passes, but, you know, I’m willing to risk it.  Besides, as of last week, you can’t even get arrested for it any more in California, as possession of less 1 oz is now an infraction that’ll get you a $100 ticket.  Not even a court appearance.  So, it’s pretty clear that, in the big picture scheme of things, marijuana is pretty small potatoes.

Besides, it’ll set up a really nasty legal and political struggle between California and the Feds, which I think would be fun and instructive to watch.

Proposition 20: YES

Removes elected representatives from process of establishing congressional districts and transfers that authority to recently-authorized 14-member redistricting commission comprised of Democrats, Republicans, and representatives of neither party. A YES vote on this measure means: The responsibility to determine the boundaries of California’s districts in the U.S. House of Representatives would be moved to the Citizens Redistricting Commission, a commission established by Proposition 11 in 2008. (Proposition 27 on this ballot also concerns redistricting issues. If both Proposition 20 and Proposition 27 are approved by voters, the proposition receiving the greater number of “yes” votes would be the only one to go into effect.)

California’s redistricting plans have traditionally been made with a keen eye to preserving safe districts for the aging hippies that run the place.  With Prop 11 in 2008, and this proposition, elected politicians will be essentially removed from the redistricting process. One hopes this will result in more bipartisan redistricting that results in more competitive districts.  If not, it can’t be worse than what we’ve already got.

Proposition 21: NO

A YES vote on this measure means: An $18 annual surcharge would be added to the amount paid when a person registers a motor vehicle. The surcharge revenues would be used to provide funding for state park and wildlife conservation programs. Vehicles subject to the surcharge would have free admission and parking at all state parks.

A new tax–excuse me, “surcharge”–on one of the most highly taxed population in the country?  Uh…no. Raising taxes is always the politicians’ answer to fiscal problems.  Instead, let’s force them to cut spending–especially the unsustainable pension agreements for public workers, some of whom can retire at 50 with 85% of their salaries.  The state of California is already taking a huge chunk of money from the taxpayers, and their cry is always for more.  It’s past time for our cry to be , “Enough.”

Proposition 22: YES

A YES vote on this measure prohibits the state from borrowing or taking funds used for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services.  The state’s authority to use or redirect state fuel tax and local property tax revenues would be significantly restricted.

California’s General Fund tramples on every type of revenue in the state.  Local property taxes? Right into the General Fund’s maw. Fuel taxes to pay for transportation and infrastructure? Right into the General Fund. That has to stop.  I note that the teachers and firefighters unions, etc., are against it, so I assume it must be a good thing.

Proposition 23: YES

A YES vote on this measure means: Certain existing and proposed regulations authorized under state law (“Assembly Bill 32″) to address global warming would be suspended. These regulations would remain suspended until the state unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or lower for one year.

This proposition would, in effect, completely gut the global warming bill’s provisions.  Requiring an unemployment rate in California to remain at 5.5% for one year means that the bill will, as a practical matter, never be implemented.  So, the billions in costs for CO2 reduction, etc., will never be imposed.

Proposition 24: NO

A YES vote on this measure means: Three business tax provisions will return to what they were before 2008 and 2009 law changes. As a result: (1) a business will be less able to deduct losses in one year against income in other years, (2) a multistate business will have its California income determined by a calculation using three factors, and (3) a business will not be able to share tax credits with related businesses.

Another tax hike.  Go screw.

Proposition 25: NO

A YES vote on this measure means: The Legislature’s vote requirement to send the annual budget bill to the Governor would be lowered from two-thirds to a majority of each house of the Legislature.

I’m happy forcing a 2/3 majority for the budget, especially since California is a one-party state.  It’s really the only way to force bipartisanship on the legislature, and it gives the minority party a chance to do something besides getting run over roughshod.

Proposition 26: YES

A YES vote on this measure means: The definition of taxes would be broadened to include many payments currently considered to be fees or charges. As a result, more state and local proposals to increase revenues would require approval by two-thirds of each house of the Legislature or by local voters.

This makes it harder to raise fees or surcharges without explicit voter approval, or a supermajority in the legislature.  I have to live within a budget, let them try it for a while, instead of simply using my wallet to fill up the holes they create with overspending.

Proposition 27: NO

A YES vote on this measure means: The responsibility to determine the boundaries of State Legislature and Board of Equalization districts would be returned to the Legislature. The Citizens Redistricting Commission, established by Proposition 11 in 2008 to perform this function, would be eliminated. (Proposition 20 on this ballot also concerns redistricting issues. If both Proposition 27 and Proposition 20 are approved by voters, the proposition receiving the greater number of “yes” votes would be the only one to go into effect.)

Nope.  We already decided that we didn’t want politicians to create safe districts. Let’s keep this as a technical, bipartisan process.

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Even the true-believers are losing faith

Mark Halperin has an interesting article in the current TIME.  He wonders how Obama got where he is and how he can change that.  It is interesting for some of language used.  It demonstrates a changing view, even among his supporters, that perhaps – just perhaps – this guy isn’t really up to the job … yet.   That last word that sentence is important. 

Many of us feel he has never been up to the job. We’ve pretty much been proven to be right.  Many have decided after the election that he’s not up to the job.  But there is one other category that will sort of, kind of admit he may not seem up to the job, however that’s just a temporary condition.  Once he finds his feet again, he’ll do fine.  And it that latter category that seems to best fit Halperin. 

But his opening two paragraphs are both brutal and true, whether Halperin really believes them totally or not:

Barack Obama is being politically crushed in a vise. From above, by elite opinion about his competence. From below, by mass anger and anxiety over unemployment. And it is too late for him to do anything about this predicament until after November’s elections.

With the exception of core Obama Administration loyalists, most politically engaged elites have reached the same conclusions: the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters. This view is held by Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and governors, many Democratic business people and lawyers who raised big money for Obama in 2008, and even some members of the Administration just beyond the inner circle.

When you have “pundits” like Halperin (you know, the guy who feels compelled as he’s saying this to throw out the "Fox News pundits" bit out there as if they’re really the only pundits mouthing off) compelled to finally be somewhat honest about the man, then he’s in trouble.

A little further on Halperin engages in a little bit of defense for Obama:

Most of Obama’s private (and sometimes public) rebuttals to the voices slamming him on all sides are justified or spot on. He did inherit a lot of problems from the Bush Administration. He did act quickly in the initial weeks of his Administration to stave off a worldwide depression. His efforts at job creation have been obstructed by Republicans (even the proposals based on policies supported by the GOP in the past). His opponents haven’t put forth specifics of their own, nor offered genuine compromise, while the media have allowed the right’s activists and gabbers to run wild with criticism without furnishing legitimate alternative solutions.

Of course all of this depends on how you view what he’s supposedly “done”.  Unfortunately for him, the majority don’t agree that he’s earned the accolades Halperin and Obama think are due him.  And the continued nonsense about “Republican obstruction” when everyone knew he had uncontested Democratic majorities that didn’t require a single GOP vote for quite some time simply isn’t washing with the masses. 

Notice too Halperin’s attempt to spin the opposition.  They’re “allowed” to “run wild with criticism without furnishing legitimate alternative solutions.”

Really?  What rock has he been hiding under – there have been multitudes of alternative solutions offered.  It is just that Halperin and the left don’t want to admit to their legitimacy.  And just who are these organizations which have “allowed” these people to go “wild?”  The same organizations that routinely allowed that same sort of behavior during the last administration.  I guess you just don’t recognize it until it your ox being gored.

But you get a creeping sense as you read the article that Halperin, and most likely other true-  believers, really, deep down inside, understand their man doesn’t have what it takes to do the job in such a way that it will be defensible in 2012. It will be very tough to help someone who seems so bound and determined to do the wrong things politically. For instance, look at how he’s reacted to various political problems:

But Obama has exacerbated his political problems not just by failing to enact policies that would have actually turned the economy around, but also by authorizing a series of tactical moves intended to demonize Republicans and distract from the problems at hand. He has wasted time lambasting his foes when he should have been putting forth his agenda in a clear, optimistic fashion, defending the benefits of his key decisions during the past two years (health care and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, for example) and explaining what he would do with a re-elected Democratic majority to spur growth.

Shorter version: he’s on the defensive and has retreated to campaign mode, the only real success he’s ever had in his life – getting elected to some office.  He’s in his comfort zone.  How are they going to entice him back out of that to “govern”?  How does one get someone who is uncomfortable in the job and the role his election has garnered him to do what he’s supposed to do and not worry about what the critics say?  Apparently they don’t.  He’s abdicated his leadership position before and there’s no indication he’s really all that keen on the role.  Halperin and his side are beginning to see and understand what many of us have understood before he took office.

How lost is Obama, the guy once touted as having one of the most finely tuned political antennas in the world?

Throughout the year, we have been treated to Obama-led attacks on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Congressman Joe Barton (for his odd apology to BP), John Boehner (for seeking the speakership — or was it something about an ant?) and Fox News (for everything). Suitable Democratic targets in some cases, perhaps, but not worth the time of a busy Commander in Chief. In the past few days, we have witnessed the spectacle of the President himself and his top advisers wading into allegations that Republicans are attempting to buy the election using foreign money laundered through the Chamber of Commerce, combining with Karl Rove and his wealthy backers to fund a flood of negative television commercials. Not only is this issue convoluted and far-fetched, but it also distracts from the issues voters care about, frustrating political insiders and alienating struggling citizens (not that many are following such an offbeat story line). Feinting and gibing can’t obscure those job numbers.

Pretty darn lost.  And I, frankly, don’t think much will change in the next few years.  The man is not a leader and he’s not going to learn it in time to help himself.  In fact, because he’s engaged in this battle with the Chamber of Commerce, I’d say he’s in even worse shape than previously imagined and seems to have some pretty bad advisers if they are enabling or encouraging the sort of behavior described above.

~McQ

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