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.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
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.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
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.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
Read the following two paragraphs and tell me which conservative publications editorial board had this to say about President Obama and the current political situation in which he finds himself.
Shellacked at home, shellacked abroad. President Obama’s Asia trip is extending a losing streak with the latest setback – a refusal by other major financial powers to follow his lead to revive the global economy.
The president’s nostrums, which began with a call for stimulus-style pump priming by other nations, had evolved into a plan to ease wild swings in currency values and overboard trade imbalances. But he got next to nothing in showdown meetings with other leaders of the G-20 nations, or major economic powers. U.S. leadership, once taken for granted, has all but vanished, and no one’s in charge.
If you guessed Wall Street Journal, Washington Examiner or Washington Times, give yourself zero points for this particular exercise. It was a trick question – the answer is the San Francisco Chronicle.
That’s right. Nancy Pelosi’s hometown newspaper, the paper of record for one of the most liberal cities in one of the most liberal states in the union seems to be acknowledging in fairly forthright terms the diminishment of the US political leadership both here and abroad.
They are also acknowledging something else that the left has been loathe to admit during these past two years. That diminished political stature is the result not just of circumstances but because of a real lack of leadership. When the Chronicle uses the words “no one’s in charge”, they’re not alluding to the financial situation being the problem, they’re making the point that the president is not exercising the basic leadership necessary or expected to do what must be done to maintain what was once “ taken for granted.”
There’s no danger of reading too much into the Chronicle’s two lead paragraphs. It is a very clear in its message. The President of the United States is not living up to expectations. And even his greatest supporters are beginning to see the results of that problem.
The administration likes to tout the fact that they have restored the good name of the US among the nations of the world after its purported decline during the Bush years. That’s a hollow claim if this is the result. “Good names” do not bring foreign policy success – only hard -nosed leadership focused on doing what is best for the country accomplishes that. And this president has exhibited far too little if any of that thus far.
If nothing else what this presidency should again establish as a guiding principle for voters in the next election is “there is no substitute for experience”. Experience is where leadership is developed and honed. Experience produces a record by which those who choose our political leaders can go for proof that a person is up to the job they’re pursuing.
The San Francisco Chronicle, among others, is learning that reality has certain rules that you simply can’t waive away. With Obama, voters did what speculators did during the dot-com bubble. They pretended that the law of economics no longer applied to that particular segment of the economy and it was alright to waive away conventional economic wisdom about P/E ratios and plunk down billions on companies who’d never made a dollar or sold a product.
Economic reality soon burst that fantasy with devastating effect and devastating losses.
Because of the same sort of thinking, we now suffer with a “leader” who has never led anything, never learned what it means to lead and is, frankly, out of his depth both domestically and on the foreign stage. The disastrous Asian trip simply reaffirms the point.
If we manage to survive the next two years under this administration there’s perhaps another very important lesson voters should take the polls when they next choose a president: the White House should never again be treated as an OJT position.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
That’s the central theme of a Ken Langone op/ed in the Wall Street Journal. Langone is a co-founder of Home Depot who gives Obama a lecture he’s long deserved. He does a good job of summarizing the absurd rhetoric used by Obama and his administration and the attitude they project that has done nothing to help and everything to hurt the recovery:
Your insistence that your policies are necessary and beneficial to business is utterly at odds with what you and your administration are saying elsewhere. You pick a fight with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, accusing it of using foreign money to influence congressional elections, something the chamber adamantly denies. Your U.S. attorney in New York, Preet Bahrara, compares investment firms to Mexican drug cartels and says he wants the power to wiretap Wall Street when he sees fit. And you drew guffaws of approving laughter with your car-wreck metaphor, recently telling a crowd that those who differ with your approach are "standing up on the road, sipping a Slurpee" while you are "shoving" and "sweating" to fix the broken-down jalopy of state.
That short-sighted wavering—between condescending encouragement one day and hostile disparagement the next—creates uncertainty that, as any investor could tell you, causes economic paralysis. That’s because no one can tell what to expect next.
Again we confront the difference between a politician in a permanent campaign and a leader. And we see the result.
Obama seems mystified by the role of the president. He seems not to understand that leaders don’t use the old, divisive and politically charged rhetoric of the campaign trail, but instead have the job of doing (and saying) what is necessary to move things in a positive direction. That has not been something Obama has done at all when it comes to business.
There’s another point Langone made that is worth featuring:
A little more than 30 years ago, Bernie Marcus, Arthur Blank, Pat Farrah and I got together and founded The Home Depot. Our dream was to create (memo to DNC activists: that’s build, not take or coerce) a new kind of home-improvement center catering to do-it-yourselfers. The concept was to have a wide assortment, a high level of service, and the lowest pricing possible.
We opened the front door in 1979, also a time of severe economic slowdown. Yet today, Home Depot is staffed by more than 325,000 dedicated, well-trained, and highly motivated people offering outstanding service and knowledge to millions of consumers.
If we tried to start Home Depot today, under the kind of onerous regulatory controls that you have advocated, it’s a stone cold certainty that our business would never get off the ground, much less thrive. Rules against providing stock options would have prevented us from incentivizing worthy employees in the start-up phase—never mind the incredibly high cost of regulatory compliance overall and mandatory health insurance. Still worse are the ever-rapacious trial lawyers.
Regulations, taxes, compliance and mandates cost businesses billions each year. That’s billions that aren’t spent on employees, customers, expansion or growth. And it is especially stupid to increase all of those in a recession – yet that’s precisely what is going on now. And it keeps the market unsettled and at least defers or may in fact kill any possible action by businesses which may benefit the overall economy.
Obama’s actions and rhetoric are a case study of someone who doesn’t understand his job, doesn’t understand the power of the words he utters (because he doesn’t understand his job) and has been very irresponsible with his rhetoric at a time when the damage that rhetoric can do are compounded by the situation (recession).
OJT is not something a president should be doing – especially in a recession. And for the supposed “smartest guy in the room”, he sure seems like a slow learner when it comes to his job and the requirements of leadership.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
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.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
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.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
Gloria Borger, although she apparently doesn’t know it, has described why Obama and the Democrats are looking at the distinct possibility of an electoral avalanche that will sweep them out of the majority in the House in November. As Borger notes, when Obama took office, it seemed it was a Democratic majority built to last for years. Now “years” is down to “two”.
She points to one reason that is typical of any politician who wins an election – they read more into their win than is actually there:
Obama was elected as the corrective to the Bush years. Yet when you’re the winner, the temptation is always there to see yourself as something more than just an alternative — something larger, like a paradigm-changer or a transformational political figure. And Obama wanted nothing less than a change from conservatism to his own brand of 21st century activism.
"When you win an election," says political scientist Bill Galston, "you are always inclined to believe you won for the reasons you wanted to win."
In other words, you believe you won for the big stuff, not just because the voters didn’t like the other guy.
Watching Obama’s fading approval numbers and the ever increasing resistance to his agenda, it becomes clear that it was mostly about ‘the other guy’.
But there’s a larger point to be made as to why Obama and the Democrats are in the electoral shape they enjoy today:
Think back to the beginning. There’s an economic crisis, which the public believes Obama inherited. Then there’s his bucket-list of things he wants to get done. He has a choice: Handle the crisis or do the campaign to-do list.
And what does Obama decide? To do both. That is, the economy plus the rest of it — including health care.
"The irony is he didn’t even run on health care," says one Democratic pollster. "In truth, it wasn’t a large part of the general election campaign."
Interesting point. “He didn’t even run on health care”. Well he mentioned it, but it wasn’t his signature campaign issue. But it sure was Nancy Pelosi and the liberal caucus’s number one priority – a wet dream they’d had all their lives. And so while the economy was melting down and should have been the single dominant issued for the White House (and Congress), Obama allowed himself to be seduced into using all his political capital for something that wasn’t that important to the American people.
Borger attempts to make excuses for Obama that simply don’t ring true and certainly don’t pass the smell test:
Obama became convinced that solving the health care mess was key to solving the nation’s economic problems, especially bringing the deficit under control. In fact, when he first spoke of the importance of health care reform, it was all about "bending the cost curve," a slogan lost on most of the public.
BS. Any sane person, with even a cursory understanding of economics, knew that the program outlined in the monstrosity that has since become known as ObamaCare had as much of a chance of “bending the cost curve” down as Togo becoming the first nation in the world to land a man on Mars. Obama’s agenda was hijacked by Pelosi, et al, and he refused to stand up to them and say, “no – it’s the economy stupid”.
Democrats instead quickly passed an ineffective trillion dollar pork laden stimulus bill guaranteed to keep unemployment under 8% (or so they claimed) and then essentially turned away from the nation’s most pressing problem – other than to occasionally give it lip service – to their pet project, health care “reform”.
Borger claims it was Obama’s “ambitious agenda” that did him in and that the agenda “fed into the GOP narrative”. Unfortunately, at the point this was done, the GOP had no narrative. They were in a state of disarray and both powerless and voiceless.
No, the “voice” came out of townhalls. The “voice” showed up at “Tea Parties”. The “voice” expressed anger and frustration.
And what the “voice” was saying and continues to say is Obama and the Democrats made the wrong choice when they chose health care reform over working on the economy.
Nothing’s really changed either. Most of it – the position Democrats are now in – isn’t a result of any GOP narrative. It isn’t even necessarily because of the bad economy. It is a result of a poor leader caving into a special interest caucus within his party and putting that caucus’s priorities in front of the people’s priority.
Pretending it was anything else is simply nonsense. Democrats are facing an electoral avalanche in November because Obama let Pelosi and Reid usurp the leadership role that was his. And now they get to pay the butcher’s bill.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
Maureen Dowd asks, “[h]ow did the first president of color become so colorless?” Or, where’s the Obama mojo that attracted so many independents and some Republicans – enough to see him convincingly elected to the presidency.
Answer – it takes theater to elect a president any more and they had good theater. It takes leadership to be a successful president and, at least to some of us, it was evident while reviewing the resume of then candidate Obama that he was way short in that department.
And now, as you might imagine, that’s showing up in spades. Dowd notes that independents are leaving Obama in droves and, using her sister as an example (“Peggy” who is supposedly a Republican who opposed the war in Iraq and therefore swung her support over to Obama) lays out the reasons. “Peggy” – as I read this – hit me more as an Olympia Snowe Republican than a conservative Republican:
Peggy thinks the president has done fine managing W.’s messes in Iraq and Afghanistan. And she lights up at the mention of his vice president, Joe Biden. But she thinks Obama has to get “a backbone” if he wants to lure her back to the fold. “He promised us everything, saying he would turn the country around, and he did nothing the first year,” Peggy says. “He piddled around when he had 60 votes. He could have pushed through the health care bill but spent months haggling on it because he wanted to bring some Republicans on board. He was trying too hard to compromise when he didn’t need the Republicans and they were never going to like him. Any idiot could see that.
“He could have gotten it through while Teddy Kennedy was still alive — he owed the Kennedys something — and then the bill was watered down.
My guess is that’s MoDo putting words in her sister’s mouth – if, in reality her sister really is a Republican. But I can’t imagine anyone of an even slightly conservative bent saying anything like "Peggy" did above.
However, MoDo goes on quoting Peggy’s thoughts and this seems much more likely of the person Dowd described:
“He hasn’t saved the economy, and now he’s admitting he’s made very little progress. You can’t for four years blame the person who used to be president. Obama tries to compromise too much, and he doesn’t look like a strong leader. I don’t watch him anymore. I’m turned off by him. I think he’s an elitist. He went down to the gulf, telling everyone to take a vacation down there, and then he goes to Martha’s Vineyard. He does what he wants but then he tells us to do other things.
“I want him in that White House acting like a president, not out on the campaign trail. Not when the country is going down the toilet.”
That sounds more like a independent or “moderate Republican” disillusioned by what all of us have seen and noted. A total lack of awareness about how leadership works. No understanding of how a leader should set the example and what leadership requires of a leader. Totally tone deaf. Obama’s fallback for his lack of leadership skills and complaints about that is to hit the campaign trail again. It is campaigning he feels comfortable doing and speeches are his preferred form of leadership – because campaigning requires lots of wonderfully crafted words but very little actual doing.
Obama’s coming problem in 2012 is he’ll have an actual record to examine– something he hasn’t really had before – and trust me, we all know it is going to be minutely examined. Those like “Peggy” have pretty much realized how poor that record really is and are already looking for other candidates (“Peggy” supposedly is interested in voting for Mitt Romney if he runs but thinks anyone would be “nuts” to vote for Sarah Palin – I assume that’s now an obligatory part of most lefty’ pundits columns – the gratuitous shot at Palin).
Frank Rich – another dependable administration media lap dog – is all excited about some “forceful speeches” Obama has given. Speaking of dogs, he’s very happy with how the president supposedly struck back at his critics saying they spoke about him “like a dog”. Wow – there’s the Obama of old.
But, even Rich knows he’s pushing a false line wrapped in a false hope:
For Obama to make Americans believe he does understand their problems and close the enthusiasm gap, he cannot merely make changes of campaign style. Sporadic photo ops in shirtsleeves or factory settings persuade no one; a few terrific speeches can’t always ride to the rescue.
In fact, that’s precisely the answer Obama always gives when confronted with a problem. Hey, I”ll go out and work the crowd and talk about it. It worked getting me elected, perhaps it will work now.
Uh, no – the campaign is over. Some one needs to tell the president and his staff that’s the case. Like “Peggy” said, she “wants him in the White House acting like a president”.
Faint hope of that ever happening.
Rich gives Obama this advice:
As many have noted, the obvious political model for Obama this year is Franklin Roosevelt, who at his legendary 1936 Madison Square Garden rally declared that he welcomed the “hatred” of his enemies in the realms of “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.” As the historian David Kennedy writes in his definitive book on the period, “Freedom from Fear,” Roosevelt “had little to lose by alienating the right,” including those in the corporate elite, with such invective; they already detested him as vehemently as the Business Roundtable crowd does Obama.
Though F.D.R. was predictably accused of “class warfare,” his antibusiness “radicalism,” was, in Kennedy’s words, “a carefully staged political performance, an attack not on the capitalist system itself but on a few high-profile capitalists.” Roosevelt was trying to co-opt the populist rage of his economically despondent era, some of it uncannily Tea Party-esque in its hysteria, before it threatened that system, let alone his presidency. Only the crazy right confused F.D.R. with communists for taking on capitalism’s greediest players, and since our crazy right has portrayed Obama as a communist, socialist and Nazi for months, he’s already paid that political price without gaining any of the benefits of bringing on this fight in earnest.
F.D.R. presided over a landslide in 1936. The best the Democrats can hope for in 2010 is smaller-than-expected losses. To achieve even that, Obama will have to give an F.D.R.-size performance — which he can do credibly and forcibly only if he really means it. So far, his administration’s seeming coziness with some of the same powerful interests now vilifying him has left middle-class voters, including Democrats suffering that enthusiasm gap, confused as to which side he is on. If ever there was a time for him to clear up the ambiguity, this is it.
Short version: hate is fine if you hate the right people – play that class warfare game, do some engaging but “F.D.R.-size” political theater, and the enthusiasm gap will start to close.
Really? One wonders where Mr. Rich has been hanging out. That’s all we’ve seen from this administration – political theater. Very little that most voters would consider to be “progress” has been seen. And despite the fact that Democrats would love to tout health care as “progress”, politically they know it is an albatross around their necks.
So they’re left with a bad economic situation, a greatly diminished presidency and “Peggy” and the Indies all headed to Redland. And Rich’s answer is “do F.D.R. theater”, snub Republicans and engage in some heavy class-warfare. That after telling him at another point “he cannot merely make changes of campaign style.” Yeah, no confusion in lefty ranks … none whatsoever.
In reality, all of that is an example of lefty style jargon that never directly states the problem but dances all around it. However they do know what he has to do to remedy the problem. If he or MoDo had just said “get off the campaign trail and actually do something … lead!” they could have saved a whole bunch of column space in the NYT for something else worth reading.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
This magic formula for doing what the title suggests is courtesy of a New York Times editorial. After the appropriate amount of "the obstructionist GOP", and "poor Obama inherited this mess" whining, the NYT gets down to what it considers to be the brass tacks of the situation:
The question then is whether Mr. Obama will lead. He cannot force Congress to act, but he could pre-empt Republicans’ diatribes — on the deficit, on small business, on taxes — with tough truths and a big mission that would tie together the strategies and the sacrifices that will be needed to put the economy right.
The first sentence pretty much shoots the whole thing in the foot, doesn’t it? Even if you agree 100% with the NYT formula for political success, getting Obama to lead on anything is simply not very likely. He’s not a leader in a job that demands such a type. He’s, at best, a policy wonk. And judging by his economic policies not a very good one.
But back to the magic show that the NYT claims could save the left. Per the editorial, the country needs “tough truths” and a “big mission” with which to motivate the people enough to “put the economy right”.
Here’s an idea – how about policies which enable businesses by providing incentives to get off the cash they’re piling up, expand and hire? Settle the markets down by backing off government regulation, and intrusiveness. Back off new taxes and roll back some old ones. Stop spending money we don’t have. Make a real attempt to address the deficit.
Mr. Obama also needs to inspire Americans who have been ground down by the economic crisis and Washington’s small-bore sniping. He needs to rally the nation around a big idea — a project that is worth sacrificing for, worth paying for, worth working for. One that lets them know that there is more ahead than just a return to a status quo of lopsided growth in which corporate profits surge while jobs and incomes lag.
That mission could be the “21st century infrastructure,” that Mr. Obama mentioned on a multi-city trip this month, “not just roads and bridges, but faster Internet access and high-speed rail.” It could be energy independence, with high-tech green jobs and a real chance for addressing global warming. Either of the above would make sense, economically and politically.
Mr. Obama and his economic team had clearly hoped for an economic rebound in time for the midterm elections. They are not going to get it. The economic damage they inherited was too deep, and the economic stimulus they pushed through Congress, for all of the fight, was too small. Standing back is not doing the country or his party any good. We believe Americans are ready for hard truths and big ideas.
Wait – didn’t we just pour almost a trillion borrowed dollars into that “big mission”? Wasn’t it all about shovel ready infrastructure projects? And hasn’t it been a spectacular failure.
Certainly there are “infrastructure” needs that require addressing. But when you have an official unemployment rate of 9.5% (and an unofficial and much more accurate one well into double digits), people aren’t going to be impressed by “faster internet” and “green projects” that never seem to get anywhere and cost and arm and a leg. And high-speed rail? Really?
Oh, and the “chance to address global warming” is what – a chance to increase taxes, cripple businesses and make it even less likely that unemployment will improve. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Anyone who thinks people hurting economically would be impressed with this nonsense, even if Obama could and would lead, have to be living in an ivory tower somewhere. People want jobs, not high speed rail or faster internet. They don’t care if their job is a ‘green job’, they just want a freakin’ job. And global warming – the majority of the population doesn’t even agree it’s happening much less wanting costly government programs that address it by taking money from them.
Why is it the left doesn’t seem to understand that it is time to put the agenda aside and focus on the nuts and bolts of creating jobs? The need is immediate – not some 5 to 10 years away.
The reason is because such a focus would mean actually admitting that their present agenda is hurting such an effort as well as acknowledging that government may not be the answer (instead, getting government out of the way actually is the answer).
So we get these sorts of pathetic pleas to a man who couldn’t lead a group of 5 year olds to an ice cream truck to essentially keep the agenda alive by disguising it as something it is not – a way to fix our economic problems.
Clue to the NYT. Yes, the people are open for tough talk about shared sacrifice. The rally in DC this weekend underlines that. Here’s the problem for the left – the sacrifice they first want and expect to see is at the expense of this bloated, wasteful and ineffective national government that has its fingers in way to many pies. Until they see real spending cuts, real downsizing and real governmental reform that benefits them and the engine of the economy – businesses – they’re uninterested in any nonsense about more government or more government spending or 21st century agendas.
To continue a theme, this ain’t rocket science, but it certainly is something that seems to be beyond the capacity of the left to grasp. As it turns out, November will most likely reward them properly for their consistent inability to do so.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!