Thursday, September 01, 2011

President Obama and the imaginary country

Obama's caving to the Republicans on matters large, small and everything in between in getting comical. Or at least comically sad: Sam Stein, Obama Jobs Speech Thursday Night: President Gives In To Boehner Over Congress Joint Session Address Huffington Post 08/31/2011. This prompted numerous scornful tweets. Nell Scovell: "Obama's jobs speech was asked to leave a resume and come back the next day."

Jamison Foser: "Thinking about having an ice cream sandwich for dessert. I mean, if it's OK with John Boehner."

Polutlas: "Obama's making full use of the bullied pulpit."

Josh Marshall: "Boehner stipulates Prez must wear bag on head"

I'm not really into gratuitous Obama-bashing. But this is an easily-understandable incident where Obama winds up looking like he's endlessly willing for the Republicans to slap him around. At a time when Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are still disappointed over his debt ceiling debacle, this is just the kind of symbolism he doesn't need. The Republicans in every Presidential election accuse the Democratic Presidential candidate of being a "weak leader." Our national political press is happy to echo that charge. Obama can't avoid the accusation. But he could do a much better job of avoiding giving it credibility.

Martin Wolf in Struggling with a great contraction Financial Times 08/30/2011 has an excellent phrase for the Obama Presidency to date:

Mr Obama wishes to be president of a country that does not exist. In his fantasy US, politicians bury differences in bipartisan harmony. In fact, he faces an opposition that would prefer their country to fail than their president to succeed. [my emphasis]
Wolf's analysis of economic prospects also defines what a serious problem this creates for President Obama's re-election, though that is not his focus:

Yet all is not lost. In particular, the US and German governments retain substantial fiscal room for manoeuvre – and should use it. But, alas, governments that can spend more will not and those who want to spend more now cannot. Again, the central banks have not used up their ammunition. They too should dare to use it. Much more could also be done to hasten deleveraging of the private sector and strengthen the financial system. Another downturn now would surely be a disaster. The key, surely, is not to approach a situation as dangerous as this one within the boundaries of conventional thinking. [my emphasis]
In other words, something the US and the European Union could apply policies that could substantially improve the world economy and the US and EU economies, more particularly. But that requires their government to adopt something more sensible that Herbert Hoover economic policies. And Obama's own conservatism, combined with his seeming delusions about the Republican Party and the bizarre image of voters looking for Compromise regardless of substance, makes that an almost unthinkable prospect at this time.

Cenk Uygur gives his view of the negotiating problem in The audacity of weakness Salon 09/01/2011. Arguing against the die-hard Obama fans who see even the most embarrassing stumbles and failures as the sign of a sophisticated strategy (rope-a-dope, three-dimensional chess, pick your metaphor). Instead, Uygur argues:

He doesn't realize he's getting pummeled. He thinks this is all still a genius strategy to capture centrists by compromising on every single little thing. He is not trying to put on an appearance of weakness to lull his opponent into a false sense of complacency. He doesn't even realize he is being weak. He's the one with the false sense of complacency. As he's getting knocked around the ring, he thinks he's winning.

These guys in the Obama camp are in for a horrible, rude awakening. Sometime in the next year, they are going to blink and realize they are lying flat on their back on the canvas. Then as they finally stumble up, they'll realize they should have started fighting 11 rounds ago. Then a panic will set in, but I'm afraid it will be too late by then.
Yes, a Republican President would definitely be worse. But unless Obama can start being a better President, the chances for a Republican successor in January, 2013 are high.

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"It is the logic of our times
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