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By Tom Cushing

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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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Just who IS this Obama guy, anyway?

Uploaded: Aug 9, 2011
It's tempting to begin this week's epistle with an inquiry about whether anybody feels better about last week's DC debacle, from an investor's vantage fully 15% below where you were way back in July. But this immediate Dow Jones tankage may be just be a chaotic stampede by the Wall Street herd – especially since the real economic damage is more likely to be evident in the further wounds the debt ceiling shenanigans will inflict on a reeling housing market, farther on down the undeveloped road.

It IS tempting, but I won't.

Instead, I'd like to try to provoke a conversation about where this President sits on the left-to-right political continuum. There are nearly unlimited lenses through which to view Mr. Obama's policies, including even the bleary beer-bottle goggles of those inebriates who loudly declaim him as a socialist. To the ardent progressive liberals who thought they'd found true love in 2008, he's been a bitter disappointment. Old-timey Dems are confused by his flat emotional affect, and his refusal to mount the bully pulpit and hurl rhetorical lightning bolts at GOP intransigents. And at least one commentator with nearly unassailable conservative credentials considers him "The Democrats' Nixon."

Bruce Bartlett consorted with Ron Paul in the 1970s (before it was cool), and was a senior economic advisor to both the Reagan and Bush1 Administrations. Writing in the Fiscal Times, he reviews the last nine Presidencies, and concludes that Nixon was remarkably liberal. He accepted the realities of both the New Deal and the Great Society, and presided over a broad expansion of Washington's regulatory reach – most notably the creation of EPA and OSHA; both agencies are despised by Right Wing plunderers of The Commons.

By contrast, Bartlett cites ample evidence that our current President has demonstrated a conservatism that confounds those who thought they were electing Obama the charismatic leader. Among the items: Obama's stimulus bill was half the size his advisors recommended, he caved on rescinding the Bush2 tax cuts (getting nearly nothing that Democrats value in return), his defense policies and personnel have pretty much stayed the prior course – and even his health care reform modeled itself on Mitt Romney's successful Massachusetts plan.

The best proof so far produced, however, was Obama's curious performance in the debt ceiling catastrophe, where he signed-on to a preposterous "fix" that overshot the political middle, and landed in the Boston harbor – deep in Tea Party orthodoxy. Polls repeatedly showed that most Americans favored a mixed approach of cuts and tax increases, but the outcome he approved ignored revenue – again.

So I know it's a hard swallow, Conservatives, but are you ready to acknowledge that Obama is a surprisingly pleasant bedfellow? Or is he just a pliant pragmatist? Or a lousy tactician and timid negotiator who's afraid to demonstrate his BATNA?

There's an argument to be made that every President disappoints his followers on either extreme by playing to The Middle, but does that explain this President's policies? Your turn to opine, Forum Faithful.

Comments

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Aug 9, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Tom Cushing is a registered user.

Link to the Bartlett article: Web Link


Posted by Ralph N. Shirlet, a resident of another community,
on Aug 10, 2011 at 8:07 am

Dear Editor,

Our village humorist, Tom, in intelligent provocation of the minute factions sponsored aboard your forum, has laid out incompleteness for the imagination of those completing this exchange.

It brings more questions, among those laughing, "is President Barack Obama Oprah in DRAG? Will he start his own government as Oprah started her OWN (failing) network? " Is our answer "heavens know" or "Heavens NO?"

There are those that believe our government in Washington DC is already separate from WE, the people, without any opportunity for us to participate in our own economic and political remedies. That belief is confirmed in polling that illustrates WDC elected in the administration and congress has little chance of remaining.

Unique to this century, WE, the people, have elected a declining capability to serve us. Once, George W. Bush was simply laughable in his inability and yet we now have a lower grade of candidates that on their best day could not even rise to the level of President Bush's incompetence. It is as if we don't want a President and Congress, and prefer laughable, even tragic targets for Jon Stewart. Should we actually expect Robin Williams to run for President or should we be just be satisfied in laughing at Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann?

So let's provoke sponsored commentary with a call for another coincidental president very much like Ronald Reagan and imagine Barack Obama trying out for that role. Part of Barack is ready with the ability to speak and all he likely needs is better writers and set designers. Barack will need to be syndicated likely on Oprah's OWN network much like Lady Sarah providing emotion and drama in his review of our country and economy from afar. Can we hear commentary, an occasional oxymoron or three?

AS it was years ago, when Howard would turn to Dandy Don with, "Time to sing!" we can all now sing, "turn out the lights the party's over!"

The ROFL in Ralph N. Shirlet


Posted by Rick Pshaw, a resident of Danville,
on Aug 10, 2011 at 10:09 am

T-Cush seems to be casting about blindly for anyone who may have something good to say about BO.

Good luck on that one...


Posted by Mark Patrick Brown, a resident of another community,
on Aug 10, 2011 at 10:48 am

I will opine, Tom, and thanks for the forum. I do believe "there's an argument to be made that every president disappoints his followers on either extreme by playing to the Middle" This is coming from a proud, progressive, liberal, who is also a pragmatist, which isn't a contradiction in terms. I'm in it for the long haul and I expect ups and downs. In fact, I could argue, for the sake of argument, that given this 50/50 nation, President Obama has been fairly effective.

Obama has been dealt a bad hand. When trying to pass the stimulus, he needed the help of Republican Sens. Snow, Collins, and Spector. Obama even had to strike a bargain with Spector leaving his party. I would agree that the stimulus needed to be bigger, but with an obstinate Republican party, he could get only so much. I really don't remember reading that Obama refused to take the advice of his advisers. I only seem to remember Princeton economist, Paul Krugman having an issue with its size in later newspaper columns.

You also assert, Tom, that Obama "caved on rescinding the Bush2 tax cuts (getting nothing that Democrats value in return)" What about the agreement to extend unemployment insurance? I'm confident that Bush2 tax cuts will be a campaign issue in 2012 and Obama will win that debate.

As to your point that Obama's "defense policies and personnel have pretty much stayed the course, I would agree and I am frustrated at his cautious nature. I would like to see our troops leave tomorrow, but I'm not factoring in unstable Pakistan and their nuclear arsenal. Still, Obama should speed up our withdraw.

Cynically, I think Obama is removing the perception that Democrats are soft on national defense as a Republican campaign issue. No one can argue that Obama hasn't dealt AL Qaeda a serious blow, I just don't think it should have taken two wars to do so.

Again, playing the devil's advocate, I take exception with stating that "even his health care reform modeled itself on Mitt Romney's successful Massachusetts plan" Didn't you just describe the plan as successful? Yes, I wanted the plan to be bolder, with an available public option and it's frustrating to see a president parcel words on what type of plan he wanted.

However, twenty years from now, if I'm still alive, the health reform act will be somewhat intact and what's more important, people will conclude that affordable, heath care is a right for all Americans. It was President Obama, who got the ball rolling.

Finally, on the "debt ceiling catastrophe", you contend that Obama relented to the tea party demands that tax increases be off the table, while Americans favored a mixed approach of cuts and tax increases. All of that is factually correct, but what was Obama to do? The tea party freshman controlled one half of one third of the three institutions involved. Did you think these tea party freshman would roll over for a charismatic president? They didn't even roll over for their Speaker of the House, John Boehner.

In these Tea Party gerrymandering, districts, their seats can only be challenged from the right, sad to say. So, they can refuse to compromise, gum up the works, make government dysfunctional and come home to their districts as crowning heroes. These freshman congressman are fighting a cultural war as insurgents. Do you think an inspiring Obama speech will placate these extremists?

Unfortunately, in these economically troubled times, I fear that we'll remain a 50/50 nation, voters will look for someone to blame, and won't take things into prospective. Still, that's why we have elections. Maybe my one prayer will be answered and the Republicans will overplay their hand and nominate Michelle Bachmann.


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Aug 10, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Some additional observations about Obama:

1. Violated international law by failing to prosecute CIA agents who tortured detainees.

2. Continues to allow warrantless wiretaps.

3. Spent political capital passing Healthcare reform at the expense of other more important legislative priorities (e.g. climate change legislation, jobs).

4. Commenced military campaign in Libya.


Posted by San Ramon Oberver, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm

San Ramon Oberver is a registered user.

Tom,

The secret is out. It's in the plot of that new movie "The Change-Up." Obama, who ran as the anti-Bush, has switched bodies with G. W. and is now Bush in disguise.

Of course all the Bushies out there who wouldn't criticize or unelect W. the big spender, attack Obama now for doing exactly the same things. Because he turned Black and is in the Democrat Party, the GOP doesn't recognize their old pal W. anymore.

Roz


Posted by Anne, a resident of Blackhawk,
on Aug 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm

In response to spcwt's observations 1 and 2: Do you really want another 9/11 to happen in this county?

In response to body switching, GW spent monies on important things like keeping our country safe whereas BO wants to spend it on giving freebies to those who think those of us who work hard should pay for them. (Obamacare sound familiar?!)

Hopefully, WE, the people, will finally use our brains next November and put someone in who has a clue, not just vote for a candidate because it's the novel thing to do!


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Aug 11, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Anne,

I want to live in a country where the government respects the constitution and the rule of law.


Posted by Anne, a resident of Blackhawk,
on Aug 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm

spcwt,

So should I assume you are also one of those who thinks we should have given Bin Laden a trial, rather than take him out? We live in a global community and other countries don't abide by our Constituion and laws. Most, if not all, who have been wired taped without a warrant are not US citizens and therefore should have no protection under our laws.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Aug 11, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Hi Anne: I think the semantics of your comment are interesting: what purpose does the phrase "are one of those who" serve in that first sentence? Do you think everyone who disagrees with you on a particular subject thinks the same? 'Cuz I can assure you that I've been corresponding with ol' spcwt for quite a while -- and there are many matters of policy on which we disagree! It just happens that the rule of law is important to both of us.

I think language is important, and yours betrays a closed-mindedness that may not serve you well in cordial political conversations.


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