Just who IS this Obama guy, anyway?
Original post made
by Tom Cushing, Danville,
on 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.
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.