Drew Westen: “What Happened to Obama?”

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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94 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    Yes, I agree with this generally. I think Obama’s problem has been both half-assery and wanting it both ways. He wanted to be both the President who fixed lots of problems and also the President who returned the office to a more restrained and principled form. Unfortunately you can’t easily (possibly?) have both at once and so he’s half assedly poked in both directions. He’s been hands off, non-confrontational and lead from behind on legislation in a way that gestures towards presidential restraint even as he’s punted on any issues of rolling back the surveillance state or driving out the skeletons of torture from the presidency. That makes him look disingenuous and ineffective. He could have pressed hard on the war both verbally and in action (he mostly did the former but not the latter) or he could have focused on winding them down as quickly as possible (Libya and drones don’t fit in this narrative; he chose to do both and neither and ended up incoherent and hypocritical sounding.

    And worse it’s cost him time. A President who didn’t spend 5-6 months waiting for the moderate GOP senators to come to the table (and who now ever talks about those moderates being willing to help on anything in the Senate now days? A bitter lesson learned too late.) would have started working on going it alone two months in. Ironically if the GOP had determined, early, that HCR passing was a certainty and only its contents were in question they’d have broken and come to the table in droves in order to influence the outcome. Obama dangled, inadvertently with his squishiness, before their nose the possibility that they could defeat him entirely and they went for it. This cost him time, quality of the final bill and also the possibility of making the GOP actually think about health care reform and make up their minds as to what they want.

    And it needs to be emphasized how badly it screwed him. That time could have been used to re-review the stimulus, to pass a budget more amiable to what he wanted or to raise the bloody debt ceiling all things that would have headed off so many of the string of messes that he later acquired. I mean sure, there’s blame to be laid on the GOP for their behavior (plenty) but Obama is responsible at least for making himself such an easy cost free target.

    The man ran on hope and change; the immaterial and the nigh unachievable and sadly it turns out that the person who believed his campaign rhetoric the most was Obama himself. More’s the pity for it.Report

    • Avatar PSR in reply to North says:

      Yes — he negotiates against himself, over and over. Most recently, taking the 14th amendment option off the table re the debt ceiling. He simply overthinks things, and is likely toast.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North says:

      I mean sure, there’s blame to be laid on the GOP for their behavior (plenty) but Obama is responsible at least for making himself such an easy cost free target.

      What’s the ratio of blame assignment here? 50-50? 30-70? 90-10? And when making these determinations it’s important to not overlook the very conservative Democratic Senators who are much more aligned with moderate Republicans ideologically as well as politically.

      If the emerging Weston narrative is a way to account for the disappointment Dem voters feel, then telling a story about Obama not telling good stories may suffice. But it seems to me the disappointment has resulted from two obvious structural features of today’s Congress: a radical faction of GOP House members who refuse to negotiate in pursuit of pretty incoherent goals, and a conservatively oriented faction of Dem Senate members who continually pull ‘liberal’ legislation to the right in any event.

      Btw, I say this not absolve Obama of legitimate criticisms. But a criticism is only legitimate to the extent it comports with the facts at play: that the legislative deck is significantly stacked against policy that could be viewed as ‘left-leaning’. And the media plays role here as well.Report

      • I think as far as it goes with Senate Dems, the amount of political capital Obama had in his early days was very much tied to his willingness to tell a story as Westen imagines. I don’t mean to disagree with your point so much as to say I think that there’s room for coexistence between you and he.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Elias Isquith says:

          I think that there’s room for coexistence between you and he.

          Yes there is. Maybe I was confusing the two issues a bit in the above comment. In any event, I guess I’m reluctant to say that Obama has lost the public because he advocates inconsistent principles, or doesn’t tell us more nuanced stories about policy. And I think it’s especially inaccurate to conclude from the bare recognition of that fact that he has no plan or purpose. So yes, he has backtracked on some issues (a public option) and made concessions on others (off-shore drilling). But I think that again, structural features quite adequately account for the appearance of an incoherent governing philosophy. Basic realities just have to come into play here, that the US is an oil-dependent nation and will remain so for the foreseeable future. So advocating environmental issues while promoting oil exploration aren’t mutually inconsistent except according to rigid first principles. In fact, his recent revision of CAFE standards makes it clear emissions and fuel efficiency are very much part of his overall program. As well as the funding thrown at alternative fuel development since he was elected.

          One other thing: a question. Is the idea that a President must have a coherent governing philosophy that manifests itself as policy or elaborate story-telling a burden imposed on Obama only because so many on the left are disappointed with the policies enacted? I ask this because it seems like too high a burden for anyone to achieve, and one that is sorta uniquely – and post-facto, as it were – flung at Obama. I don’t recall these criticisms being applied to prior presidents. But also, I think Obama has actually advocated for his view, and created a narrative surrounding them. It is consistently unheard, even by Democrats.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Stillwater says:

        The thing is, Stillwater, that had Obama, after maybe a month or so of Obamaish bipartisan gestures and outreach, had resolved that the GOP was intransigent instead of essentially ignoring their declarations that they intended to defeat him unconditionally then he would have started negotiating around month 2 or 3 with the conservative wing of his own party. The thing to emphasize in this scenario is the signaling. Once Obama starts talking with only the conservative and liberal Dems he’s letting the GOP know unambiguously that there will be a bill of some sort delivered to his desk. The internal dynamics of his own party would be that all their motivations would be to work with him to a well considered compromise. This would have placed ~enormous~ pressure on moderate GOP senators and GOP leadership to drop the idea of uniform resistance and attempt to bargain with Obama to influence the content of the legislation. Also, by starting out negotiating with his conservative wing early on he also reduces their own leverage. Obama at the blue dog’s door at zero hour has no leverage. Obama at the blue dog’s door at the get go has huge leverage.

        This is part and parcel with Obama’s habit of preemptively conceding things. He puts large quantities of tax cuts into his initial stimulus; he adopts the 1994 GOP healthcare plan; he lets the tax cuts be extended without forcing a debt ceiling increase. In all of these scenarios the GOP simply takes what he gives them, pockets it, denies that anything was offered and demands more. Perhaps this is horrible of them, on the other hand having gotten away with it repeatedly what objective observer could blame them for returning to that well over and over again? Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome; what excuse does Obama have for his repeated concessions?

        As for dividing blame? I don’t know how I’d divide it. 30% Obama, 35% GOP and 35% things the GOP did that Obama enabled/allowed them to do maybe? Does that sound fair?Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to North says:

      Comprehensive health-care reform legislation shouldn’t be undertaken, given a choice, on a go-it-alone basis. Obama was substantively right to seek Republican support. Republicans eventually realized they could string him along and ultimately forcce reform to be an act of just the president and his party. But that doesn’t make it the right thing to do for Obama not to have sought bipartisanship, or to have stopped reaching out to Republicans to try to achieve bipartisan legislation. Ultimately, many Seantors realized the leverage they had by being the potential 60th vote, and they weren’t all Republicans. This dynamic, as much as what at a certain point were clearly vain hopes for bipartisan buy-in, is what drove the process to be so distended. That, and, you know, the need for a fulsome public airing of such major changes to an entire sector of our economy. Had he further pressed the procedural issue and tried to pass something needing only 51 votes, then the various 51sts would have realized their leverage. If you think that Senate was so ideolgically pure that the 50th most liberal Senator wouldn’t have mde tough demands of the White House causing delay, and then others who emerged as later 51st votes), then you are naive.

      It is not reality-based thinking to suggest that there was some obvious path the president should have taken to make HCR a much shorter, easier, less contentious process than it was, nor is it clear that he ought to have taken it if there had been such a path.Report

      • The people of Massachusetts [of all places] gave Ted Kennedy’s seat to an opponent of Obamacare.

        We. Don’t. Want. It.

        What part of that doesn’t the leftosphere understand? Blaming the GOP as tricksters or even Obama for his inability to lead is a smokescreen.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          The people of Massachusetts [of all places] gave Ted Kennedy’s seat to an opponent of Obamacare.

          And we can safely extrapolate from that one event to the entire country.Report

          • Absolutely we can extrapolate from that, Mr. Schilling. That and the 2010 elections.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Yeah but then NY-23 indicates a wholesale rejection by the electorate of the Tea Party agenda right? I mean if we are extrapolating ridiculously from individual data points it can be done both ways Tom.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to North says:

                Mr. North, it was a senate election in a deep-blue state, and was reinforced by the 2010 near-landslide. I would not argue something as thin as NY-23 one way or the other. Indeed, 2010 showed NY-23 was a barometer of nothing; Scott Brown’s election was indeed sign of things to come.

                [Mr. North, I already have one lefty dogging me with unprincipled argument, fault of fact and misstatements of my position. I had grown to take you more seriously.]Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                In other words, if you cherry-pick your facts, you can prove anything.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tom, I shall argue with you in kind. If you roll out partisan mush I shall respond accordingly. I wouldn’t dream of giving you better than you gave.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to North says:

                Not mush atall, Mr. North, nor particularly partisan. Massachusetts gave Ted Kennedy’s seat to a Republican right in the middle of a battle for EMK’s lifelong dream, universal health care.

                “Why did you hit that poor mule over the head with the two-by-four?,” asked the passer-by.

                “Well, first, you’ve got to get his attention,” replied the farmer.

                Scott Brown was a two-by-four. But some folks still aren’t paying attention.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                It was also a senate seat with a singularily poor Democratic candidate Tom.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                You do realize Tom that if Vicki Kennedy would’ve ran, Scott Brown would still be best known as the dad of an American Idol also-ran, right? Candidates make the narrative of an election just as much as issues do.

                As another example, if say, Terry McAuliffe is the Democratic nominee for Senate in 2006, George Allen could’ve said macaca 23 times. Or if Conrad Burns hadn’t insulted firefighters, Jon Tester would still be a farmer today.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

                I think that NY-23 is indicative of *SOMETHING*, though. The Tea Party has primaried a number of politicians including politicians who would have been “sure things” had they made it to the election itself.

                The attitude that they’d rather have someone who represents them than someone who pretends to but doesn’t is one that I find admirable.

                Even if it results in them losing elections. I wish more of the population was that engaged.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Jaybird says:

                I can hang with your point, JB. In the short-term, seemingly silly. But helping a wobbly build a power base that entrenches him/her in office forever, that’s bad long-term.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Scott Brown’s a Senator because Martha Coakley was the biggest fail of a Senate candidate in a competitive race in years.Report

          • C’mon, Alibi Ike:

            Scott Brown’s opposition to congressional health care legislation was the most important issue that fueled his U.S. Senate victory in Massachusetts, according to exit poll data collected following the Tuesday special election.

            Fifty-two percent of Bay State voters who were surveyed as the polls closed said they opposed the federal health care reform measure and 42 percent said they cast their ballot to help stop President Obama from passing his chief domestic initiative.

            http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0110/31708.html

            And that’s Massachusetts, the only state in the union that voted for George McGovern!Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Tom: I’ve said this to you before, but I don’t mind saying it again. Americans did want health care reform going into the push for it, and they wanted it in2008 when they elected a particular leader and a particular party in large numbers partly yo deliver it. Americans came not to like the health care reform that was being pursued. I’m not sure where in this comment I say otherwise. It’s not clear to me that a party elected on a particular platform, when poll numbers support the idea of undertaking a certain reform at the outset of their term, who then goes ahead and enacts their vision for that reform despite opinion on that vision having turned negative in the interim, has done anything wrong as a matter of course. This is a democratic republic; we send people to make laws based on what they say they will do and also based on them then exercizing judgement in how to proceed between elections, not to be blindly guided by polling. While I don’t think it would have been wrong from a republican perspective for Democrats to heed the turn in polls on HCR, I also don’t think they did anything wrong purely on that score by not doing so. The GOP just insisted a necessary deficit reduction measure be passed without tax increases despite overwhelming oppposition to that approach. It doesn’t mean they violated some sacred trust with the voters by pursuing deficit reduction, or even that particular policy, for that matter. it just makes it unpopular. Even if 2008 was not a mandate for HCR, it certainly was a clear priority for the winning party in that election. Enacting HCR in the face of newly negative opinion on the proposal at hand, though not about the generic idea of reforming our health care and insurance system, may have been poor judgement, or it may have been good judgment (much– I’d maybe argue all — will depend on whether the law itself turns out to be progress on that score, and is seen as such, and I’ll add that the verdicts of opinion polls in 2009 or the election of 2010 are in no way final on that question). We don’t know that it was poor judgment – much less being some more grave violation of public trust – purel;y because the proposal at hand became unpopular during the course of being hashed out. Sausage-making and all that, not to mention that no end product ever lives up to the hopes of those who wnated reform to begin with.

          So I guess my bottom-line reaction to your interjection this is: First, I don’t deny that the American people didn’t like this legislation when it was passed. Second: who is this we? Whom exactly is it you think you speak for? Since when does anyone adopt the first person when attemoting to speak for all Americans? Even politicians retain the third person “the American people think X-and-so,” indicating a separation between the oublic’s beliefs and the speaker’s own, implicitly acknowledging that the assertion is a stab at reality and might be subject to correction. When you say “We. Don’t. Want. It.,” you are without hesitation speaking for me. Please don’t do that. Acknowledge you are probably wrong about what it is I want. At least if you say “The American people don’t want it,” it’s clear you understand that everyone knows the American people don’t want or not want any one thing, and so we can exempt ourselves if we don’t fit into your version of us. Third: The. American. People. Didn’t. Want. That. Bill. To Become. Law. At. That. Time. It’s true by the polls; I’m not denying that. Republicanism and making wise choices about public policy, etc. Opinions change over time. We’ll see. Perhaps in the medium term It’ll look good for the 111th Congress, then it’ll look bad again. We can both be right at different times in future history. Again, it’s the thinking that “we” are a “We,” and thinking you know what We want in real time, and not hesitating to say so, that kinda creeps me out. And yeah, both sides do it, but both sides actually tend to do it in the more condiional way I described.

          And last, yeah, The. American. People. Didn’t. Want. That. Bill. To Become. Law. At. That. Time. If. You. Take. Certain. Polls. As. Good. Representations. Of. Public. Opinion. On. The. Relevant. Questions. Properly. Defined. And maybe they still wish it hadn’t. So what? It still might have been good leadership to pass and sign it anyway. Is your method for assessing proper lawmaking really that univariate and unsophisiticated?Report

          • I like consensus, Mr. Drew, not 51% shoving it down the other 49%’s throat, which is how Obamacare went down. Tyranny of the majority vs. republicanism and all that.

            I appreciated the cogency of your loooooooooong epistle here, except for the last sentence, which was a begging of the question and a disappointing finish to a good essay.

            And no we don’t. Want. Obamacare, as you stipulate. This counts for something in my consensus-minded mind.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Well, I’m certainly not arguing as to what you should *like*, Tom. And I’m not exactly sure what it is you are saying the import of the notion that we didn’t want ACA is. Which is definitely not to say there is none, just that I’m not sure what you are saying it is. Which is why most of my argument can basically be summed up as I did at one point: “So what? Not with a period or exclamation mark, but a question mark. “…we don’t. Want. Obamacare, as you stipulate. This counts for something in my consensus-minded mind.” Yes, it counts for something, we don’t disagree. But what? What judgment exacly are you rendering based on the observation? You don’t say, perhaps because it’s an extremely complicated question that political philosophers have been arguing about for centuries. But because you don’t attempt to say, it open the possibility that you think it is just that simple in some way, which is what leads me to my last sentence, by which I meant no offense. It’s not like I’m saying I think your assessment process is that simple: after all it’s not, right? But then why is it Such. A. Clearly. Salient. Fact. That. “We Don’t. Want. It.” That. All. One. Ought. Need. Do. To. Make. Its. Importance. Clear. Is. To. Simply. Speak. Its Name. Slowly. And. Clearly. And. Then. All. Men. Of. Good. Faith. Ought. To. Finally. See. Its. Full Moral. Implications?Report

              • Mr. Drew, I’m saying that shoving a bill down the throats of 50-50 country without even knowing what’s in it is bad governance at best, and tyranny at worst.

                I. Don’t. Want it, but if a consensus of my fellow citizens do, I go along with it, as a good citizen: I got outvoted.

                But not this, Mr. Drew. This wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am stunk: in this respect Weston’s right about the lack of statesmanship, that there wasn’t even an attempt made to tell us what we were getting and then selling us on it. I’ve seen the clever parsing of polls that claim if you add Question B plus K plus Q, R, S, and T you get something resembling single-payer, but I don’t find Weston’s leftish prescriptions as self-evidently popular as he seems to.

                It seems impossible to those convinced politics is all about psychology and rhetoric, but some shit just can’t be sold regardless of the packaging or “narrative.”

                The election of Scott Brown in 2010 ran out the clock on HCR. The “final” bill wasn’t even intended to be the final bill, but was slipped through by a procedural maneuver. It sucks.

                But that Brown was elected to Ted Kennedy’s seat on direct opposition to Kennedy’s lifelong dream of UHC is certainly significant, and borne out by 2010.

                And for those interested, the recalls in Wisconsin on Tuesday will tell us something: if the Repubs survive, a landslide in 2012, if not, perhaps a reversal of the Tea Party tide and IMO, a break-even election in 2012. [Clinton re-elected, gains 9 seats in the House but loses 2 in the Senate.]Report

      • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Michael Drew says:

        The experience we have had since 1965 suggests one thing: first dollar coverage of medical expenses cannot be made economically sustainable except through administrative rationing. Political leadership would in that circumstance amount to explaining the benefits and pitfalls of the various ways one might finance medical care and making the case for one as the optimum to be had. Fat chance anyone ever doing that, even if they had more than the most cursory understanding of the systemic problems (which one suspects Obama does not and Ryan may not).Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Obviously Michael there isn’t an obvious one. Perhaps had Obama been more partisan then he would have ended up with a worse outcome than he did. But how much worse an outcome could he have had? Lost the message war; he conceeded it and thus lost it anyhow. At least in my scenario he gets points with his base for trying. Ended up with an unpopular bill; he got that too whether that unpopularity is fair or not. Really the only way it could have turned out worse than it did is if he’d have failed completely and gotten no bill and frankly it was all Pelosi and Reid who pulled HCR out of the fire.Report

  2. Avatar MFarmer says:

    For someone without a message, he sure does talk a lot. I like the way he bobs his head as his approaches the mic, then goes into his cool, lounge-lizard act, with a smile and a wink. Mesmerizing.Report

  3. Avatar Lyle says:

    I noticed one word that vanished as soon as Obama took office HOPE. Early on he talked about hope, but it appears when he saw the mess the country is in he fell into despair and gave up hope. Much of Regan and FDR’s messages were hope, thing were looking up, it was Morning in America etc. You hear nothing about this, only the routine stuff. Perhaps he is overwhealmed with the job, I know I would not take that job even if offered to me on a silver platter (would stay in just long enough to take the grand tour of the White House, and then take AF-1 Home and quit.
    Given how much he has aged in 2 years he now looks far older than 50.
    One wonders if there is some secret briefing one gets on taking office that scares the living daylights out of one. Of course every morning getting a briefing on all the things that could go wrong, might well drive one to drink or worse.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    It seems like the discussion over Obama is moving into alternative history territory on both sides. His supporters keep saying they’re not happy with what he did, but if he hadn’t, the situation in the US could be in a much worse alternative timeline right now. Okay, fine, but it’s hard to vote for someone based on speculation about what never happened. Meanwhile, his opponents can’t just criticize him for what he does; they constantly talk about what he “really” wants to be doing, but has to keep secret because he’s being prevented from doing it by the vigilant right. It’s bizarre to watch people argue about the merits of stuff that never happened versus other stuff that never happened. Maybe the reality is just too boring.Report

    • Avatar Anderson in reply to Rufus F. says:

      This is true, but politics and competing versions of history have been bedmates since time immemorial. Look at the disagreement over the legacies of not only every U.S. political figure (I have libertarian friends that still claim lincoln was a dictator; hamilton was even worse), but over every influential person that’s ever lived: Caesar, Louis 14th, cromwell, so on and so forth. Granted, the long run does a better job of evening these disagreements out than the short-term press/political system, but, so long as there’s a narrative to be framed, the reality will always be too boring/ complex/ uncertain. Maybe we’ll never get over the most basic reality that there are winners and losers to every fight.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Anderson says:

        Oh, I agree. Granted, the two things I try to stay away from in studying history are the counter-factual histories and the urge to read all past events in the light of what came later. But it’s definitely an understandable tendency. The other thing I think you learn by studying history is how frequently people in past eras thought there were entirely different things going on from what was actually happening (Marie Antoinette was prostituting herself and scheming against France, the Masons were working to overthrow states, etc.). That’s where it gets sticky I think.

        As I remember it, and when I now read books or watch movies from the 70s, I’m struck by just how much the culture was engaged with conspiracy theories. It really was a paranoid time as I remember. Sometimes I wonder if we’re not returning to that mentality where, regardless of their political leanings, people just assume that large social institutions and political figures are conspiring against the public weal.Report

        • I don’t think the public-at-large’s fascination with conspiracy theories has abated at all since rumors of Hamilton’s closet Monarchism. Or the Jews’ blood-soaked Sabbath practices, really. It’s just what we (or at least some of us) do to explain and inexplicable world.Report

          • Maybe so, but it seems to me that it really rises and falls according to the time and place. I’ve noticed much more distrust among Americans than I have here in Canada. At some point, distrust in public institutions really does lead to widespread alienation. I know there are plenty of competing ideas about what dissolved the Roman Empire, but I’m still partial to the idea that there came a point at which people living under the Empire just didn’t believe in it anymore. I meet people in the US who are of no particular political opinion, but believe strongly that the Church is molesting children, the schools are brainwashing children, the media is brainwashing adults, the corporations are working against the common man, the government is waging a quiet war on its own people, and the political system is nothing but lies. I always wonder what keeps those people embedded in their society when they feel that way about it, and can only imagine it’s the fear of violence.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Obama made it clear before he was elected what he wanted to do , and he’s confirmed it several times since, but after the midterm elections he put on a centrist pragmatic disguise. Really, it’s clear that Obama is a progressive, but like I wrote in my article, the progressive narrative is not publically supported because the progressives don’t think people really want to lower living standards for the sake of someone’s idea of social justice. You can’t juggle advocating redistibution and heavy regulation with a pretend market-leaning, centrist pragmatism. People hear one thing being said about “Fat Cats” and “share the wealth”, then they hear the President say he favors free market priniciples, and Jay Carney says government can’t create jobs, right after Obama saying that job creation is his number one focus night and day — it just doesn’t add up. Obama is so intent on getting reelected, he has turned into a chameleon (like most politicians), but his basic ideology is progressive, and he hopes to push the agenda further when reelected. I think this is obvious just from watching and listening closely to what he’s said, and by judging from his past associations, speeches and influences. The “pragmatic” aspect of Obama has to do with taking pragmatic actions in the political arena, perhaps unpopular with his base now, for the end goal.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer says:

        It’s pretty funny, because most progressives and indeed some conservativess have recently been articulating exactly the same story, but in perfect-mirror reverse: that progressives saw Obama as a great progressive hope, but that in fact he all along clearlyu articulated moderation as the end and pragmatism as the means, and that, despite governing in an age that even some of the conservatives think could have used a more activist hand, Obama governed more or less exactly how he said he would, except on certain issues where he was far more conservative and other where he briefly and insincerely adopted the pose or language of a populist progressive reformer, only to revert to form as a matter of course.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Michael Drew says:

          No, Obama is definitely a progressive. But the progressives haven’t done their part — I hear some mumbling from some in the progressive caucus, but none of them are standing up and clearly stating to the public what it is they want — maybe Jackson-Lee, but not many. I say that Obama and the progressives should let their light shine — go for it. But, really, the weakest proposition put forth so far during his presidency is that he’s really a moderate. Incredible. The progressives who say this must be painfully naive, or they are just trying to help him get reelected — the old reverse psychology, don’t throw me in the briar patch gimmick.Report

          • Avatar Anderson in reply to MFarmer says:

            Eh, there were moments as a U.S. senator when he flirted with Bernie Sanders-Russ Feingold esque progressive leanings, but, as his 2008-and-beyond political rhetoric atests to, he really wanted to be the guy above the partisan fray in Washington. Read the Audacity of Hope or the 2004 DNC speech, arguably his two most important documents.

            A few telling quotes: “What’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics – the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem.”
            “…We will need to remind ourselves, despite all our differences, just how much we share: common hopes, common dreams, a bond that will not break.”
            “Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us — the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of “anything goes.” Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

            Yep, sounds like he’s really looking to kick some conservative ass!Report

            • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Anderson says:

              The problem with cherry-picking, especially with Obama, is that we can post contradicting excerpts all night long.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to MFarmer says:

                As I’ve said before, Obama is more conservative than plenty of the 20 years old who volunteered for him or the right-wingers believe he is, but he’s also more liberal than his actions indicate.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

                It’s called obscurantism, and it’s used to combat reason, to lay open the field of thought so as to insert what’s politically expedient on the way to the greater goal. This administration has taken every angle possible to avoid being cornered and challenged for its failures and its disguised ends. He doesn’t have to kick conservative ass – his operatives and the media do it for him, although he does in many of his speeches. I’m not defending conservatives, because on many issues I disagree with conservatives. But any honest observer will admit that the media and the Democrats, including Obama, have waged war on limited government conservative thought, demonizing them as ideologues whose ideology is only a front for their selfish interests. Purely progressive tactics, not the actions of someone trying to bring about harmony and compromise. Obama is a politician, of course, but he’s a progressive politician. More will be revealed — just wait and watch.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to MFarmer says:

                If you think Obama is a progressive politician trying to make people believe conservative thought is about selfishness and greed, I’d wonder what you would think if an actual mainline progressive got into office. Say, one, that appointed Krugman as Fed Chair, Stiglitz at Treasury, Goodwin Liu on the Supreme Court, and recess appointed the f out of some nominees.

                Obama is a milquetoast center-left politician. There is nothing extreme about him. Realize that and you’ll sleep a little better at night.Report

  5. Avatar Anderson says:

    I agree with you that a primary duty of the presidency is to shape the country’s narrative. Let’s face it, congress is where the real policy will and formation comes from and, frankly, the president cannot control the larger economy or other unexpected world events (despite what the opposition would like you to think.) Like the old saying goes: Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. So, with that in mind, I think Obama’s biggest mistake was his team’s underestimation of how bad the recession was and how easy it would be to get out. And, to be fair, no one really knew how bad this was going to get in 2008; we’re still revising down GDP numbers from the last few years. “Change you can believe in” and “structural decline in American power” don’t exactly work together for political rhetoric, especially coming after years of easy credit bubbles and assertions that economic progress was inevitable through the human control of risk. Yet, the calls of “Recovery Summer”, the geithner op-ed from about a year ago titled “Welcome to the recovery”, the initial belief that ARRA would keep unemployment under 8%, and the frequent use of “speed bump” rhetoric all put the president in the awkward position of having tried to frame a narrative that differed from what economic history tells us will happen after a huge financial crisis. Now, Obama just looks foolish for having put so much political capital on himself as the v-shaped recovery president (ala Reagan after his recession that came from the Fed, not a bubble.) Frankly, in contrast to some other comments here, I think HCR was one of the most admirable things Obama has done. It showed his ability to look at the biggest long-term problem in America right now and focus in on it, even though it was not politically popular. It was a big, bold move that said, “Hey, this probably won’t bump my ratings at all, but it’s a big issue that will need to be addressed regardless of how long this recession is.” Granted, I wish he (and by he, I mostly mean congress) could say the same things about our energy and immigration systems, but perhaps that’s what he envisions if he’s around till 2016.Report

  6. Avatar Art Deco says:

    We do not need national narratives. We need politicians who are passably disinterested and have satisfactory judgment about policy.

    Nothing happened to Obama. His life has been lived dilletentishly for 30-odd years. Some time in his twenties, he traded ‘baked’ for ‘motormouth’. He never had the skill-set to be equal to the tasks he faces.Report

  7. Weston’s wrong: the Dems have a new narrative every week. If any of them had been true, they might have worked.

    This week’s narrative:

    “This is essentially a Tea Party downgrade,” [Obama guru David] Axelrod said.

    “I believe this is, without question, the Tea Party downgrade,” Kerry said.


    When Bob Scheiffer asked former Vermont governor Howard Dean (D.) if the president deserved some of the blame for the downgrade of America’s credit rating on Face the Nation, Dean replied with some colorful imagery.

    “I think this is a tea-party problem,” Dean said.

    [HT: NRO.]

    Fucking amazing. The Tea Party congressmen blocked tax increases that could have netted $100B tops against a $1.5 trillion-dollar deficit. But it’s their fault.

    The problem isn’t the lack of narrative, it’s that there are too many false ones.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Disingenuous Tom. The Tea Party blocked spending cuts four times the size of the cuts that ended up getting enacted over 100b in tax increases. That is why they’re being blamed for it. The deal with the small tax increases would have decreased the deficit by massively more than the deal with none and the deficit is what the ratings companies care about.
      The ratings companies don’t care about politics that much, remember, they care about the deficit. Bigger spending cuts would please them and so would tax increases because both decrease the deficit.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to North says:

        I appreciate you parroting the new narrative, Mr. North. I don’t think it’ll work any better than the last dozen, but you do have the media to amplify it. We’ll see.

        The Dems could have given in, too, and made the cuts you speak of anyway: There was no necessary reason to link them to tax increases. Therefore your charge of intransigence applies to all and obviates the partisan angle of your argument.Report

        • Avatar patrick in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          > The Dems could have given in, too, and made the
          > cuts you speak of anyway: There was no
          > necessary reason to link them to tax increases.

          Sure there is. It’s a narrative reason. They want to get re-elected. Everybody wants to get re-elected, Tom*.

          If you walk into a negotiation and you walk out having gotten zero concessions** from the other side, you’re not going to last very long as a representative in negotiation.

          * For reasonable assessments of “everybody” in politics.

          ** Concessions that your constituents recognize as such; they don’t need to be empirically significant, just rhetorically.Report

          • Avatar kenB in reply to patrick says:

            But isn’t “getting re-elected” the underlying rationale for blaming the Tea Party as well? The only way they could have had enough influence to affect the debt ceiling process is via the threat of not supporting the current congresspeople in the next election, no?Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to patrick says:

            Patrick, blaming the Tea Party for the downgrade doesn’t hold up, then. It’s a meme, a narrative, an alibi. We expect congresscritters to be venal and self-serving, but there’s no possible excuse for a president being so, not doing what’s best for the country regardless of its effect on his re-election.

            Because as it turns out, he got no tax increases anyway, and could have agreed to more necessary cuts. The two were not linked except by gamesmanship.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Tom, the party that holds the Senate and the Whitehouse is not required to preemptively surrender to the Tea Party in negotiations, it’s insane both politically and on principal which explains why the blame is generally fixed on the Tea Party.
              Also, for a commenter who routinely and shrilly clutches his pearls over nuances of discussion to accuse me of parroting anything seems a touch rich. I don’t particularly mind because it’s cute but it undercuts your concerns about decorum.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to North says:

                Yah, Mr. North, yr “disingenuous” accusation was the first foul. I’d rather be wrong than disingenuous. And I have been neither.

                The new Dem meme of blaming the Tea Party for the downgrade on today’s Sunday shows was noted earlier and you picked it up. It is illogical, unsupported by fact. The President could have accepted any cuts necessary to achieve deficit reduction to appease S&P, but his insistence on $100B in tax increases was mere ideology, since the deficit is $1.5 trillion.

                He did the wrong thing.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                You know the joke about the good kid who wants to share an apple and the bad kid who wants all of it, so they compromise and the bad kid gets three-quarters? If he’d been a Tea Partyite, he’d have whined when he didn’t get the whole apple plus the knife.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Well Tom, firstly the Dems (and a lot of the voters) have been blaming the Tea Party /GOP for their intransigence since at least late June so even if this is meme (which I do not concede) it’s certainly not a new one.

                I will note further then that you have, in this very comment thread, simultaneously noted with great approval and defended the actions of the GOP/tea Party forcing a massive political change on the government through partisan votes using a majority only in congress while at the same time decrying with great vigor the Dems use of a majority in both the Senate and Congress along with the Presidency to do the same. I mean seriously old boy, at this point you’re arguing literally with yourself and yet you object to being called disingenuous? What possible excuse beyond “It’s okay when it’s something I approve of” do you have at this point?

                But, in the interest of balance I love the icon; the goggling sunglasses really make it pop.Report

  8. Avatar Michael drew says:

    The storytelling/public leadership critique is completely fair and getting more and more critical everyday. But the denial of credit to the Administration for legislative accomplishments is off-base. Yes, he ook a hands-off approach in terms of the shape of much of the legislation, and deserves credit to the extent the results are worse for it. But to the extent there were results,/i>, as opposed to there not being results, to me the administration clearly was constantly engaged on the major legisltion (stimulus, HCR, finance regulation) in simply making sure it got through and on setting certain baseline substantive standards for Congresisonal Dems to organize around. Do we doubt they worked the phones like madmen in each of the cases? Again: the failure to make the public case for eachof these efforts is clear, but it falls under the other category as we’re constructing this thing now. To me, a mix of giving leeway on specifics but keeping the pressure on for results was the clear (and effective) legislative strategy that was followed, and they deserve credit for it to the extent it produced result that we think are substantively worthwhile. No, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi also having very large roles and getting a lot of credit for these laws does not mean it’s right to deny Obama credit for legislative victories. An element of utilization of available political resources (i.e. other politicians) does not make a successful legislative strategy into a non-strategy, whose success does not credit the strategizer. Obama rejected a comprehensively White-House-directed legislative strategy on health care reform, for example (though it was plenty White-House directed in many ways), and eventually signed a comprehensive bill into law. Clinton chose to place the full operation in the White House, and did not achieve that. how does Obama not come out getting credit for his choice of approach, at least presumptively? Show me why he deserves little or no credit for this outcome.Report

    • Avatar Michael drew in reply to Michael drew says:

      Also: deserves blame, not credit, for the extent the results are worse.Report

      • What led you to conclude I was proposing the all or nothing dichotomy you rightly just inveighed against?Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Elias Isquith says:

          “What irks me the most about these defenses of Obama — especially those so founded upon a list of esoteric half-measure policy accomplishments that have little to no bearing, at least yet, on the public’s day-to-day lives — is that they give credit to Obama for legislation that he purposefully divorced himself from until all but the final stages.”

          “is that they give credit.” Not, “is that they give all the credit” (which no one does). Nor even “is that they give too much credit,” which we could debate. You wrote “is that they give credit.” Whatever your intention, what those words mean is that if they give him any credit, that is what irks you. Maybe i don’t perceive rightly wich legislation you are referring to (since you don’t say). But in any case, that is what led me to conclude that.

          (Though frankly, I didn’t mean to suggest you were making an all-or-nothing statement. I’m perfectly prepared to defend the position that Obama deserves, say “a great deal”of credit for the passage of much of his signature legislation, while you can defend the position that he “does not deserver a great deal of credit” for same, and we can make the definition of those quantities subject to the debate, and it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing at all. Well, actually, I’m not prepared to undertake that debate; I’m signing off at this point, but under other circumstances that’s mthe position I’d be willing to defend — I have no need of a claim that you hold an all-or-nothing view of the credit Obama should get, even though that is what your words say you are irked by.)Report

  9. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    As a strategic matter, I think there is an argument to be made that Obama should have undertaken finance reform before health care reform. He might have identified himself with populist bailout anger from the start, and a long HCR fight in 2010 would have given the Tea Party less time to form and organizem (that is, of course, an ahistorical assement given that the Tea Party’s siginificance couldn’t have been anticipated when these plans were being made).

    But I think that argument ultimately ultimately proves uncompelling, and indeed had obama taken that course he very possibly could have styimied one, if not both of these parts of his agenda, for the following reason: finance reform (in the 2009 context) by it’s nature was going to involve a certain high minimum amount of demonization of various actors in the finance sector. The reaction to this would not have been limited to just those he defined as the target of his condemnations; finance would have reacted as a class. More than he did, or even has, the most bloated, powerful part of our economy would have had him teed up as an enemy, and they would have made defeat of any priority of his he pursued their main obsession. This includes HCR, as well as, obviously, finance reform itself. Obama chose instead to placate finance early and pursue a finance reform law later and more quietly. Timoth Geithner further advised that an early camapign against malefactors of great welth might have had real negative consequences in the market and this for recovery. I don’t swallow that Geithner line whole by any means, but neither do I dismiss it wholy. BY pursuing health care and achieving a victory, Obama reasoned, at most he would antagonize an interest group that would leave the rest of his agenda alone (and indeed, he pursued in such a way that he didn’t antagoize said group much at all). Thereafter, he believed, his hand would be strengthened to deal with finance reform as a strong president, and moreover, he knew it was an issue that he would have oublic sentiment backing him up against the interested groups, who happen(ed) to be the most powerful force in political interest pursuit in the modern American political economic scene.

    It all didn’t exactly work out as planned (it never does). And everything he got passed turned out to be really crappy, watered down laws that continue to protect the interests they are supposed to regulate/reign in. But he did get all these things passed: stimulus, auto bailout, health care, finance reform. If you don’t like each of these laws on balance, then obviously you wsh he had done something else. But my main point of second-guessing of his approach (to ordering major legislative pushes and pursuing them, not his rhetorical or even overall policy orientation, on which I agree much more with the overall thrust of Elias’ and Westin’s — and Krugman’s, Reich’s, and Stiglitz’s) — that he might better have gone after the banks first to cement his relationship with the electorate — in my own accounting comes out in a place where a far less effective first two years take place in terms of passage of major legislation that, while flawed, generally i see as movement in the direction I want the country to go in.

    I wish the president were generally a much stronger voice for vulnerable people in our economy, and for measures that redirect the evolution of our economy in ways that less erode the position of middle- and working-class Americans. Even if this took the form of relatively empty rhetorical statements of general inclinations like that, given legislative constraints (and that is something of an evolution for me — I used to be quite convicted that a president ought to focus on what he can accomplish, but when essentially all productive change has been taken off the table by the oppsition, that calculation changes.) And I wish he had been a whole lat closer to to who he was in his campaign with respect to his policies on terrorism and war. But in terms of legislative management, there i think I actually have the least grounds for complaint.. Not that I have none. And I would have much more if I thought his rather extensive list of legislation enacted didn’t consist mostly of modest, but in some cases major, steps in the right direction. (The Budget Control Act being a major regression that I largely haven’t taken on board this analysis yet). But since I do see the record as rather clearly on balance a net gain for my agenda, I think an honest appraisal of his decisions on legislative strategy in context will reveal this to be the area where he most excelled during the part of his term not completely taken up with either reacting to major electoral swings that came in response to this success, or else with his own re-election.Report

    • I don’t mean this to be mean-spirited, but I read this and other arguments like it…

      But I think that argument ultimately ultimately proves uncompelling, and indeed had obama taken that course he very possibly could have styimied one, if not both of these parts of his agenda, for the following reason: finance reform (in the 2009 context) by it’s nature was going to involve a certain high minimum amount of demonization of various actors in the finance sector. The reaction to this would not have been limited to just those he defined as the target of his condemnations; finance would have reacted as a class. More than he did, or even has, the most bloated, powerful part of our economy would have had him teed up as an enemy, and they would have made defeat of any priority of his he pursued their main obsession.

      …as high-brow concern trolling. One can always concoct scenarios in which the President is going to be opposed by powerful groups and thus fall into unpleasant conflicts in which he might lose. This is what it means to be politician in general, but more certainly a politician on the left.

      Again, I’m not advocating a simplistic view of Obama as a consummate failure and fool; but I think you at times go a little too far in finding reasons to determine that a Presidency, which as of now seems destined to be a one-term flame-out, was more or less enacted just as it should have been.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Elias Isquith says:

        concern trolling

        I normally read this as “you don’t really hold that view so it is not incumbent upon me to address any points you’ve raised”.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Elias Isquith says:

        I make quite clear that it’s not the entire presidency, but rather merely the ordering of the approach to domestic legislative management that I ultimately can’t find much fault with — on extended reflection. If you think all my consideration of whether finacne reform ought to have gone first and been more populist to ultimately be just an insincere prelude to ultimately-laudatory concern trollery, then I guess what can I say to convince you that I’ve thought about it honestly and come to this conclusion sincerely? I don’t know if lowly assessing the sincerity of someone’s freely offered judgment to their face in public has anything to do with being mean-spirited or not, but i do know that if you don’t want to be mean-spiritied, then you should just execute on the plan of not being mean-spirited.Report

        • I did not mean to imply your insincerity, but rather that your argument adheres to a vision of the electorate that sees it as fundamentally afraid of anything but the most conciliatory and apologetic progressivism. I used concern troll the wrong way, perhaps, not knowing it automatically impugned its author’s good faith — that wasn’t my intention.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Elias Isquith says:

            In terms of what legislation got passed in 2009-10, I don’t think it was primarily about the electorate or Obama’s vision of it (or mine). It was about powerful interests and what they could do to Congressional behavior.Report

            • Well, maybe this is best saved for another post, but I don’t see how Congressional behavior isn’t influenced by the electorate, especially if politicians make a concerted effort to bring the electorate’s full force to bear. I’d say that the electorate influenced Congressional behavior during the Summer of 2009 with the Tea Party Town Halls. In general, I think this gets to the heart of Obama’s chosen mode of politics upon assuming the Presidency, based primarily upon back-channels, back-rooms, and back-scratching. I don’t have a problem with this in and of itself, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say, as you have in this thread, that this is what Obama told the world he’d do while he was campaigning. I remember a lot of talk to the contrary; if I thought the choice in the 2007 primary was between who would better maneuver Washington’s perilous waters of “real” power, I would have voted for the candidate who’d already spent two terms seeing how it was done.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Elias Isquith says:

                I don’t recall saying Obama stressed his inside-gamesmanship in the campaign. I’m just saying that, having demonstrated it to some extent, he should get credit for it from people who like the results (even just a little bit). I’ve made clear I agree that on the inspirational, change-the-way-the-electorate-thinks side of things, he has clearly disappointed. He didn’t make the case for the public option; rather he just focussed on getting something true. I’m not arguing that’s wrong! I’ve made clear where I’m defending him and not. If we want to go back and just lump it all back in together (as Westen seemes to want to do — it’s all about the stories!), then we can, but the distinction was made before I got here, and I’ve made clear what I’ve been talking about.

                I do recall saying to Mike Farmer that Obama made clear he was a centrist on substance, not a “progressive” (by which he means hard leftist). If you’re referring to something else I said, you can let me know.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                through, not trueReport

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Elias Isquith says:

                …But I would also say that Obama was not wrong to perceive constraints on what he could expect to achieve in health care for example because of electoral realities pertaining to the prevailing opinions of the electorate, and that a vociferous campaign for a more progressive bill that failed or resulted in the same legislation isn’t something I lose all that much sleep over having not gotten out of him. So maybe you’re just right about the “vision of the electorate” that I have. So… who’s right? Is your vision of the electorate in this country that of a pack of wild-eyed Leftists? Oh wait I forgot, Obama’s main failing is that he forgot to turn it into one by the power of his voice alone.Report

            • Elias, that was Hillary’s argument for herself, you know: that LBJ got the deal done, not MLK. They destroyed her for it.

              Happy to retrieve these things from the memory hole for you fellas, pls don’t thank me.

              Times UK:

              A race row has erupted between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, over a comment that the former First Lady made about Martin Luther King.

              In South Carolina, scene of a key showdown on January 26, where half the Democratic electorate are African Americans, black radio hosts have expressed outrage over Mrs Clinton’s remark. Now one of the state’s most influential black congressmen is hinting that he might endorse Mr Obama.

              He said he was angered by what he claims were dismissive comments about Martin Luther King by Mrs Clinton. Aides to Mr Obama, who hopes to become America’s first black president, are also accusing Bill Clinton of being racially insensitive when he said in New Hampshire last week that Mr Obama’s campaign was a “fairytale”.

              James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in Congress and a veteran of the civil rights movement, referred to a comment made by Mrs Clinton on Monday, the day before her stunning comeback in New Hampshire set up a brutal nomination battle with Mr Obama.

              NYT:

              Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have been in a running feud arising from her suggestion at Saturday’s debate that he was raising “false hope.”

              Mr. Obama responded that Mr. Kennedy did not decide going to the moon was a false hope and that Martin Luther King, Jr. did not see ending segregation as such.

              “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act,” Mrs. Clinton said when asked about Mr. Obama’s rejoinder by Fox’s Major Garrett after her speech in Dover. “It took a president to get it done.” …

              Later, during an appearance in Salem, Mrs. Clinton refined her remarks on Fox:

              “You know, today Senator Obama used President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to criticize me. He basically compared himself to our greatest heroes because they gave great speeches.

              “President Kennedy was in Congress for 14 years. He was a war hero. He was a man of great accomplishments and readiness to be president. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a movement. He was gassed. He was beaten. He was jailed. And he gave a speech that was one of the most beautifully, profoundly important speeches ever written in America, the “I have a dream” speech.

              “And then he worked with President Johnson to get the civil rights laws passed, because the dream couldn’t be realized until finally it was legally permissible for people of all colors and backgrounds and races and ethnicities to be accepted as citizens.

              “I’m running for president because I believe that there is not a contradiction between experience and change.”Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Hillary deserved to be slammed for it, because even a college freshmen could tell her there was about 53 different ways to phrase that better.Report

              • This is the essential disagreement here, Jesse, per the Westen piece: it’s not all about phrasing and technique. This is the “sophisticated” meme and now the Dem/left alibi.

                At its core is a condescension or a delusion here, that if only the Great Unwashed could be “messaged” properly, they would Agree with Us.

                I find the playing of the race card against Bill & Hill in 2008 far more probative than Martha Coakley, the discussion of which is down to arguing marginally important factoids. A better Dem probably wins. Absent the nation being in pitched battle over more nationalization of health care, Scott Brown doesn’t get a whiff of victory regardless and any Dem tomato can, even Coakley, wins.

                If Obama doesn’t have a politician’s shill wife instead of an accomplished candidate running against him in the primaries, he never gets out of the box. If they don’t play the race card on Bill and Hill in South Carolina, he probably loses too, since the Clintons had at least half the black vote to that point.

                The consensus nature of American politics—and thankfully, Mr. Madison’s structure of our gov’t—means that a Scott Brown or even a Barack Obama can be overcome by larger and more powerful tides. The republic will survive either, or both.Report

  10. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Reading this thread has been entertaining, so thanks guys. However, it reminds me, for the most part, of cats covering their fecal matter. Given the honest appraisals and evaluations so far, I wouldn’t be surprised that some of you apologize for supporting Barry.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      I don’t have to apologize for Obama myself, I wanted Hillary. I certainly wouldn’t apologize for voting for Obama over McCain and Palin. My goodness, after her performance this last couple years I’m willing to say you’re welcome for my vote.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to North says:

        It wasn’t the long legged Alaskan beauty that blew $4Trillion and got 9.2% unemployment, a stock market in the crapper, added another war, and has TSA apparatchicks in our pants.Report

        • Yeah, because when people looked at McCain/Palin they saw civil liberties concerned peaceniks who knew economics…

          (disclaimer: I didn’t vote for Obama either. I haven’t cast a vote for president since Harry Browne in 2000, my preferences since then having shifted to oppose the continued existence of government at all.)Report

        • Avatar Herb in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          Hmmm…seems like the only thing that can be laid directly on Obama’s doormat is the “added another war” thing. (The TSA’s been in our pants since 9-11, haven’t they?)

          I mean, I’m sympathetic to the “things generally suck….so let’s blame the president” view. But that doesn’t mean it’s valid. He’s a president…not a dictator.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          Gotta agree with Herb here Bob. Of the items you’ve listed only the Libya War can be laid exclusively on Obama’s shoulders. Everything else is either a Bush invention or a bipartisan fiasco (or consequence of the economic cycle and Wall Street melting down).Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to North says:

            Yes, we’re all entitled to our opinions. However, the 9.2% unemployment, the trillions in fed spending (much of it directed to states to ‘save’ teacher, fire, and police union’s exhorbitant pensions), and the Wall St. collapse are directly laid at either the commie-Dems (housing policy, big gummint threats against banksters on minority lending practices, etc), or Barry, directly. The Af and Iraqi wars were Bushes, but Barry’s embraced them with a certan passion and the TSA while a Bush bureaucracy, like all bureaucracies has ‘grown’ and expanded its powers under the commie-dems to the point where they’re feeling us up and shooting us with rads.Report

            • As a conservative and staunch anti-statist Bob, how would you have the government ensure that everyone has a job?Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Rufus, would you please expand on your critique. I’m having one of those days and need a little hep.Report

              • Let’s just assume that unemployment won’t be fixed in the near future. If so, I’m anticipating that, when Democrats are in power, Republicans will demogogue the issue; and when Republicans are in power, Democrats will demogogue the issue. The assumption being, of course, that the state is directly responsible for ensuring full employment. Now, when some of them also complain about the endless growth of the state, do you think they’ll sound funny?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Another way of putting it: If conservatives are going to say that the state’s been aggrandized and inflated by liberal claims that everyone deserves a pony and it’s up to the government to give it to them, don’t you think maybe they should resist the urge to blame the state for the fact that not everyone has a pony?Report

            • Avatar Herb in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              You lost me at “commie-Dems.” The Democrats are many things….

              But communists they are not.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Herb says:

                Nice to meet you Herb. Your new here so I’ll summarize: the ideological disturbances of the past century have pretty much congealed into a modern deformation that Voegelin referred to as a ‘orthodoxy of alienation’ ground on the requirement that the metaleptic relationship must be excluded from consciousness.Report

              • Avatar Herb in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Well, not really new, Bob. Regular reader, occasional commenter. Pleased to meet you though.

                Can I say that it’s funny that you have an overly complicated explanation for your overly simplified “commie-Dem” formulation?Report