Obama on the ropes


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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55 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    He is where he is alas. I’d say it’s about fifty percent circumstances beyond Obama’s control but the other fifty percent are all a consequence of his political choices in office. He has some tough going ahead of him to be sure. He has my tepid vote but that’s about it unless the GOP is mad enough to nominate Perry in which case I might have to think about volonteering or something.Report

  2. Avatar Kim says:

    Obama’s too popular to get good opposition. Liberals/Professionals won’t run from him, and the conserva-dems like the cut of his jib (aka he hasn’t done anything to piss them off).Report

  3. Avatar The Warning says:

    Despite his wildly unpopular agenda, he still has a strongly motivated base, and the finest political strategist and bundlers behind him.

    I think his fate rest with the GOP to nominate a new kind of candidate, or hand us the same old-boy nominee and assure his victory.Report

  4. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    “It’s the economy stupid,” James Carville
    “America’s unemployment problem will be solved when the President is unemployed.” Rush Limbaugh, today!Report

  5. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    In other words, attack the other side. Duh. The whole strategy has been brute majoritarianism for awhile now, to round up 51% against the other 49. When the president’s not doing it himself, he calls for civility while letting Hoffa or Biden or Maxine Waters do the dirty work.

    [If you need links, you’ve been in a cave.]

    Sullivan is most worth reading for the sophistic technique; just about every other sentence reads “of course, the Republicans are worse, but…” The rhetorical gyrations to reassure his base that he’s not off the reservation would be funny, except they’re not.

    To the matter,


    from the diverse voices found on MSNBC–

    Fineman’s take:

    “His decision to spend all of his political capital and a year-and-a-half of his time on the health care reform law, I think, was his biggest political mistake.”

    Ignatius echoed Fineman’s sentiments, also pointing out that President Obama did not have that much political capital on health care reform to begin with.

    “The idea of watching a major change in social legislation without having a consensus in the country and in Congress about what that should look like was a mistake. That’s not how the president makes good policy.”

    Yup, that’s the core crisis of leadership right there, regardless of whatever the merits of the policy be. BHO may round up his 51% in 2012, but that won’t move us forward, only sideways for another 4 years. This is not leadership, but it is sometimes winning politics. Fortunately, it’s been more the exception than the rule in our history: the people usually suss it all out.Report

    • I don’t know what Ignatius is talking about; when has “major change” ever been brought about with consensus? Arguing that he shouldn’t have gone ahead with health care is one argument, but the generalization Ignatius is implying there is asinine.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Sez you, brother Elias, sez you. I think Ignatius is spot on here. It may not affect BHO’s re-election, but like Bill Clinton and Hillarycare, that was the hill the effectiveness of his presidency died on. The rest is rear-guard action.

        And calling Ignatius’ argument asinine is not to refute it, a rhetoric note. Me, I could wear the word out hereabouts.


        • If you can give me examples of major change that have occurred due to a national consensus, go right ahead. I think I made it painfully clear that that was the thrust of my comment—not re-litigating the health care dispute for the umpteenth-millionth time,Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Geez, Elias, why you calling me out on a gimme? The New Deal. The 1964 Civil Rights Act*. The Great Society. Welfare reform. They all enjoyed consensus.

            * http://www.milestonedocuments.com/documents/view/everett-dirksens-an-idea-whose-time-has-come-speech/Report

            • So you’re defining consensus in parliamentary terms, then, rather than by public opinion?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Consensus is admittedly a term of art, Elias. I don’t like the majoritarianism of the current regime. There is no effort being made at speaking to the American people as a whole. In fact, divisiveness is the overt strategy. [I’ve been pointing to Truman ’48 for awhile now. Now the fit is really hitting the shan, but an unstatesmanlike 12+ months before the next election.]

                The major changes I mentioned did enjoy consensus by some meaningful understanding of the concept, either parliamentary or public opinion. Democracies do enjoy a correlation, and I’m comfortable whenever the effort towards consensus is made. Reagan enacted much of his agenda absent control of Congress, but with consensus. [He gained only 16 seats in the House in his 1984 landslide, and actually lost a couple in the Senate.]

                You may not agree, but there is nothing to be gained by litigating it further. It’s an observation, admittedly mere opinion, although I believe polls and elections from those times [I’ve looked] support the contention.

                The New Deal was very popular, the Civil Rights Act enjoyed 59% approval, 31 against, 10% no opinion, sez Gallup.


                And I will stand with the assertion that BHO blew his political wad with HCR, absent some Dem landslide miracle in 2012.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                The problem with the health care law was that it was a Rube Goldberg scheme that did not address important structural defects in the financing of medical care and in public budgetry. Giving this bad insurance legislation priority also indicates poor judgment, in light of the condition of the banking sector in early 2009.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                … if all it does is remove paper records, it’s solved about .5% of our GDP being wasted on people and storage space and phone calls. And that is an important structural issue.
                The main problem is that 2014 is when all of the good provisions kick in. Which is exactly how insurance wanted it. Still? Republicans ain’t killin’ it before then.Report

            • Avatar Art Deco says:

              I draw a blank, Tom. North of a quarter of Congress voted against the 1964 act. The passage of the act was accomplished (among other things) by all but a scatter of northern legislators imposing their will upon all but a scatter of Southern legislators. New Deal legislation was crucially dependent on a temorarary supermajority. The better part of a generation later, their remained a considerable corps in the Republican caucus who were unreconciled.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      longterm political, Obama has dealt a deathblow to the Republican party as we now know it. They must structure themselves against the health care plan — that they Cannot End. And when the health care plan becomes everyone’s lifesaver, then they will look even more irrelevant. You saw the margin on the Millenials voting for Obama? It was lolcat worthy!Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Could be, Kim. But “demographics is destiny” is a two-edged sword. There are now a number of Hispanic GOP major-office holders, and we trust that at least some of the Millennials will grow up, join the real world, and moderate from radicalism, as every generation of their forebears has done to date.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          Voting for Obama was radical?Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            It was if you were paying attention, Mr. Drew. But I don’t blame anyone for not voting for the crabby old white guy even if they were. As much as I disapprove of BHO’s performance in office, I can’t honestly say it’s a lock McCain would have been the better choice.

            But my point here was more than about Obama ’12, as was Kim’s, I’m sure you appreciate.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              Voting for a major-party presidential candidate with a platform of massive bailouts of failing megabanks, GOP-initiated health care reform concepts, and the expansion of one overseas war alongside a slow winding down of another. This was a radical act.


              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mr. Drew, failed attempts at reductio ad absurdum are merely absurd. BHO didn’t run on those things; nobody voted for him based on those things.

                C’mon, I allowed that BHO still might be better than McCain would’ve been. Give a fella a break. Reasonable folks like yrself and meself are this republic’s last best hope. If we can’t talk like adults, then the republic is doomed and it’s 51 against 49 and sheep for dinner every night.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:


                Well, what did he run on then, Tom? Cuz yeah, that is what I remember him running on.

                Care to even mention one radical thing about his platform? Or should I just refer to Mr. Cheeks’s explanation to understand what you are referring to?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Let’s litigate ’12 instead, Mr. Drew. ’08 is pointless: BHO may have been the best choice, stipulated. This grenade-tossing does nothing except give me a headache.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                It kinda matters for the meaning of our politics what is radical and what isn’t. But okay.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I’m sorry, but electing McCain gives the Kochs more power. Electing whoever runs next as a Republican gives them more power. And I’m rather against giving power to stupid people.

                I’d rather give power to the professional class (the upper middle class), because they tend to be in favor of government. The non-bourgeoise upper class tends to be in favor of machine guns (you seen their mansions?) or fleeing the country if they ever get caught.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            Mike, Barry’s commie background was available before the election for those who weren’t emotionally caught in the ‘hope’ and ‘change’ thing. Commie mom and dad and inlaws, and step-dad, then there’s that fellow who helped rear (sorry!) him and drank whiskey with him when he was nine, and the wacky/strange muslim dudes that got him into the Ivy League, etc. It was all there, nobody was hiding it. I mean the guys’ never had a real job, except for ‘street agitator’ ha, ha!Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          TVD, yeah, moderating from Reagan Republicans really seems to be the fate of most GenX fools. Obama was run by the professional class (the creative class), and it really does show in how he administrates.Report

      • Avatar RTod says:

        Kim – What happens if the health care plan does not become everyone’s lifesaver? Or – more likely, from my point of view – what happens if it is very effective at being a lifesaver, but people still blame it for everything bad? The history of HMOs suggest that this is really quite possible.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          We obviously didn’t fund it enough.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          The thing is… even if PPACA was really the cats meow, the big benefits are actually conferred on a comparatively small number of people. Namely, the uninsurable. Definitely not “everyone.”

          “Yeah, but everyone can become uninsurable, and so this saves everyone!”

          Even if this is true, most people are not presently looking at it that way. I don’t know why that changes once the law takes effect. More noticeable will be the Mandate. And all of the things it doesn’t fix (because it’s an actual law, and one dealing with complicated situations at that).

          I say this as someone for whom Guaranteed Issue can’t come soon enough for. We’re expecting employment turbulence and it would be a great comfort to know that we could get coverage independent of of COBRA. But if this was something that most people really thought about, the law would be more popular now.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            any college student gets covered, up until age 25. That’s huge. And millenials will remember that. Also, since you can granny off your parents, many corps who hire young people won’t need to pay health care.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Won’t matter if we get 1% of our GDP to funnel into something that isn’t health care. That’ll mean JOBS, and people tend to get happier when they’re working.
          And obama has plenty to point to, in terms of “feel good” fun.

          RW propaganda sucks, and we ain’t getting out of it until we take down the “landed” rich. But the Millenials — they don’t watch the propaganda. They get thier news through facebook.

          As boomers retire, we get more resistant to propaganda.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer says:

        Obamacare is a convoluted, Big Government disaster that in America will threaten to break the bank — it will be seen as a huge mistake. That’s my prediction. Even many young people are beginning to recognize government as anathema to the spirit of the internet/information/technology age, which in essence will be characterized by decentralization and smaller, more highly efficient, innovative enterprises, including healthcare delivery. What happened in many socialist countries, where the public became children to a paternalistic State, will not likely evolve in America, although American-style socialist/paternalism has had its effect.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          “even many young people”?

          Wasn’t there a time when young people would have been presumed to be reflexively anti-authority, emphatically to include government? Are you sure you’re not losing the war, Mike?Report

          • Avatar MFarmer says:

            No, after the 60s, there appeared to be a concerted effort, which worked for awhile, to turn young people in political activists for the status quo — now they’re beginning to see the system has failed.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          … you haven’t read a whit about electronic medical records, have you?Report

          • Avatar MFarmer says:

            Yes, I have. Technology managed by government is like the best tools in the hands of a shadetree mechanic. It’s not just about technology, but creative thinking, innovation, knowing what to do with technology to go to places not yet imagined. Technocratic efficiency is yesterday’s failure.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer says:

              You know, Kim, you could benefit from less blustering know-it-allism and more quiet, reflective reading. I understand you are eager to impress us all with your broad, deep, penetrating intellect, but it’s growing old.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I just sound like a knowitall. It’s a bad habit. But bribing doctors to use electronic medical records doesn’t seem to be anything more than giving people an incentive to upgrade (kinda like those ARRA green-energy thingummies, where putting in insulation got you a bit of money).
                I don’t see any hindrances to innovation because of GOVERNMENT. I see hindrances to innovation because of COMPETITION, moreso than anything else. Who wants to give their competitors e-records? You kinda need everyone to jump in at the same time — which is exactly what the gov’t should be supporting, isn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                … M, you would rather critique my style of dialogue, rather than cite sources supporting your point? Show me how much waste occurs because of gov’t certification… Or how the gov’t “regs” are incentivizing poor medical records.Report

    • Avatar Steven Donegal says:

      If Howard Fineman and David Ignatius both agree on something, you know to a 100% certainty that it is completely wrong. Obama was elected to do healthcare. He did it. It wasn’t pretty and the political compromises necessary to get it done made the program not as effective as it could have been, but if he hadn’t done it, he would have no chance at re-election.Report

  6. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    If Howard Fineman and David Ignatius both agree on something, you know to a 100% certainty that it is completely wrong.

    Now that’s the kind of logic that sends a thrill up my leg.Report

    • Avatar Steven Donegal says:

      Not logic, just a factual observation.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        What’s the fact in the observation?Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          Fuller transcript:

          CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: This week we want to do something slightly different with our “Tell me Something” segment. Let me ask you all, all four of you, what has been President Obama’s biggest mistake in his two and a half years so far? Howard.

          HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: Chris, on things under his control, not the wars so much because they were built in, his decision to spend all of his political capital in a year and a half of his time on the health-care reform law I think was his biggest political mistake.

          MATTHEWS: Wow. Smart statement.

          And then there was this exchange with another panelist:

          DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST: I would agree with Howard. The idea of launching a major change in social legislation without having a consensus in the country and in Congress about what that should look like was a mistake. That’s just not how a president makes good policy.

          MATTHEWS: Wow.

          Sent a thrill down Chris Matthews’ leg. No report on who mopped up the thrill.


  7. Avatar RTod says:

    Elias – I don’t think you need to be agains the idea of greater stimulus to recognize that there is no chance at all that more can be passed at this point.Report