Characters And Records: Defining The President In 2012

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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133 Responses

  1. Tom Van Dyke says:

    “Obama’s character and his record, these aren’t fixed in voters’ minds.”  I think you’ve got a live wire with this. In a way, the American people might know Romney better even after 3-plus years of an Obama presidency.  He remains…um, let’s use the word “mysterious.”

    A fine and fair essay, Elias, props.Report

    • Liberty60 in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      I am  Birther-Curious (Yellow)Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Liberty60 says:

        I hope you’re not reading me uncharitably and jerking me around, Lib60.  It’s too early in the thread for that.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Well, what does, “um, let’s use the word ‘mysterious'” mean, Tom?  What does he actually remain?  There’s probably a word for it, whatever it is.Report

          • BHO remains a blank canvas where people can see what they want to see, if favorably disposed.  He explicitly stated his ambition to be a “transformative” president, yet his sympathizers still attempt to sell him as a centrist.  His critics from the left are only so much smoke and noise, since they intend to vote for him anyway. The No True Scotsman technique, that no real leftist would use drones to whack American citizens in Yemen, has a certain rhetorical power within the leftosphere, but I don’t think has much currency outside that bubble.

            Can BHO remain a mystery to enough people to get re-elected?  That’s the strategy, and the only possible one.  That and he whacked bin Laden.  😎Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Clinton treaded water or even started to go under a bit from the perspective of the left.  That means there were basically two rightward revolutions unremediated by any leftward corrections over the three decades preceding Barack Obama’s inauguration.  Obama could very, very easily be both transformative and still a dead-bullseye centrist.  All at the same time, if you can believe it!  And: he hasn’t been transformational at all in the event.

              As for being a canvass upon which people draw what they want to see, that makes him different from every other president in the media-saturation era… how?Report

            • Katherine in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              So because Obama campaigned on change in 2008 but has uniformly behaved as a centrist, he’s an unknown quantity?  I would say it makes him a centrist.Report

              • Liberty60 in reply to Katherine says:

                Of course he is a centrist, barely indistinguishable from the Clinton he competed against. But because he is the First Black President, everyone, liberals as well as conservatives, are convinced that under that calm veneer there lurks a radical Black Panther.

                Which explains the wailing and angst from the left, and the frothing paranoia by the NRA (“He hasn’t done anything to take away our guns- which is proof that he wants to take away our guns!“); it explains birtherism, the Whitey tape, the terrorist fist jab, FEMA camps, death panels, all of the ooga booga ravings which are just barely contained by the Republican establishment.

                For all these people the outward appearance of a mild mannered centrist establishment Democrat is impossible to accept; so he remains….um, “mysterious”.

                Which is actually the most charitable interpretation.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Liberty60 says:

                TVD keeps telling all you liberals that Obama is really a radical, and at the appropriate moment in the campaign, the Republicans are going to make sure you know it.

                But despite repeated requests, TVD won’t tell us just why he thinks Obama is so radical; won’t tell us what in Obama’s record supports the claim of radical progressivism.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

                I think there’s a number for that…Report

              • Michael, you can play it straight with me like a gentleman or you can jerk me around behind my back and play to the gallery, but it’s got to be one or the other, OK?Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I don’t mean to offend. James encapsulates the basic point I’ve been dancing arounf with so many words in the thread.  We’re saying the same thing.  I’m sorry if you don’t like that shorthand was developed, but I was always clear that I thought it was fair, and it’s applicable here.  There is a way in which you are often engaging at a cockeyed angle yourself here, Tom, and I’ve always been clear with you that I perceive it even if others don’t.  I’m happy to engage with you straight-up as we were able to do in this thread, but I’m not going to be lectured about playing it straight by you.

                Two other things.  The victim routine is beyond tired at this point.  And constantly questioning others’ character here doesn’t make you look as tall as you think it does.  The reason the “number” routine performed a function (for a time, perhaps) is because of these tendencies in the way you interact here, at least at times, when challenged.  So if that reference by me means we can’t engage straight, then I guess it means that.  That’s your decision, though, not mine.Report

              • No, Michael, it’s that I prefer not to waste my time with unpleasant people.  And you can’t make me. And with 6 months to go before the election, I’m not ready to loose both barrels.

                My primary demurral at this point is calling Obama a centrist.  I’ve already limned the comparison with Bill Clinton, who was fiscally responsible, signed welfare reform, was friendly to business [on record as supporting the XL pipeline], proposed HillaryCare half-heartedly and let it die on the vine instead of forcing it through on an unwilling American people by twisting the arms of his own party’s majority in Congress.

                And it’s come out elsewhere on this thread, Clinton signed DOMA, whereas Obama is refusing to defend it.  So later for that “number” business.

                And the conundrum in this thread is easily solved, the cherry-picking of BHO’s record to claim he’s some sort of centrist:  Barack Obama is both a leftist and a hypocrite.

                “Do not ascribe to centrism that which can easily be explained by hypocrisy.”—N. Bonaparte

                So, that’s where I didn’t really want to go at this point, but you insist, with the threat of invoking the dreaded “number.”  If Obama had his way, I think we indeed would have single payer, much higher taxes, more government equalization of wealth, and the whole EuroLeft scheme.

                So now you, Michael, accept some burden of proof and argue to me what leftism Obama disagrees with, not the centrism he’s been forced into by being thwarted by Congress.  Show me what centrist or non-left policies he’s championed. Because I see nothing but centralization and spending tax dollars on “industrial policy,” like his ideology-fueled green jobs sinkhole.  I see no fiscal responsibility: charades like the “Buffett tax” will net $5 billion a year, a molecule in the ocean of our trillion dollar annual deficit.

                Mister, we could use a man like Billy Clinton again.  Mitt Romney will have to do.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                The discussion was whether or not he is an ideologue, and in particular a secret one at that, where his positions (like on SSM or guns) are not actually his positions.  I don’t know what a “leftist” is, so I can’t argue with you about whether he is one.  I have no problem if what you are saying is that when you look at Obama’s actual record, what you see is a leftist.  That’s just a function of what you think a leftist is – i.e. where you stand depending on where you sit.  It’s not an interesting conversation.  Obama is slightly to the left of Bill Clinton, yes.

                And… make you?  How am I proposing to make you do anything?  What I’m proposing is that I’ll engage with you as I see fit, and you engage with me as you see fit.  (I will always be on-topic – that’s my one requirement.  You’re good at that, so I’m happy to engage with you almost all the time.  On the other hand, if you say unavoidably 99able things, I can’t really help that much.)Report

              • Of course BHO’s an ideologue. Every position’s predictably right out of the playbook, except the ones he’s forced away from by political reality.  You think he’s not for gay marriage?  Zero restrictions on abortion?  Puh-leeez.

                If you agree with his ideology, you vote for him unapologetically, what’s the controversy here? There are many Republicans who wish their nominee were more ideological:  Rick Santorum’s positions are equally as predictable as BHO’s from the other side.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                ..And honestly, with a straight face, how can you ask me to assume a negative burden of proof with respect to what your theories are as to what is in the deep recesses of Barack Obama’s political heart?  Jesus, if he’s a closet Marxist, he’s a closet Marxist.  What do you want me to say?  His record is that of a centrist – in the context of the aftermath of a massive financial crisis where conventional wisdom is that fiscal stimulus on massive scale was indicated. (Conventional wisdom can be wrong, but it is actually conventional.) That’s not the stuff of an ideologue; it’s the stuff of an aspiring technocrat to applies consensus mainstream economic policy, which in extreme times calls (or called) for an extreme-seeming response.  If conventional wisdom had called for different response, Obama’s actions would have approximated that different response. Ideologues quintessentially don’t do along to get along.  But that’s all Obama does do.  Even his most ideological policy was adapted from proposals, and indeed policies by the political opposition.  Massachusetts is a liberal place, yes, and perhaps Obama did cram Obamacare down the throats of a skeptical country, but that doesn’t make the health plan adopted by the Republican governor of the an article of leftist extremism.  So I guess the question is, what does “leftist” mean?  When you say it, I hear something like “leftist extremist” – that’s the tenor of what I hear in your reference.  But if it really just means he’s a member in good standing of the considerably-dragged-to-the-center-in the-last-forty-years mainstream of American liberalism, well yeah, that’s what he is. Yes.Report

              • Stipulated elsewhere, that if he successfully claims the center, that makes him not an “ideologue” in its common usage as a pejorative.

                Of course, the same would apply to Reagan.  ;-PReport

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Those positions wouldn’t make him an ideologue in my understanding of the term, certainly not marriage equality.  Not thinking that there should be any restrictions on abortion while not being on a warpath of any kind to make sure there aren’t any doesn’t make you an ideologue in my book.  So we’re talking about different things.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I mean, generally, having straight-line but mainstream conservative or liberal positions (i.e. from the playbook) doesn’t make you an ideologue if they’re positions.

                Rick Santorum is indeed an ideologue in this last incarnation. I’s all about articulating a very clear, consistent ideological viewpoint for him, not political positioning, adjusting to legislative reality, etc. (As opposed to how he acted in Congress.)  That’s what an ideologue looks like.  And I entirely respect everything about what Santorum was doing in this last run, from a value-neutral perspective. Clearly articulating a coherent, pre-existing ideology.  It’s clarifying, etc. as I’ve said.  Up until the last few months of his politicking, this is exactly what Barack Obama was never about.  He’s engaged in a bit of such talk of late (“thinly-veiled social Darwinism,”), but it’s a new affect, demonstrably not what he basically is.  You’re exactly wrong about being an ideologue except when forced not to be: he’s a half-hearted quasi-ideologue only when forced by political necessity to be so.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …if they’re mainstream positions, I meant to reiterate.Report

              • You say “Social Darwinism” Obama isn’t the real Obama; I say it is.  Peace.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                It’s really him, it’s just very recent and atypical of his general approach – and clearly forced by political necessity.  He’d clearly prefer to be coasting to re-election on a soaring recovery accomplished by universally-acknowledged moderate policies.  i don’t know how that could be clearer.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

                And with 6 months to go I’m not ready to loose both my barrels

                And why? Because you’re afraid you’ll blow it for the Republicans by letting the cat out of the bag too soon?  Because you, or any of us here, have so damned much influence on public thought in America?

                I don’t think you have an answer.  I think you’re using that old “keeping my power dry” line as your dodge because you actually don’t have anything beyond “he tried to make Catholic hospitals offer birth control.”

                Seriously, do you really think there’s some wildly progressive Barack Obama that you know about that nobody else here–and the American public as a whole–doesn’t know about?  What are your secret sources of information.

                And here’s what makes you so impossible to respect–you make a big claim, you are repeatedly asked to support it, and then you play victim because everyone’s picking on you. No, we’re just asking you to step up and be like everyone else here–defend your claims or quit making them.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Michael Drew says:

                @Tom:  I’m calling bullshit on the Napoleon Bonaparte quote.   I’ve looked around in both French and English.  I will tell you what I did find:   Parmi ceux qui disent qu’ils détestent l’oppression sont ceux qui oppriment.

                Those who tell us they dislike oppression are some who oppress.Report

              • Blaise, it was a play on the apocryphal Bonaparte quote “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”  Things are getting absurdly petty around here lately, man.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


              On mystery.

              I do agree that Obama has been less than expansive about what his positions would be on taxes and spending in a second term. (Obviously.)  I don’t think this makes him generally “mysterious,” but it does make him a bit of a ball-hider at this juncture.  But: this juncture is six-and-half months before the election.  He’ll probably try to hide that ball as long as he can, but he won’t be allowed to all the way through.  he’s been reactive on the question in response to the Ryan plans, but, like, that’s what happens when someone seizes the initiative with a bold plan.  People react to it.  That’s kind of the point.

              Obama had to deal with short-term debt and spending crises leading all the way up to the kick-off of the GOP nomination fight, throughout which their plans took center stage.  The president ought to articulate his view of how to address revenue and spending balance over the medium term, in particular whether he intends to stick by his initial campaign position of not raising taxes on households earning less than 250K (which he certainly won’t go back on before the election, but obviously should do if he intends to break with that position). But it doesn’t make him a fundamentally mysterious quantity that thus far he’s chosen to sit back and be reactive while the opposition party very willingly offered their vision of how to address these questions.  There are six freaking months of this campaign left.  Do you have any idea how long that is going to feel like it’s already been in the middle of August?  Happy birthday me (Aug. 12).  There is so much time for him to be demystified, and he will be, whatever his intentions now are.

              (Moreover, his and Romney’s view of these things is of decidedly secondary interest to us given that they will both be in the position of basically taking whatever they can get from the Congresses we elect over the next two cycles – Romney a little less so assuming GOP Congresses, which is a pretty safe one.  The level of real mystery in these presidential candidacies is low: the mystery really lies in about a hundred House districts and a few swing Senate states.)Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …The larger point being that, if it turns out Obama does intend to raise taxes a scosh on the middle class in 2013 or 14 or 15, that doesn’t make him a secret ideologue in 2012.  It makes him a secret run-of the-mill fiscal moderate/medium-sized-government liberal in 2012.  It’s just a completely unremarkable, mainstream political/policy position.  It’s not an ideology.

                Now, there is some ideology in PPACA, I’ll grant you that.  The caveats to that are familiar: the ideological parts of it have been embraced by politicians on the right and left over the years; indeed the basic design is drawn from thinkers ideologically opposed to Obama today (which should tell us something about how much extremism there actually is in mainstream American politics today: basically none, except on social issues in some quarters); and any large-scale reform of an entire sector of the economy carried out by a democratic government is going to have ideological elements.  But as I said earlier, as a general matter ideology is not objectionable. Politics without ideology is a fantasy.  Ideology clarifies arguments and allows us to talk about, well, ideas, rather than having to stay always and only in value-neutral detail space.  Ideology is basically how we communicate about politics, or at least an essential element of how we do.  It’s not the philosophical HIV you make it out to be.  It’s bad if it goes to an extreme or gets out of hand.  But whatever Obama’s ideological dimension amounts to (and no person can be a politician without ideology: if your vision of Mitt Romney holds that there is no ideology there, it is an utter fantasy), there is nothing extreme about it.  Barack Obama, like Mitt Romney, is no ideologue.Report

    • b-psycho in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      If after 3 years voters don’t have a clear idea of Obama, then either they’re not paying attention (in which case they shouldn’t bother voting at all), or their sources of info suck.

      I know exactly what he is: a firm adherent to the status quo when it comes to civil liberties, foreign policy & corporate-state collusion who gets a free pass from the mainstream Left because he’s a Democrat.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to b-psycho says:

        Mr. Psycho, I argue your Paragraph A against your Paragraph B.


        • b-psycho in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          NDAA legalizing indefinite detention without trial? State medical marijuana laws being ignored against his word? Signing a bill that basically criminalizes protesting near anyone with Secret Service protection?  The unchecked drone war killing civilians like it’s nothing? Having Holder formally declare the President can have US citizens whacked without trial?

          I don’t see anything particularly “left-wing ideologue” about these.  Do you?Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to b-psycho says:

            It’s a shocking thought, I know, that lefties can be tyrants.  But their tyrannies, large and small, are precisely why I oppose them.  That Barack Obama doesn’t have a libertarian bone in his body should be clear by now.Report

        • b-psycho in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          BTW: please tell me I don’t have to remind you that I did not vote for him in 2008, nor will I vote for him or anyone else for president in 2012.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to b-psycho says:

            Mr. Psycho, I’m not going for the cherry-pick of BHO’s record.  No way he’s Bill Clinton: deficit reduction, welfare reform, friendliness to business


            The list goes on.  Neither will we ever know what this “transformational” president might have transformed with a lefter Dem congress, and of course had he not lost his filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and control of the House in 2010.

            But I will take you at your word that BHO isn’t left enough to receive your vote.  I respect that.  I do not deny that  some folks is even lefter than he.Report

            • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              So Tom i’m still waiting for your piece about all the major differences between Clinton and Obama. How mysterious and lefty and a secret true believer and the other is a business friendly techocrat. Which one is which?Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

                All things in good time, Mr. Gregniak.  6 months-plus ’til November.

                That you have already chosen to play Immovable Object instead of making an affirmative case for an Obama second term has already cut off our possibility of engagement at the present time.

                You can’t tell the difference between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton?  As a preliminary thought experiment, you really should try, if only for your own sake, and the LoOG’s.Report

              • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Well yeah tom it goes without saying its all about my blindness to reality. I never really doubted that at all.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                That you have already chosen to play Immovable Object instead of making an affirmative case for an Obama second term has already cut off our possibility of engagement at the present time.

                This comment is instructive.  For Tom, while he makes  independent claims about Obama being an ideologue, a leftist, a closet leftist, far to the left of Bill Clinton, etc., ultimately this is only about a basically banal question: does Barack Obama get re-elected in 2012?  For Tom, greginak’s responding to these claims on their own terms is in some way an act of bad faith. Yet, in fact, these are political claims that are important to work out for the sake of defining of terms and reference points for all manner of political discussions, not just this election.  Indeed, they are more important for that reason, which is why they draw such vigorous response.  It’s strong discursive tonic Tom uses here, claiming that mainstream American politics in fact comprises extremism, or at least ideologues, on at least one side – but when it’s taken up on its own terms, Tom acts like doing that is somehow a disingenuous avoidance of the real issue.  His priorities are misplaced. The weight of claims like Tom’s lies far more in their importance for medium- and long-term framing of discourse around crucial policy questions than for just this upcoming election.  They’re about establishing a basis for a shared political conversation going forward into a time when really important questions for American governance have to be addressed.  In reality, it is Tom who is not interested in being responsible for his over-drastic rhetorical approach to the only subject he’s apparently actually interested in, which, again is a banal though eternal one: What happens in November???Report

              • It’s what happens in November that defines the center, silly boy.  We shall see.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I don’t even know what the hell that sentence is trying to claim.  Election results certainly have an effect on where the consensus lands, that’s true, but the kinds of claims you make about conventional politicians being ideologues &c – in aggregate are the very stuff of a body politic working that all out for itself in civic conversation.  So to say that addressing such questions directly when you’ve raised them directly is to disingenuously avoid the real topic of election results is kind of amazing, or would be if it weren’t you doing it, Tom.

                Sorta not cool, the “boy” thing, btw.  But whatevs.  I’ve received worse of late.Report

              • Not atall, Michael:  The left-right spectrum is different in the US than worldwide, and our elections are the only way we can scale them.  This entire discussion is about where BHO sits on the spectrum.  So, ignoring your pissiness, let’s continue.

                This speech by Harry Truman is great.  It would, however been more helpful if he hadn’t given it in 1953, when his own electoral fortunes were dismal, his approval so microscopic he declined to run for re-election.

                Still, it’s a fantastic speech for Democrats, and indeed, I expect BHO to echo it even further in the interminable next 6 months.  Besides the usual calumnies about the Republicans [which I’ll not reprint], Truman unapologetically undertakes the affirmative case for left-Democrat politics, and well.


                The first rule in my book is that we have to stick by the liberal principles of the Democratic Party. We are not going to get anywhere by trimming or appeasing. And we don’t need to try it.

                The record the Democratic Party has made in the last 20 years is the greatest political asset any party ever had in the history of the world. We would be foolish to throw it away. There is nothing our enemies would like better and nothing that would do more to help them win an election.

                I’ve seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn’t believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don’t want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.

                But when a Democratic candidate goes out and explains what the New Deal and fair Deal really are–when he stands up like a man and puts the issues before the people–then Democrats can win, even in places where they have never won before. It has been proven time and again.



              • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I’ll not be called pissy for taking extremely mild umbrage at being called “boy.”

                “This entire discussion is about where BHO sits on the spectrum. ”

                Yes, it is.  But you’re not making your case about why that discussion is so dependent on the election.  If it were suddenly generally accepted that Obama is (was) a radical leftist, the primary effect of that would go far beyond the 2012.  I still don’t follow why the election is central to that discussion.  It’s something of a barometer about where those perceptions lie at a particular point in time, but so are conversations like this.  And the topic itself – what policies are moderate, liberal, leftist, extreme leftist, etc. (desirable) is actually more fundamental to the whole point of elections – democracy – than the elections are themselves.  So addressing them directly when they are raised directly, bypassing the election question, can never be in bad faith or off-topic.  If you wanted to frame the question as, “Does Barack Obama deserve reelection?”, you could have.  But you didn’t, this time. You made it about claims that Obama is a leftist, ideologue, extremist, etc.  That’s why you received responses on that topic.  Those claims are actually more important that just, “Does Barack Obama deserve reelection?”  The fact that you apparently can’t separate the two matters is, to use your word, wack.Report

              • And I’ll not be called “disingenuous” by someone who hasn’t made a single substantive point.  Just so we understand each other, Michael.  I’ve backed up my position with numerous examples as to why Clinton is center-left and Obama is simply “left.”

                The question is whether Obama and his supporters can successfully sell him again—as they did in 2008—as a centrist, or, even more absurd, a post-partisan “uniter.”  This man is as vicious a partisan as Harry Truman, and I say that in the nicest possible way as the recipient of his slanders.

                As for Obama deserving re-election, quite so I haven’t even gone near the arguments against his record.  There are 6 long months to go.  Neither is it the topic of the OP.

                For the record, I didn’t call Obama “extreme,”  as you say I did.  For the same reason i wouldn’t call Harry Truman “extreme.”  But I call neither man “centrist” in the American spectrum either. Just because numerous people here are to his left doesn’t make him a centrist, anymore than Pat Buchanan makes Rick Santorum one.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I didn’t say you were disingenuous.  I said you implied that greginak was for not making a case for Obama’s re-election (saying you couldn’t engage with him if he wouldn’t do so).

                Fair enough on extreme.  Actually I’m glad I got that wrong, though, because it gave us an opportunity to clarify.  (I think I wasn’t totally disingenuous of me to hear “extreme” in the combination of “ideologue” and “leftist,” but mea culpa for that slight misconstrual. In any case, again, I think it’s good that I was able to draw you out on the term. We can cross it off the list.)

                So: not “extreme”.  And no longer an insistence on “ideologue,” it seems.  Nor even, “leftist.”  Now, he’s just “left” as opposed to “center-left.”  Lovely.  I’m very satisfied with that.  “Left” is a satisfactorily calm thing for a Righty to call a mainstream, moderate-liberal politician.  Completely within bounds and expected.  The mirror-reverse of people actually on the Left calling him centrist.  (It’s worth noting that when people here say the BHO is a centrist, it’s not a diktat that TVD must concede it to be true.  It’s just a claim, like a claim that he’s an ideologue or a leftist.  From there, We Can Work It Out, ya know?  A discussion can ensue; a calm, civil one even.  Or not.)

                Thus, my work here is done.  You’ve gone from claiming Obama is an ideologue Leftist to just wanting to insist that he is “left,” not center-left.  I call that productive evening, i don’t know about anyone else. Perhaps I don’t necessarily agree, but I’ve got no problem with these enunciations.  It’s a perfectly lovely place to be in for us, I think.  His being a “Leftist” or an ideologue – slightly more problematic.  But “he’s Left,” I can totally deal with that.

                Many thanks for the talk, Tom.  No sweat on the boy thing.Report

              • Peace, brother, and thank you too.


              • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


                That you have already chosen to play Immovable Object instead of making an affirmative case for an Obama second term has already cut off our possibility of engagement at the present time.

                What vulgar hypocrisy!  TVD refuses to explain his claims that Obama is a radical progressive–refuses to make the affirmative case–then claims that someone else not making an affirmative case “cut[s] off [the] possibility of engagement”!

                Cowardly hypocrites are a dime a dozen in the blogosphere, which means TVD’s two cents isn’t even worth two cents.Report

  2. MFarmer says:

    Based on character or the economy, Obama’s presidency is the worst performance, and the most dishonest, in a long, long time. Only those on the Left who are baked in the Democratic cake, about 20%, will consider Obama superior to Romney regarding character.Report

    • karl in reply to MFarmer says:

      Oh so true — the only question people have about Romney’s character is “where is it”?Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to karl says:

        What partisans don’t understand about Romney’s character is that he’s simply not very political.  He’s not the hammer type, he’s a screwdriver guy, a technocrat by training and temperament.  Many of these controversies, he’d rather sit out and could live with it either way.  Let the people decide what they want, and he’ll set about trying to make it work.

        Me, I can live with that, esp in contradistinction to BHO, who I think is an ideologue, and I sure don’t agree with his ideology.  I don’t want a “transformative” [BHO’s word, not mine] president with that ideology.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Josh Marshall has a similar assessment about Romney:

          Me, I actually like my presidents to be robustly engaged in politics, with a dash of ideology thrown in for the sake of clarity.  Which is I think what we have in Obama.

          I think it’s fair to allow that employing a bit of ideological language will make a figure look to those who dislike that ideology (or the ideology they perceive the language in question to be related to) like an ideologue.  I’ve certainly experienced that.  So I don’t begrudge that impression, either.


          • Exactly, Michael.  BHO has an ideology; Romney really doesn’t.  If you like BHO’s ideology, you vote for him.  I don’t, so I won’t.

            In fact, I very much do not like BHO’s ideology and worldview.  Very much do not like.  It’s a view of egalitarianism and government’s role in creating/enforcing it that is entirely valid, but completely anathema to the politics of liberty as I [and many others] see them.

            Mr. Isquith’s OP provides an opportunity for clarity here.  Obama offers ideology X, Romney more a not-X than any Y.  He’s kind of a not-Y too [NOT the overbearing conservatism, say a Santorum’s, that many people fear].  At some point, folks will see that as a virtue, if successfully contrasted to BHO’s ideology.

            Or BHO will successfully sell himself as non-ideological, which is the same as claiming the center.  “Ideology” is used as a pejorative, so the center isn’t—can’t be—“ideological,”  by definition.

            Thus we have the “transformative” president out there calling the other side “radical.”  I always laugh at the name of Mexico’s PRI—the “Institutional Revolutionary Party”—as absurd on its face, but I admit that although I understand the Leftish language when spoken, I have never successfully learned to think in it.  We’re an institution!  We’re the revolution too!

            [Either way, the peasants are revolting.  If Obama wins, the people hath spoke.  If he loses, they’re mouth-breathing Fox watchers.]


            • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Obama offers at most a very attenuated, watered-down version of any extant fully-formed ideology that we’d recognize as such from the existing world.  And really, he doesn’t even offer any such thing at all.  But I follow what you’re trying to say here, I think, Tom.Report

              • Thanks for that, Michael, and to Andy’s comment below as well.  Clarity @ LoOG should be our mutually agreed upon goal for gathering together.  It’s really OK if you vote for him and I vote for the other guy and Mr. Psycho votes for neither.  As long as we understand why, and admittedly, more often than not, it’s a Rorschach test.

                I admire the American system above all the rest, and whether I’ve voted for the winner or the loser for the presidency, in my lifetime, even the loser was a very good man.

                Come to think of it, Gore and Kerry, not so much.  Dudes are wack.  McCain, good man, but wack.  Michael Dukakis, I voted for. Fritz Mondale, good man.  Not wack.

                I did mean to jump in with dissent when our beloved Mr. Farmer questioned Barack Obama’s character.  I don’t question his character, I think he’s a very good man, and I’ll say unreservedly, one of America’s best men. Compare his ass to John Edwards, that total piece of human shit.

                I don’t like Barack Obama’s political philosophy, and I don’t like the way he does business, so I can’t go there.

                Respectfully submitted.  I prefer Michael Dukakis, if I may.  In fact, it occurs to this Republican at this very moment that Mitt isn’t that far off the Dukakis dime atall, both governors of Massachusetts and all.

                I’m more consistent than I suspected across all these years, and it makes me feel either proud or stupid.  Gotta meditate on this some more, so I’ll get back to ya on this, Mr. Drew.


                Michael.  😉


              • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


                That’s a distinctive voting pattern you have there, Tom, I’ll give you that.  I have never understood what was so wack about John Kerry. H was my guy in that primary from jump, but both your side and mine basically converged around the view you express view from the very start, and I’ve just come to accept that I’m an outlier on the guy.  I think he’s tops, really. As a matter of character and politics one of the best nominees either major party’s had for many years.Report

            • So given that we know Romney is likely to be fully subservient to the ideological agenda of the Republican House Majority, would it be correct to assume that their ideology is what you’re in favor of?Report

        • Andy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          “He’s not the hammer type, he’s a screwdriver guy, a technocrat by training and temperament.”

          Very much agree with this. I think this goes some way towards explaining his flip-flops. In his ideal world, voters would not elect leaders, they would elect plans. Then people like Romney would execute those plans. Though I don’t intend to vote for him, in that kind of world there’s a good chance I would.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Andy says:

            One of the arguments Kaus gave in Kerry’s defense was that Kerry wasn’t flip-flopping, he was straddling… essentially trying to have a nuanced position that he could defend to both sides of the aisle. “I voted for it before I voted against it” wasn’t a flip-flop… it was that he supported the bill before it went into committee and, after the committee, it had changed to the point where he couldn’t. It wasn’t a flip-flop at all (though it was a spectacularly silly thing to say if one is trying to *AVOID* accusations of flip-floppery).

            I wonder if a similar defense could charitably be applied to Romney.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer says:

      So are you saying that those casting the remaining 30% of the vote that Obama will get will be consciously voting for the candidate with the inferior character?  Or that they just don’t consider character in voting?  Or that they do to some extent, but that they’ll just regard the two as not starkly distinguishable on character? I’m just curious as to what your theory is as to what will be in the minds of the ~50% of the electorate who will vote for Obama.Report

    • Based on character or the economy, Obama’s presidency is the worst performance, and the most dishonest, in a long, long time.

      Yeah, we have to go back as far as the second George Bush to get poor economic performance (the 2008 collapse) and dishonesty (mission accomplished!  WMD’s!  they hate us for our freedom!  temporary steel tariffs!  swift boats!)Report

    • Jeff in reply to MFarmer says:

      Based on the economy, Obama is one of our best Presidents.

      MFarmer and TVD have a problem:  The economy (and so much else) went to Hell under the previous President, clearly one of the worst in a century.  But they lack the intellectual honesty to admit that their “tribe” screwed up, and is piling screw-up on screw-up in an effort to shift blame.  Meanwhile, most economists believe that the stimulus did help the economy — it was just too small, and, indeed, we see that the economy has been improving, slowly, since the stimulus went into effect.

      On top of that, Obama had the audacity to rescue American car-makers (and their supply chain) without kicking that awful union.  How dare he be right!?

      To those of you who treat a Republican Congress with equinimity — I have no words.  To think that they would somehow start acting like adults (under what miracle?) is beyond belief.  They have no shame — I would hope that you do.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Jeff says:

        The GOP spent like drunken Kennedys and were properly booted in 2006.  The Dems have been just as bad, and worse once Obama won the presidency in 2008.  Fortunately, he lost the House in 2010.

        Mr. “Jeff,” see if you can disagree about politics and facts without impugning the next fellow’s “intellectual honesty.”  Please.  It’s unnecessary.Report

  3. Kolohe says:

    And as is his wont , Galston is wrong

    So aa DLC guy made some recommendations in 1989, and Bill Clinton, Mister DLC, gets elected in 1992, and the DLC guy is on the wrong side of history?

    And how is Obama not the continuation of the DLC agenda?   Look at Obama & Clinton Administrations side by side. Pushing health care reform in its first term?  Check.  Deference to Big Finance?  Check.  ‘Cruise Missile Liberalism’? Check.

    Really, can you name any accomplishment or projected accomplishment of the Obama presidency that’s going to be the left of Clinton’s?  It’s not like Obama is going to undo welfare reform.  (at least he hasn’t said anything like that).  Obama maybe marginally more favorable to labor unions regarding trade issues, but he also has Austan Goolsbee going around to trade partners assuring them that Obama’s really a free trader at heart.

    So I say huzzah, bring on the 4th Clinton term.Report

    • greginak in reply to Kolohe says:

      While i generally agree with what you are saying here, doing HCR in the first term makes complete sense and was the only option. That isn’t a Clinton or Obama thing but a, its the only way its going to happen thing. Whatever is left to argue over is more about the delusional who think O is a leftist/marxist/”mysterious”/ blah blah blah.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to greginak says:

        The wording for health care reform was just a construct, because, of course, Clinton failed and Obama succeeded (so far) (with the plan that Heritage Foundation promulgated as the alternative to ‘HillaryCare’)Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

        doing HCR in the first term

        I misread this and thought “No, honestly, she’s just his Secretary of State.”Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

      (and yes, the 1988 election was a referendum on the Reagan presidency; it was not about how Dukakis flubbed a question in a debate.  It’s weird that after all these years, Joe Klein still can’t understand that Reagan was well liked and popular.  But then again, the Weekly Standard makes the same mistake about Clinton.)(I imagine that Klein is also mistaken in saying that Jimmy Carter’s election was not a referendum on the Nixon pardon, but that was before my time)Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Kolohe says:

      DADT repeal. Plus DOMA non-defense.

      Remember what president put those in place?Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        I remember, Nob.  I can live with it either way, a perfect storm—black president, Democrat Party = gay marriage.  But here’s why Barack Obama conceals his true position on gay marriage from the Black churches.

        It’s an open secret.  Plausible deniability vs. the power structure, but who’s the “power structure?”  It’s a weird constellation of factors.

        Not that the 90+% Black Barack vote favors gay marriage.  40% tops. To note that politics makes for strange bedfellows is apt albeit superfluous, but for those who came in late:

        Excuse me? I voted against Proposition 8. I’m among the 30 percent of black Californians that did so. And as much as I can condemn the homophobia and intolerance that drove a portion of the 70 percent of blacks that voted in favor of Proposition 8’s ban on gay marriage, it’s an outrage to lay its passage at their feet. I’ve read several editorials already about how the ungrateful blacks betrayed gays right after America gave them their first president. I know there are some wounds and frayed nerves right now, but this type of condescending, divide and conquer isn’t going to help at all. And it’s a gross oversimplification of what happened.

        According to the exit polling, there’s enough blame to go around. Don’t forget the 49 percent of Asians who voted for Prop 8. And the 53 percent of Latinos who fell in line for it too. And then there is the white vote in support of 8. Slightly under 50% percent of them, a group representing 63% of California voters, voted “Yes” on 8. Last I checked blacks held little sway over all of those groups.


      • Kolohe in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Fair point.  The Obama Administration deserves a lot of credit for shepherding the DADT repeal through the legislative process.  It’s the most political capital they spent on anything besides PPACA.  Though DADT was, in its day, the half a loaf compromise to change the status quo away from active witch-hunts.

        And no longer defending DOMA is indeed better than signing the bill (though it passed with veto proof majorities), but it’s still awfully passive, doncha think?Report

        • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Kolohe says:

          In the current political climate, the best thing to do is not defend DOMA and hope it gets struck down. Trying to get it repealed would be a fool’s bargain at this point in time and only cost political capital when Obama actually needs it. So yeah, maybe not the bravest political decision, but probably the smartest one.Report

  4. If you look at the Galston paper, pretty much everything he said about the future of the party, electorally, turned out to be wrong. He laughed at the idea of CA as the EC anchor, dismissed latino population growth, dismissed the rise of socially liberal professionals within the party, dismissed the importance of women and the growing gender gap, etc. Besides the fact that Clinton took some DLC ideas and used the DLC to provide him with a patina of rebellion, Galston’s record is pretty abysmal. Welfare “reform” alone is a real black mark.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Elias Isquith says:

      I think you have misunderstood Galston’s argument, as developed in the paper to which you link.

      First, he correctly pointed out that there was a significant realignment going on, so that Democrats could not hope to be assured of continuing control of Congress.  Notably, he said this in the third decade of what would be a 40 year span of Democratic control of the House–the longest in the country’s history; one that ended a mere 5 years after he warned about the problem.

      And far from “dismissing” the gender gap, he is pointing out–correctly–that it does not result so much from a greatly larger number of women supporting Democrats than Republicans, but that increasingly it is caused by decreased Democratic support from men. That’s not dismissing the gender gap, but pointing out why the structure of it is actually a problem for Democrats.

      As to California, he’s not dismissing the importance of it electorally. He’s just pointing out that pinning hopes on it as an electoral savior as the Democrats lose the South is mathematically untenable–CA has just over 1/3 of the electoral votes that the Southern and border states cumulatively have.  Of course he wants to win California, but he wants Democrats to not right off the old Confederacy, because the electoral math doesn’t support that strategy.

      As to liberal professionals, consider when he was writing.  All the evidence then was that the young professional class was leaning Republican.  This is the era of the Yuppie. This is the era of young people being enthused by Reagan’s optimism about their future and turned off by Carter’s pessimism about the world they were inheriting.  Yes, he was wrong, but I doubt any of us here would have gotten that right back then.

      He’s also not an idiot about the Latino vote. I do think he underplays its importance, but increasing the Latino Democratic vote in California, if the Democrats are already going to win Cali, doesn’t increase their electoral totals.  And mathematical estimates showed that increasing Latino turnout in Texas wouldn’t be sufficient to change that state’s electoral outcome.  If the Latino vote has become more important, it’s not because Galston was wrong about those numbers as much as it is about the Republicans turning Republican-leaning Latinos into Democratic-leaning ones by scaring the bejezus out of them with their immigration policies.

      And the DLC connected Clinton did win the presidency, while the more liberal Gore and Kerry did not.  We can’t read too much into Obama’s win because the W. presidency had so tarnished the Republican presidential brand and John McCain ran a world-class shitfest of a campaign.  And it’s worth noting that it’s precisely his more liberal policies that have been most publicly troublesome for Obama; suggesting that Galston was right in saying that Democrats have “have come to be seen as unacceptably liberal.”Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

        Also, what Kolohe points out in the thread is true: the DLC closed up shop because it basically won every policy fight there was to have in the party.Report

        • North in reply to Michael Drew says:

          This a thousand times this. The DLC didn’t close up shop because they failed, they closed up shop because they succeeded.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to North says:

            Tell that to ol’ Harold Ford, wouldja? Someone done run him out of New York State, when he couldn’t get elected in Tennesee (where he’s from).

            To the extent that the DLC meant suckling at the teat of corporations, that fight’s still well in progress. Daschle and Lincoln aren’t the only folks what need to go to win that fight.

            To the extent that the DLC meant tacking right on fiscal policy? that fight won.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

        Also, what Kolohe points out in the thread is true: the DLC closed up shop because it basically won every policy fight there was to have in the party.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    I called Obama “Schrödinger’s President” back in 2010 (or 2009?) when everyone was talking about 13-dimensional chess and whatnot.

    We still don’t know what his legacy actually *IS*. (I mean, if you’re willing to admit that a stuffed shirt who didn’t do much of anything would have had some similar things happen to/for him given the limitations of the office.)Report

  6. Michael Drew says:

    I mean basically I don’t see a conflict of analyses here.  The incumbent’s record sets up the fundamental terrain of the campaign; is this sensibly deniable? A strong message in the face of a (perceived) bad record by the incumbent, or (I would say more remotely) a strong message from the challenger in the face of a good record, can, if it’s really effective, alter the course of the race, but it’s an uphill battle.  It seems like both can be true, and that common sense suggests that it’s the intuitively likely reality.  Which doesn’t mean it necessarily is the reality.  But it seems cavalier to dismiss record and say that message determines reelections campaigns.  The lesser error would be to do the reverse.

    And if that’s all the case, it seems to me that Obama has a moderate to strong headwind in one of those areas (record), and an unknown, perhaps trending positive, in the other (message).  He definitely has some opportunities to connect with a strong negative message about his challenger, but that is a matter of execution, while perceptions of the record are possibly fully baked by now, or at best outside his control.  If the combination of the Galston and Vavreck analyses (and, again, I think they combine well rather than being inconsistent with each other) bodes ill for someone in this race, I frankly don’t think it’s for Obama’s challenger.Report

  7. Kolohe says:

    Random observation – You know what the difference between Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney is?  One is on the stump advocating for a long time Democratic wish of taxpayer subsidized daycare for children, and the other’s the current President.

    • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

      One thing I’ve been wondering is whether it’d be easier to jerk Romney to the left on any given issue or whether it’d be easier to jerk Obama there.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

        Nobody gets jerked to the Left.   The Right generally pushes them there.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Can Romney be jerked?  Or, at any rate, will he stay jerked?  If there’s a position he’s held long enough to say it to an unsympathetic audience, I’m unaware of it.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Given the unsympathetic audience that makes up “everybody in the US”, how bad (and let’s define bad as “dangerous”) would you expect Romney to be?

          Let’s have a handful of theoretical policy questions.

          Who do you think would pull us out of Afghanistan first?

          Who do you think would do better at any given G8 (or G20) summit?

          Who do you think would veto more bills?

          (To pull a question near and dear to my heart) Who do you think would bust more MMJ dispensaries?

          I honestly don’t know the answers to any of the above questions (Obama’s had 2 vetoes so far, for the record, which is 2 more than his predecessor had in his first term)… but I have suspicions on most of the questions doing a direct comparison between Romney and Obama would have them within spitting distance of each other with the main difference being that Romney would do a worse job standing up to the Republican House/Senate… and by “standing up to the Republican House/Senate”, I mean “telling them to stop acting like 1980’s Democrats minus the taxes.”Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

            That last part right there might give the best reason to vote for Obama: Sweet, sweet Gridlock.

            What’s the main reason to vote Republican, again? Supreme Court Justices? (We’d end up with yet another Catholic from Harvard or Yale Law School who spent time in the Prosecutor’s Office before becoming a judge… as opposed to the Democratic President who might choose a Jewish person from Harvard or Yale Law School who spent time in the Prosecutor’s Office before becoming a judge?)Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

            I honestly don’t know the answers to any of the above questions 

            Me too.  Obama has been a disappointment.  I honestly have so few ideas about what Romney stands for that I wouldn’t at this point in his hypothetical administration, say whether I was disappointed or not.

            How aboout this:

            Mitt Romney vowed on Tuesday to “bring the current policy of procrastination toward Iran to an end” if elected president, saying at a huge conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that he would impose “crippling sanctions,” station carriers and warships “at Iran’s door,” and suspend all diplomatic relations.

            Does it mean more warmongering, or is it just pandering to AIPAC?Report

            • Another thing that would be nice in a hypothetical President: the ability to tell AIPAC to go fish themselves, and withdraw U.S. involvement in the Israel/Palestine issue completely.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to b-psycho says:

                Would we have to re-inject ourselves to prevent Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of the region?Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to b-psycho says:

                Listen to AIPAC, and you’ll be assured that’s exactly what you’ll get from an Obama II. (Or at least the former; the latter simply will never happen until something dramatic happens to change the fundamentals.  I actually think the former is within the realm of the plausible.)  In any case, a second term of any kind for any president is what you need for any movement like that to happen on I/P.  (Not saying it’s actually likely in this case.) It’s probably the best argument there is for changing to single six-year terms for presidents.Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

            Here’s my guesses:

            Who do you think would pull us out of Afghanistan first?


            Who do you think would do better at any given G8 (or G20) summit?

            This is a really good question.  I expect Romney can probably talk finance better than Obama at one of those.  I’m not certain that what he’d go for would be, policy-wise, something I would prefer.  I’d say he’s probably more likely to be effective.

            Who do you think would veto more bills?

            After the upcoming election?  Obama, I’d guess.  This is kind of a wash, though, since I don’t expect a Congress to come out of 2012’s election cycle that is going to pass a lot of veto-y bills.  Maybe after 2014.  In that case, it would depend on who won in 2012.

            (To pull a question near and dear to my heart) Who do you think would bust more MMJ dispensaries?

            Obama.  He wants to look tough for the independents.Report

          • Michelle in reply to Jaybird says:

            Here are my best guesses:

            Who do you think would pull us out of Afghanistan first?

            In a second term, Obama. He’d have nothing to lose by doing so. Meanwhile, Romney’s making all sorts of he-man noises about American military strength and making sure we reign supreme. He seems more likely to start wars than finish them.

            Who do you think would do better at any given G8 (or G20) summit?


            Who do you think would veto more bills?

            Probably Obama as he’s likely to face a Republican majority in the House and maybe the Senate.

            (To pull a question near and dear to my heart) Who do you think would bust more MMJ dispensaries?

            Obama.  Which is totally stupid. Ron Paul is right about the war on drugs. It’s a waste of resources and a huge failure.

            My husband is convinced that it doesn’t make a difference who wins–that there’s not a whole lot of air between the two. I don’t agree, especially when it comes to the Supreme Court, where the difference could be felt for decades. But I do think that both are technocrats rather than ideologues or, if we want to put it in Andrew Sullivan terms, “pragmatists.” Obama’s just a lot better on the stump.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Michelle says:

              Obama will have a Democratic house. dunno about the senate.Report

              • North in reply to Kimmi says:

                That would be an astonishing turn of events Kimmi. I don’t want to quite come out and say I want some of what you’re smoking but I really am skeptical that the House is going to change hands.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to North says:

                Kasich, Walker and all the crazies that got voted in last time will ensure it.

                If all politics are local, the Democrats always win.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Michelle says:

              My husband is convinced that it doesn’t make a difference who wins–that there’s not a whole lot of air between the two.

              Whenever I hear this criticism of US politics used as an explanation (or justification) of political apathy, I get a little twitchy. On the one hand, the view is trivially true since all politicians operate within the same dark institution of fundraising and perpetual campaigning and ambition and power, and citizens merely get to pick who we send into that world to represent us.

              But on the other, all change except revolutionary is incremental and differences emerge over time in the exactly the area being discounted: the ‘not a whole lot of air’ between the two parties. So that little difference actually means a whole lot.Report

              • Michelle in reply to Stillwater says:

                My husband emigrated from the former Soviet Union just before it collapsed. Let’s just say he views all politicians through a dark lens and regards governmental institutions with a large degree of skepticism. In the 15 some-odd years we’ve been together, I think I’ve gotten him into a voting booth three or four times. Once was to vote for the Ah-nuld for California governor.

                The exception to his apathy is Ronald Reagan. In the Russian immigrant community, Reagan has almost god-like status as the guy who killed the evil empire. I learned this quite early on in our relationship when I said something negative about Reagan in a roomful of Russians. Big mistake.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Stillwater says:

                I think there was probably a lot of air between Dubya and Gore.

                I think there was probably a lot of air between Obama and McCain.

                I’m not sure there’s all that much air between Romney and Obama.  IF Romney wins, I expect most everything to look quite a bit like it does now.  I disagree with Michelle about the SCOTUS nominations making a difference: I expect Romney will nominate center right candidates, not far right candidates.  He’s not going to pick a fight with the Senate, and the Senate is not going to confirm a fifth pro-life judge.

                I would be ecstatic for whoever wins to nominate a hard line civil liberties judge.  Obama’s last two candidates are pretty strong indicators that he’s not going to be that guy if he gets the option to put up another judge.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’m not sure there’s all that much air between Romney and Obama.

                I’m not so sure. If you look at Romney-as-governor,  then you’re probably right. The problem I see is that he’s so politically weak that he won’t be able to dictate policy terms or even stand up to the crazies in the House. So functionally, he’ll be reduced to governing more/less like a TPer.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

            Given the unsympathetic audience that makes up “everybody in the US”, how bad (and let’s define bad as “dangerous”) would you expect Romney to be?

            Romney in a vacuum would likely be like his gubernatorial self. Romney with an ideologically crazy right-wing GOP majority in Congress would be terrible.

            Let’s have a handful of theoretical policy questions.

            Oh boy!

            Who do you think would pull us out of Afghanistan first?

            Obama. He’s already got a stated timeline and as the Iraq withdrawal shows, he’s pretty good at sticking to those. Romney’s campaign has been making noises about doubling down on war commitments and he seems to be taking notes from the crazy wing of the Neocon party. Some of his weird foreign policy statements make me think they’re off the cuff statements of what he actually believes, rather than pandering.

            Who do you think would do better at any given G8 (or G20) summit?

            Obama by a mile. If you haven’t noticed, he hasn’t gone around calling Russia (and China…) the number one geostrategic competitor/enemy. On trade issues, they’re probably a wash, though with KORUS Obama’s got more credibility here.

            Who do you think would veto more bills?

            Obama. Romney would be a dead man walking the moment he vetoed a house GOP measure, it’d sink his support with his own party.

            (To pull a question near and dear to my heart) Who do you think would bust more MMJ dispensaries?

            Who knows. The prison-industrial complex is so thoroughly entrenched it’s likely to be a bipartisan effort. Depends on who replaces Holder in an Obama-II term and who Romney might employ as an AG.Report

            • Michelle in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              Some of his weird foreign policy statements make me think they’re off the cuff statements of what he actually believes, rather than pandering.

              Aside from his religious beliefs and the joys of being rich, I’m not sure Romney believes much of anything, but he does strike me as sincere when it comes to his celebration of American power. Which, to my mind, makes him kind of dangerous.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Michelle says:

                Romney’s hugely intelligent, easily as smart as Obama and twice as ruthless.   I don’t like a thing Romney says but do not underestimate this guy.   For all this talk about reducing some departments, Romney is a power-mad technocrat in the old Milt Friedman model.   Oh, there’s plenty he believes and it’s not that hard to spot it under the glib red white’n blue bunting of his campaign rhetoric.

                If Romney is elected, he will run up the deficit like nobody’s business.   Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to look at his corporate track record:  he will saddle the government with as much debt as it can carry, as surely as he saddled all those companies he ruined with debt.   Look at his track record in Massachusetts:   when Big Dig got in trouble in metro Boston, he seized control of it.  Anyone who thinks he’s actually going to reduce the size of government is an idiot.   As long as it’s serving his ends, Romney believes in government, the bigger the better.

                Sure, with a few interesting accounting tricks and gutting state support to cities and townships, he got something which looked like a surplus but it didn’t last.   As with his corporate shenanigans at Bain,  he just gutted the state’s support for damned near anything and called it reducing overhead.   By the end of his tenure, the citizens of the Commonwealth were paying more taxes than ever.   The state had simply dumped everything on the local governments and the private citizens.   State university tuition went way up.   Well, no big deal to a guy who went to prep schools, Stanford and BYU.    His domestic policy will be Window dress-ahhge.

                Watch and see, he’s going to close up a few loopholes, put some lipstick on the budget pig and as in the Commonwealth, the Dems will shoot down pretty much anything he tries to do.

                On foreign policy, Romney’s going the Bush43 route, with dangerous dumbasses like Cofer Black, a seriously deranged individual who warrants ringing a few alarm bells all on his own.   I may yet do an essay on Romney’s foreign policy shysters if time allows.Report

              • Michelle in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Hmm. Even more dangerous than I thought. I had no doubt he’s ruthless. The way in which he killed off his Republican competition and the ease with which he lies about Obama’s record (and pretty much anything else) convinced me of that.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Michelle says:

                Ecch, the current GOP field of candidates, with the possible exception of Jon Huntsman, are irrelevant clowns.   I’m only surprised it took Romney this long to beat them down.   Santorum only lasted this long because the Bible Bangers hate Mormons.

                Obama can beat Romney.   As with his contretemps with the Hildebeest, Obama favours to create a Schwerpunkt at point-blank range.   Romney’s been making up stuff out of whole cloth for long enough for Obama to crucify him.   Romney’s not Obama’s problem.   Romney’s the GOP’s problem.   Romney is just not a True Enough Believer in every possible way.   All this recent conversion to pro-life stuff, the GOP voters know he’s as fake as a three dollar bill.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Obama is Obama’s problem.  Romney is a serviceable not-Obama.  The rest is commentary.Report