E. Thomas McClanahan at The Kansas City Star argues President Obama has a dangerous streak of inflexibility that is at odds with his cool public persona. We saw it in his approach to the surge. We saw it with his unblinking conviction in his dream for talks with Iran’s mullahs--even as events and the people of Iran seemed to leave Obama and his dream in the dust. But, as McClanahan sees it, Obama’s rigid streak is most apparent and, possibly, more dangerous in domestic affairs.
Stubbornly, Obama has stuck to a strategy of trotting out a long list of domestic agenda items--a wish list to which one might almost suggest he is "clinging"--and demanding that the Congress take quick or immediate action upon each and every one of them. He does not seem to prioritize according to the nature and immediacy of the "crisis" (if "crisis" it be). Rather, Obama strikes while the iron is hot and, in his case, the iron is his stunning popularity in conjunction with a general sense in the electorate that things need to "change."
But Obama’s rigid streak differs from that of, say, a Jimmy Carter in that it is a rigidity having to do with Obama’s broad agenda rather than the mind-numbing details that fascinated the likes of Carter. Obama is perfectly happy to farm those out--and who can blame him? With so many fish to fry, he can’t be expected to clean them all (or plan their tennis dates). In an ironic turn of the tables, one might almost compare Obama to his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush in this. It would probably be beneath Obama’s speaking and elocution pay-grade to say something like, "I am the decider" . . . but one needn’t stretch the old imagination too far to imagine that he understands and, in his own way, he appreciates the sentiment behind it. In truth, we all do--at least we do when we think that we agree with the principles the guy is standing by. There is something charming about a man who knows his mind. There is something even more beguiling about a man who stands by his ideas when he knows them. And there’s something almost perfectly irresistible about a guy who knows his mind, stands by his thoughts, and can make others seem to understand and agree with them. Often, we label such a man "principled" or "statesmanlike."
But charming, beguiling, and irresistible are qualities that the principled and the statesmanlike share with the charlatans and the self-deceived of this world. And even when a stubborn man means well--even when he’s really, really talented and persuasive--his rigidity can very often cause him to overlook the circumstances and changing realities (to say nothing of better methods or important details) that can undermine his principles. This was certainly the popular (and not entirely undeserved) criticism of George W. Bush. And while Bush may turn out to be vindicated in many of his bigger ideas and his policies, his undoing was certainly tied to this failing and to the criticism (even if much of it was unmeasured) that it engendered. Will something similar happen to Obama because of this fatal flaw?
McClanahan looks to the bellwether state of Ohio for the proof of his assertion that it is already happening. Obama’s nationwide approval numbers have fallen significantly in recent weeks but, in Ohio, Obama’s approval numbers have fallen more dramatically than anywhere else. Obama has lost a striking 32 percentage points in Ohio since May! I’d watch Ohio--and I’d also watch the upcoming gubernatorial race even more than the Senate race that Quinnipiac discusses in the poll I link to above. I’d also watch California--not because California is on the verge of a Republican resurgence--but because if there is any state that might be looked to for a glimpse of the end result of Obama’s principles in action, it’s California. The ideological fog that hangs over the Golden State may be impenetrable in the near-term . . . but the sun may yet shine again as voters figure out that a hard left legislature combined with a half-hearted and nominally Republican governor is not a recipe for prosperity or economic freedom. Do note, too, Dan’s comment in #5 under Steve’s post below. Boxer’s unwillingness to take on Pelosi’s pet in Cap and Trade is interesting for all kinds of reasons--and only some of them have anything to do with a girl-fight.