Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Was This Guy Ever Any Good?

E.J. Dionne continues to indulge in spin and New Deal nostalgia in his latest column.  His analysis that the problem is that people are tired of the fighting in Washington (rather than persistently high unemployment, a gigantic debt, an unpopular health care bill, and a stimulus that does not seem to have stimulated) is about as sound as his solution that the President ought to focus blame on Republican obstructionism by listing Republicans whose last name begins with B.  Is there anything in Dionne's column that could not have been written by an intern at any liberal-leaning message shop?

Discussions - 10 Comments

Oh, oh! Let me guess, the B is for Boehner!

well the first B...

Answer to headline: No.

"Is there anything in Dionne's column that could not have been written by an intern at any liberal-leaning message shop?"

Well maybe not, but what is Dionne trying to do here? A sort of forecast or analysis of the message shop? Seems fairly consensus to me. In addition I don't think you open with quite the gloom in terms of likely election results for democrats if you are writting the liberal message. " It's as hard these days to find a Democrat who's not alarmed as it is to find a Cleveland Cavaliers fan who's cheering for LeBron James."

He doesn't seem to say that the president "should" so much as he is describing what the president did: "Obama went after the alliterative trio of "Barton and Boehner and Blunt," references to Reps. Joe Barton of Texas, John Boehner of Ohio and Roy Blunt of Missouri. Challenging them for their resolute opposition to every Democratic approach, Obama asked "if that ‘no' button is just stuck."

"His analysis that the problem is that people are tired of the fighting in Washington."

He did no such thing, he just drew the general landscape describing what was happening and what Obama said. Because he did not speak of high unemployment(but declining), a gigantic debt, an unpopular health care bill(he did mention this), and a stimulus that does not seem to have stimulated(but may have) you can't really say there was an analysis, nor did he provide a solution apart from what Obama actually said.

Actually I am not sure what the takeaway on this sentence is: "On paper, Democrats have a rational solution to their political math problem. They must still find the passion that executing it will require."

Unfortunately the column ends here as if an answer has already been provided.

Anon, you are right, Obama believes that the problem with his popularity is the fighting in Washington, and like you, he believes that the stimulus is working and that unemployment is falling due to the stimulus and government spending ~ and that's exactly why he's going to lose big in November and be a one-termer. Maybe he should listen to a few Tea Partiers instead of denigrating them or better yet, go to a backyard barbeque or two and listen to how angry people are with the debt, health care, bureaucracy, and government spending. People are furious. The amazing thing is just how obtuse President Obama is. I guess his yes-men and "experts" don't know many average Americans or they really know that their policies are good for America and that ordinary Americans should just shut up if they knew what was good for them.

Well I guess Republicans will win congress back in 2010 but even this isn't absolutely certain. My guess is that if you are partisan and democrat you don't just give this up that quickly. Folks in Cleveland are more upset with Lebron than americans are with democrats, and there is no real equivalence there.

I don't mind Paul Ryan(on CNBC/squawk box today), maybe if his plan finds some backing republicans will share the praise and or blame.

It is certainly jumping the gun to say that Obama is a one-termer. Republicans have no credible presidential candidate who can beat him currently.

There is no doubt that short term stimulus worked to prop up the economy. Cash for clunkers increased car sales, the real estate credit for homebuyers helped pare down some inventory. Tax cuts had the usual multiplier, except for slightly higher savings rates. You have the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt and the IPO on Tesla that are the result of corporate stimulus by the department of energy. These first generation products probably won't be profitable. But down the road there may be good things. Granted a lot of states are in trouble, and certainly if you are a teacher or a firefighter you probably should shut up if you knew what was good for you. Of course I am not even sure how this plays out, if folks are upset enough or think things are bad enough this probably plays to a second stimulus(state bail-out, unemployment bennefits, et al) If you argue that things are alright, then maybe you ease off the stimulus. You are right that those who argue that we are in a deflationary environment and believe more stimulus is necessary think a lot of americans should shut up about the deficit.

After 2010 republicans are going to have to own more of this, which means deciding where you are in terms of stimulus or how bad the economy is, or how to help small business or what to do about malaise or average american anger. Maybe Paul Ryan has the answers.

One thing that is funny is that high expectations about republican gains can be seen as democratic/Gibbs/Dione message shop so they can spin when results disappoint. At this point I think you can read a lot into the picture just by watching which high or low expectations are overdone.

This is a link to a great short article by Victor Hanson:

He basically goes through and discusses all the party-line voting, parliamentary tactics, and demagoguing that then Sen Obama constantly employed while in the Senate and while campaigning for the presidency.

Money quote: "Quite simply, for President Obama to restore his presidency, he must now persuade Congress not to act in the fashion that he once found so conducive to his upward career as a senator and presidential candidate."

Anonymous, you seem like a smart guy, so the analysis of the Democrats problem as

"The politics of passive-aggressiveness worked twice over. Independents hated all the fighting. And even when Democrats won on health care and other issues, they emerged less with a renewed sense of purpose than with feelings of exhaustion and frustration over all the compromises it took to eke out victory."

probably comes across as phony to you as it does to me. It isn't that anything Dionne says is factually wrong (characterizations do all the work) it is that it is really partial and self-serving - just like all but the most incompetent spin. Dionne earned his Junior White House Spinner' badge, but I doubt even the Obama people really believe that narrative (at least not without a whole lot of supplementing that they wouldn't go on the record with.)

As for describing what the President did. People can read the Dionnne column and decide for themselves if Dionne's cheerleading atmospherics aren't themselves an attempt to sell the President's approach.

And the takeaway from the last paragraph of the column was pretty clear: if liberals just believe the narrative that the chief Democratic problem is Senate Republican obstructionism, and believe in the blame the Republican Bs strategy, then Tinkerbelle will come back to life.

"corporate stimulus by the Department of Energy" I'm all for government-funded basic scientific research, but if Democrats want to run on the government picking winners and losers in the market through taxing (either directly or through borrowing that will be paid through higher taxes later) the public in order to pay connected companies to make unprofitable products, they have bigger problems than the current unpopularity of the health care bill.

"Granted alot of states are in trouble" - and they are going to have to get their financial houses in order. This is going to mean reforming retirements and other forms of compensation.

Extended unemployment - I think we should talk about reforming the system along lines suggested by Reihan Salam, but since that is not on the table yet, an extension is probably a good idea.

"If you argue that things are alright" - or if you argue that much of the spending is wasted in corporate welfare, and putting off needed state-level reforms, while doing little to produce sustainable growth (rather than short term GDP blips) or private sector employment while adding to our already problematic long-term debt and ignoring potential reforms that can spur long-term growth.

Put a gun to my head, I would guess Obama wins a second term. He is good at the blocking and tackling of and I still think the labor market will have made a modest recovery (to the low 7s) by the summer of 2012. The Republicans will then have to really deserve to win and I'm not going to put my money on that.

I disagree Pete. I think President Obama won due to two factors. First, he ran against Bush (and is still governing against Bush) who was quite unpopular at the end and the American people were ready for a change. Two, he promised "change" vaguely and people bought into it. But, for the most part they were not expecting the kind of change that he brought with his progressive agenda. Plus, they've done nothing to help the country. I think the American people are willing to say, "Fooled me once shame on you, fooled me twice shame on me." I don't think any amount of spin or speeches will dig him out of his mess and policies the American people reject.

Tony, several points,

Obama is the leader of a fairly powerful politcal coalition. G.W. Bush only barely beat Kerry. Obama is a much better candidate than Kerry and will almost certainly have a better GOTV operation. Bush had a great GOTV operation that wiull be really hard for the 2012 Republican nomnee to equal (not impossible, but not the way to bet), and Bush was a pretty good candidate (which we now tend to forget.) Demographic changes have also probably moved things a little in the Democrats' direction.

All that won't matter as much this year because of the lousy economy and the turnout model, but if the labor market recovers even a little, Obama will be in a good positiion to claim credit and that would put him in a strong postion.

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