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Quotation du Jour

By Ann Althouse:

Obama has made his brilliant career out of saying the most crashingly banal things to people who hear what they want to hear.

Categories > Presidency

Discussions - 10 Comments

Increasingly I'm thinking we've overestimated Obama. He looks more and more like a one-trick pony ("hope and change!") that has grown tiresome and boring.

This is a moment that might tempt conservatives to misunderestimate Obama, but they should resist the temptation. Obama has alot more rhetorical modes than HOPE and CHANGE. You can look at him during the presidential debates and his ability to be constantly negative without seeming hostile or angry. You can look at his commencement speech at the University of Michigan and how he frames the debate over the size and role of government.

And past rhetoric, he had the determination and political skill to pass a health care law that won't "work" in the sense of controlling health care costs but did increase the role of government in health care and made even more government control the likely result of the problems that will be produced by the very law he got passed. Nice (and by nice I mean terrible but brilliant) job that. And his position as President means that it is unlikely that Obamacare will be undone before 2012. I don't really look forward to the duels between Obama and (maybe) Speaker Boehner.

Obama is facing far worse economic conditions than Clinton in 1994. If he faces conditions as bad in 2012 it probably won't matter what he says or does. He won't have an economy as good as the one Clinton had in 1996 and I really doubt that Obama will go very far towards the center. There won't be the signing of any center-right reform like Welfare Reform. But to really institutionalize his policies, Obama only needs to be reelected. Given Obama's very real rhetorical and (political) organizational skill, and the different turnout model in presidential election years, an unemployment rate in the 7s and falling might be enough to win if Republicans don't run a very good candidate and good campaign.

Pete, was it really Obama's great skill that rammed healthcare through, or the conjunctural advantage that he enjoyed of huge Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress? That healthcare "reform" barely squeaked through (and on a purely party-line basis) in the presence of such huge majorities may not be a great testament to "skill," either.

If anyone should get "credit" for passing the monstrosity, it's Pelosi, not Obama. And then again, a huge reason for Obama's sinking popularity, in my opinion, is the (accurate) perception that he is a rather passive character who tossed Pelosi and her fellow liberals on the Hill the keys and let them drive the policy agenda way too far to the left for most Americans' liking even as the economy was floundering--fiddling on the healthcare (and porkfesty bogus-stimulus) "fiddles" while Rome burned, so to speak.

Race, well both of course, but if Obama had, in the face of united Republican opposition, divided Democrats and bad polls, lost his nerve, we wouldn't have gotten Obamacare. He refused to buckle and work with the GOP on a "small" bill that merely expanded Medicaid coverage and several other tweaks of left and right - though I wish he had. He put heat on individual members of Congress, and was willing to compromise away preferred policies (like the government option and buy off individual members in order to get what he wanted. It might make some people feel better to argue that it was Pelosi, but the truth seems to me to be that Obama isn't that much less liberal than Pelosi on domestic policy and that this "Obama is passive" meme only works because the labor market is so lousy that almost any meme will work.

Pete's basic point about how hard it is going to be to kick Obama out in 2012 is worth keeping in mind...but man, what a politically inept moment! Could Carter, Dukakis, or Kerry have handled it worse?

Pete, I think you need to "resist" your own "temptation" to credit to Obama political resources that he demonstrably does not possess. Moreover, you need to likewise "resist" your pronounced habit of pulling back from sharp conclusions. Such pulling back may be commonplace throughout academia, but that only tends to fortify the indictment against the practice.

And Steve, those conservatives that "overestimated" Obama tended to come from the Peggy Noonan wing of the party. I knew exactly what the creature was, and I knew exactly how his tenure would play out. Genuine conservatives who didn't need to adopt an affectation for the media always had an accurate and healthy take on the creature.

The creature spent 20 years, 20 long years, listening the ravings of a Wright, and spent a longer time in the company of creatures like Ayers, Said, et al.

What else did you expect.? What else could possibly be expected?

And as for his vaunted intellect, --------------------------------- if his grades were all that, they would have been released long ago.

Dan, I think more highly of Obama's political abilities than you do and so I try to treat him as a political threat accordingly. He has so far done a better job of beating my guys than any politician in my lifetime. He is going to have a tough November, but I'm not counting him out or ignoring the danger that comes from even a modest revival of his fortunes. I'm not too sure about how academia treats "sharp" conclusions having never been employed there and having been a quite opinionated student. I was going to assert certainties I did not believe, but decided against it.

Eh, Obama's got nuthin' on Slick Willie. Clinton truly was the "Comeback Kid," as eel-like a politician as we are likely to see in this generation. By comparison, Obama is a bumbler.

I think most of Obama's "courage" comes from his willingness to be a one-termer. How else to explain his wife's recent junket to Spain? These people aren't tone-deaf, they are resigned to doing as much elitist damage as they can in four years and then milking the speaker circuit for the rest of their lives.

Pete, Obama was carried; he was carried by a media that knowingly, deliberately and purposefully abdicated their role in our body politic.

And they're still doing their best to carry him, ------------------ but they're finding that a wee bit difficult when he comes out with blockhead utterances such as his recent commentary on the ground zero mosque, {"let me be clear...."}. Not to mention it's difficult to carry Obama when 52% of those 18 to 25 are unemployed, when unofficial general unemployment is over 15%, and underemployment is over 25%.

Take a look at PPP's poll on the Sestak/Toomery race.

Pennsylvania, PENNSYLVANIA, is turning decidedly against Obama.

As for 2008, it's well to recall that no modern candidate ever enjoyed the spectrum of advantages such as that held by Obama. Any criticism of him, any questioning of his past associations, any query as to his readiness to fill the job duties of the chief executive, all were denounced as rank racism.

This moving screen of denunciation, behind which Obama advanced, served to blunt not just criticism, but also strongly muted any conservative response. Which is why a fellow like Steve Hayward now has to come out and concede that Obama isn't all that, and what's more, never was. People were fearful to take on the prevailing narrative, to wit, that Obama is the political equivalent to Jackie Robinson. And destiny itself had marked him out for greatness, merely by virtue of him being the first black president.

It's as Faoud Adjami noted the other day, there is a "widespread embarrassment" that the nation ever selected him.

Dan, no doubt Obama got very favorable media in 2008 and will get at least as friendly media in any budget fight with the Republicans as Clinton got in 1995. We all remember how that turned out. The media environment s going to be a problem that Republicans get better at navigating and that will mean having strategies for reaching those Americans who don't consume much right-leaning media.

If the worst problem that Republicans had faced in 2008 was being called racist, then they would have done just fine. Being called racist won't stop them from picking up lots of seats in 2010. The difference is in which party is holding power during a lousy economy. If the economy is this unambiguously lousy in 2012, it will take epic incompetence for the GOP to blow it - though I don't put it past them.

When looking at Obama we should not try to build mythologies. He was never ten foot tall or invincible. He was the most liberal member of the Senate and was able to decisively win a presidential election - which would have seemed almost impossible ten years ago. Imagine a President Wellstone. He was able to make his liberal ideas seem palatable to the nonpolitical and to attack without seeming mean spirited. He built an incredible GOTV and fundraising operation. As President he was able to pass a far bigger stimulus than President Clinton ever dared suggest and a health care law that puts us on the path to government-run health care. Most non-right-leaning media are rooting for him very hard. The demographics of the country were and are producing a relative decline in the more Republican-leaning voting groups and the Republicans had not figured out how to manage that.

He also had more fleeting advantages. The most important were a discredited Republican Party and an incompetent opponent who was intellectually bankrupt (remember the Cuomo fellow for SEC chair thing?) on the economic issues that the election turned on.

The economic environment is now very strongly against him and so his talents and structural advantages are of very limited use - especially in an off year election. If the labor market recovers even a little (and I'm not betting against a modest recovery by Summer 2012) his advantages and talents come back into play. That doesn't make him invincible. It just makes him very formidable and underestimating him gives him a further advantage. And I don't want to take any chances because if he wins even a narrow reelection in 2012, it becomes alot tougher to mend the damage he has already done.

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