If the Democratic Party still had the same sort of philosophy it had until the mid 1970s, Barack Obama would have little trouble getting elected against Mitt Romney. He would be able to brag about all the jobs he had created, all the new public works underway, and all the nearly foreclosed homes he had saved through his rescue policies. That’s the sort of case that would be hard for one of the 4,000 richest people in America who played such a role in the financial disaster to argue against.
Of course, it hasn’t worked out like that. Beginning with Carter, and escalating with Clinton and Obama, the Democrats have moved steadily to the right, making them contributing perps to the crisis and stripping their campaigns of worthwhile arguments.
While Clinton approached the matter with boisterous blarney and bulimic bull, Obama decided – assuming he had any psychological choice in the matter – to be the man square in the mundane and muddled middle. All politics aside, he is about the most boring politician of modern times, who probably can’t even decide how to get out of bed in the morning without evoking the principle of otohbotoh, i.e. on the one hand, but on the other hand.
That isn’t what you hire a president for. You hire them to be someone in favor of something folks can understand and appreciate.
I have watched Mitt Romney over the past few weeks with fear because instead of ineffective simultaneous conflicting positions in the style of Obama, he is a serial prevaricator based on the political weather of the day. And if you call him that, he’ll just stand there with a pathological grin on his face. While Obama tries to be everywhere at the same time, Romney just picks the position that works best today and to hell with whatever he said or did a few years ago. This is one reason that a hedge fund hustler is currently considered more reliable on economic matters than the Democrat in office, by nine points according to one recent poll.
Neither approach is a virtuous political lifestyle, but discontinuity spread over time gains more votes
I was reminded of Obama’s problem recently when he and his White House set forth two campaign driven positions, one on the anti-Internet bills and the other on supposed improvements for small business.
Now that the Republicans have backtracked on SOPA, the spin is that Obama stopped them. In fact, the White House response was so mealy mouthed that pro-Internet groups didn’t quite know how to react. This publication even found itself belated sticking the word “seems” into a headline about the White House’s apparent opposition because close examination the matter made it uncertain what Obama would do in the long run.
As one Reddit reader wisely wrote, “I am very happy that Obama has ‘come out against SOPA and PIPA’. I was also very happy when Obama was against the NDAA, Guantanamo Bay, prosecuting medical marijuana, and escalating conflicts in the Persian Gulf.”
And therein lies the problem with those who think they’re being clever but, in fact, are even keeping their potential supporters justifiably confused and skeptical.
Victoria Espinel, who is Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at Office of Management and Budget – which is roughly equivalent to having a Walmart Property Enforcement Coordinator at OMB – put it this way:
“Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders. We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge.
“Moving forward, we will continue to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis on legislation that provides new tools needed in the global fight against piracy and counterfeiting, while vigorously defending an open Internet based on the values of free expression, privacy, security and innovation.”
In other words, Victoria Espinel and her boss left the back door wide open.
In another example, Obama himself announced a reorganization of some agencies that was supposedly designed, in the words of the Washington Post, to get from Congress “the authority to consolidate the roles of several federal agencies which he said would lead to streamlined services and a smaller government workforce.”
As usual, the Post bought easily into the pitch: “The proposal comes at a politically opportune moment for the president, who has faced sustained Republican criticism that his administration has failed to tame a bloated federal bureaucracy. With an eye squarely on his reelection campaign, Obama announced that he would initially focus on merging sprawling entities that deal with small businesses in a bid to save $3 billion by eliminating more than 1,000 jobs over the next decade.
At a moment when Obama faces a neck and neck race with Romney, he is proposing the stunning idea of cutting 100 government jobs a year over the next decade. That’s not the sort of thing that presidents used to go behind a podium to brag about.
And here’s Obama’s thrilling reorganization plan:
“The new department would combine the trade and commerce functions of the Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Trade and Development Agency.”
Now, theoretically, if you’re trying to get small business on your side, you should do something the average small business owner will understand and appreciate. But here’s what the NY Times reported:
On the one hand, reorganizing federal agencies to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ for America’s small businesses could streamline processes and make accessing information and assistance much easier,” Todd McCracken, chief executive of the National Small Business Association, said in a statement. “On the other hand, such a reorganization could minimize the emphasis placed on small business by the federal government and lead to an even greater imbalance toward promoting the interests of large businesses over those of small business.”John Arensmeyer, chief executive of the Small Business Majority, a group initially formed to back the administration’s health care reform, said: “Right now small business has an independent agency that reflects its needs. The obvious concern is that by bringing this into larger agency there’s a risk that some of that voice gets lost. We know that government is held in very low esteem by small business, but the S.B.A. is an exception to that right now.
There were some stronger views. For example, the American Small Business League, which protests the diversion of federal contracts for small business to large corporations, sided firmly with the other hand. “This is not a move to save money,” said the league’s president, Lloyd Chapman, in a statement. “This is a move to eliminate federal small-business contracting programs.”
These are just two examples of the fog Obama creates around his own policies. Add to them the fact that few know what the “stimulus” did other than help banks, that the fate of endangered home owners is hardly mentioned, that the health care bill is a hopeless muddle, that the unemployment rate remains far too high, and that the withdrawal from Iraq coincided with increasing rumors that it would be replaced by a war with Iran, and even the most transparent window into the White House can’t eradicate the fog on the other side.
This is not about policy, this is simply about good politics, which is dangerously lacking in the Obama administration. And so we go into one of our most critical elections confronting the real bastards with a guy who doesn’t understand that promising in an often indecipherable manner a little something for everyone only ends up meaning anything to anybody. Which is not a good way to win votes.
Let’s just hope that the GOP screws up enough that it won’t matter.