Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thinking Beyond Obama's Failed Presidency

On Oct. 2, 2010 I repeated and made more precise my prediction that the Republicans would win the Nov. 2 mid-term elections by taking control of the House and Senate. The House went as predicted, but the Republicans fell 4 seats short in the Senate, even though they actually won a higher percentage of the Senate seats up for election (65%) than they won in the House. The Republican take-over of the Senate is a high probability in 2012 given that there are 23 Democratic and 10 Republican seats up for election and many of the Democratic seats are in states that just went strongly Republican.

I also had this to say about Obama:
So I predict that Republicans will win control of the Senate and gain about 55-60 seats in the House. This will effectively end Barack Obama's ability to further implement his leftist agenda and will lead to gridlock between Congress and the President. This will set the stage for a possible primary challenge to Obama and the Republicans winning the presidency in 2012.
November 2 was a bad day for Obama. But it has been another ten bad days for Obama since then. This TV panel discussion (which features 4 people having a calm discussion and taking turns speaking - what is up with that?) covers the ground rather clearly. The Heritage Foundation summarizes the same material here. Note that its assessment rather closely parallels that of the New York Times below.

The New York Times sketches out the grim facts as follows:

And as officials frenetically tried to paper over differences among the Group of 20 members with a vaguely worded communiqué to be issued Friday, there was no way to avoid discussion of the fundamental differences of economic strategy. After five largely harmonious meetings in the past two years to deal with the most severe downturn since the Depression, major disputes broke out between Washington and China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.

Each rejected core elements of Mr. Obama’s strategy of stimulating growth before focusing on deficit reduction. Several major nations continued to accuse the Federal Reserve of deliberately devaluing the dollar last week in an effort to put the costs of America’s competitive troubles on trading partners, rather than taking politically tough measures to rein in spending at home.

The result was that Mr. Obama repeatedly found himself on the defensive.

He and the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, had vowed to complete the trade pact by the time they met here; while Mr. Obama insisted that it would be resolved “in a matter of weeks,” without the pressure of a summit meeting it was unclear how the hurdles on nontariff barriers to American cars and beef would be resolved.

Mr. Obama’s meeting with China’s president, Hu Jintao, appeared to do little to break down Chinese resistance to accepting even nonbinding numerical targets for limiting China’s trade surplus. While Lael Brainard, the under secretary of the Treasury for international affairs, said that the United States and China “have gotten to a good place” on rebalancing their trade, Chinese officials later archly reminded the Americans that as the issuers of the dollar, the main global reserve currency, they should consider the interests of the “global economy” as well as their own “national circumstances.”

When the NYT sounds just like Fox and the Heritage Foundation, things are not rosy for the White House. Then, just when the Obama team must have thought that it couldn't get any worse, the Washington Post runs an op ed piece today by two Democratic pollsters, Douglas Schoen and Patrick Caddell, calling on Obama to announce (two years into his first term!) that he does not intend to run for re-election. They actually go so far as to say:

We do not come to this conclusion lightly. But it is clear, we believe, that the president has largely lost the consent of the governed. The midterm elections were effectively a referendum on the Obama presidency. And even if it was not an endorsement of a Republican vision for America, the drubbing the Democrats took was certainly a vote of no confidence in Obama and his party.
This is an astonishing thing for two Democratic Party operatives to say - that he has lost the consent of the governed - and it is hard to believe they are trying to help Obama succeed in saying this sort of thing. A good piece by Ryan Witt here skewers the logic of Obama being more effective if he became a lame duck. But this is not really about Obama being more effective; it is about saying out loud in public what many have been saying behind closed doors for some time now, as Joe Scarborough vehemently asserts here about seven, powerful, Democratic senators who have told him privately that Obama doesn't have a clue about what he is doing. Obama is too inexperienced, too out of touch, to egotistical and, most importantly, too ideologically leftist to succeed in leading a center-right country like America.

Obama is under fire from the Left because he has raised utterly unrealistic expectations on the Left for what he can deliver. The Left should remember that the US did not turn into the EU on the day Obama was elected. Maybe the oceans stopped rising and the planet began to heal, but the US electorate did not embrace European style social democracy and Americans did not suddenly reject American exceptionalism. He may now face a primary challenge from the Left, which would be stupid politics because the problem the Left has is not really Obama - it is the American voting public itself. And weakening Obama won't make America more left-wing.

The problem is that Obama acted like he thought America had elected him to implement his leftist agenda when the voters just wanted to feel good about electing a mixed race, centrist who was as different from George Bush as it is possible to be. But that does not mean they wanted failed, stale, Kenyesian ideas lifted out of the 1930s. And it does not mean that they wanted Obama to govern from the left. And it does not mean that they are too thick to understand the wonderfulness of Obama. They understand the dangers of trillion dollar deficits better than he does.

No doubt we will hear Obama say a thousand times in the next two years that the Republicans are frustrating his attempts at "moving the country forward." But in so doing, the Republicans will merely be doing what they were put there to do.

Looking ahead to 2012, it is imperative for the Republican Party to find a candidate who is experienced enough to govern with competence as well as conservative and charismatic enough to get elected. I'd say that with every passing week the number of potential nominees who could beat Obama gets larger, which means that the Republican Party will be able to choose someone who has the experience to govern competently.

This means that Sarah Palin likely will not be the nominee. It also means that younger potential candidates like Christie, Rubio and Jindal won't be the nominee either although any of these four could wind up as the VP nominee. It may be time for a boring manager with a long resume who can just clean up the mess and get the country back on track (Daniels, Romney, Pawlenty?). If the Republicans nominate someone like that and then a Tea Party darling like Rubio is picked as the running mate, it will likely result in a conservative win that could be more far-reaching in its effect than even the Reagan win in 1980.

You can bet that everybody in Washington is now thinking beyond Obama now. He has shot his bolt and from here on in it will just be posturing and pouting until January 2013 when the country heaves a giant sigh of relief and gets ready to deal with the bills.

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