Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

For Doing No Harm?

October 9, 2009

It seems President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize.  I voted for Obama, but I find this utterly inexplicable.  Peace Prize?  For what?

Somebody help me out on this one: what great accomplishment has Obama achieved to make the world more peaceful?  We were fighting two wars in foreign countries when he took office.  We’re still fighting both wars.  We were holding a bunch of people in a lawless prison in Cuba when he took office.  Sure, he signed an order to close it, but he’s done exactly zero to make that order a reality.  Israel and the Palestinians were at each others’ throats when Obama took office.  They still are.

Obviously, I wouldn’t expect Obama to have gotten us out of 2 wars and won peace in the Middle East a mere 10 months into his presidency.  But that just shows how goofy this is: the man has only been in office 10 months! He hasn’t even had time to greatly advance world peace!

Maybe they gave him the award for being a black man who got elected president in the U.S., something I know I didn’t expect to happen in my lifetime.  I can easily imagine the Europeans wanting to acknowledge that.  But still, a Nobel Prize?

Maybe they gave him the award for kinda sorta almost-but-not-quite forswearing the use of torture.  But, again, really?  Obama’s meek half-measures deserve a Nobel Prize?  Even if he’d gone all the way on forbidding torture, giving him a Peace Prize for that would be like giving a new doctor the Nobel Prize in Medicine for taking the Hippocratic Oath.

I’ve seen some folks — both right and left — saying this seems to be a big, “Hurrah!  George W. Bush is gone!” shout-out.  My guess is they’re right.  Pretty much the entire world hated Bush; even our allies.  And, frankly, I’d even agree that Bush not being President of the United States anymore is probably the biggest advancement for world peace in the past year.  But I’d really rather not see the Nobel Peace Prize turned into the Anybody But Bush Prize.

Some on the left are saying Obama should politely decline the Prize.  It would be the honorable thing to do, since he’s done nothing to earn it.  But I’m not sure there’s actually a polite way to do that.  Personally, though, I think I come down on the side of declining it even if some of our allies get a bit sniffy about it.

Making the Bulldog Sleepy

September 9, 2009

I’m still at work, so I haven’t seen Obama’s big speech.  But according to TPM, this is the “key passage”:

Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

Wow.  That’s great, Mr. President.  You know what else now is the time for?  Ice cream that doesn’t melt or make you gain weight.  Cars that burn no fuel and cost no money.  Toilet paper that doesn’t delaminate.

Now is the time to bring together the best ideas of both the Russian mafia and the Sisters of Mercy on proper table manners.  To bring together the best ideas of the paranoid schizophrenic and the scientific community on the whole issue of laser-eyed elephant babies who lurk in soda cans.

Honestly, if that’s the key passage of Obama’s speech, health care reform — any health care reform — just got much, much less likely.  As did an Obama second term.

Somebody please tell me there was some substance in this speech.  That the president didn’t just call a joint session of congress and interrupt America’s primetime tv viewing to say, “Gee, wouldn’t health care reform be just be the dreamiest?!”

Update (8:50 pm): Since I posted this, TPM put up some new posts about the rest of the president’s speech.  Not being where I can watch the speech, I thought it was over when their first live-blogging post stopped getting updated, ending with the “key passage” bit I quoted.  I’ll withhold judgment until I’ve had a chance to see the full speech, myself.

Not Feeding the Bulldog

September 9, 2009

According to TPMDC:

According to Politico‘s Mike Allen, in his speech tonight, President Obama will stick to his longstanding game plan of endorsing the public option, but not demanding it, and leaving himself enough wiggle room to get on board with some sort of compromise.

If that’s what the president does, I suspect he’s not going to like America’s reaction to it.  Everybody’s been waiting for the president to step up and say — specifically and forcefully — what he wants, what he expects, what he will and will not accept.  Everybody’s expecting this speech to do that.

If all he does tonight is repeat the same vagaries he’s been repeating for months, in order to continue avoiding taking a firm position, people are going to be pissed.  And I don’t just mean progressives or Democrats or Obama voters.  I mean people in general.

People have been waiting for you to lead, Mr. President.  If you duck that responsibility again, in a spotlight like the one you’ve created for yourself tonight, your poll numbers are going to drop so fast you’ll get vertigo.

You’ve called everybody together.  You better show up and lead.

The Leadership Thing

September 4, 2009

I’ve been harping for a while on Pres. Obama’s lack of leadership since early in the summer.  He’s backed off of numerous campaign promises at the first sign of resistance from those who favored the old policies.  And his hands-off — even neglectful — approach to health care reform has both encouraged GOP intransigence and crazyism, and deflated liberal and progressive supporters, leaving him with no momentum and sagging approval.

I said last week that if he wants followers, he’s got to lead.  He’s got to show some strength.  Stand up for something.  Hit back when elected officials accuse him of secretly plotting a genocide, like any human being would who was accused of something so offensive.  Otherwise, he would lose people’s respect.

According to uber-pundit and pollster Charlie Cook, that’s exactly what’s happened.

I don’t exactly deserve an award for seeing this coming.  It’s very basic stuff.  Which is why it’s all the more frustrating that Obama and his entire political team have gotten it so completely wrong.

It seems we still have the problem I mentioned a couple of years ago (though durned if I can find it now): we have one party that stands for all the wrong things, and one party that stands for nothing.

Between those two, people will follow the leader.

Waiting for the Blue Dogs to Bark

August 24, 2009

There’s word today that the White House, behind the scenes, has pretty much given up on getting any GOP votes for health care reform and is putting together a strategy for passing that legislation on a party-line vote.

If true, how long before one or all of the Blue Dogs announce they won’t support a bill that lacks “bipartisan support”?

It’s coming.  Easily before the week is out.  Personally, I don’t think we’ll get to the end of tomorrow before it happens.  We’ll see.

(NB: My definition of “Blue Dogs” isn’t limited to the House.  I include the Ben Nelsons and Evan Bayhs and so forth.)

Barack Dukakis

August 22, 2009

Peter Suderman, one of Sullivan’s fill-ins during his vaycay, writes the following about Obama’s sliding popularity among liberals and progressives:

Meanwhile, I wonder: What did progressives expect?

That Obama could simply roll into Washington and ignore the myriad forces arrayed against a liberal agenda? That conservatives, Republicans, moderate Democrats, and interested industry groups would simply go away or shut up? That Obama, through force of will and liberal coolness, could use his awesome rhetorical ju-jujitsu skills to flip the opposition and defeat nutty right-wingers and conservative politicians forever?

Unless you’re a character in an Aaron Sorkin show, that’s just not how national politics work. And it’s particularly unrealistic given that Obama didn’t run as a progressive cage-fighter, but as a calm, pragmatic leader — with progressive sympathies, yes, but nothing like the ferocity of the netroots.

That may be the dumbest thing I’ve read all week.

If liberals expected Obama could just roll into Washington and make their dreams come true through sheer coolness and rhetoric, we would have had no expectation that he would fight for progressive policy (since there would be no need), and therefore we wouldn’t be angry with him for failing to do so.  We’d just be angry with the GOP and Max Baucus.  Also, if we expected Obama to just breeze through, what’s the relevance of the fact that he didn’t run as a “progressive cage-fighter”?

No, we knew the GOP would go to the mattresses against everything he or any other Democrat proposed, and we knew he and they would have to have some backbone to get things done.  Nonetheless, they do have the tools to get things done if they have the backbone to put them to good use; we gave them those tools (big majorities in both houses).

Our problem with Obama (and Reid, etc.) is that they have not shown any backbone.  They have not fought, like everyone knew they would have to.  They have simply walked away when resistance developed.

Obama did it on Guantanamo, Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell, rule of law issues, executive authority issues, open government issues, and he’s still wavering on Iraq.  So far, he’s failed to put up a meaningful fight for health care reform.  He and Reid have let Max Baucus stall the whole thing in hopes of 2 or 3 GOP votes, long past the point that it became obvious to absolutely everyone they would never, ever get them.

We don’t expect Obama to be a “progressive cage-fighter.”  But when the other party — uniformly, from town hall nutters to conservative media to the RNC to their sitting members and leadership of the House and Senate — accuses you of wanting to euthanize America’s aged and ill, then yes, by god, we expect to see you get upset about that and hit back.

When an entire political party accuses you of something as horrendous as secretly planning to pull the plug on everybody’s grandmas — makes it their actual, official position that that’s what you’re planning — you should be outraged, and you should show it.

If you don’t, you look guilty or weak.  Or both.  And nobody respects you.  And you’re done.  Ask Michael Dukakis.

We didn’t vote for a cage-fighter.  We specifically voted for Obama over a cage-fighter in the primaries.  But there’s a lot of ground between being a cage-fighter and being unwilling to fight at all, even when accused of planning a Nazi eugenics program.

The Bill for Mediocrity Comes Due

August 21, 2009

I’ve been talking about Obama’s problem with his core supporters — i.e., that he’s been disappointing them on way too much and shouldn’t expect them to ride to his rescue.

I even compared him to the Democratic congress of 2006-08, which saw its poll numbers tank when liberals and progressives got fed up with their failure to act.

Well:

A major factor in President Obama’s slide in today’s big Washington Post/ABC News poll, which is preoccupying the political classes today, is his surprisingly sharp drops among Democrats and even liberals…

Duh.

It didn’t take a genius to see this coming; this is obvious stuff.  That’s what’s so frustrating about it all.  How could Team Obama not have seen this coming?  Especially right on the heels of the exact same thing happening in the 2006-08 congressional polls.

You got to deliver, people!  Or at least look like you’re trying hard.  You know.  Lead.

The Wages of Mediocrity

August 15, 2009

A while back, I predicted that when Pres. Obama tried to put his much vaunted grassroots organization to work in support of health care reform, he would find those roots rather dry and listless.

Gabby Johnson was right!

Matt Yglesias thinks this is because Max Baucus didn’t get a bill out of his committee on time and therefore there’s no one thing for Obama’s organizers to rally the troops around.  I’m sure that doesn’t help, but I still think the main reason is that Obama himself killed a lot of the rank-and-file’s enthusiasm for him by backpedaling from or just plain breaking way too many big campaign promises.

Another thing that’s contributing more to it than the vaporware problem Yglesias identifies, I suspect, is Obama’s own unwillingness to put up much of a fight for health care reform.

He turned this issue over to congress months ago, and stepped away from it.  He‘s not insisting on any particular and concrete kind of reform or any particular feature(s) in a reform bill, he hasn’t been using the bully pulpit in an energetic way to keep the country engaged and reminded of why we need reform, he hasn’t pressured Baucus, et al., to get moving, he hasn’t fought back hard against the outlandish lies conservatives at all levels have been telling about the bills the congress is considering.  (Insofar as he’s responded at all, it was so late the terms of debate had already been shifted.)

In short, he has been very lackadaisacal on the issue.  What makes him think millions of Americans with day jobs (if they’re lucky) are suddenly going to jump energetically to his aid when he isn’t showing any energy himself?

If you want followers, Mr. President, you have to lead.

Obama = Cheney

July 22, 2009

President Obama continues to be a crushing failure on open government and the rule of law — two issues he campaigned very hard on.

Yet he thinks he can just turn the netroots spigot on again when he needs it.  Did someone remove the man’s brain?  (Or maybe he’ll turn out to be right.  We’ll see.)

What If Nobody Answers?

July 20, 2009

Ezra Klein reports that Obama’s political team plan to gin up their grassroots organization this week in defense of health care reform, and the public option in particular.

I could very easily be wrong about this, but I suspect they’re going to be disappointed with the grassroots response.

Health care reform is a really big deal to a really large number of Americans (about 65% favor a tax-funded public option, according to the last poll numbers I saw), so I’m sure they’ll be able to generate some letters to congress and some petition signatures, but I think Obama’s people are going to find that their man’s behavior over the past few months has killed off a lot of the grassroots at the roots.

A lot of progressives — who made up the bulk and most energetic part of Obama’s vaunted internet operation — have lost their passion for the man, having watched him throw them overboard on so many of the issues they care most about and thought he campaigned on.

So while, given the issue, I’m sure there will be some response, I suspect Team Obama will find a much more indifferent grassroots than they expect.  Here’s hoping they get the message.