Aug 22, 2011

Obama's Struggling Against All Top GOP Contenders, But That's The Price He Pays for Weak Leadership

Obama's approval rates are in the low 40s, but as for handling the economy are even way, way lower. Another interesting poll (Gallup), perhaps more troubling is that the president is in a tight race with all top Republican contenders. What I sense is that the country is trying to decide whether Obama presidential material--someone who can lead not just delegate his responsibilities to Congress and try to compromise on the lowest possible denominator. The window for him to do anything to reverse this perception (with a great dose of reality) of an ineffective leader is closing. 

The president came out swinging against Congress just before he went on a ten-day vacation on a posh island where he's photographed playing golf. Nice swing, Mr. President. Admittedly, he has a better swing with a golf club than he swings against his political adversaries. It's actually amazing that the GOP hasn't paid a bigger political fine for bringing the country to the edge of insolvency. That the GOP was actually able to fight for and win amidst a recession tax breaks for the very wealthy!

Soon, the GOP will argue for a tax increase. The payroll taxes have been reduced under Obama's stimulus package [how many people know this??!!] but are slated to go up next year. This has been money directly into the pockets of working people. But, it's been a reduction only for the workers not the employers, so why should the GOP be in favor of this? Oh, they said letting the Bush tax cuts expire would be a tax increase. Let's see how the handle this one. And, let's see how this president handles it too.

But, There's Hope in Extremism
 I still think the GOP will go for Perry, unless someone else declares soon who may be stronger (I doubt it), or unless the Texas governor has a secret closet. If I were selecting one of the current GOPers, I'd pick Huntsman. But he's "crazy" as he Twitted recently. He believes in science, evolution, and other facts--but this is not what this extremist party wants right now.
So, you have Perry who wants to be President of the US and who doesn't believe in science, nor does he understand the meaning of the word science & scientific theory. Or, doesn't know how old the earth is. Do you? Does it matter?

Elections have consequences, and of course there are differences among candidates and the policies they pursue. They may be playing poker with our chips though, and this isn't good for our country. Leadership is important, and not only in implementing policy, but also to set the narrative. These are the stories we tell ourselves. People repeat slogans, ideas, myths, because they've been indoctrinated without bothering to analyze.
This is not something anyone wants to hear--that they parroting away. Yet, ask what do people mean by freedom ? Why do they reject evolution (one of the strongest scientific theories we have), climate change? Or, that they believe the earth is a few thousand years old? Or, that creationism [read: the Xtian myth, not any other] should be taught in public schools?  Leaders  who shared those beliefs would be marginal not presidential contenders!
Maybe this election will highlight those differences, that is, between a weak president and a right wing extremist. That's Obama's best hope, because he doesn't seem "to get it" nor does he seem to "go for broke" [as Savannah Guthrie asked Gibbs on Meet the Press] and fight for what's right not what the Republicans will allow him to have.

Aug 15, 2011

Reading the Tea Leaves: Rick Perry's Run Bad News for Obama.

We all know that Obama is very vulnerable and increasingly seems like an one-termer. His biggest enemy is himself, but since he's going to have to face a Republican in the general election next year, the announcement of Rick Perry--the dimwit Texas gov--as a prez candidate creates a very credible threat to BO.

The GOP is not very comfortable with any other candidate, despite the high ratings Bachman, Paul, and Romney get. Paul is not mainstream conservative. He's a libertarian who sides with the GOP because of economic issues. Romney is a flip-flopper--he had to be in order to compete in this extreme party--and a Mormon. The Mornons aren't even considered Xtians by the other faithful, especially the Southern conservatives. Bachman, well, she's crazy and the majority of the conservatives already know this, despite the very conservative Iowans supporting her. She's the "local" candidate who'll probably win the Iowa caucuses early next year. But this won't be enough. 

Even if Romney wins the New Hampshire primary, the election schedule is favorable to Perry. If, and I think it's very likely, he sticks to close second or third finishes, then he can sweep the Southern states where the political base of the conservatives lies.

Perry's move to start his campaign with holding a mass prayer with fundies was to sent the message that he's not a Mormon, and that he's in line with the hardcore religious right. He can tout his gubernatorial credentials [even though he's been a terrible gov in a state with the weakest chief exec], as a pro-business, tax-cutter, job-creator, gun-totting, religious nut.  This will go extremely well in the GOP primary selection race. Unless a scandal befalls him, I see him as the Repub nominee next year. He could also be the next president of the US.

The credibility of a candidate nowadays--even before the public gets to know him/her--rests on the size of their bank account and the ability to raise a mountain of money. Perry excels in this, therefore, he'll be able to spend, spend, and outspend all the rest of the GOP hopefuls. Romney is rich, but I expect once the rich conservatives settle on a favorite horse, most of their money will flow to Perry.

The conservatives (in this GOP) have never accepted the legitimacy of the Clinton and Obama presidencies. I can't emphasize this enough. From day one, they didn't just oppose the ideology and policies but the person in the high office himself. They hated Clinton and they hate Obama. It's a visceral reaction, which will make the cons coalesce around the strongest candidate who can beat Obama.

The only puzzle piece in the presidential ticket will be whom Perry will select as his VP. He may go for ..crazy as he'll want to keep the loons engaged and excited. He understands that he'll have to make a hard turn to the center during the general campaign and, thus, will stop talking the loon dialect of the right. Instead he'll focus on the economy, (blame Obama for all of the troubles of the economy), and jobs, while constantly highlighting O's weak style of leadership. Perry is polished enough [lots of sizzle not enough beef.... though often Americans pay attention mostly to the sizzle] to project a strong presidential leadership and portray himself as a person who can get the economy going.

There will be an interesting difference in style that will obscure the substance between the two men. If Obama remains the detached and analytical intellectual, he'll lose. He'll lose because, even though most Americans agree with his policies (as expressed not as compromised), he won't be a strong leader. Americans prefer a strong leader who's wrong to a weak one who's right. 

Change we could believe in (2008) may turn into change we don't believe in (2012) but will get it, one way or another.
A bad economy always plays a huge role in the elections. Many voters have short memories; most don't understand how our political system works. The "floaters" (low info, impressionable voters) move from party to party and they decide elections. The other important factor is an energetic base. You can make your own assessment whether Obama has satisfied his political base.

The so-called independents and even some Dems may find acceptable a ..centrist Perry next year.  It's not all doom-and-gloom for the progressives yet, but there isn't much this president has shown us to be excited and hopeful as I'm writing this. Yes, We Can sounds far removed today. 

UPDATE (8/16):
"So where does the notion of a Texas miracle come from? Mainly from widespread misunderstanding of the economic effects of population growth."

Paul Krugman points out some more scathing truths about the "The Texas Unmiracle". 
"So when Mr. Perry presents himself as the candidate who knows how to create jobs, don’t believe him. His prescriptions for job creation would work about as well in practice as his prayer-based attempt to end Texas’s crippling drought."

UPDATE 2: Want to think about something really intriguing? Imagine if Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of NYC, jumps into the race as an Independent.... He won't have to go through the primaries either.  This may have the effect of splitting the Democratic vote in the end, though if Obama is seem as an eventual loser, most will abandon him for Bloomberg. The latter is very acceptable to Dems, Inds, and moderate Repubs, and I believe he can handily beat any of the GOP fields against him. 

Another scenario would be that MB challenges BO in the Dem primaries. I would very much favor this, because it would produce a stronger candidate and a unified party behind him--no matter who it is (either). I like the idea of primaring Obama more and more. I'm with Bernie Sanders on this. We can dream, can't we?.. 

Aug 1, 2011

Obama's [Community-Organizer/Let's All Work Together?] Style: Leading from the Rear While Surrendering the Narrative to the GOP

Update, Aug. 2nd: Jon Stewart: "You're not pinning this turd on us..."

The manufactured crisis of the debt ceiling theater is coming to a close, though the damage will last a long time. Even if the US averted default on its obligations, its credibility has taken a hit. Progressives think that Obama was diminished by this process, and his popularity is also decreasing. Even though the majority of Americans like him, and are more in favor of his proposals than those of the GOP, he's considered a weak leader. Remember, the country has shown that it prefers a strong, effective leader even if he's wrong, to a weak leader even if he's right on the issues! 

Maybe Obama is gambling on the possibility the Republicans will nominate someone worse to run against him next year. The economy won't be much better before the next election, because this president failed to take action and the GOP has done everything it could to damage it.

Read Paul Krugman's "The President Surrenders" editorial.

Here's something to remember: One of the biggest differences between progressives and the American conservatives is that we want an active government to mitigate social darwinism the Republicans are in favor of. 

Every time there's a failure of government, the cons win points! They seem to be winning the narrative on this one too. They come into government with an intent of making the government worse! They create deficits, slush social services, and remove consumer protections. They love gridlock, because this increases the public's cynicism of their government!  Sadly, the person with the bigger, loudest megaphone is not disputing this narrative!

I'm with Senator Bernie Sanders on the need to issue a serious primary challenge to Obama. Not the Nader type, or a preacher, or some leftist fringe, but a good, sensible progressive like Feingold. I'm sure Obama will prevail but he will have to understand that there's an activist base out there and elections (especially close one) depend on getting the base excited and to the polls. Besides, we have to publicly discuss a few important issues. 

I argue that the narrative is extremely important in shaping our political discourse. Most Americans support progressive positions but it's the conservative narrative that often prevails. The more we spend time discussing the ridiculous [or, the artificial crisis of the debt ceiling] the more time, energy, and money we're wasting, instead of tackling serious problems.

There are going to be lots of polls following this manufactured crisis. As of now, the public blames the GOP more, but Obama's ratings are looking more and more Bush-like.

Here's a snapshot of public opinion: 

Q: If negotiations between President Obama and Congressional Republicans on the federal debt ceiling fail, and it leads to an economic crisis, would you place more blame on the President or on Congressional Republicans, or would you blame both equally?  
President Obama: 35
Congressional Republicans: 46
Both equally: 18
Not sure: 1

Here's a slew of numbers from DK/SEIU weekly poll.

This president hasn't learned yet that he can't trust this Republican party. When asked back in December--when he caved in regarding the Bush tax breaks to the super rich--why he didn't make the looming debt ceiling part of the deal, he said the Republicans would do the responsible thing when needed. Great call, Mr. president. Maybe you forgot how they negotiated on health care reform.... Tsk.