IJR/Google and Harvard Surveys: Young People More Conservative, Majority Would Throw Obama Out
57 percent of Millennials disapprove of Obamacare, with 40 percent saying it will worsen their quality of care and a majority believing it will drive up costs. Only 18 percent say Obamacare will improve their care. Among 18-to-29 year olds currently without health insurance, less than one-third say they’re likely to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges.
The administration announced last week that only 1.08 million people ages 18 to 34 had signed up for Obamacare by the end of February, or about 25 percent of total enrollees. If the proportion doesn’t improve significantly, the result likely will be fatal for the Affordable Care Act.
Obama’s appearance on an absurd Web program that celebrates the absurd was a masterful, strategic move aimed squarely at Putin. How better to insult a shirtless, pec-flexing thug than to engage in a theater of the absurd? How better to display maximum disrespect toward a man with a child’s ego and a nuclear arsenal — who has invaded another country where peaceful demonstrators were gunned down — than by acting as though he hasn’t a care in the world?
When historians write the story of Barack Obama’s presidency, 2013 will be his lost year. It opened with great promise and closed with equally great disappointment. In a year that could have been about building his legacy, the president was instead reduced to salvaging the signature accomplishment of his first term.
No leadership in Washington, starting at the top.
Many of President Obama’s allies believe his administration is no better prepared for the inevitable challenges of moving millions of people into new health plans than it was for the rollout of the federal HealthCare.gov website. Above, Obama with Monica Weeks, among those who have benefited from the law, in Washington. (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / December 3, 2013)
WASHINGTON — As supporters of the Affordable Care Act brace for new headaches next year, many have concluded they cannot count on the Obama administration, whose efforts to explain and promote the law are increasingly viewed as poorly planned, unreliable and largely ineffective.
The Boston Globe reported in 2012, after Omar Obama’s arrest, that the White House said he had “never met his famous nephew.” The White House now says it only told the Globe that there was no record of the two having met — not definitively that they hadn’t met.
McDermott: I Haven’t Seen So Much Panic On This Floor Since 9/11
The paradox of Obama is that he believes in his own magical powers, but then he doesn’t turn up to use them.
The place to begin understanding the unraveling of his presidency is page 274 of “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.” The author, David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, quotes Valerie Jarrett, perhaps Obama’s closest and longest-serving adviser, on her hero’s amazingness:
“He knows exactly how smart he is. . . . I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. . . . He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do. He would never be satisfied with what ordinary people do.”
By BILL KELLER
Published: November 10, 2013
President Obama is under water. His approval in the polls is low and sinking, his signature initiative is staggering from a combination of incompetence and sabotage, his foreign policy is a jumble. Congress is a Bermuda Triangle where the most elementary White House business disappears. The public is numbed and disgusted. Allies are theatrically furious about eavesdropping. Put it this way:
When the water-cooler buzz in Washington is focused on Obama’s near-death experience in last year’s campaign debates, it’s pretty clear he is not setting the agenda….
Winston Churchill: “The price of greatness is responsibility.”
Obama is ducking a leader’s duty
Although most Americans oppose the GOP’s shutdown strategy, for the good of the nation President Obama needs to show a leader’s courage and take ideas from his opposition.
Obama’s reelection did little to ‘break the fever’ in Washington
President Obama prepares to speak on the possible government shutdown. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press / September 30, 2013)
By Kathleen Hennessey
September 30, 2013, 2:32 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Around this time last year, President Obama was entering the final stretch of his reelection campaign and repeating a key rationale for a second term: Keeping him in the White House would chasten Republicans and end the dysfunction in Washington.
His reelection would prompt self-reflection, he said. It “might break the fever,” Obama told Rolling Stone magazine last year. For the campaign, the message was a way of connecting his reelection effort to his 2008 election bid. Even as an incumbent boxed in by the opposition, Obama was still promising to bring change to a broken government.
Now, several months into his second term, with Washington on the cusp of the first government shutdown since 1996, the fever of brinkmanship has spiked.
Whether the president’s thesis misjudged his opponents or was merely wooing supporters with wishful thinking is an open question.
Even as Obama campaigned on the notion, few in Washington agreed with the president’s analysis. The 2012 election never looked like a power-shifting election, and it wasn’t. Republicans lost a handful of seats but easily maintained their majority in the House. The Democratic majority in the Senate grew only slightly. The balance of power remained the same, and for the most part so did the politics.
If there has been change during Obama’s second term, it is largely that the sides have hardened their positions in the ongoing budget battle. The White House has said it is ending its practice of negotiating with Republicans over raising the debt limit, something it did at length with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2011. Republicans, primarily in the House, are shooting the moon, asking not merely for budget cuts or entitlement reform, as they did in the past, but for a gutting or delay of the president’s chief legislative legacy: the healthcare law.
“I think if they learned anything out of the 2011 debt limit debacle it’s that they couldn’t negotiate with hostage takers,” said Jim Manley, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev). “That Speaker Boehner, when push comes to shove, couldn’t deliver his conference.” Still, Manley said he understood why lawmakers in the House weren’t cowed by Obama’s reelection.
“Put yourself in the shoes of the 70 to 80 conservatives — the just-say-no crowd of the House Republicans — they’re thinking, I won my election. So where’s the shift?” Manley said.
To be sure, the White House did emerge from the election with some momentum and quickly racked up what some Democrats deemed a victory: The year-end budget deal forced Republicans to agree to raise income tax rates, though at higher income levels than Obama wanted. But the inclination toward compromise fizzled fast. Later attempts to block automatic, across-the-board spending cuts went nowhere.
After two years of divided government, the parties appear to have settled the easiest stuff and left no room for compromise. In fact, the 2012 budget deal led to another change that has moved the sides farther apart. Boehner emerged with less credibility among conservatives in the House, putting him in the position of either bending to their will or risk losing his leadership post.
In that sense, Obama’s campaign argument was rooted in mere hope that the center of the Republican Party would hold against a conservative wing, even as Democrats on the Hill argued otherwise.
“I believe that if we’re successful in this election, when we’re successful in this election, that the fever may break, because there’s a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that,” Obama said at a Minneapolis fundraiser in June 2012.
Nearly a year and a half later, the White House has come up with little new rhetoric. Asked about the president’s fever theory, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president was still hoping.
“He hopes and believes that, you know, common sense will prevail and that we can get about the business of reaching reasonable compromise when it comes to our budget priorities,” Carney said.
Leadership as we experience it in life is usually more declarative: Leaders take action, and people follow. But Obama’s style is different. As we’ve learned after nearly five years, he’s more cautious and deliberative.
The man formerly hailed as a messiah was having a bad day.
The Iranians snubbed him. The Brazilians upbraided him. Ted Cruz fauxlibustered him. And you just know that, behind the scenes, the Russians were messing with him.
Samuel L. Jackson To Obama: “Stop Trying To ‘Relate’” and “Be F**king Presidential”
Barack Obama is political king of the fake Twitter followers, with more than 19.5 MILLION online fans who don’t really exist
For four years, President Obama counted on fellow Democrats to rally to his side in a series of epic battles with Republicans over the direction of the country. But now, deep in his fifth year in office, Mr. Obama finds himself frustrated by members of his own party weary of his leadership and increasingly willing to defy him.
President Obama’s flailing approval ratings hurt his party
Obama’s approval rating is unlikely to rise by the 2014 midterm or 2016 presidential election, spelling danger for Democrats
What is different today is that the US is politically and militarily weaker than it was 10 years ago, because of its failure to win wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US position has been further undermined by a series of missteps in Syria, including the miscalculation that it would be as easy to get rid of Assad as Gaddafi. Washington and the West Europeans forgot that Gaddafi had only fallen because the Libyan rebels were backed by a full-scale Nato air campaign. Failing this, the Libyan rebels were never going to win on their own and the same is true in Syria.
At the root of Obama’s foreign policy dysfunction is a refusal to accept that an American president must take on the history that erupts on his watch — whether it is the fall of the Berlin Wall, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or the Arab revolutions — and use his unique power to shape it. It’s no use lamenting that this is not where he wants to spend his time or that the public isn’t interested. In the end, he will be obliged to act; the question is whether he will drive events, or they him.
So this was always the plan, plotted three moves ahead by the clever American president, who was only pretending to be indecisive, quixotic and out of his depth. By sort-of threatening military intervention and then appearing to back down at the last minute, the US was not dithering or tripping over its own feet on the world stage. Oh no. It was creating the necessary conditions for Bashar al-Assad and his Russian mentors to come to the table and begin the process of submitting themselves to international standards on chemical weapons. Of course, if we pursue the chess analogy, then the first clever move was really Assad’s. By using chemical weapons, he created the necessary conditions by which the US would be forced to engage in these negotiations, which will almost certainly protect his regime from removal by the West, and will guarantee his Russian friends a place on the highest global platform.
The question of whether Barack Obama’s second term will be a failure was answered in the affirmative before his Berlin debacle, which has recast the question, which now is: Will this term be silly, even scary in its detachment from reality?
…Napoleon said: “If you start to take Vienna — take Vienna.” Douglas MacArthur said that all military disasters can be explained by two words: “Too late.” Regarding Syria, Obama is tentative and, if he insists on the folly of intervening, tardy. He is giving Putin a golden opportunity to humiliate the nation responsible for the “catastrophe.” In a contest between a dilettante and a dictator, bet on the latter.
Obama’s vanity is a wonder of the world that never loses its power to astonish, but really: Is everyone in his orbit too lost in raptures of admiration to warn him against delivering a speech soggy with banalities and bromides in a city that remembers John Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Ronald Reagan’s “ a city that remembers John Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall”? With German Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting nearby, Obama began his Berlin speech: “As I’ve said, Angela and I don’t exactly look like previous German and American leaders.” He has indeed said that, too, before, at least about himself. It was mildly amusing in Berlin in 2008, but hardly a Noel Coward-like witticism worth recycling.has indeed said that, too, before, at least about himself. It was mildly amusing in Berlin in 2008, but hardly a Noel Coward-like witticism worth recycling.
Bill Schools Barry on Syria
Bill and Hillary Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago last Thursday.
WASHINGTON — NOT only is President Obama leading from behind, now he’s leading from behind Bill Clinton.
After dithering for two years over what to do about the slaughter in Syria, the president was finally shoved into action by the past and perhaps future occupant of his bedroom.
Clinton told John McCain during a private Q. and A. on Tuesday in New York that Obama should be more forceful on Syria and should not rationalize with opinion polls that reflect Americans’ reluctance to tangle in foreign crises. McCain has been banging the gong on a no-fly zone in Syria for some time.
The oddity of Obama’s being taken to the leadership woodshed by the Democrat who preceded him and the Republican who failed to pre-empt him was not lost on anyone. When Obama appointed Clinton “the Secretary of ’Splaining Stuff,” he didn’t think Bill would be ’splaining how lame Barry was.
As Maggie Haberman reported in Politico, Clinton said at the McCain Institute for International Leadership that the public elects presidents and lawmakers to “look around the corner and see down the road” and “to win,” not to follow polls.
When the man who polled where to take his summer vacation and whether to tell the truth about his affair with Monica Lewinsky tells you you’re a captive of polls, you’d better listen up.
Citing his own experiences in Kosovo and Bosnia, Clinton said that if you blamed a poll for a lack of action, “you’d look like a total wuss.” He added that “when people are telling you ‘no’ in these situations, very often what they’re doing is flashing a giant yellow light” of caution.
According to Haberman, Clinton, who apologized for failing to intervene in the Rwandan genocide, continued: “If you refuse to act and you cause a calamity, the one thing you cannot say when all the eggs have been broken is that ‘Oh my God, two years ago there was a poll that said 80 percent of you were against it.’ Right? You’d look like a total fool. So you really have to in the end trust the American people, tell them what you’re doing, and hope to God you can sell it.”
That is the problem for Obama: selling it. The silver-tongued campaigner has turned out to be a leaden salesman in the Oval Office. On issues from drones to gun control to taxes to Syria, the president likes to cite public opinion polls to justify his action or inaction. He seems incapable of getting in front of issues and shaping public and Congressional opinion with a strong selling job.
After the whistle was blown on the National Security Agency’s No Call Left Behind program, the president said he would welcome an ex post facto debate. But now that polls indicate that the overwhelming American attitude is “Spy on me,” Obama has dropped the subject.
Too bad. We’ll see what Americans have to say when someone in the mold of Dick Cheney or Bob Haldeman gets his hands on all that personal data; the West Wing has been known to drive its occupants nuts.
On Syria, the administration now says it will begin supplying rebels with small arms and ammunition, a gesture that friends and foes alike say is too little, too late. The Times’s Peter Baker reported on Saturday that Obama himself said it wouldn’t change anything but would maybe buy time.
And as the White House announced this pittance of a policy on Thursday evening, the president was nowhere to be seen. He let his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, be the face of the Syria plan, while he spent time at an LGBT Pride Month celebration, a Father’s Day luncheon and a reception for the W.N.B.A. championship Indiana Fever basketball team.
On “Morning Joe” on Friday, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Carter national security adviser, dismissed the president’s response to Syria as “propaganda,” noting the ambiguous nature of the red line that President Assad had crossed, killing 150 people with chemical weapons after nearly 93,000 had died in the civil war.
“It all seems to me rather sporadic, chaotic, unstructured, undirected,” he said. “I think we need a serious policy review with the top people involved, not just an announcement by the deputy head of the N.S.C.”
Especially, he added, since Syria could slide into a larger regional war that would pit America against Syria’s ally, Iran, with a huge effect on the international economy and America’s budget.
While the president was avoiding talking about what he hadn’t wanted to do in the first place, the former president was ubiquitous and uxorious, chatting about Syria and myriad other issues on MSNBC and Bloomberg TV; smiling on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek and offering his solutions for corporate America’s problems; presiding at his global initiative in Chicago; and promoting the woman he hopes will be the next president.
On Friday, a self-satisfied Clinton told the “Morning Joe” hosts about Syria, “It looks to me
like this thing is trending in the right direction now.”
The less Obama leads, the more likely it is that history will see him as a pallid interregnum between two chaotic Clinton eras.
Nature abhors a vacuum. And so does Bill Clinton.
Pretty please’ foreign policy
By Jennifer Rubin, Published: June 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm
In two contexts the Obama administration has revealed its complete confusion about high-stakes negotiations and the interrelation of soft and hard power.
In Syria, after dragging his feet for two years, trying to fudge over his own “red line” and coming up with a half-hearted move to give small arms to the rebels, President Obama discovers that he can’t budge Russia, which has backed Bashar al-Assad to the hilt. The Post reports that at the Group of 8 summit:
Obama has demanded that Assad relinquish power as part of any negotiated peace settlement, a condition Putin rejects. Russia is Assad’s principal weapons supplier, and the Obama administration is about to begin arming rebels on the other side of the civil war that has killed an estimated 93,000 people over the past two years, according to U.N. estimates.
In other words, there is no reason for Assad/Putin to give up in negotiations what they have won on the battlefield. Did the president actually expect they would?
The same scenario plays out in Afghanistan, where we are beginning negotiations with the Taliban:
The Obama administration has long sought to put a negotiating process in place before the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Senior administration officials called the agreement to open a Taliban political office in Doha a “milestone” on the road to ending the bloody and long-running conflict.
But the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in advance of a public announcement, cautioned that they did not expect immediate results from the negotiations.
They should expect any non-immediate results either. We are leaving the battlefield. What leverage do we actually have? Again, the expectation that what we have lost with hard power can be made up through soft power is shown to be nonsensical.
To a certain extent, the same is true with regard to China. Obama is content to cut our Navy, remain inert when it comes to the South China Sea and invite the Chinese for joint naval exercises. Why does it then come as a shock that China won’t budge on cybersecurity?
Unfortunately, the president who fancies himself as the guy who ends wars and doesn’t start them has no idea that, without military success and the threat of military force, your influence wanes and our adversaries come to regard us, well, as a joke.
We didn’t win the Cold War at the negotiating table. We won by continually challenging Communist aggression and maintaining a strong military that eventually helped bankrupt the Soviet Union.
The mistake the left makes is in assuming other countries have similar interests and views and sitting down for a chat is like working on a farm bill in Congress — managing to make compromises here and there. But when dealing with adversaries on the international stage, there rarely is a case in which we can persuade their leaders to “see it our way” or change their own view of what is “good for them.”
Unless and until the U.S. president decides to stop talking down and eschewing all hard power (and the military strength it would require), our adversaries are going to run circles around us — just as they are doing now.
Obama has attempted to direct public anger over gun control and fiscal stalemate toward the Republicans in Congress. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty
Is Obama ‘losing juice’? President cuts frustrated figure after series of setbacks
President jokes that ‘rumours of my demise have been exaggerated’ – but failure to pass gun control reforms and a stalemate on the budget have left him increasingly powerless
It’s never a good sign for a president when he feels compelled to assure the public he still has a pulse.
…Back in 1995, Bill Clinton assured Americans that he was still relevant; this may be the first time a president asserted that he was still alive.
Obama is correct about the dysfunction, and the difficulty of passing even uncontroversial bills. But his stance was frustratingly passive, as if what happens in Congress is out of his hands. It’s the president’s job to lead, and to bang heads if necessary, regardless of any “permission structure.” Obama seemed oddly like a spectator, as if he had resigned himself to a reactive presidency.
“I’ve been impressed by the work that was done by the Gang of Eight in the Senate,” he said, also vowing to be “open-minded in seeing what they come up with” in the House.
Open-mindedness is nice. But lively leadership is the way to resuscitate a moribund presidency.
After more than four years in the White House and weeks into his latest effort to woo lawmakers, Obama still isn’t very good at using his personal charm to achieve political success. Yet, it may be one of the few strategies the president has left if he hopes to accomplish his remaining second-term priorities, including a sweeping budget deal and a comprehensive immigration bill.
At this point in his presidency, Obama has pretty much tried it all. He has met privately with Republican leaders in the House, collaborated with bipartisan groups of senators and taken his case to the people, hoping that the power of public opinion could win over his opponents in Congress. This year, for the most part, none of those approaches have worked.
“…And I think if you read their piece closely — or just think about Washington for more than a minute — you won’t come away particularly optimistic over the chances for “charm” to work, either.”
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
We are writing to express our deep concern about the nation’s corrupt campaign finance system and about your failure, to date, as President to provide meaningful leadership or take effective action to solve this fundamental problem facing our democracy.
…The absence of your leadership on campaign finance issues has been very damaging to the interests the American people have in honest elections and a government free from corruption. It is inexplicable to us that you have been unwilling to actively work for solutions to political money problems that are attacking the integrity of our democracy and political system.
When you first campaigned for President, you had no problems addressing the reforms necessary to repair the campaign finance system.
For example, in October 2007 in response to a Midwest Democracy Network questionnaire, you supported public financing for congressional races, stating, “I believe it is imperative that we get big money out of the political process.”
In June 2008, in an op-ed article you published in USA TODAY, you made a public commitment to repair the presidential public financing system. You said at the time that you were “firmly committed to reforming the system as president so that it’s viable in today’s campaign climate.”
We are writing to express our deep concern about the nation’s corrupt campaign finance system and about your failure, to date, as President to provide meaningful leadership or take effective action to solve this fundamental problem facing our democracy.
Americans for Campaign Reform Democracy 21
Campaign Legal Center League of Women Voters
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Public Citizen
No Bully in the Pulpit
By MAUREEN DOWD
THE graying man flashing fury in the Rose Garden on behalf of the Newtown families, the grieving man wiping away tears after speaking at the Boston memorial service, is not the same man who glided into office four years ago.
President Obama has watched the blood-dimmed tide drowning the ceremony of innocence, as Yeats wrote, and he has learned how to emotionally connect with Americans in searing moments, as he did from the White House late Friday night after the second bombing suspect was apprehended in Boston.
Unfortunately, he still has not learned how to govern.
How is it that the president won the argument on gun safety with the public and lost the vote in the Senate? It’s because he doesn’t know how to work the system. And it’s clear now that he doesn’t want to learn, or to even hire some clever people who can tell him how to do it or do it for him.
It’s unbelievable that with 90 percent of Americans on his side, he could get only 54 votes in the Senate. It was a glaring example of his weakness in using leverage to get what he wants. No one on Capitol Hill is scared of him.
Even House Republicans who had no intention of voting for the gun bill marveled privately that the president could not muster 60 votes in a Senate that his party controls.
President Obama thinks he can use emotion to bring pressure on Congress. But that’s not how adults with power respond to things. He chooses not to get down in the weeds and pretend he values the stroking and other little things that matter to lawmakers.
After the Newtown massacre, he and his aides hashed it out and decided he would look cold and unsympathetic if he didn’t push for some new regulations. To thunderous applause at the State of the Union, the president said, “The families of Newtown deserve a vote.” Then, as usual, he took his foot off the gas, lost momentum and confided his pessimism to journalists.
The White House had a defeatist mantra: This is tough. We need to do it. But we’re probably going to lose.
When you go into a fight saying you’re probably going to lose, you’re probably going to lose.
The president once more delegated to the vice president. Couldn’t he have come to the Hill himself to lobby with the families and Joe Biden?
The White House should have created a war room full of charts with the names of pols they had to capture, like they had in “The American President.” Soaring speeches have their place, but this was about blocking and tackling.
Instead of the pit-bull legislative aides in Aaron Sorkin’s movie, Obama has Miguel Rodriguez, an arm-twister so genteel that The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker wrote recently that no one in Congress even knows who he is.
The president was oblivious to red-state Democrats facing tough elections. Bring the Alaskan Democrat Mark Begich to the White House residence, hand him a drink, and say, “How can we make this a bill you can vote for and defend?”
Sometimes you must leave the high road and fetch your brass knuckles. Obama should have called Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota over to the Oval Office and put on the squeeze: “Heidi, you’re brand new and you’re going to have a long career. You work with us, we’ll work with you. Public opinion is moving fast on this issue. The reason you get a six-year term is so you can have the guts to make tough votes. This is a totally defensible bill back home. It’s about background checks, nothing to do with access to guns. Heidi, you’re a mother. Think of those little kids dying in schoolrooms.”
Obama had to persuade some Republican senators in states that he won in 2012. He should have gone out to Ohio, New Hampshire and Nevada and had big rallies to get the public riled up to put pressure on Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte and Dean Heller, giving notice that they would pay a price if they spurned him on this.
Tom Coburn, the Republican senator from Oklahoma, is one of the few people on the Hill that the president actually considers a friend. Obama wrote a paean to Coburn in the new Time 100 issue, which came out just as Coburn sabotaged his own initial effort to help the bill.
Obama should have pressed his buddy: “Hey, Tom, just this once, why don’t you do more than just talk about making an agreement with the Democrats? You’re not running again. Do something big.”
Couldn’t the president have given his Rose Garden speech about the “shameful” actions in Washington before the vote rather than after?
There were ways to get to 60 votes. The White House just had to scratch it out with a real strategy and a never-let-go attitude.
Obama hates selling. He thinks people should just accept the right thing to do. But as Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, noted, senators have their own tough selling job to do back home. “In the end you can really believe in something,” he told The Times’s Jennifer Steinhauer, “but you have to go sell it.”
The president said the Newtown families deserved a vote. But he was setting his sights too low. They deserved a law.
Obama on guns — Too little, too late
By Dana Milbank, Published: March 29
“Don’t get squishy,” President Obama told members of Congress.
But they already have.
“Now is the time,” the president said.
But the time was actually three months ago.
Obama made an impassioned bid this week to revive prospects for gun-control legislation, but it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that his efforts come too late. A fellow Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has killed plans for bans on assault weapons and large ammunition clips. Republicans appear to have enough votes to block any meaningful expansion of background checks. Public support for new gun controls is fading with memories of December’s Newtown massacre.
To counter the fade, the White House on Thursday assembled cops, ministers, children and families of gun-violence victims in the East Room, and Obama departed often from the script on his teleprompter to make an emotional appeal.
“The notion that two months or three months after something as horrific as what happened in Newtown happens, and we’ve moved on to other things — that’s not who we are,” he told his audience. “Less than 100 days ago that happened,” he added, “and the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.”
Well, shame on us. A CBS News poll out this week found that support for stricter gun-control laws has dropped to 47 percent, down from 57 percent just after the Connecticut slaughter. Even among Democrats, support has slipped to 66 percent from 78 percent in February.
There is no pleasure in I-told-you-sos on such a wrenching issue, but failure of the gun proposals was easy to predict. Three days after the Newtown shooting, when Obama was talking about action in “the coming weeks,” I argued against the White House’s slow walk: “In the case of gun control, a pattern has become persistent: A tragedy sparks an outcry for common-sense gun laws and gun groups are set back on their heels, but by the time Congress gets around to taking action, the National Rifle Association has regained its legislative stranglehold.”
Back then, White House press secretary Jay Carney said there was no hurry . He predicted that “in a few weeks or a few months,” the pain from Newtown will “still be incredibly intense.”
Not intense enough, apparently.
Obama’s failure to strike while the iron was hot offers a lesson in presidential leadership that goes beyond gun control. On almost every topic, from budget negotiations to national security, Washington seems only to act these days in response to crisis, if it acts at all. Obama erred in trying to use Newtown to build support for his positions on taxes, energy and immigration. And he compounded the error by sending Joe Biden off to conduct a study — an unnecessary delay when solutions were obvious. Once the president took his foot off the accelerator, no other action — not even Michael Bloomberg’s ad campaign — could maintain the momentum.
Even on the issue of background checks for gun purchasers — a concept that still has 90 percent approval in the CBS poll — the gun lobby appears to have prevailed. The NRA, which once supported the checks, reversed its position, and talks on a bipartisan compromise stalled. Now Reid doesn’t appear to have enough votes to break a Republican filibuster of the gun-control measure he is bringing before the Senate next month with background checks at its core. Pro-gun Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) has been floating a weaker version of checks — but even this isn’t gaining support.
Senate Republicans, led by Chuck Grassley (Iowa.), are at work on an alternative gun bill that would only increase penalties for gun trafficking and improve school safety. Those are good ideas, but nothing like the comprehensive reforms that seemed possible after Newtown.
So I watched with sadness at the White House on Thursday as a Marine pianist played and guests, including families of Newtown victims, took their seats. Some wore badges or green ribbons and filmed Obama as he tried to rekindle enthusiasm.
“There are some powerful voices on the other side that are interested in running out the clock, or changing the subject or drowning out the majority of the American people to prevent any of these reforms from happening at all,” he said. He called on Americans “to remember how we felt 100 days ago and make sure that what we said at that time wasn’t just a bunch of platitudes, that we meant it.”
Maybe those memories will be enough to overcome congressional inertia. But there’s no substitute for decisive presidential action.
Source: Lanza studied previous mass killings
First responders converge at Sandy Hook Fire Department near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Dec. 14, 2012. At least a dozen people, including children, have been killed in a school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to a report by ABC News. ABC News confirmed the deaths through multiple federal and local law enforcement sources. Police are still considering the school as an “active crime scene.” Photo: Morgan Kaolian, Morgan Kaolian/AEROPIX
…But somewhere between the campaign and the White House itself, Obama got lost. It turned out he had no cause at all. Expanding health insurance was Hillary Clinton’s longtime goal, and even after Obama adopted it, he never argued for it with any fervor. In an unfairly mocked campaign speech, he promised to slow the rise of the oceans and begin to heal the planet. But when he took office, climate change was abandoned — too much trouble, too much opposition. His eloquence, it turned out, was reserved for campaigning.
Obama never espoused a cause bigger than his own political survival. This is the gravamen of the indictment from the left, particularly certain African Americans. They are right. Young black men fill the jails and the morgues, yet Obama says nothing. Bobby Kennedy showed his anger, his impatience, his stunned incredulity at the state of black America. Obama shows nothing.
Dave Melges • Subscribe • Top Commenter • Owner at Dave Melges Fine Art Photographer • 1,098 subscribers
My daughter and I stopped watching after a little over an hour, it was exhausting to listen to. So not having seen the end, our opinion may not be accurate. But based one what we DID see, Romney won another round. He did a good job of making the decision simple:
Obama said he would do “A” in his first term. He did “B” instead.
Obama was the least experienced candidate we’ve ever elected, and it’s showed. I’m honestly not a huge fan of Romney, but the single most important issue for my daughter’s future, is balancing the budget today, and Romney is the candidate most likely to do it. Obama, as best I can tell, will spend us into oblivion.
Reply • 48 • Like • Follow Post • 5 hours ago
How Obama bungled the Syrian revolution
“Even as the fantasy of a spur-of-the-moment demonstration dissipated, administration officials tried to salvage it — and with it their idealistic policy in the Middle East. Vice President Joe Biden told a flat-out whopper in last week’s debate, saying the administration hadn’t been informed that Americans in Libya had ever requested more security. He scape-goated the intelligence agencies for supposedly failing to warn the administration of the threat.
The new administration narrative faulted not one video, but the intelligence community for misleading them about the threat of an al-Qaida hit on an American consulate — and the Romney campaign for demanding answers about a slain ambassador and his associates. Meanwhile, the State Department, the Obama re-election team and the intelligence community were all pointing fingers at each other.
What the Obama administration could not concede was the truth: The lead-from-behind intervention in Libya had proved a blueprint for nothing. Libya has descended into chaos. Radical Islam had either subverted or hijacked the Arab Spring. Al-Qaida was not dismantled by the death of bin Laden or by the stepped-up drone assassination missions in Pakistan. Egypt was becoming Islamist; Syria was a bloody mess. Iran was on the way to becoming nuclear. Obama had won America no more good will in the Middle East than had prior presidents.
In other words, the administration’s entire experience in Libya — and in most of the Middle East in general — has been a bright and shining lie.”
16 October 2012 12:21AM
Response to luling, 15 October 2012 10:58PM
luling writes: “Look, Obama is who he is. He’s a college professor pretending to be a politician. Away from a teleprompter he’s boring.”
He is NOT a college professor!!! I posted this on another thread: Obama was given a political position at the University of Chicago. The Board of Governors told the faculty to make a position for the guy, so they created a lectureship. This was a complete farce. He has never published a single legal paper, not even a review article. This is why Obama was despised by the real faculty of the law school:
I spent some time with the highest tenured faculty member at Chicago Law a few months back, and he did not have many nice things to say about “Barry.” Obama applied for a position as an adjunct and wasn’t even considered. A few weeks later the law school got a phone call from the Board of Trustees telling them to find him an office, put him on the payroll, and give him a class to teach. The Board told him he didn’t have to be a member of the faculty, but they needed to give him a temporary position. He was never a professor and was hardly an adjunct.
The other professors hated him because he was lazy, unqualified, never attended any of the faculty meetings, and it was clear that the position was nothing more than a political stepping stool. According to my professor friend, he had the lowest intellectual capacity in the building. He also doubted whether he was legitimately an editor on the Harvard Law Review, because if he was, he would be the first and only editor of an Ivy League law review to never be published while in school (publication is or was a requirement).
He could not get a job at the Ambulance Chasers School of Law on his academic record because it is non-existent.
A former aide to President Barack Obama is rushing to apologize for her candid analysis of Obama’s interpersonal skills after The Drudge Report spotted and promoted those remarks to the site’s vast audience.
“The truth is, Obama doesn’t call anyone, and he’s not close to almost anyone. It’s stunning that he’s in politics, because he really doesn’t like people,” said Neera Tanden — now president of the powerful Center for American Progress — in an interview with New York Magazine. ”My analogy is that it’s like becoming Bill Gates without liking computers.”
OBAMA: “And what I want to do is build on the 5 million jobs that we’ve created over the last 30 months in the private sector alone.”
THE FACTS: As he has done before, Obama is cherry-picking his numbers to make them sound better than they really are. He ignores the fact that public-sector job losses have dragged down overall job creation. Also, he chooses just to mention the past 30 months. That ignores job losses during his presidency up until that point. According to the Labor Department, about 4.5 million total jobs have been created over the past 30 months. But some 4.3 million jobs were lost during the earlier months of his administration. At this point, Obama is a net job creator, but only marginally.
…Obama has set a modern record for refusal to be quizzed by the media, taking questions from reporters far less often than Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and even George W. Bush. Though his opponent in 2008 promised to take questions from lawmakers like the British prime minister does, Obama has shied from mixing it up with members of Congress, too. And, especially since Rahm Emanuel’s departure, Obama is surrounded by a large number of yes men who aren’t likely to get in his face.
“…After a night to sleep on it, and some time to huddle with aides, Obama on Thursday found the lively retorts that had eluded him Wednesday night. ‘When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,’ he told supporters in Denver. ‘But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.’”
“Nice comeback. Had Obama allowed himself to be challenged over the past four years, he might have come up with it in real time.”
Interesting comment from President Obama today on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, hiding behind the idea that “I was just too polite” and therefore wasn’t effective in the debate. What a pretentious phony.
Is Obama overrated as a candidate?
The biggest problem for Obama is not a bad debate performance; it is a lousy record, a demonstrated inability to work with the other party and the absence of a compelling agenda. He had banked on disqualifying Romney as an unacceptable alternative. That is impossible now, I would suggest. So once again, why is that we should reelect him?
The Obama who delivered a shockingly lackluster convention speech last month is the same man who walked into that Denver stadium in 2008 to rapturous approval. The man who lost the debate Wednesday night is the same man who never managed to make Obamacare popular after more than 50 speeches and pronouncements on it in his first year.
The key difference now is that the hunger for Obama has been replaced with the indigestion that follows four unimpressive years in office. In sales, they say you sell the sizzle, not the steak. In 2008, the man was all sizzle, and the ravenous throng was sold. Now he must sell the steak itself, and it’s full of gristle, fat and bone. He may yet still close the deal, but only if people fall for his Puss-in-Boots eyes.
Why he’s falling apart
The foundations of Obama’s campaign are not nearly as strong as they once seemed
BY JIM GERAGHTY / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
PUBLISHED: SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2012, 4:41 AM
UPDATED: SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2012, 9:50 AM
A presidential reelection campaign needs three key elements: a defense of the incumbent’s record, a successful effort to define the opposition and a compelling vision of a second term.
President Obama may well celebrate a second term in Chicago next month, but the conventional wisdom underestimates the difficulty he faces, as his campaign has distinct problems with all three elements.
His defense of his record is exceptionally weak, his effort to define Mitt Romney is nearly exhausted, and his vision for the next four years — perhaps the most important — has been largely missing from his effort this year.
Defense of the incumbent’s record
Four years ago, Obama expressed great confidence that he would be running amid renewed prosperity; he famously told Matt Lauer, “One nice thing about the situation I find myself in is that I will be held accountable. You know, I’ve got four years…If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”
In February 2009, even most Republicans would probably have predicted that by 2012, the country would be feeling much more prosperous, with much lower unemployment.
Friday’s jobs report brought much-needed good news, with the 114,000 new jobs in the payroll survey meeting economists’ expectations and bringing unemployment down to 7.8% — but that was fueled by 582,000 part-time jobs. GDP growth is at a meager 1.3%, gasoline is averaging $3.78 per gallon nationally and the foreclosure rate is only slightly below 2011’s 17-year peak.
Any fan of Obama who tells you he expected the country to be in this condition at this moment is either lying to you or lying to themselves.
Still, Obama’s poll numbers have overcome the economic gloom for much of the year, because many Americans concluded he was doing the best he could after stepping into a bad situation. Probably the single most effective line of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte was Bill Clinton’s declaration, “no President — not me, not any of my predecessors — no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.”
It’s one thing to express a resigned acceptance about the state of the economy to a pollster months or weeks away from Election Day; it’s another to affirmatively embrace four more years of the same economic policies, and accept the risk of four more years of similar results, inside the voting booth.
Paul Solman, the business and economics editor for PBS’s “NewsHour,” believes that the long-term unemployed — those who have stopped looking for a year or more, but say they want a job, a figure reaching about 7 million — should be included in the public definition of unemployed, as should the “discouraged workers,” those looking for work sometime in the past year but has stopped looking for work.
Throw in those working part-time who want full-time work and cannot find it, and our calculation of America’s “unemployed” booms from 12.1 million to an ungodly 27 million. As we approach the day of decision, Americans may look the scale of continuing economic pain and wonder if Clinton was right, that this is really the best anyone could reasonably expect.
Defining the opposition
For much of the year the Obama campaign excelled at this, perhaps better than any other incumbent presidential campaign before. But they and their SuperPAC allies may be victims of their own success in this area. By running ads painting such an unappealing, monstrous portrait of Romney — callous, uncaring, incompetent, selfish — they set the lowest of bars for the Republican nominee when he walked onto the debate stage Wednesday night.
Once Romney came across as knowledgeable, clear and deeply concerned about the state of the country, the entire vilification campaign of summer and early fall looked shaky and less convincing. The man standing before the country didn’t match the Gordon-Gekko-meets-Thurston-Howell-III caricature at all.
After this week’s debate, millions of Democrats were left wondering about the attack lines left unused by the President — why didn’t he mention Romney’s “47%” remark, or the layoffs at companies under Bain Capital or the years of tax returns that the GOP nominee hasn’t released?
But Obama had two good reasons to hesitate. One of the factors helping Obama overcome the lousy economy is most Americans’ sense that he is a decent, likeable, good-natured man. Obama often wisely let allies and surrogates act as his most relentless attack dogs.
It is one thing to attack a man in the now-ubiquitous, incessant form of television attack ads, with the scathing demonization tied to the aspiring national leader by only the rote declaration that “I approved this message”; it is another to do so to his face, with 60 million people watching.
Another reason to hesitate — and something to watch for in the remaining Romney-Obama debates — is the risk that Romney might deftly refute the criticism by asking why an incumbent’s presidential campaign, during a time of war and economic pain, is so obsessed with tax returns from years ago.
Negative attacks on Romney have taken Obama’s reelection hopes far, but they’ve probably taken him as far as they can go.
Offering a compelling vision for the second term
This is usually one of the most challenging aspects for an incumbent, because he needs some reasonable explanation as to why each big proposal or idea wasn’t achieved in the first term.
There’s some evidence that this is Obama’s strongest area, when he chooses to flex those muscles; as Emily Ekins, the director of polling for the Reason Foundation, pointed out to me, in one survey Obama actually outscored Romney by 9% points on which candidate has “vision for a successful future.”
The most uplifting portions of Obama’s speeches from about 2007 to about late 2009 were his descriptions of the America to come: one where every child is getting a quality education, where every college student can get a diploma without crushing debt and then step into a good job.
By “asking” the wealthy to pay “a little bit more” — somehow the IRS never appears in these happy visions — a plethora of new “investments” keep America competitive in the global economy, and we zip along on high-speed rails and in fuel-efficient cars produced by General Motors, with a shiny infrastructure replacing perpetually-cited “crumbling roads and bridges.”
Obama’s problem is that after four years on the job, that ideal America doesn’t seem any closer, and might even seem further away than in 2008. He also doesn’t talk about that vision as much as he used to.
Some of that may be because the public — or perhaps even Obama himself — doubts he’ll be able to deliver much in the coming years. Obama’s first term can be neatly divided into two halves. The first, before the midterms, saw Obama passing a slew of big legislative initiatives: the stimulus, the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank financial reform.
But the public largely disliked or was indifferent to those proposals, generating the huge GOP comeback in the 2010 midterms. The second half of Obama’s term, dealing with a GOP-controlled House, showcased Washington stuck in neutral, unable to push policy to the left or right. A persistent cliché is that Americans like divided government, but that theory applied better during the peace and prosperity from 1994 to 2000 under President Clinton and a GOP Congress. When the country is at war and struggling, the arguments of a divided Washington sound like the grinding of gears.
Barring some dramatic change in the outlook for (often-gerrymandered) House races, Obama will still be dealing with Speaker John Boehner in January 2013. Obama has suggested that his reelection could “pop the blister” of partisan passions in Washington, but that theory envisions Republicans capitulating and accepting tax increases, an immigration bill they deem amnesty, and so on.
So the choice before Americans is a rerun of the gridlock of the past two years, or something different — a Republican-controlled Washington, but with a President Romney whose record, demeanor and style is quite different from that of George W. Bush.
None of this means that the task remaining before Romney isn’t difficult. But for most of this general election, the race featured an incumbent and a poorly-defined caricature.
The debates demonstrated that no one can make the case for a candidate better than the candidate himself — not the SuperPACs, not the national party, not the surrogates nor the running mate. Only Romney himself could look the voters in the eye and demonstrate that he had the knowledge, the composure, the deftness and the concern they wanted to see. Romney’s message was simple but resonant — if we can get more Americans in jobs, we’ll see dramatic improvement in our budgetary, debt and social conditions.
If, by Nov. 6, Americans conclude they believe Romney can deliver on that vision, then the conventional wisdom of just a few weeks ago may prove spectacularly wrong. Romney may not just win, he may win handily.
America’s duopoly of money in politics and manipulation of public opinion
Behind the divisiveness lies a deeper bipartisan consensus in which donors own democracy and there are no votes in reform
Charles Ferguson guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 3 October 2012 17.37 EDT
Nancy and Ronald Reagan at a film premiere, 1978: Reagan’s program of tax cuts without spending cuts brought temporary, but unsustainable prosperity. Photograph: Getty Images
Presidential campaigns aren’t where you look for honest, serious discussion of economic policy. Usually, the candidates confine themselves to slogans; sometimes, as with George W Bush, we also get a moron. But in this election, something very different is going on. For the first time, we are explicitly seeing the effects of America’s new political duopoly.
Both Obama and Romney are very intelligent men. And yet, both of them are completely avoiding, or being dishonest about, huge economic issues – even when their opponent is highly vulnerable to attack. Thus, we have the bizarre spectacle of a Republican ex-private equity banker attacking the Democrat on unemployment, while the Democrat argues gamely that if we just give him more time, everything will be fine – which we all know is not true. Both men say vaguely that they will “reform Washington”, when neither means it.
Neither of them says a serious word about the causes of the financial crisis; the lack of prosecution of banks and bankers; educational opportunity, income and wealth; energy policy and competitive lag in broadband infrastructure; the impact of industrialized food on healthcare costs; the permanent elimination of millions of less-skilled jobs through both globalization and advances in robotics and artificial intelligence.
In a time of pervasive economic insecurity, with declining incomes and high unemployment, four years after a horrific financial crisis, how can all of these questions be successfully ignored by both candidates?
As it turns out, their behavior is entirely rational, though for disconcerting reasons. The answer lies in the combined effect of three related forces: America’s deepening economic problems; the role now played by money in politics; and the emotions of a scared, increasingly cynical, economically insecure electorate.
Since the late 1970s, US politics has been increasingly shaped by the pressures generated by globalization, rising inequality and America’s declining competitiveness. As average Americans felt increasing pressures and endured stagnant real wages, they initially responded by working longer hours and going into debt (personal, household debt). But then came politics.
Beginning with the Reagan-Carter contest in 1980, Republicans started to abandon traditional financial prudence in favor of an increasingly demagogic strategy of blaming government regulation, waste and welfare payments in order to justify tax cuts. Demonization of regulation served the additional purpose of justifying the deregulation of industries such as financial services and energy. Since the Republicans’ tax cuts were never accompanied by spending cuts, they not only reduced voters’ tax bills, but also stimulated the economy generally.
It worked again for George W Bush, although, of course, he lost the popular vote in 2000 and only became president thanks to an
infamous supreme court decision. But it really did work in 2004, when he trounced Kerry despite the increasingly obvious disasters of the Iraqi occupation.
And so, starting with Clinton’s reduction of capital gains taxes and financial deregulation, the Democrats started making deals with the devil. Clinton, to his credit, still tried to do some progressive things where he could, and the internet revolution allowed him to balance his budget. But the Democrats have, by now, been profoundly reshaped by the oceans of money that dominate US politics.
In 2008, Obama could afford to run as the reformer, and perhaps even needed to. But not so in 2012: Obama’s economic positions – not just his actions, but even his public statements and promises – are the result of triangulating reality, public opinion and money. Obama still needs to get some votes from his base, so he must call for some burden-sharing by the rich. But he cannot be honest about the depth, or the sources, of America’s structural economic problems, for two reasons.
First, he would be telling much of his blue-collar, minority, unionized and/or less-educated voter base that their skills are obsolete and they are economically doomed. Even in 2008, he might not have been able to get away with that; he certainly can’t get away with it now. But second, Obama cannot be honest about the economic damage caused by a criminalized, out-of-control financial sector, nor about other major industries contributing to America’s economic problems (energy, telecommunications, industrialized food, pharmaceuticals) – because he needs their money.
As a result, Obama seemingly makes himself unusually vulnerable on the economy. But he can afford to, because Romney cannot take full advantage of Obama’s vulnerabilities. Romney, you see, depends even more heavily on the money and support of the financial sector, the wealthy, business and of anti-union, anti-immigrant forces. Romney’s only appeal to average Americans is through “values” conservatism (religion, opposition to gay marriage, abortion, drugs, immigration, etc), vague complaints about government bureaucracy and, yet again, tax cuts.
And so Obama can avoid all the hard issues and yet retain the grudging support of his base simply by proposing modest tax increases on the wealthy, and by supporting the safety net (unemployment benefits, Medicare, social security) that Romney might cut.
Voila: an election in which there are a dozen elephants in the room, and neither candidate pays them any notice at all; an election that Obama can win because he’s somewhat less bad, somewhat less utterly bankrupt, than the other guy.
Welcome to America’s new and improved two-party system.
…The TPC report was widely interpreted as saying Romney would have to raise taxes on the middle class. It didn’t, says the TPC’s Howard Gleckman. It simply pointed out that he couldn’t keep all “his ambitious campaign promises.” He’d have to make choices and modifications. So what else is new?
Politicians exaggerate and simplify. They make more promises than can be kept. They take inconsistent positions. Romney is guilty of this, but so is Obama. Obama says he favors tax reform but would also raise the top income tax rate from 35 to 39.6 percent. That’s the opposite of what most economists consider reform: cutting rates and broadening the tax base. Similarly, Obama has said he would maintain a strong military while rapidly reducing defense spending.
The media are rightly hounding Romney about how he’d offset revenue losses from his proposed cuts in tax rates. But the hounding ought to be evenhanded. Obama needs to be pressed on the many inconsistencies of his promises and policies [emphasis added].
…I could go on, but let me turn to Axelrod’s praise of Obama as serious truth-teller. Hardly.
Two examples of presidential obfuscation will suffice. First, Obama praised himself for a “specific $4 trillion deficit reduction plan.” He offers $2.50 in cuts for every $1 in additional revenue, Obama boasted. But his $4 trillion isn’t enough to put the debt on a sustainable, downward course. That total is padded by including in the supposed “cuts” nearly $1 trillion in phantom savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The comparable savings from the Simpson-Bowles commission would total $6.6 trillion to Obama’s $4 trillion. So much for straight talk.
Same for entitlements. How to address Medicare spending? “Lower health care costs,” Obama advised. Social Security? Some tweaking will suffice. On this score, Romney gets some honesty credit for saying, when it comes to Medicare, that “for higher-income people, we’re going to have to lower some of the benefits.”
One of these men will take the oath of office next January. One might have out-zinged the other on Wednesday night. Neither has prepared the American public for the hard choices ahead.
Editorial Director, Huffington
Post Media Group
Do Promises Matter Anymore? Countdown Day 36
WASHINGTON — In the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama was full of promise — 508 of them to be precise. He was the harbinger of hope in the last dark months of the George W. Bush years.
But with just six weeks to go until Election Day 2012, President Obama has made few new promises and is not repeating many of the original ones. By PolitiFact’s accounting, he has delivered on 38 percent of them — a lousy shooting percentage in the NBA.
Instead, Obama is selling himself based on what he isn’t: Mitt Romney. And rather than trying to convince voters that great days surely lie ahead — a tough sell to a skeptical electorate — he often offers a litany of reduced expectations, grim economic realism and rueful lamentations about the gridlock in Washington that he, in his innocence, did not expect. His slogan, “Forward,” can sound less like an invitation to a glorious Elysium and more like a military command on a bloody battlefield.
The candidate who won on the high-octane power of optimism is now running on the cautious notion that the future ain’t what it used to be.
The message, rarely overtly expressed, is that we are facing a tough grind (in terms of tax increases, slow job growth and entitlement cutbacks), and it’s better to have a compassionate, user-friendly communitarian in the Oval Office than a wealthy, spreadsheet-and-shredder CEO who was born with a silver foot in his mouth.
The president now leads in this war of attrition and lowered sights.
Despite what the polls say, though, it is not clear the Obama strategy will hold up all the way to Election Day. There are three inherent risks: Voters prefer campaigns of dreams to those of realism. A chance, admittedly slight, remains that Romney will find his voice and a message at the last minute. And voters may yet choose to take one last look at the details of the president’s record.
What they will find is that the Obama that is often isn’t the Obama that wanted to be. This is not an observation confined to the Rush Limbaugh right; many on the progressive left have said the same thing.
That’s where the past promises come in — and the question of whether they mean much in our promiscuously promissory age.
Only once in any direct and sharp way has the president been confronted with tough questions about a failed promise. When Univision news anchors asked him why he had not won comprehensive immigration reform, or even pushed for it, Obama seemed both surprised and confused that he had been pressed on such an obvious point. The answer he gave — that the pressures in Congress were just too daunting — was less than convincing.
The president has kept promises No. 1 and No. 2: He calmly led the fight to bring the United States back from the brink of economic catastrophe (including a workable bailout of the auto industry), and he got a version of a national health care system passed and, as it turned out, sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But he hasn’t come close to reducing unemployment to the levels his aides envisioned and predicted, poverty is at an all-time high, and the annual deficit has certainly not been cut in half.
Here’s a short list of other, more specific promises compiled by PolitiFact:
To that list, I would add one more failure: Public schools in general are not noticeably improving the education of students.
Perhaps lists such as these don’t matter anymore. After all, most focus on expansions of federal power that the president was not able to achieve — failures that Romney has no standing to criticize, given his conversion to Tea Party libertarianism.
It istrue that Republicans have opposed the president at every turn, even though their truculence also exposed Obama’s lack of deal-making skills.
As for Romney, he isn’t making many specific promises, and the ones he is making tend to be of the negative variety: abolishing Obamacare, abolishing the Dodd-Frank bank regulation law, cutting tax rates, abolishing unspecified tax loopholes. His “promise” to “create 12 million jobs” is a laughable non-event, since that is the number of jobs the economy is predicted to produce over the next four years regardless of who is president.
But maybe voters, as cynical as they are these days, have just given up on expecting elected leaders to deliver on their promises. If that is so, how will voters decide whether a president deserves reelection — or a challenger deserves to replace him?
It’s not a promising development.
GM’s vaunted Volt is on the road to nowhere fast
By Editorial Board, Published: September 12
Libya truth likely to hide until Nov. 7
“Last week, I wrote about the false, self-serving claims initially emanating from the White House about the Benghazi attack, and how much that tracked the process that produced similarly false claims from Obama officials about the bin Laden killing. On Monday, Jon Stewart mocked the inability of Obama officials to keep their story straight on these attacks, while today, Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer proposes five questions about Libya which Obama should be asked in tonight’s presidential debate.”
A bogus defense of Obama’s intelligence briefing record
By Marc A. Thiessen, Published: September 25
The Post’s Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, takes issue with my report that since taking office President Obama has skipped his daily intelligence meeting more than half the time. So let’s fact check the Fact Checker.
After hearing from sources in the intelligence community that President Obama was not attending his daily intelligence meeting on a daily basis, I asked researchers at the Government Accountability Institute, a nonpartisan research group headed by Peter Schweizer (who is also my business partner in a speechwriting firm, Oval Office Writers) to examine at Obama’s official schedule. We found during his first 1,225 days in office, Obama had attended his daily meeting to discuss the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) just 536 times — or 43.8 percent of the time. During 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance became even less frequent — falling to just over 38 percent. By contrast, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting.
After Islamist radicals stormed our embassy in Cairo and terrorists killed our ambassador to Libya on Sept. 11, I further reported that Obama also skipped his daily intelligence meeting every day in the week leading up to the attacks. The day after the attack, he scheduled but then canceled his daily intelligence meeting, while finding time to go to Las Vegas for a campaign rally.
These facts are not in dispute. Indeed, before publishing both of my columns, I specifically asked National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor if there were instances where the president had, in fact, held his daily meeting on the PDB that did not appear on the official public calendar. He offered no examples, and not once did he challenge the numbers I presented. Neither has any White House official challenged them in the weeks since this controversy erupted. So, as a factual matter, Kessler offers no evidence that the information I presented on Obama’s PDB meeting attendance is wrong.
What Kessler and the Obama White House do argue is a matter not of fact but of opinion — that it does not matter if Obama attends a daily intelligence meeting because he reads his PDB every day. Kessler compares Obama to former presidents going back to Reagan and Nixon and finds that “many did not have an oral briefing” — and that this means Obama has simply “chosen to receive his information in a different manner than his predecessor.” There are several problems with this.
First, Kessler ignores one giant difference between then and now: Sept. 11, 2001.
Comparing lax presidential briefing habits before and after 9/11 is like comparing lax presidential security habits before and after the Kennedy assassination. After terrorists killed 3,000 people in our midst, everything changed — and the president’s daily intelligence meeting took on dramatically increased importance. President Bush made it a priority to sit down with his senior intelligence advisers every day to discuss overnight intelligence on threats to the country. President Obama has not.
Kessler notes that Bill Clinton’s CIA director could not get a meeting with him, and that Clinton was known to comment that his morning papers were better than the intelligence brief. This is more an indictment of Clinton than a defense of Obama. On Clinton’s watch, terrorists attacked us repeatedly without cost or consequence — from the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, to the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, to the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, to the USS Cole in 2000.
As for Nixon and Reagan, comparing Obama’s briefing habits to those of presidents who served 30 to 40 years ago — in an era when advanced technology consisted of electric typewriters — is irrelevant in an age of 21st-century surveillance and collection capabilities. The volume, speed and complexity of intelligence has changed dramatically in the intervening decades — and with it the need for interactive briefings.
Without criticizing Obama, former CIA director Mike Hayden recently explained the value of the in-person meeting: “With President Bush, I really saw the value of the personal interaction that we had on an almost daily basis. There was rich give-and-take, so that not only did the president get the advantage of knowing the analysts’ innermost thoughts, but they also were able to leave the room understanding what the president believed he needed in order to make the kind of decisions he had to make.”
In addition to the PDB, Hayden said, Bush also received two longer, magazine-length pieces each week, and additional in-person briefings were held on each of these. On Thursdays, Hayden also briefed Bush for a half-hour on sensitive collection programs and covert action.
The Pinocchio test
Perhaps Obama does not feel he needs such daily interaction. But the fact that he has not been having it is indisputable. (Though, interestingly, since my columns appeared, Obama attended his PDB meeting seven days in a row for the first time in seven months. If live briefings are no better than paper briefings, why has Obama suddenly begun receiving briefings in-person?)
It is a fact that for eight years before Obama took office, there was a daily meeting to discuss the PDB. And it is a fact that, on taking office, Obama stopped holding the daily intelligence meeting on a daily basis. Kessler may not think that is important, and he is entitled to his own opinion — but not his own facts.
I give Four Pinocchios to the Fact Checker.
The Fact Checker: 4 Pinocchios
Obama’s claim that ‘90 percent’ of the current deficit is due to Bush policies
Bob Herbert is a far superior columnist than Eugene Robinsion.
Former New York Times columnist
No More Excuses
Posted: 10/04/2012 6:47 pm
It’s time to stop making excuses for Barack Obama. With so much at stake in this election, his performance at the debate on Wednesday night was indefensible.
Ever since he was elected, there have been reasons offered, either publicly or privately, for why Obama has been unable to fully engage some of the nation’s most important challenges. Despite the rampant increase in poverty in the worst downturn since the Depression, Obama supporters whispered that he couldn’t do more for the poor and couldn’t speak out more forcefully on their behalf because that would not be politically advantageous. So nearly all of his economic initiatives had to be couched in language that referred to the middle class, even though the poor were being hurt far worse. LBJ could launch a war on poverty but not Barack Obama.
Black Americans have been disproportionately clobbered by the Great Recession and its aftermath, losing both income and wealth at staggering rates. Much of the black community is enduring a full-blown economic depression. But Obama and his advisers have been unwilling to address this catastrophe openly and forcefully out of fear that the president would be perceived as too black by prejudiced white voters, thus losing their support.
There is always some excuse, some reason for not bringing all of the president’s energy and resources to the fight.
On jobs, the biggest crisis facing the country, the excuse for not having done more has been Republican obstructionism. There is no doubt the Republicans have tried to thwart the president every which way from sundown. But Obama never fought back in kind. He never found his inner Harry Truman, never took his case forcefully to the people. He kept trying to accommodate the other side long after it was clear that no accommodation was possible.
In the face of the worst economic calamity since the 1930s, the United States needed a mammoth job-creation and economic revitalization program, a New Deal for the 21st century. But that would have required presidential leadership capable of challenging the formidable opposition mounted by the very folks who caused the crisis in the first place. Instead we got a woefully insufficient stimulus program and a failed effort at some kind of grand bargain between the president and the retrograde Republicans in Congress. That grand bargain would have imposed austerity measures that would have further crushed the poor and the black and the middle class.
On Wednesday night nearly 60 million television viewers got to witness this chronic unwillingness of Barack Obama to fight. He did not hammer Mitt Romney for his ugly, all-too-revealing comments that demeaned nearly half the population as slackers and ne-er-do-wells. He did not go after Romney’s terrible job-creation record as governor of Massachusetts. He did not assail Romney for his callous contention on 60 Minutes that people who don’t have health insurance actually do get care — in the nation’s emergency rooms. “If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die,” said Romney. “We pick them up in an ambulance and take them to the hospital and give them care.”
Obama never bothered to bring up that cold-hearted comment during the debate, never bothered to explain why the reliance on emergency room treatment is one of the worst possible approaches imaginable to providing health care.
One of the more remarkable things about the debate was Mitt Romney’s absolute contempt for anything resembling facts, truth or reality. Deliberate deception was the bedrock foundation of his strategy. He wouldn’t even come clean on the tax cuts that are a cornerstone of his campaign. And yet it was Romney who had the chutzpah to look Obama in the eye and assert: “Mr. President, you’re entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.”
How in heaven’s name could Obama let him get away with that?
The harsh truth is that President Obama seemed unprepared for the debate. He came off as a man who didn’t really want to be there, who wondered why he should have to be bothered fending off the impertinent attacks and serial untruths being flung at him by his opponent. The millions of Obama supporters who wanted to see flashes of passion and fire from their guy — from a president fighting effectively on their behalf — were left with nothing but the bitter taste of disappointment.
Romney, in contrast, seemed not just confident but in command. He was dynamic (as he fashioned one falsehood after another), while Obama seemed flat, uncomfortable and unwilling to vigorously counteract the falsehoods. Most important, Romney was the one far more willing to fight.
There will be more debates. And the election has not been decided by any means. But Obama’s supporters need to make it clear that the time for excuses is over. The president had no right to show up for a debate unprepared and offer an expectant nation an embarrassingly half-hearted performance. Progressive leaders, who represent Obama’s strongest and most faithful supporters, have an obligation to convey that message in the strongest possible terms.
The president let his people down. And if he’s capable of doing that in an election that is clearly so important, it means he’s capable of doing it again if he wins a second term.
Posted at 12:22 AM ET, 10/04/2012
Obama didn’t come ready to play
Well, the day wasn’t a total loss. At least the Nats finished with the best record in baseball.
For Obama supporters, however, the evening’s entertainment failed to live up to the advance billing. Mitt Romney did everything his supporters could have hoped for in tonight’s debate, while President Obama let his supporters down.
Romney not only provided the much smoother performance, he also attacked more effectively than the president and came off as more of a centrist than he has since he started running. To do so, he had to bend the truth six ways from Sunday, but impressions count a lot more than truth in debates.
To summarize: Romney won’t raise taxes, he won’t cut the budget for education, he’ll increase military spending and he’ll somehow balance the budget. The math doesn’t work, but if the number of math teachers declines on his watch, perhaps fewer people will figure that out. He favors at least the idea of regulation; it’s just actual existing regulations put in place to keep Wall Street from blowing up the economy again that he objects to. He wants to keep the popular parts of Obamacare and scrap the parts that people don’t understand, which he mischaracterized throughout the evening. (At one point, he said Obamacare had caused health insurance costs to rise by $2,500 a year. Later, he said that they would cause health insurance costs to rise by $2,500 a year. Some confusion here on whether he’s describing the past or the future, but why let time stand in the way of a good attack line?)
In short, Romney portrayed himself as Mr. Reasonable, and Obama let him get away with it. No 47-percent references; just one reference to the whacko-right things that Romney said while debating his Republican rivals earlier this year. The libertarian ideology of the Republican Party is not popular with the American people, but Obama failed to pin Republicanism on Romney. Big failure.
There was a fearful asymmetry of performance as well. Romney repeated attack lines and Obama declined to refute him the second or third time around — most particularly, on Romney’s assertion that Obama was gutting Medicare by more than $700 billion. Obama’s attack on Romney’s plan for Medicare, by contrast, was more nuanced, more complicated and fuzzier — and he did not repeat it anywhere near the number of times Romney repeated his own attacks.
One particular Romney advantage: He attacked Obama’s programs in the name of American individualism, while Obama failed to attack Romney’s programs in a similarly systemic way, and failed as well to offer systemic rebuttals. For instance, Romney asserted, ludicrously, that the private market can deliver health care more efficiently than the government can. Obama provided one specific refutation: Medicare’s administrative fees are a lot lower than private insurance providers’. But he needed to be as assertive in defending a role for public endeavors by government as Romney was in assailing them, and he failed in that task. Obama’s invocation of Lincoln’s activist view of government was good, but he didn’t invest his defense with the passion and snap that Romney brought to his attack.
Does all this matter, with so few voters out there who have yet to make up their minds? Hard to say, but Romney is sure to get a bounce in the tone of media coverage, and some major GOP donors who were about to spend their remaining dough on senatorial and congressional candidates might decide to throw more money Romney’s way. For his part, Obama will be under intense pressure to step up his game, be more engaged, come out blazing, in the two remaining debates. He needs to, and his Beltway supporters can’t count solely on the Nats to lift their spirits.
Not all Obama bundlers are on his public list
Romney doesn’t release names
ByLuke Rosiak The Washington Times
President Obama’s campaign has left off its public list of “bundlers” at least 25 names its own finance team considers to be among their most valuable funders, including seven who live in foreign countries, a review of records by The Washington Times found.
In one case the campaign’s own internal documents listed Cynthia Stroum as bundling $400,000 this election cycle, yet she is not on the campaign’s official public list.
Mr. Obama tapped Ms. Stroum to be ambassador to Luxembourg after she raised half a million for his 2008 campaign. She resigned just before the release of an inspector general’s report that found that she was “aggressive, bullying, hostile, and intimidating” at the embassy.
The Times identified the 25 names by comparing a list the New York Times published Thursday of 325 top funders, which it gleaned from internal campaign documents, to the roster of 635 bundlers that the campaign has disclosed publicly.
The Obama website, which says it shows those who have gathered more than $50,000, covers money raised as of the end of June, while the internal document covers through the end of May.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/topics/barack-obama/ “>Mr. Obama’s campaign said most of the names were left off the public bundlers list because they don’t meet the campaign’s definition. Many of them contributed generously from their own pockets, but didn’t raise the $50,000 from others that would qualify them as bundlers in the eyes of the campaign.
In one instance, Richard and Doreen Cahoon of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, were credited in the internal document with bringing $153,890 to the campaign, but most of that came from their own contributions of about $75,000 each.
Bundlers are usually wealthy individuals who, in addition to donating personally, also tap friends and business associates for donations, accumulating far more than any one person could legally give, and deliver it to the campaign in one big “bundle” with their name attached. Winning candidates often reward them with plum posts and frequent access.
“Who is more important than these bundlers? Would you rather know that a person’s maxed out at $5,000 or know who’s gathered half a million dollars?” asked Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors money in elections.
Listed in error
The Obama campaign said at least one name on the internal document was an error.
But she was not on the public disclosure, and the campaign said she is responsible for only one-tenth that amount, which left her under the threshold to be listed on the website.
Ms. Birch said she is an enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Obama, but is unsure how much she has raised.
“My emails go out to about 5,000 people and I send one every three or four months,” she said. “I’ve never been good at the counting part. I’m just not good at it.”
Dem: Obama ‘failed to lead’ on budget
By Michael O’Brien – 03/08/11 10:09 AM ET
Freshman Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) harshly criticized President Obama’s budget priorities in a Senate speech on Tuesday.
Manchin, the first-term senator who won a competitive special election to fill the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D) seat and who must stand for reelection in 2012, accused Obama of having “failed to lead” on budget and spending issues.
“We will likely have votes on two proposals today, and both our options are extremely partisan and unrealistic. And neither one will pass,” Manchin said.
“Why are we doing all this when the most powerful person in these negotiations — our president — has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending and cuts that he would be willing to fight for?” the West Virginia Democrat added.
Manchin’s been careful about crafting a centrist image, mindful of the bruising battle he endured in 2010 and the tough challenge he’s expected to face in 2012.
The former governor of West Virginia, Manchin sprinted toward the right upon securing the Democratic nomination to succeed Byrd, the state’s long-serving voice in the Senate. Manchin, for instance, opened the door to voting with Republicans to repeal healthcare reform, and memorably produced a campaign ad in which he fired a rifle at a copy of the cap-and-trade bill.
Manchin rejected the president’s proposal to fund the government over the remainder of the fiscal year as well as the Republican alternative, both of which are set for a vote Tuesday in the Senate.
Manchin called the votes a bit of “political theater,” and suggested that the differences between the two parties on spending would only be resolved once Obama gets involved in a serious way.
“This debate will be decided when the president leads these tough negotiations. And, right now, that is not happening,” Manchin said. “Respectfully, I am asking President Obama to take this challenge head on and propose a compromise plan for dealing with our nation’s fiscal challenges.”
Republicans pounced on Manchin’s speech. National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) communications director Brian Walsh noted that “this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this type of political posturing from West Virginia’s junior senator.”
Manchin is one of the NRSC’s top targets for 2012.
In 1999, Barack Obama was faced with a difficult vote in the Illinois legislature — to support a bill that would let some juveniles be tried as adults, a position that risked drawing fire from African-Americans, or to oppose it, possibly undermining his image as a tough-on-crime moderate.
In the end, Mr. Obama chose neither to vote for nor against the bill. He voted “present,” effectively sidestepping the issue, an option he invoked nearly 130 times as a state senator.
Anyone who voted for Barack Obama expecting the bean-pole lawyer to effect change in the Washington culture was clueless concerning an immutable fact. Politicians in Congress and in the White House think incrementally — the next election — and not long term. Money rules Washington — Wall Street provided Obama with more campaign cash than Republican John McCain.
Records show that four out of Obama’s top five contributors are employees of financial industry giants – Goldman Sachs ($571,330), UBS AG ($364,806), JPMorgan Chase ($362,207) and Citigroup ($358,054).
Obama’s election is an intelligence indicator of America’s decline. George Dubya Bush presided over the worst presidency in modern American history. His invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein was based on ideology, not reality.
Today, just one year after leaving office, the former president has found himself in the bottom five at 39th rated especially poorly in handling the economy, communication, ability to compromise, foreign policy accomplishments and intelligence. Rounding out the bottom five are four presidents that have held that dubious distinction each time the survey has been conducted: Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Warren G Harding, and Franklin Pierce.
The consequences of Bush’s feckless policies will redound for decades. Wounded men and women who served in the extended Afghan War and the unnecessary Iraq War are paying the price along with their families. The dead have paid the ultimate price to enter the Unknown Country. Middle class families and the working poor are paying the price for the economic meltdown that occurred because the Bush government allowed the avoidable to happen.
Obama’s ‘Where’s Waldo?’ presidency
By Ruth Marcus
Wednesday, March 2, 2011; 12:00 AM
For a man who won office talking about change we can believe in, Barack Obama can be a strangely passive president. There are a startling number of occasions in which the president has been missing in action – unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment. He is, too often, more reactive than inspirational, more cautious than forceful.
Each of these instances can be explained on its own terms, as matters of legislative strategy, geopolitical calculation or political prudence.
He didn’t want to get mired in legislative details during the health-care debate for fear of repeating the Clinton administration’s prescriptive, take-ours-or-leave-it approach. He doesn’t want to go first on proposing entitlement reform because history teaches that this is not the best route to a deal He didn’t want to say anything too tough about Libya for fear of endangering Americans trapped there. He didn’t want to weigh in on the labor battle in Wisconsin because, well, it’s a swing state.
Yet the dots connect to form an unsettling portrait of a “Where’s Waldo?” presidency: You frequently have to squint to find the White House amid the larger landscape.
This tough assessment from someone who generally shares the president’s ideological perspective may be hard to square with the conservative portrait of Obama as the rapacious perpetrator of a big-government agenda. If the president is being simultaneously accused of overreaching ambition and gutless fight-ducking, maybe he’s doing something right.
Maybe, or else Obama has at times managed to do both simultaneously. On health care, for instance, he took on a big fight without being able to articulate a clear message or being willing to set out any but the broadest policy prescriptions. Lawmakers, not to mention the public, were left guessing about what, exactly, the administration wanted to see in the measure and where it would draw red lines.
That was not an isolated case. Where, for example, is the president on the verge of a potential government shutdown – if not this week, then a few weeks from now?
Aside from a short statement from the Office of Management and Budget threatening a presidential veto of the House version of the funding measure, the White House – much to the frustration of some congressional Democrats – has been unclear in public and private about what cuts would and would not be acceptable.
By contrast, a few weeks before the shutdown in 1995, Clinton administration aides had dispatched Cabinet members and other high-ranking officials to spread the message that cuts in education, health care and housing would harm families and children. Obama seems more the passive bystander to negotiations between the House and Senate than the chief executive leading his party.
He performs best on a stage that permits the grandest sweep. He rises to the big occasion, from his inspiring introduction to the public in his 2004 Democratic convention speech to his “ Winning the future” doesn’t quite do it.
My biggest beef is with the president’s slipperiness on fiscal matters. Obama has said he agrees with some of his fiscal commission’s recommendations and disagrees with others. Which ones does he disagree with? I asked this question the other day of Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Here’s what I got: “The view espoused by some of the . . . commission that we ought to do Social Security 100 percent off of benefit cuts for sure he doesn’t agree with.” But of course, the plan that 11 of the commission members endorsed did nothing of the sort.
I was unfair to Goolsbee because I asked him a question he didn’t have the leeway to answer. You can’t blame the aide for ducking when the boss fudges.
Where’s Obama? No matter how hard you look, sometimes he’s impossible to find.
Do tyrants fear America anymore? President Obama’s timid foreign policy is an embarrassment for a global superpower
Nile Gardiner Last updated: February 28th, 2011
The débacle of Washington’s handling of the Libya issue is symbolic of a wider problem at the heart of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. The fact that it took ten days and at least a thousand dead on the streets of Libya’s cities before President Obama finally mustered the courage to call for Muammar “mad dog” Gaddafi to step down is highly embarrassing for the world’s only superpower, and emblematic of a deer-in-the-headlights approach to world leadership. Washington seems incapable of decisive decision-making on foreign policy at the moment, a far cry from the days when it swept entire regimes from power, and defeated America’s enemies with deep-seated conviction and an unshakeable drive for victory.
Just a few years ago the United States was genuinely feared on the world stage, and dictatorial regimes, strategic adversaries and state sponsors of terror trod carefully in the face of the world’s most powerful nation. Now Washington appears weak, rudderless and frequently confused in its approach. From Tehran to Tripoli, the Obama administration has been pathetically slow to lead, and afraid to condemn acts of state-sponsored repression and violence. When protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the Islamist dictatorship in Iran in 2009, the brutal repression that greeted them was hardly a blip on Barack Obama’s teleprompter screen, barely meriting a response from a largely silent presidency.
In contrast to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, President Obama fails to see the United States as an exceptional nation, with a unique role in leading the free world and standing up to tyranny. In his speeches abroad he has frequently found fault with his own country, rather than projecting confidence in American greatness. From Cairo to Strasbourg he has adopted an apologetic tone rather than demonstrating faith in America as a shining city upon a hill, a beacon of freedom and liberty. A leader who lacks pride in his own nation’s historic role as a great liberator simply cannot project strength abroad.
It has also become abundantly clear that the Obama team attaches little importance to human rights issues, and in contrast to the previous administration has not pursued a freedom agenda in the Middle East and elsewhere. It places far greater value upon engagement with hostile regimes, even if they are carrying out gross human rights abuses, in the mistaken belief that appeasement enhances security. This has been the case with Iran, Russia and North Korea for example. This administration has also been all too willing to sacrifice US leadership in deference to supranational institutions such as the United Nations, whose track record in standing up to dictatorships has been virtually non-existent.
The White House’s painful navel-gazing on Libya last week, with even the French adopting a far tougher stance, is cause for grave concern. The Obama administration’s timid approach to foreign policy is the last thing the world needs at a time of mounting turmoil in the Middle East, including the growing threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, and Islamist militancy on the rise from Egypt to Yemen. US leadership is now needed more than ever, but has embarrassingly gone AWOL on the world stage.
On Libya, Obama willing to let allies take the lead
By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2011; 12:21 AM
President Obama is content to let other nations publicly lead the search for solutions to the Libyan conflict, his advisers say, a stance that reflects the more humble tone he has sought to bring to U.S. foreign policy but one that also opens him to criticism that he is a weak leader.
FACT Obama not a Leader
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