To the dismay of his MSM acolytes and Democrats, Barack Obama has proven to be a dud president, so far. In foreign policy and domestic policy, the president has produced no decisive results. Talks between Israelis and Palestinians have not achieved anything. Unemployment remains too high; the people are hurtin’. Real employment is higher than 9 percent. The beanpole lawyer from Illinois can deliver a speech but he can not relate to the common people even though he ascended from a modest background.
Anyone who believed that Obama’s election would bring cultural change to Washington chugged the kool-aid. Lobbyists would disappear? For the common good, senators and representatives would work in harmony, guided by the president and his team? President Obama made a fundamental strategic mistake by focusing on the ideological promise of health care instead of focusing due attention on the economic condition of our country. This gave the party of “no” an opening to posture as being relevant. The change people voted for is not evident on Main Street.
Through words or example, leadership is the ability to inspire or motive other individuals to achieve a common goal, such as victory on the gridiron, on the battlefield, or attain market share. Leaders demonstrate competence and insight; they make decisions based on their judgment of available information. They make plans. Leaders like Lincoln, Roosevelt and Churchill execute plans successfully. These qualities are not evident in President Obama as opposed to candidate Obama. The result will be that his party is going to get hammered in November instead of suffering the normal attrition in the mid-term election. This failure in leadership is a continuing tragedy for Americans because Obama’s predecessor was a famous flop,.
Why Obama Is Losing the Political War
By Mark Halperin Monday, Oct. 11, 2010
Barack Obama is being politically crushed in a vise.
From above, by elite opinion about his competence. From below, by mass anger andanxiety over unemployment. And it is too late for him to do anything about this predicament until after November’s elections.
With the exception of core Obama Administration loyalists, most politically engaged elites have reached the same conclusions: the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters.
This view is held by Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and governors, many Democratic business people and lawyers who raised big money for Obama in 2008, and even some members of the Administration just beyond the inner circle.
On Friday, after the release of the latest bleak unemployment data – the last major jobs figures before the midterms – Obama said, “Putting the American people back to work, expanding opportunity, rebuilding the economic security of the middle class is the moral and national challenge of our time.” But elites feel the President has failed to meet that challenge and are convinced he will be unable to do so in the remainder of his term. Moreover, there is a growing perception that Obama’s decisions are causing harm – that businesses are being hurt by the Administration’s legislation and that economic recovery is stalling because of the uncertainty surrounding energy policy, health care, deficits, housing, immigration and spending.
And that sentiment is spreading. Many members of the general public appear deeply skeptical of Obama’s capacity to turn things around, especially, but not exclusively, those inclined to dislike him – Tea Partyers and John McCain voters, but also tens of millions of middle-class Americans, including quite a few who turned out for Obama in 2008. The misery afflicting the country has no political affiliation. Listen to the voices from this striking TV ad for Rob Portman, the Republican former Congressman and Bush budget director who is running for Senate from Ohio. One woman at a Dayton career fair says starkly, “There are no jobs.” A man announces plaintively and with obvious frustration, “I’ve been looking for a job now for 13 months.” Events like this job fair are becoming the grim iconic gatherings of our time, the breadlines for the Obama years.
Most of Obama’s private (and sometimes public) rebuttals to the voices slamming him on all sides are justified or spot on. He did inherit a lot of problems from the Bush Administration. He did act quickly in the initial weeks of his Administration to stave off a worldwide depression. His efforts at job creation have been obstructed by Republicans (even the proposals based on policies supported by the GOP in the past). His opponents haven’t put forth specifics of their own, nor offered genuine compromise, while the media have allowed the right’s activists and gabbers to run wild with criticism without furnishing legitimate alternative solutions.
But Obama has exacerbated his political problems not just by failing to enact policies that would have actually turned the economy around, but also by authorizing a series of tactical moves intended to demonize Republicans and distract from the problems at hand. He has wasted time lambasting his foes when he should have been putting forth his agenda in a clear, optimistic fashion, defending the benefits of his key decisions during the past two years (health care and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, for example) and explaining what he would do with a re-elected Democratic majority to spur growth.
Throughout the year, we have been treated to Obama-led attacks on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Congressman Joe Barton (for his odd apology to BP), John Boehner (for seeking the speakership – or was it something about an ant?) and Fox News (for everything). Suitable Democratic targets in some cases, perhaps, but not worth the time of a busy Commander in Chief. In the past few days, we have witnessed the spectacle of the President himself and his top advisers wading into allegations that Republicans are attempting to buy the election using foreign money laundered through the Chamber of Commerce, combining with Karl Rove and his wealthy backers to fund a flood of negative television commercials. Not only is this issue convoluted and far-fetched, but it also distracts from the issues voters care about, frustrating political insiders and alienating struggling citizens (not that many are following such an offbeat story line). Feinting and gibing can’t obscure those job numbers.
The President and Democrats have passed many significant measures (the stimulus spending, the auto-company rescue, the health care law and the financial regulation effort) that someday may be seen as brave and bold, the foundation for a better economy. Obama and his closest aides certainly think that will happen. But the President was correct when he said Friday, “the only piece of economic news that folks still looking for work want to hear is, ‘You’re hired,’” and that’s still not occurring for too many Americans.
The politically good news for Obama is that no matter what the outcome of the midterm elections, everything changes in January. Republicans will have a greater obligation, politically and morally, to help govern, rather than thwart and badger. The President will get a chance, in his State of the Union address and in his budget proposal, to show he is turning the page on the political horrors of 2010 for his party and the nation. But before then, Republicans are almost certainly going to demonstrate that you can beat something with nothing, especially when Americans seem to think that the Obama Administration hasn’t much to offer either, except more of the same that isn’t working.
Obama’s foreign policy: big ideas, little implementation
By David Ignatius
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Before the 2008 election, two former national security advisers recommended that the next president craft a foreign policy strategy to align the United States with a “global political awakening” that was transforming the world. Two years later, as Tom Donilon prepares to take the national security adviser post, these illustrious predecessors, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, are making essentially the same recommendation. They argue that U.S. foreign policy needs a clearer strategic framework that can take advantage of President Obama’s ability to speak to the world — a dialogue that has unfortunately been handicapped in Obama’s first 21 months.
Brzezinski, who served under Democratic President Jimmy Carter, urged Donilon to stretch beyond his past experience as a manager of the foreign policy process: “I don’t believe the central role of the national security adviser is to make the trains run on time. It’s much more a matter of deciding what the schedule ought to be, and where the trains should be heading.” The adviser’s job is to “flesh out” ideas into a strategy, argued Brzezinski, and then “supervise, coordinate and enforce” its implementation.
Both Scowcroft and Brzezinski credited Gen. Jim Jones, who recently announced his departure, for trying to create an effective policy structure. Brzezinski said that Jones’s authority had been limited by the “intrusion of top domestic political advisers,” which had reduced his effectiveness.
“Obama has suffered in foreign policy by having to focus so much on the economic crisis,” said Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser for Republican presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford. I asked Scowcroft and Brzezinski to sit down for a brief reprise of the discussions we had in 2008 that resulted in a book called “America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy.” What struck me this time was that the bipartisan agenda they framed two years ago was still mostly valid. Although Obama nominally supported most elements of this strategy, he hasn’t been able to advance it very far.
The former advisers agreed that Obama’s biggest strategic success had been his engagement of Russia. “The ‘Russia reset’ worked well,” said Scowcroft. “It caught the essence of what the problem was.”
The two men cited the Israel-Palestinian peace process as Obama’s most important unfinished business. Both have argued often that the president should have started by outlining the basic parameters for a Palestinian state, as they have emerged in negotiations over the past 40 years.
Brzezinski contended that it was “pathetic” to see the United States making big concessions to Israel this month — ones that should be reserved for a final “grand bargain” – simply to add another 60 days to a temporary freeze on Israeli settlements. If the peace process should collapse, Scowcroft argued that it still would make sense for Obama to specify the terms of a U.S. peace plan.
What perplexed both men was the disconnect between Obama’s strategic vision and what he has been able to achieve. “He makes dramatic presidential speeches,” said Brzezinski, “but it’s never translated into a process in which good ideas become strategies.” One complication, both noted, was a process of “subcontracting,” in which major policy areas such as Middle East negotiations and Afghanistan-Pakistan have been handed over to special representatives.
On Afghanistan-Pakistan policy, the toughest issue facing Obama, both men favor a continuation of current strategy — with the goal of gradually negotiating a political settlement with the Taliban under a broad umbrella of regional support. As was the case two years ago on Iraq, Brzezinski favored a quicker move for the exit, while Scowcroft warned of “leaving an open, bleeding wound” with too hasty a departure.
Obama’s challenge is that he raised expectations. Recall the absurdly premature award of the Nobel Peace Prize last year. When he boldly called for a new course in the Middle East in his Cairo speech, or convened a summit of 40 world leaders to discuss nuclear nonproliferation, people around the world expected he would deliver something big. So far, they have been disappointed.
To sum up what I took away from these bipartisan gurus: Obama’s achievement is that he has reconnected America to the world. The United States was much too isolated and unpopular when he came into office. That isn’t so true now. But even though the United States is less hated, it may also be taken less seriously by other nations. Obama has turned the page in American foreign policy, but he hasn’t written enough yet on that fresh, blank space.
Poll: Those craving for change now look to the GOP
By LIZ SIDOTI, AP National Political Writer– Sun Oct17, 2:35 pm ET
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s winning coalition from 2008 has crumbled and his core backers are dispirited. It’s now Republicans who stand to benefit from an electorate that’s again craving change.
Nearly two years after putting Obama in the White House, one-quarter of those who voted for the Democrat are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall. Just half of them say they definitely will show up Nov. 2, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released two weeks before Obama’s first midterm elections.
Yet in a reflection of broad dissatisfaction with politics, just as many people who backed Republican presidential nominee John McCain are either supporting Democrats now or still considering how to vote.
Still, McCain voters — to borrow Obama’s campaign rallying cry — are far more “fired up, ready to go.” Two-thirds say they are certain to vote next month.
It’s a wide enthusiasm gap that’s buoying Republicans, who are poised for big electoral gains, and worrying Democrats, who are seeking to hang onto majorities in Congress as well among governors. Obama’s party hopes its superior get-out-the-vote operation, updated from his groundbreaking campaign, can overcome Republicans’ energized supporters to mitigate expected losses across the board.
While no president can be expected to fully rally his supporters when he’s not on the ballot, the survey illustrates the wide scope of Obama voters’ disappointment with the president and his policies almost halfway through his first term — and two years before he’s likely to seek their backing again.
“He’s not listening to the majority of the people who elected him. It’s like he’s ignoring his base,” said Sara Sue Crawford of Jacksonville, Fla., who points to Obama’s health care overhaul law. She’s deciding whether to support Republicans in the hopes of “shaking up the status quo” and restoring a balance of power in Washington. She says she may back Obama in 2012 — if he changes course by listening more.
To find out how the electorate’s political views have changed since the 2008 election, the AP and Knowledge Networks re-interviewed the same 1,254 people who were part of a random sample of Americans surveyed up to 11 times throughout the 2008 campaign by the two organizations and Yahoo News. The recent interviews occurred Sept. 17 to Oct. 7.
Disillusionment with Obama was evident.
In a reversal from 2008, the survey found that Obama backers who expected change in Washington — 63 percent — now think nothing ever will happen. Just 36 percent still think Obama can do it, while a majority of McCain supporters now say things can change if the right person is elected.
“I was hoping we’d get some more civility up in government. That was implicit in his promise, along with some change. It turns out that he was driving more toward the changes rather than civility,” said Gerry D. Kramer, 70, of Georgetown, Texas. He’s among the Obama voters who are likely to vote Republican. Still, he’s not hot on the GOP either or politics.
Such pessimism among Obama’s supporters is deep elsewhere.
On the dominant issue of the 2010 campaign, just 40 percent of Obama backers who are fleeing Democrats say he’ll be able to improve the economy over the next two years. Those who are sticking with Democrats are more optimistic: 70 percent say Obama’s policies will help the nation recover from the recession.
Like many others, Aaron Bonnaure doesn’t blame Obama for the nation’s woes. But he wants Congress to keep the president in check. That’s why this 23-year-old moderate from Pittsburgh who voted for Obama now is looking at Republican candidates.
“He ran as a centrist. I don’t think he’s a centrist at all. … His whole economic platform is the more government spends, the better things are,” Bonnaure said. “We have a far-left government. The answers are in the middle.”
Among the survey’s key findings:
_73 percent of Obama voters now approve of how he’s doing his job, 13 percent don’t approve and 13 percent have mixed feelings. Nearly half have a very favorable impression of the president, down from two years ago, when two-thirds felt that way.
_40 percent say they’re frustrated by his presidency, 20 percent say they’re excited, and 26 percent say they are proud — a marked turnaround from Election Day 2008. Still, 59 percent say they remain hopeful — a reason for optimism as Obama gets ready for his likely re-election campaign.
_30 percent of Obama voters say he is living up to his promises to change Washington, while 19 percent say he’s breaking those promises. Half think it’s too soon to tell.
_76 percent of Obama voters say they will support the Democrat in their House district, while 8 percent plan to back the Republican and the rest are undecided.
_71 percent of McCain voters say they will vote for the Republican in their House district, while 9 percent plan to get behind Democrats and 20 percent haven’t chosen a candidate.
To a certain degree, Obama’s woes are a consequence of his 2008 campaign, when he was a blank slate and many people attached their hopes to him. Now, two years in, liberals, moderates and conservatives alike who supported him are disappointed for various reasons.
His challenge in the next two years is to figure out how to pull the disillusioned back into the fold — with a record of governing that critics alternatively call too liberal or not liberal enough.
Obama voters who are voting for Republicans or are undecided are especially doubtful about the Democratic Party’s ability to handle the economy. That said, only 11 percent trust Republicans to do better. Nearly half say that neither party has the answer.
They also doubt the ability of Republicans and Democrats alike on the deficit, taxes, the environment, health care, immigration, energy policy, gay marriage and more.
The interviews were conducted online by Knowledge Networks of Menlo Park, Calif. Respondents for the study were first selected using traditional telephone polling methods and were followed with online interviews. Participants without computers or Internet access were provided with the means to take online surveys at no cost to them.
The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
For a foreign perspective, see:
That Sinking Feeling
By BOB HERBERT
Published: October 18, 2010
Barack Obama seems to think he’s done a pretty terrific job as president, but maybe he hasn’t trumpeted his accomplishments effectively enough.
He told The Times’s Peter Baker, for the Sunday magazine, “Given how much stuff was coming at us, we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration — and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top — that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular.”
This assessment by the president is debatable, but it won’t be among the things that are front and center in the minds of voters as the November elections approach. The problem for Mr. Obama and the Democrats is the widespread sense among anxiety-riddled Americans that the country is still in very bad shape and headed in the wrong direction.
A Gallup poll last week found that 62 percent feel that economic conditions are deteriorating.
The president and his party may have racked up one legislative victory after another — on the bank bailouts, the stimulus package, the health care bill, and so forth — but ordinary Americans do not feel as if their lives or their prospects are improving. And they don’t think it’s a public relations problem.
Nearly 15 million are jobless and many who are working are worried that they (or a close relative) will soon become unemployed. The once solid foundation of home ownership has grown increasingly wobbly, with the number of foreclosures this year expected to surpass a million. And the country is still at war.
The voter unrest that is manifesting itself in myriad (and often peculiar) ways reflects a real fear that not just family finances but the country itself is in a state of decline. “I don’t know where we’re headed,” said a businessman named Chuck Carruthers, who chatted with me in a coffee shop in Atlanta last week. “But I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t think it’s anyplace good.”
Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have come to grips with this fear, although the Republicans have done yeoman’s work exploiting it.
President Obama and the Democrats blew an important opportunity at the beginning of the president’s term. That was the time, with the economy in virtual free fall, to rally the American people behind a grand plan to rebuild the nation and its economy for the long term. Yes, the emergency had to be dealt with. And, yes, the bailouts and the stimulus package (however flawed) were essential.
But even in the midst of the crisis, the public needed to be presented with a clear idea — a vision, to use the term once derided by President George H.W. Bush — of where the Obama administration wanted to take the country.
Job creation was the most important issue. With his sky-high approval ratings and the economy hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, a bold and creative employment initiative, tied to long-term investments in infrastructure and green energy, was the issue that President Obama could — and should — have used to trump Republican obstructionism.
But Mr. Obama wanted his health care bill, and had a misplaced faith in the willingness of the G.O.P. to work with him on that and any number of other issues. He would also escalate the monumentally debilitating war in Afghanistan. Employment never seemed to be the top priority.
What ordinary voters see is an economy that is not working for them and an increasingly dismal outlook for their children. From that perspective, the enormous budget deficits don’t seem to be providing much of a tangible return.
From the Ohio State Lantern:
Despite fiery speech from Obama, I’ll be sitting this election out
By Vanessa Spates
Published: Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 23:10
Excitement is the single most palpable feeling in the world. And it was available in abundance at the “Moving America Forward” rally featuring President Barack Obama to raise support for the Democratic Party before elections in November.
There seemed to be an endless number of speakers who were basically saying the same thing: “Democrats good. Republicans bad.” But it’s still a surreal feeling to know that Ohio is a “battleground state.” We can make a huge difference here and we have in the past.
Normally I don’t like discussing politics, but when politicians literally come to your backyard to plead for your votes, it requires a step back to evaluate the situation. Ohio is classified as a swing state, and everyone in the audience Sunday knew that, as a whole, we are one of the reasons why Obama won the presidency in 2008. Ohio has gone to the winner of the presidential election in all but two since 1892.
That’s why those good old politicians keep coming back to our lovely state for more – we are so mixed in our political views here. It’s empowering and inspirational to know that we pack that kind of punch. Now the Democrats are trying to hold on to their thrones in Ohio, and with the estimated 35,000 people that showed up at the rally on Sunday [on the Oval], they might have just succeeded in getting people fired up.
There’s no better motivator than anger, and the president’s message that Republicans want to take this country and state a step backward had the crowd up in arms. There was plenty of catcalling and jeering anytime a politician mentioned the other side. It wasn’t unlike being at a high school pep rally.
Michelle Obama started off her brief speech with the one thing that can win over any Buckeye – the “O-H-I-O” chant. That increased the feeling of otherworldliness that had been settling on the audience all evening. It really drives home the fact that our state is a pivotal one, and this university is the epicenter of it all.
What does that mean for me and the rest of my peers? Will students actually rise up and exercise their right to vote in November? I don’t know. As for me, I’m sitting this one out. I personally don’t think much gets done in Washington besides a lot of mud-slinging and hair-pulling. I have better things to do than worry about over-privileged men and women who want to take over the world.[Badlands]
Obama AD 2010