Obama Wants to Emulate Reagan? The Cynicism of the "Hope" Panderer
by susanhu, Wed Jan 16, 2008 at 02:48:50 PM EST
-- Barack Obama selling his supposedly Democratic soul to far-right Reno newspaper editors
Actually I think it's far worse than Obama touting Reagan's sunny disposition -- "It's Morning In America" -- as an example of how to be president.
It's that Barack Obama is willing to say whatever, he knows, the people in front of him want to hear. In front of college students, he rails against "special interests," but when he sat down before the far-right editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal, he brought out his best Reagan imitation, all to get their endorsement.
By the way, that endorsement has backfired on Obama badly -- causing a hue and cry among REAL bedrock Democrats. Obama's official campaign site has scrubbed its front-page announcement. That's right: Obama and his campaign staff didn't know that, in Nevada, true Democrats despise the Reno Gazette-Journal. In fact, MyDD's Todd Beeton said the Reno endorsement will be remembered as "an enormous gift to the Clinton campaign."
Politicoquoted Obama pollster Cornell Belcher: "'That hope and optimism that was Ronald Reagan' allowed him to 'transcend' ideological divisions within his own party and the general electorate." (Via Taylor Marsh.)
Obama really thinks that personality will do it? As Taylor Marsh wrote today, "That Mr. Obama thinks Reagan was all about personality is frighteningly ignorant."
Well, Sen. Obama, there was the public persona versus his private agenda: Ronald Reagan "borrowed Teddy Kennedy's nationalist rhetoric ... echoed Carter's incessant talk against Washington, and festooned his speeches with quotations from FDR," writes Sidney Blumenthal in his 2003 memoir. But, Reagan -- just like George W. Bush -- "was astonishingly successful in his plan to paralyze the federal government."
After a rush in his first year to pass an enormous regressive tax cut, accompanied by a large increase in the military budget ... Reagan was a president at leisure. He delegated his authority and paid little attention to detail. ... His achievement of presiding over a government that permitted the federal deficit to grow to astronomical proportions made a federal social policy virtually impossible to realize. Once he learned that the supply-side economic theory his advisers had advocated was backfiring, producing deficits instead of the promised Niagara of revenues, he was pleased with the deadening effect. He revived the grandeur of the presidency for his stage set but put the executive branch to sleep.
Who does that passage from Bluenthal's memoir remind you of? First, it reminded me of my 2005 story on President George W. Bush's deliberate starvation of federal agencies.
It also re-aroused my suspicions that Obama is not a real Democrat, given as he is to touting GOP talking points on Social Security and presenting far weaker economic stimulus and health care plans than his rivals. Are his real political views more like Reagan's than the Democraty party's? It's quite possible.
Worst of all, it reminded me of Obama's dreamy attitude about the presidency. He thinks he can just be the "vision" guy and get "smarter people" around himself, and that the governing will take care of itself.
Never mind that George W. Bush -- taking off where Ronald Reagan began -- has decimated all key federal agencies of their most experienced staffers and devastated the agencies' budgets, so much so that some will have to be rebuilt from the ground up.
Where will that new president begin? The devastated Department of Justice? The Food and Drug Administration? The Consumer Protection Safety Commission? Every branch of the U.S. military? The Veterans Administration? The Evironmental Protection Agency? Medicare? The Department of Education?
The list of essential federal agencies near death from personnel and budgetary starvation goes on and on. Then there's our decimated military suffering from worn-out soldiers and equipment.
The new president will have innumerable Herculian tasks to face. Only the most dedicated and hardest-working president will begin to succeed in rebuilding these vital federal institutions.
And Obama thinks that being inspirational will cut it? That being sunny like Reagan -- one of our laziest presidents in history -- will get the job done?
Give me the worker. Good god, give me the worker:
Todd Beeton quotes from Obama's interview with the Reno newspaper board:
"I have a pretty good sense of my strengths and my weaknesses," he said Monday during a meeting with the Reno Gazette-Journal editorial board.
"I am very good at teasing out from people who are smarter than me what the issues are and how we resolve them," he said. "I don't think there is anybody in this race who can inspire the American people better than I can. And I don't think there is anybody in this race who can bridge differences ... better than I can.
"But I'm not an operating officer. Some in this debate around experience seem to think the job of the president is to go in and run some bureaucracy. Well, that's not my job. My job is to set a vision of 'here's where the bureaucracy needs to go.'"
Beeton refers to the YouTube video featuring Hillary Clinton, just above:
[Hillary Clinton] used the same phrasing [from her video] on a conference call with press earlier today to promote her economic stimulus package. We've all seen the details of her stimulus plan, it was clear that the point of the call was more about injecting this talking point into the dialogue rather than discussing the finer points of the economy. The danger of the debate taking this turn for Obama is evident in a response Clinton made to a question late in the conference call.
Beeton then quotes Sen. Clinton:
The president needs to run the government and manage the economy. You can't have a hands off approach, especially after George W Bush who has adopted that sort of governing philosophy. We have seen the disastrous consequences of that kind of approach.
Beeton, ever the savvy political observer, notes:
When Barack Obama says "I am very good at teasing out from people who are smarter than me what the issues are and how we resolve them" voters' minds go immediately to George W. Bush's reassurance to voters that he'd be surrounding himself with smart experienced people. Shorter Clinton: we all know how that worked out.
This is dangerous territory for Barack Obama and I suspect is something that is going to have to be dealt with. She's making a very strong argument against a sort of hands off presidency and is presenting herself as the antidote to that; in other words, that she would constitute a greater change from George W. Bush than he would.. ...
If that not-a-real-Democrat gets nominated, I'll be watching "Mourning in America."
And so will all those young people so smitten with Barack Obama now.