It seems the President has given up on the mid-terms
by tarheel74, Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 09:42:36 AM EDT
So the story going around among the Obama faithful are that the Progressives base needs to get enthusiastic and vote and clap harder and all that. But then you read a story like this in the New York Magazine and you come away with the following impression:
- The President is resigned to the fact that the Republicans will gain control of Congress.
- He does not find any mistakes with his legislative method.
- The problems the Democrats face this season are according to him due to miscommunication (whose?).
- He actually thought he would be able to heal the ideological divide.
- He still thinks he can get bipartisan support once the Republicans gain congress.
- The President is strangely detached and frankly seems uncomfortable and even reluctant to govern.
So those were my impressions. None of them gives me any "hope" or confidence regarding the outcome this midterm elections. But frankly for the President to even talk about the Republican takeover of Congress just reinforces the fact that like most of his legislative "battles", he has waved the white flag even before the fight began.
Here are some of the juicy passages.
During our hour together, Obama told me he had no regrets about the broad direction of his presidency. But he did identify what he called “tactical lessons.” He let himself look too much like “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat.” He realized too late that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects” when it comes to public works. Perhaps he should not have proposed tax breaks as part of his stimulus and instead “let the Republicans insist on the tax cuts” so it could be seen as a bipartisan compromise.
I don't understand this part of looking too much like a tax and spend liberal Democrat. If that is his idea of communicating the urgency of a massive stimulus in face of economic doom, no wonder the stimulus ended being much smaller and far less effective than required. Worse still, because the President himself bemoans a necessary spending bill because it tarnishes his image, no wonder he is unable to convincingly sell the benefits of the said bill.
The report also reinforces my long-held belief that not only did the WH underestimate the Republicans from the very beginning, but they held the naive belief that Obama would be able to heal the partisan divides by "reaching across the aisle in good faith".
“If anybody thought the Republicans were just going to roll over, we were just terribly mistaken,” former Senator Tom Daschle, a mentor and an outside adviser to Obama, told me. “I’m not sure anybody really thought that, but I think we kind of hoped the Republicans would go away. And obviously they didn’t do that.”
“Perhaps we were naïve,” Axelrod told me. “First, he’s always had good relations across party lines. And secondly, I think he believed that in the midst of a crisis you could find partners on the other side of the aisle to help deal with it. I don’t think anyone here expected the degree of partisanship that we confronted.”
Oh maybe he learned, but wait,
Obama expressed optimism to me that he could make common cause with Republicans after the midterm elections. “It may be that regardless of what happens after this election, they feel more responsible,” he said, “either because they didn’t do as well as they anticipated, and so the strategy of just saying no to everything and sitting on the sidelines and throwing bombs didn’t work for them, or they did reasonably well, in which case the American people are going to be looking to them to offer serious proposals and work with me in a serious way.”
I asked if there were any Republicans he trusted enough to work with on economic issues. The first name he came up with was Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, who initially agreed to serve as Obama’s commerce secretary before changing his mind. But Gregg is retiring. The only other Republican named by Obama was Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who has put together a detailed if politically problematic blueprint for reducing federal spending. The two men are ideologically poles apart, but perhaps Obama sees a bit of himself in a young, substantive policy thinker.
Hmm, I guess some people never learn. If the President thinks that Judd Gregg is an honest broker, then I have nothing more to say here. But then again he did say that his "good friend" Chuck Grassley was helping to draft a bipartisan health care bill for the Senate.
But probably the most telling passage of this President, who bemoans bad messaging, is this paragraph
Insulation is a curse of every president, but more than any president since Jimmy Carter, Obama comes across as an introvert, someone who finds extended contact with groups of people outside his immediate circle to be draining. He can rouse a stadium of 80,000 people, but that audience is an impersonal monolith; smaller group settings can be harder for him. Aides have learned that it can be good if he has a few moments after a big East Room event so he can gather his energy again. Unlike Clinton, who never met a rope line he did not want to work, Obama does not relish glad-handing.
Anyway, it's great read. It shows a President who appears insulated, unwilling to fight, still looking for bipartisanship (as if the 90s never happened, the last 2 years never happened), and angry at the progressive base that had sounded the clarion call on Republican obstructionism only to get shouted down by the same administration.
As for me I don't know what to say. On the one hand I read articles like this 3 weeks before an election and receive emails for the President through DNC/OFA asking for $25 donation, and I have to wonder what for? The President is resigned to the prospects of a Republican congress, and from what I see the DNC is willing to flush millions of dollars behind people like Blanche Lincoln and Heath Shuler.
So here's my call to Democrats: Vote. Donate to progressives (Bold Progressive and MoveOn). And hope that the President can wake up, get off the bipartisanship high-horse, and get to the dirty business of partisan politicking and governing because the country needs it now more than ever.
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