President Obama is not off to a good start. Not since Nixon has a sitting President blamed his inability to get his agenda rolling on individual media types, and even Nixon did not go this far overboard until about 1973, five years into his Presidency. Obama did not even make five weeks before telling Republicans he could not work with them if they listened to radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. The issue is not whether Limbaugh is a self-important blowhard (he is); it’s that the President of the United States diminishes himself and his office to obsess about an individual citizen, especially one not elected to any office. Obama has effectively raised the profile of Limbaugh to his own national image. It’s worth noting that despite years of jibes and taunts from Limbaugh, President Clinton never let anyone sense that he considered Limbaugh a big deal. Will an ‘enemies list’ be next for Obama?
I have not listened to Rush Limbaugh for a long time. Not my taste these days. If Obama had realized that even many conservatives are not all that inspired by El Rushbo, he might have been able to work things out with the Right before careening into this present mess he’s made, but then again all indications are that despite campaign promises of “post-partisanship”, Obama never intended Republican participation in government to be anything more than getting conned or dragged into backing his agenda. Again, a more experienced politico would have seen the dangers of thinking he can fly his programs in reality the way they play out in planning, but Obama was elected partly because he has no resume.
Obama is also in trouble because of the “stimulus” bill sitting in the Senate right now. First warning sign was when Obama’s press secretary started backing off and trying to separate the White House from “the bill in Congress”; a hint that Obama was surprised by the flak he was taking. Second problem was Obama’s mistake in blaming Republicans for not backing his plan, trying to bully his way to victory by casting them as opposed to recovery by opposing his plan. The reason it was a mistake was twofold – first, public support for the bill is dropping, as it fails to show just how all this spending is supposed to result in new jobs, especially when so many are needed to revive the economy, and second because it betrays the political spin of the bill.
Three essential political facts exist about the stimulus bill:
1. Democrats have majorities in both the House and Senate, they do not need a single Republican vote
2. Because of heavy Democrat majorities, the bill will include massive spending and promote liberal policies
3. The Democrats have tried hard to get Republicans to sign onto the bill, in order to sell it as “bi-partisan”
The Democrats do not need Republicans to get their bill passed, so why the sell to get them on-board? Because this bill won’t create jobs, won’t put money into the pockets of ordinary Americans, and will cost a lot in future taxes. Democrats need Republicans’ names on the vote so they can deflect the blame when it comes. But Republicans have figured out that there is no way they can support this bill – it is really nothing more than a massive theft of taxpayer money, and the only way that Republicans can win is to oppose it. If the bill works Democrats will take credit, all of it, no matter whether Republicans sign on or not, and if it fails the way it looks sure to do, anyone connected to it is in real trouble. Consequently, the Republican strategy is to oppose the bill, to force either radical changes to avoid the disastrous course the White House is now on, or to put on record that this bill belongs completely to Obama and the Democrats. Obama failed to understand the need to compromise to get what you want, and as a result is left with the choice of giving up major portions of his bill or accepting full responsibility for its likely failure, responsibility which would forbode real and serious consequences in the 2010 midterm elections. The Republicans are usually clumsy at political floorplay, but Obama has shown incredibly poor foresight and judgment in not seeing this long ago.
The real problem for Obama is beginning to appear, one he never expected to see after being elected – the dissolution of his political capital. Obama first gained prominence by winning against the Clinton machine, which made his team the dominant force in the Democratic party. His increasing strength during the general campaign gave Obama the aura of an irresistible force, and a lot of politicians signed onto his entourage in the expectation that his agenda would sweep in a new era of Democratic and Liberal control, not seen since the days of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. But less than a month after taking office, Obama has made a series of blunders – nominees with serious problems that disqualified them from consideration, the appearance of narcissistic indifference to the disaster in Kentucky and the Ozarks, not visiting the towns struck by the storm or making a point to mention the suffering and deaths, and now his clumsy inability to sell his first major initiative. The gleam of the Obama veneer is already fading and his obvious petulance at the early cracks in the Democrats’ efforts to shove the bill through without any real debate or effective opposition warns of a man less capable than the job requires.