The worst president

Noemie Emery in a 4,500 word article at the Weekly Standard charges Obama with unprecedented presidential incompetence. It began when, at the very beginning of his term, he willfully or indifferently destroyed the coalition that had elected him, driving away centrists with the radical stimulus bill. Then there was the ramming through of Obamacare. Then there was his refusal to recognize or deal with the deficit crisis that had affected the entire Western world.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

There is a great role for a liberal president—saving the safety net by making it viable—but it’s not a role he wants to play. Great presidents (Roosevelt and Reagan) transform their times; good presidents (Eisenhower and Kennedy) understand them almost without trying; bad presidents (Buchanan and Carter) are overwhelmed by them. Obama is the first who has tried to defy them. This cannot, and will not, end well….

“Great measures should not be passed on narrow majorities” is an unwritten precept all leaders should heed. Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson spent months building broad coalitions before passing their bills on Social Security and civil rights. Lesser politicians have tried this, and sometimes been less than successful, but until Obama, no one imagined that a president should try to pass a huge, complex, costly bill that affected everyone in the country not only without enjoying broad support, but while facing an enraged, energized, and broad coalition against it….

As a result he now seems to have run out of options, and strategies. There was, it appears, no plan B.

But what would have happened if Obama had had one, and followed it, when Scott Brown won the special election, and push came up hard against shove? Suppose he had pulled back, designed a small health care plan aimed at cost control, and forged a coalition of sorts around that. Suppose he had made it so attractive that it served as a bridge between the two halves of his coalition. Suppose it had won over a few GOP members—Scott Brown among them—the same ones who supported a few of his initiatives that appealed to their voters a little later on that year. He’d have had a win, if a small one, and would have taken a step toward repairing the split among his voters.

But what he’d have won would have been as nothing compared with what he’d have contrived to avoid. Think of the burdens he would not be bearing at present if he had been clever enough to step back: no bad blood and no bloodbath within his own party, no Bart Stupak and Evan Bayh resignations and drama; no rancid Obamacare as a vast open sore on his party, no Supreme Court case waiting to come up midcampaign; no unified, furious Republican party, no enraged independents lining up behind it, no Nancy Pelosi striding across the Capitol grounds with a grin on her face and an oversized gavel, an image that will live in the annals of political idiocy, a symbol of everything about the bill and its passage that people have come to despise.

If you want an explanation for the wave that drowned the House Democrats in 2010, you can do no better than return to that moment. Any good politician would have acted then to forestall at all costs the charade Pelosi and the Black Caucus staged, linking arms to evoke the bridge scene at Selma, then accusing the Tea Party of hurling racist insults, which were never proven or verified, and now appear not to be true.

A good politician would have heeded the words of John Kennedy, another fairly good politician, who made a practice when winning of giving the other side something to go home with, and of never making an opponent so angry he would do anything to secure one’s defeat. If Obama had gone with a small bill after Scott Brown’s election, he would have drained some of the rage out of the Tea Party, weakened the link between the GOP and the independents, removed a focal point for the anger of much of the country, and stopped the momentum of the wave of resentment and fury that rolled on, gathering steam every moment, to shatter his party in 2010. He lacked the sense common to all good politicians—shared by Ike, Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and others—that tells you that if A does X, it will cause B to do Y, whereas if A had done Z, B would have acted quite differently. A politician cannot survive lacking this instinct. But Obama is not a good politician, merely a good candidate, with no talent for governing. Thanks to a remarkable convergence of historical events, he was able to rise without that talent. And now he is paying the price.

- end of initial entry -

Jim C. writes:

Devastating analysis of what happens when a third-tier talent gets to sail into the White House aboard the good yacht Affirmative Action.

Alexis Zarkov writes:

Noemie Emery’s Weekly Standard article provides a pretty good premortem for the Obama Administration. I now add an additional recent example to her long list of the Administration’s political mistakes.

With the Solyndra scandal still ringing in everyone’s ears, DOE Secretary Steven Chu announces still more government loan guarantees for solar energy to the tune of $1.46 billion. To yet another California company in the solar voltaic business! Evidently these loans have been rushed through to meet the end-of-the-fiscal-year deadline on September 30. A politically astute president would have ordered DOE to stop issuing loans. It looks bad. Obama seems not to care how bad it looks. He and many of his supporters continue with their obsession with so-called “green energy” projects, and they won’t stop, or even pause, no matter what. All that being said, I remain profoundly apprehensive with the deluge of premortems for the Obama regime. Remember how Obamacare was sure to fail? It didn’t. Come November 3, 2012, a whole lot of people might find themselves in shock once again. Don’t count this guy out.

LA replies:

“It looks bad. Obama seems not to care how bad it looks.”

That’s something that began in the first month of his presidency, with the $800 billion stimulus bill which under the cover of stimulating the economy was a collection of measures that would do little to stimulate the economy and also seemingly included every pet pork barrel project the Democrats had wanted to pass for decades. The country—or at least the sentient half of the country, which does not include Democrats—was stunned, knocked off their heels by the egregiousness of this bill. Obama didn’t care. He didn’t care how bad it looked. That’s when it became apparent that Obama and the Democrats were inside a reality of their own.

LA continues:

On the idea of Obama not caring how bad he looks, see the collection of past VFR articles on porkulus that I’ve just posted.

Alexis Zarkov writes:

“Mr. Auster writes: “Obama didn’t care. He didn’t care how bad it looked. That’s when it became apparent that Obama and the Democrats were inside a reality of their own.”

Obama’s reality warp has encompassed a whole lot of professional people who should know better. I invite VFR readers to study Figure 1 from this report which carries the title: The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Investment Plan (ARRA). Also known as “Stimulus I.” The graph shows us the predicted unemployment rate, with, and without ARRA. This figure tells us what that $850 billion in spending was supposed to buy us in terms of reduction in unemployment. I remind readers this report is the work product of UC economic professor Christina Romer, Obama’s chief economic adviser. As anyone can readily see, the “without recover plan” matches reality much better than the “with recovery plan.” The Obama people won’t even own up to their own obvious failure as economic professionals. We get lame excuses such as “the spending wasn’t big enough!” But surely $850 billion should buy at least some reduction in unemployment. It didn’t. Even the no-spending scenario is way off as it shows unemployment declining on its own, demonstrating beyond all doubt that this work is incompetent. Not only does Obama not care how bad he looks, his whole economic team doesn’t care either. Finally to add insult to injury, Obama proposes yet another spending binge, and demands Congress pass it. This and green energy are Obama’s major weak points. Few Americans want to see their money wasted.

LA replies:

I repeat, from an August 17 entry, the epiphany I had the night that the debt ceiling deal was reached:

I happened to be watching the cable TV political programs after the debt deal was reached a couple of weeks ago. The way Democrats spoke was most revealing. One Democrat after another frankly indicated that in his view the way to have a strong economy is not by cutting taxing and spending, but by increasing taxing and spending. It became clear that on a fundamental level the Democrats do not believe that reducing the tax burden on individuals, families, and businesses will liberate economic activity. On a fundamental level, the Democrats believe that the American society is helpless, and that only government makes it work. They think that human beings will not engage in productive enterprise, unless they have first been made secure, safe, and comfortable by a raft of government subsidies, which must keep forever expanding. This is the Democrats’ vision of man and politics. Thus what Nancy Pelosi said in 2010 in support of the health care bill—that it would free artists to create art by making it possible for them to leave their jobs without losing their health insurance—was not just Pelosi’s idiosyncratic notion. It represented the Democrats’ deeply held view of what makes human creativity possible.

October 3

Al H. writes:

You wrote, “Obama didn’t care. He didn’t care how bad it looked. That’s when it became apparent that Obama and the Democrats were inside a reality of their own.”

This ties into something in a WSJ article about a meeting between The President and Harold Hamm, the founder and CEO of Continental Resources. The is from the article via Powerline:

When it was Mr. Hamm’s turn to talk briefly with President Obama, “I told him of the revolution in the oil and gas industry and how we have the capacity to produce enough oil to enable America to replace OPEC. I wanted to make sure he knew about this.” The president’s reaction? “He turned to me and said, ‘Oil and gas will be important for the next few years. But we need to go on to green and alternative energy. [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu has assured me that within five years, we can have a battery developed that will make a car with the equivalent of 130 miles per gallon.’” Mr. Hamm holds his head in his hands and says, “Even if you believed that, why would you want to stop oil and gas development? It was pretty disappointing.”

Now that’s living in a reality of their own. And best summed up by a commenter also at Powerline:

Robert McMahon:

In David Mamet’s new book he writes: “I spoke with my first conservatives at age sixty.”

There are entire left-liberal enclaves that have sealed themselves off from any contact with conservatives or conservative ideas. As leftist ideology has failed ever more grotesquely, its adherents have tightened the seams of their fantasy bubble.

Obama was born, raised, mentored and educated inside that bubble. He never left it. His only experience of the Cold War or Reaganomics is filtered through the rationalizations of those who were dead wrong. He might as well be in a time capsule, a perfectly preserved college sophomore from the 1970s beamed into the Oval Office with his ignorance intact.

LA replies:

That last line is exactly right.

FD writes:

I enjoyed the Emery article in the Weekly Standard. She is always worth a read. However, the article, like much other current commentary, seems to proceed from the assumption that Obama is seen by most people as a poor president and will lose the election. This goes to your point about misplaced Republican triumphalism. Too many conservatives—listening to other conservatives—are sure Obama will lose. But, at this point, the econometric models that predict elections show the PRESIDENT WINNING REELECTION. See this, this, and this.

Massive work and effort will be needed to defeat the president. And we will need someone who can beat Obama.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 02, 2011 10:30 AM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):