Is president Obama headed for a one-term presidency, a Jimmy Carter-like fate? Is there nothing he can do about it? Is it becoming inevitable? And will it simply become intentional?
The answer to all of these questions is potentially one big Yes. And indeed he may be boxed in now that he is caught up in an economic tidal wave that is crashing on the shore and swamping many people, politicians and institutions, including the president himself.
First some history: Looking back nobody can say for sure, but Barack Obama may well have entered the 2008 presidential election simply to introduce himself for a future campaign. Competing with the Billary Clinton Machine, he may have considered it a ‘dry run’ or a ‘practice campaign’.
Then he ended up president of the United States. Who woulda thunk it.
But there have been precedents like little-known Georgia Democrat governor Jimmy Carter in 1976 running against and beating incumbent Republican president Gerald Ford. The Accidental President, Carter has been called. Carter was ill-prepared and untested, however, and ultimately he proved weak and incompetent.
And Bill Clinton plotted his road to the White House all of his adult life. Yet in 1988, in his first big national exposure, he gave a notoriously boring and long-winded speech at the Democratic National Convention. It was one of those events that seemed to seal his fate, with bad reviews all ‘round. And for someone intent on the White House, it must have been a profound rebuke.
Clinton then focused on 1992 and challenged George HW Bush even though Bush’s approval numbers had hit as high as 90% after the 1991 Gulf War. Thus the 1992 campaign may have been intended as Clinton’s ‘dry run’ to introduce himself. But Clinton also knew that the recession that year would be the main issue and so he took on Bush and won the White House on adviser George Stephanopoulos’ motto: “It’s the economy, stupid…”
So you never know how you might get elected and then how your presidency might pan out. And Barack Obama may have sealed his own fate by anxiously focusing on becoming president, being a far-left radical, entering the race at such a young age with so little experience, and going into the White House at a time of economic tumult. And this may be dooming him as we speak.
On his recent Asia trip, it was simply stunning to watch Chinese leaders lecture Obama about all of his federal deficit spending since China holds so much of our debt. Communists lecturing capitalist America? What the heck is this? Is this a rebuke of Obama? It must have been mortifying.
After the Chinese upbraiding, Obama granted an interview to Fox News. And after several months when the White House seemed to be at war with Fox, you might wonder why he gave the interview. Is it perhaps a sign of the times, a tacit admission by the president that he had better start addressing a wider audience as his polls fall? And is this perhaps another sign of rising conservative muscle?
It certainly looks like that. And this shows Obama’s weakness and the fragility of the Democrat hold on power. If things were going swimmingly in the economy, he might have snubbed Fox permanently.
In his Fox interview from Beijing, Obama insisted in one segment that gross inaccuracies about stimulus spending on the government’s recovery.gov website were a “side issue”. But Americans are becoming more and more wary about Obama’s detached tone – that the economy is rebounding, that we should overlook these little website errors, that we have terrorism under control, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will certainly be found guilty, that the reasons behind the Fort Hood shootings will be fully aired.
No, Americans are starting to wonder if all this doesn’t sound like more campaign promises, and smoke and mirrors.
And that seems to be a growing problem for Obama because he seems so disengaged from, and so cool about, so much that is going on at the same time that his polls are falling faster than any other president in modern history. Of the economic recovery, he told Fox:
“I think this is an inexact science. We’re talking about a multitrillion-dollar economy that went through the worst economic crisis since 1933. The first measure of success of the economic recovery is, did we pull ourselves back from the brink? We did…. The question now is, can we make sure we’re accelerating job growth? That’s my No. 1 job. Nobody’s been more disappointed than I have to see how high the unemployment rate has gotten. And I spend every waking hour, when I’m talking to my economic team, about how we are going to put people back to work.”
After a while, however, Americans do not want to hear about the past, or the situation that Obama inherited, or about Obama being disappointed. This is part of his veneer, that he is completely in control. And it is frustrating to growing numbers of Americans. They are tired of his constant talk and his news conferences. They want to see some passion, a president who is engaged. And the drubbing that Democrats took in the November 3 elections should be a wakeup call to Obama: Mr. President, drop the detachment, put some good policies into effect and show us the money…
Obama then said: “There may be some tax provisions that can encourage businesses to hire sooner rather than sitting on the sidelines. So we’re taking a look at those… I think it is important, though, to recognize if we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery, that at some point, people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy in a way that could actually lead to a double-dip recession.”
Is this Obama setting us up for more bad news? A double-dip recession? Or perhaps a permanent recession? When he says “there may be some tax provisions”, is that not what capitalists like Steve Forbes have been saying all along, that those are common-sense policies if Obama only would use them? When Obama says: “At some point people could lose confidence in the US economy” you start to wonder what planet does he live on.
Mr. President, confidence is long gone!
You wonder what the conversations are like behind the scenes at the White House. Obama certainly knows the dire nature of the economic situation. So we might start to think: Is the evolving political and economic situation one in which Obama simply decides that he will be a one-term president, and just goes for the whole leftist program? Would he settle for one term in exchange for a radically changed America? Would he risk Carter-like ostracism in exchange for leftist purity?
Indeed he might. And he may now be realizing that he has no choice and that he must act before the 2010 elections when he might lose his big majorities in Congress.
Imagine this scenario: Today Obama decides that he is going to push every left-wing issue he can – health care, cap and trade, card check, the Fairness Doctrine etc. Even if these programs are unpopular and are adding more and more debt to America, Obama may still push them.
Because he may be coming to recognize that his leftist policies cannot produce growth, that he is going to see further economic deterioration and further deterioration in his own power.
So what does he do? Does he risk it all? Which way does he go? Does he remain on the hard left and seek to push through as much of his agenda as possible to move the nation way over to the left and possibly sacrifice his own presidency? Is he that committed to the leftist cause? Or does he moderate his tone in order to salvage a possible re-election in 2012?
From the way he is stubbornly pursuing health care and adding to the national debt, it appears that he is on a course to being defeated in 2012. Because everything he is doing goes against common economic sense. He is at the fork in the road today, and does not have much time to change course. He could, for instance, announce that he is going to return all unused stimulus funds to the treasury. He could abandon cap-and-trade, and card check and order attorney general Holder to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in military tribunals rather than in civilian courts in New York City. He could seek to retain lower Bush-era tax rates and urge states to restrain their spending and their taxes.
But he is not going to do any of those because of his ideology. And that means that the increasingly dire state of the economy will become entrenched. And Obama will have to live with that during his 2012 re-election. And he may even face Hillary again in a primary. And he may know that fate already. And there may not be a damned thing he can do about it.
Jimmy Obama, anyone?
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