Together We (Apparently) Can't

Crossposted at The Rockefeller Republican

“I came here to change politics as usual. Because what’s missing from politics as usual is hope. We have been governed for too long by fear and low aim and salesmanship….Together we can!”

Sound familiar? It is Deval Patrick as he ran for Governor of Massachusetts in 2006. The similarities between Gov. Patrick’s and President Obama’s speeches was well publicized last summer. But the similarities go far beyond simple semantics. And unfortunately those similarities may forecast Obama’s downfall.

Both are idealistic African-American leaders. Both have Chicago roots, a Harvard Law degree, and a gift for appealing to both blacks and whites. Both believe that people long for a new dawn of post-partisan, hopeful, and optimistic public leadership. Both staked their fates on grass-roots activism, fund-raising and David Axelrod. Both campaigned on changing the tone in government.

Patrick easily won office in 2006 after dazzling voters with a message of hope and change, using the now familiar “Together We Can” tag-line. However once elected things were not all that inspiring. First he was under siege for spending more than $10,000 on drapes for his State House office and upgrading his state car from a Ford Crown Victoria to a Cadillac. By his third month in office, Mr. Patrick had announced that his wife was being treated for depression, and by his fourth, he had overhauled his staff. Not an great opening act.

A year later he had suffered a demoralizing defeat at the hands of the Democratic-controlled House, which killed his proposal to increase revenues by allowing three casinos in the state, and he and then speaker of the House, Salvatore DiMasi, had taken to trading insults in the newspapers. More recently Patrick has come under fire for his proposed tax hikes, including doubling the state’s gas tax making it the highest in the nation, and adding another $2 parking “carbon fee” at Logan Airport as part of his transportation overhaul. The carbon fee would mean that a 20 minute trip to pick up someone at Logan would cost $6 in parking alone, not including tunnel tolls, which have the potential rise to as much as $7 if legislators fail to pass the doubling of the gas tax. All of this as the states unemployment rises to 7.4 % in January.

And now Deval Patrick is the proud owner of a 28% approval rating.

Why rehash the Governor’s lack of success? Because with all the similarities between Patrick and Obama one has to wonder if the country is about to see what Massachusetts residents already have. Let’s review what we have seen from Patrick’s doppelganger, President Obama, so far in his nascent administration as it related to the Governor’s early start.

Has Obama gotten in trouble for his redecorating largess, or his penchant for fancier rides? Well, after snubbing England’s Prime Minister, he did return the bust of Winston Churchill that has been in the oval office for nearly a decade, adding insult to injury. And as recently as last week at a White House summit meeting on fiscal responsibility, Mr. McCain seized the moment to chide Mr. Obama on cost overruns for a new fleet of presidential helicopters.

“Your helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One,” McCain said as he urged the president to make “tough decisions” on spending.

How about Patrick’s need to completely overhaul his staff? While it is a little early in the game for Obama to have needed to do that, the constant reshuffling of nominees due to tax problems certainly foreshadows similar problems. However, these are not the real issues that have lead to Patrick’s inability to effectively govern. What really matters is that with no real executive or legislative experience he has never been able to deal with the state house to get real reform accomplished. Is a similar problem on the horizon for Patrick fellow political neophyte?

There are already sings of a trying relationship between President Obama and Congress. First there was the stimulus package embarrassment, For a man who campaigned on bipartisanship the Democrat-only stimulus did not play well for the White house. Pelosi’s “snubbing” of Republicans as she fast-tracked the stimulus package, according to a Newsweek story last week, denied the president some measure of the bipartisan support he sought. “Pelosi was very publicly undercutting the president,” an administration official is quoted as saying. “Obama wants that to stop.” Pelosi had in fact maneuvered to fast track the stimulus, cutting short any meaningful debate on the bill and cutting out Republicans. Conservatives felt that the White House lost control of the process when the bill was outsourced to Pelosi.

Next, when Obama said 35,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops might remain in Iraq after most are withdrawn, Pelosi said 50,000 seemed unjustified. Reid called it “a little higher number than I had anticipated.”

Ok, how about something both Obama and McCain talked about endlessly during the campaign: earmarks. The White House recently said it will set new rules limiting their use. Reid and Pelosi were not pleased, but the sharpest response came from another team member, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

“I don’t think the White House has the ability to tell us what to do,” he told reporters.

Again, according to Newsweek, some White House aides are saying privately that the president has a Pelosi problem. In some ways, says a senior Obama official, “dealing with Democrats has been tougher than dealing with Republicans.” But it is not just the extreme liberal left that is at time at odds with the new administration, even moderate Democrats are having issues. Sens. Bayh and Feingold announced earlier this week they planned to vote in opposition to a proposed $410 billion spending bill. Bayh and Feingold are bothered by pet projects included in the package. Blue Dog Democrats across the country are saying the same.

So far the comparisons between the Gov. of Massachusetts and the new President of the United States seem apt. For the first time this week Mr. Obama’s approval rating dropped below 60% resting at 56%. While this is a far cry from Mr. Patrick’s 28%, if they continue to travel parallel paths is that a glimpse of the future? There is a reason Hillary won the MA primary over Obama. We have seen this play before, and we don’t like how it ends.