Tag Archives: Obama

President Obama’s biggest “failure”

When I discuss President Obama with those who don’t plan voting for him, there are two phrases that always precede whatever charge is about to be levied against him: “He said he would…” or “I hoped he would…”

The phrases are used in reference to Obama’s hope of changing the tone in Washington. They are used in the mythical charge that the unemployment rate would be under 5 percent if his stimulus bill passed.

And they are used when referring to what the left hoped the president would be: the anti-George W. Bush.

Regardless, each of the phrases emphasizes the president’s biggest failure: he’s failed to deliver a successful narrative for his presidency.

President Obama has been the most progressive president since Franklin Roosevelt. He’s the first president, despite nearly a century of trying, to pass a form of universal health care. He’s made clean, alternative energy a viable source of fuel. He’s made it law that women should be paid the same as their male counterparts for equal work. He rescued the American auto industry.

And conservatives should be thrilled with the president. His health care law is built on conservative ideas. The mandate is an idea from the Heritage Foundation. The entire law is based off Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts law, which is based off of President Nixon’s universal health care proposal. He’s also shown himself to be an effective Commander-in-Chief, using drones to assassinate known terrorists and taking decisive action in taking out Osama bin Laden. A dove Obama is not.

Plus, the economy is growing at 2 percent, which is slow, but miraculous considering Europe is still in recession and Congress has refused to pass any stimulative measures the last two years.

But for some reason, no one is happy. Progressives don’t think Obama has been liberal enough. Conservatives just hate the guy.

This is because President Obama hasn’t told an effective story. He didn’t make the country realize that the recovery would be a long, hard slog, to steal a Republican phrase. He didn’t make people realize that health care reform is directly tied into the economic recovery. He didn’t effectively call out the Republican-led Congress and the minority in the Senate who had effectively stopped governing in hopes of stalling the economy and making Obama a one-term president, which they very well might succeed in doing.

Three and a half years after he took office, President Obama finally found a perfect slogan to tell his story: “Forward.”

During the Democratic Convention, speaker after speaker pushed the “Forward” message and Obama’s chances of re-election soared. No one wants to go back to the Bush days.

Then the first debate happened. Obama allowed Romney to change the narrative. The president didn’t fight back.

We have new plans to get the country moving forward, Romney said in Denver. (He doesn’t. He is just rehashing Bush-era policies of tax cuts and increased military spending.)  It’s the Romney narrative of “the president said he’d do this, but he failed” that has taken hold in independent, mostly white working-class voters.

To be clear, Obama hasn’t failed in his job as president. If he only serves one term, he will go down as the president who saved the country from a second Great Depression and who passed universal health care. You aren’t considered a failure for having done those things.

He’s just failed in telling the country what he’s done.

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Regarding enthusiasm for Obama and the Pew poll

A new Pew Research Center poll came out today showing Mitt Romney holding a 4-point national lead among likely voters over President Obama. The key term here is “likely voters.” Among registered voters, Obama and Romney are tied at 46 percent. The difference, according to Pew, is that Romney voters are 15 percent more enthusiastic about the campaign.

This idea that Romney supporters are more enthused than Obama supporters definitely makes sense.

Sure, Obama has probably accomplished more in his 45 months as president than most first-term presidents ever have. And, in a decade, historians will look back and write about how his actions when taking over the White House saved the country from falling into a second Great Depression.

But I do find it hard to be enthusiastic about three and a half years of Obama having to fight and scrap his way for any progress on anything, regardless of how big or small the action.

Not even a basic jobs bill meant to repair the country’s roads and provide extended unemployment benefits without adding to the deficit — the type of bill that used to pass regardless of who was in the White House and regardless of which party dominated on Capitol Hill — could be brought up for a vote in the House and the Democrats couldn’t break a filibuster in the Senate (50 votes were not enough).

(Speaking of filibusters, the Republicans have filibustered more bills and Obama appointees in the last 21 months than a Senate has in the history of the country.)

It is a jobs bill that could “raise GDP by 1.5 percent before any multiplier effect.”

It’s the same bill as his campaign’s jobs plan, which, if passed, would generate 1.1 million more jobs than Romney’s plan, according to independent analysis.

Plus I believe Obama wouldn’t hurtle the country into another Middle East war like Romney seems intent on doing (who would he attack first, Iran or Syria?).

Most importantly, Obama would probably have a little more leverage to tackle climate change without worrying about re-election.

Obama’s greatest domestic accomplishment, aside from the stimulus bill that took the United States off the fiscal cliff, is the passage of Obamacare, a bill neither left-wing Democrats or any Republican liked. The piece of legislation, which is based off Romney’s Massachusetts legislation, which is based off President Nixon‘s ideas for healthcare reform, is solid change, but not what most of us on the left wanted. We wanted single-payer. We believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Hell, we would have been happy with a public option, or Medicare for all. But we didn’t even get that.

Then we see President Obama using drones to kill suspected terrorists in frightening numbers.

It’s hard to be enthused when we disagree with so much that Obama’s done or see how much he has been unable to accomplish?

Meanwhile, Romeny is running against a chair, the greatest actual application of the Rorschach Test in the history of American politics. Republicans have been able to use that chair and project their greatest fears on the president:

“He wants to make America like Europe.” “He’s instituted a government takeover of healthcare.” “He wants to take away your guns.” “He wants to take away your hard-earned money and give it to black and Mexican people who refuse to work.” “He’s an Islamic-black nationalist who honors Hitler and Stalin and wants to start jihad in the United States.”

If this is the common Republican view regarding the president no wonder they’re pumped about defeating him, even though none of it is true.

The reason I will still vote for Obama? I think of what the Republican Party stands for and am frightened. The Republican Party doesn’t believe in science. To them, climate change is “fake” and melting ice caps are nothing to worry about. There is such a thing as “legitimate rape” and the female body naturally fights off sperm women don’t want. “Energy” means drill, baby, drill and tear those solar panels down from the White House.

Business regulations mean “let us fuck the consumer in the name of money.”

What would drones look like in the hands of Romney or his advisers, who would most likely be neocons from the Bush era? What would our energy policy look like when we’re reaching a tipping point in climate change? What would the economy look like when it returns to unpaid tax cuts that benefit mostly wealthy people? What would it look like when Romney gives the banks the leeway to make the same bets that put the economy in the situation they put it in in October 2008?

Simply put, this, defeating the GOP, is what motivates me to vote for the president. I’m sure the Pew poll didn’t take this feeling into account.

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SOTU: Likes, Sort-of Likes, Dislikes

It’s hard to take a 70-minute speech and break down every claim. In fact, Republicans didn’t even worry about refuting any claim in President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union speech tonight, instead they just repeated talking points in their rebuttal. But whether or not you like what President Obama had to say, one thing can’t be debated: he knows how to deliver a speech and he did great tonight.

Likes

  • Finally, blame is placed on the previous administration. Earlier this week, James Carville wrote that the Democrats don’t know how to play the “blame game.” But tonight, in almost unarguable fashion, the president pointed out that the economic crisis, especially the budget deficit, falls almost entirely on the Bush Administration:

So let me start the discussion of government spending by setting the record straight. At the beginning of the last decade, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. By the time I took office, we had a one year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. That was before I walked in the door.

Finally. Finally. FINALLY! The leader of the party placed blame where it belongs. Just like the Great Depression wasn’t FDR’s fault, this current crisis isn’t Obama’s fault. It’s time for this to be the Democrats mantra: “We need to cut spending and raise taxes on the wealthy because the previous president wasted the country’s money on two wars (one unjustified war) and two tax cuts primarily for the wealthy.”

And later, he was able to place the blame of the banking collapse, which happened months before the November election, on the deregulatory drug that the Bush Administration and even Clinton Administration 10 years earlier were smoking:

From some on the right, I expect we’ll hear a different argument — that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts for wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, and maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away. The problem is, that’s what we did for eight years. That’s what helped lead us into this crisis. It’s what helped lead to these deficits. And we cannot do it again. Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it’s time to try something new.

  • Republicans are finally called out on their obstructionist agenda: “And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let’s show the American people that we can do it together.”
  • He told Democrats to grow a pair: “To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills.”

One of the biggest problems in Obama’s first term has been the need to please Republicans. Democrats have not been able to push through a single major reform of Obama’s agenda because they lacked the political willpower to do so. Let the Republicans filibuster. Let them keep voting “no.” But don’t hide. The Democrats have one of the largest majorities in both houses, but don’t know how to lead. They are like an offensive lineman that caught a tipped pass and doesn’t know what to do with it, so they just fall down, or run the wrong way on the field. 59-41 is still an commanding lead in the Senate, so damn Scott Brown’s election. It is just one vote and this country has been able to function and major legislation has been able to pass without one party having a supermajority.

  • Accepting fault for his failures. One of the biggest frustrations I had with the Bush Administration was its inability to admit to mistakes. It screwed up over and over again, whether it was it lying about Iraq, or it’s decision to send too few troops into Afghanistan, or it’s decision not to repeal tax cuts that were making this country broke. At least twice tonight, Obama admitted that he had screwed up:

On health care:

Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became.  I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.  And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans wondering, “What’s in it for me?”

And during his grand finale:

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved.

I’d like someone find Bush admit fault. Admitting failure is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.

Sort-of Likes

  • On energy. One of the most surprising facts about the Republican Party is its love for nuclear energy. The party that claims to be against big government and welfare supports the energy source that needs the most government backing. And Obama through them a bone on this issue. He said let’s build nuclear power plants and clean-coal plants and drill for natural gas off of our coasts because, well, he has to say that. And the energy issue is one that crosses party lines. What will Democrats in Pennsylvania say when Obama says, “Sorry, guys, were not supporting coal anymore.” That is political suicide. Hopefully a comprehensive energy bill, something that needs to be passed by Congress, can make it through. But the real goal, as was obvious in the scattered, half-hearted applause from the Republican side, is to “invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.” It’s important to remember that not ONE source of energy development in this country’s history hasn’t been subsidized in one way or another.
  • The president will NOT give up on healthcare reform. With 59 votes, the Democrats are running away from any chance at enacting real healthcare reform. Why? The overwhelming content of the two bills supports the following: 1. the ending of preexisting-condition discrimination, and 2. the creation of an exchange that allows non-insured citizens to buy into a group plan. Those two reforms alone are enough to make this healthcare reform act effective. This is what he said: “I didn’t choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt.  And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t take on health care because it was good politics.”
  • Asking for the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is great, but he should have spent more time on the issue. The military has ALWAYS been the great melting pot of American society. It was the first place where blacks were equal to white, where Indians became Americans, and where the bravest soldiers, or those awarded the highest percentage of medals, has been Hispanics and Latinos. Homosexuality is a similar issue. But he should have spent more than just a passing phrase on this issue.

Dislikes

  • A spending freeze is too much to give to Republicans. If he wanted to really meet them in the middle without giving up too much, he should have asked for the line-item veto and then pledged to cut all pork-barrel spending and then create a bipartisan commission on deficit reduction. I think that would have been enough.
  • This is to Samuel Alito: You are a Supreme Court justice, one of the nine most respected people in this country, show some non-partisan backbone. Moron. So he criticized your decision. Who f’n cares? It won’t be the last one either.
  • The post-SOTU “analysis” by the major networks is a joke. Again, to the media: the former Bush appointee will say Obama’s plans won’t work. The former Clinton appointee will say Obama’s plans are great. Duh. What about analysis? ABC News actually had an economist on the air to discuss the small business plan. That segment was great. He was honest about what he liked about the plan, and how it would help businesses. I expected him to say $30 billion was too little. But he just analyzed what the president said. Then I turned it to CNN and the “analysts” were arguing whether it was OK to criticize a Supreme Court decision. Silly stuff, really.

My overall take

Obama is such a great speaker and he delivered. His speech reached across party lines and he really made multiple efforts to hook Republicans into participating (nuclear energy, spending freeze, tax cuts). But he energized Democrats. I’m energized and I know other Democrats will be too. He gave the party some backbone and that’s what was really needed. He reminded the party that they are the ones with major majorities in both houses of Congress. Act like it.

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Why Obama’s First Year and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace are Alike

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about President Obama’s first year in office. I don’t exactly believe that it was successful, but I definitely don’t believe it was a failure. So what exactly was it? It was Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

Before you fly off the handle and start screaming, “That movie sucked!” hear me out. Yes, The Phantom Menace suffered from many weaknesses: poor direction, bad script, annoying characters, and too much reliance on special effects. However, the movie did have some great qualities, including a truly bad ass villain and Padme Amidala, the hottest royalty in the galaxy. And The Phantom Menace did move the Star Wars story forward filling in much-needed details like who Vader’s father was (no one) and how Obi-Wan Kenobi became Anakin’s teacher.

So too was Obama’s first year in office filled with a bad-ass villain (the health insurance industry), and the filling in of much needed details (Afghanistan, torture and finance reform). But like The Phantom Menace, Obama’s first year was also filled with a poor script (what was his overriding message?), poor direction (Mr. Emanuel, everyone can’t be pleased by every piece of legislation in D.C.), and some truly annoying characters (Joe Lieberman even LOOKS like Jar Jar Binks!).

In The Phantom Menace, Lucas put too much emphasis on Tatooine and podracing. In year one, Obama put too much emphasis on health care reform.

In The Phantom Menace, too much of the script relied on the poor acting of Jake Lloyd (Young Anakin) and the awful accent of Viceroy Gunray. Just like in year one, Obama placed too much of the decision-making power in the hands of morons like House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In The Phantom Menace, Lucas placed too much emphasis on pleasing children. And in year one, Obama placed too much emphasis on pleasing everybody.

Of course there are those who hated Star Wars to begin with and, predictably, hated The Phantom Menace. This is just like the Republicans and Tea Baggers (my preferred term for those right-wing nut jobs) who would have hated Obama even if he ended all social programs, made public schooling illegal, and allowed Wall Street to do whatever it wanted.

Then there are those Star Wars fans who wish the series had ended after Empire Strikes Back because Return of the Jedi had those damn Ewoks. These guys are like those left-wing nut jobs who thought that Obama should have walked into his office on day one and ordered Congress to pass single-payer health care, instantly pull all the troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, release all the prisoners at Guantanamo, and execute those Wall Street executives who lost their stockholders’ money on gambles. They, of course, weren’t going to be pleased by anything Obama did in his first year either.

Then there are those like me, who thought ROTJ was a good additional to the original trilogy and couldn’t wait to see Episode I. And when we did see The Phantom Menace, we were thrilled for the most part, although we cringed our way through some scenes and were thoroughly annoyed by Jar Jar Lieberman, I mean, Jar Jar Binks. We look at Obama’s first year as a mixed bag. Not great, not even good. Just fair.

So that’s what I think of Obama’s first year in office. I just hope year two isn’t a sappy love story like Attack of the Clones, but I’ll tell you what, Obama’s first year was much better than the Battlefield Earth that was George W.’s first year in office.

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Obama needs to be more like Bush

I never thought I’d write this: President George W. Bush had it right.

When the opposition gave him a difficult time doing something, he’d say, “F— you, we’re doing it anyway.” Think warrantless wiretaps, tax cuts for the wealthy, Iraq.

And if he had the votes in Congress, he’d say, “F— bipartisanship and pleasing the opposition. We’re doing this my way, bitches.”

This is where President Barack Obama is very different from Bush, and why his healthcare reform plans are in trouble.

He’s a pleaser. He’s the type of leader who will always try to find the middle ground. This is actually the reason I voted for him, and the reason I knew hardcore liberals would be pissed at him.

This is also the reason why he wants these small steps of reform before he tackled anything as revolutionary as a single-payer system.

But I think it’s time for Obama to say, “F— you. We’re doing health care reform my way.”

Of course he’d go on to explain why it’s the right thing to do: it’d insure the uninsured, it’d remove health care discrimination, it’d make health care more affordable for all Americans, and it’d make healthier nation. Then he’d explain that while the price tag might be costly, it’ll be worth it in the long run.

“We can’t just run our nation for the present,” he’d say. “But we have to prepare for our futures.”

But he hasn’t, and my guess is that he probably won’t tell the Republicans, and the Blue Dog Democrats that make up most of the vocal opposition to fall in line. He won’t tell them that he’ll force the most liberal version of healthcare reform down their throats if they don’t support this tiny bit of reform.

Instead, he’ll continue to say, “I want a health care reform bill on my desk before August.”

The Senate and House will continue to wrangle out differences among themselves. The Blue Dogs and GOP will continue to fight over the “public option” and everyday these people will feel more empowered.

Come August, or right when Congress comes back for break, we’ll see a health care bill on Obama’s desk. It won’t be great. It won’t be bad either. It’ll have some necessary reforms that will improve this nation’s healthcare system.

But it probably won’t have the public option that is necessary to make this successful reform.

Since the president placed health care reform front and center in his first term, and with 60 Democratic Senators and a 79-seat majority in Congress, any plan that falls short of the goals laid out in his campaign for presidency is a loss and something that will hurt during midterm elections.

Obama needs to take a page out of the Bush playbook and remember that this is a battle Dick Cheney and others in the Bush White House would never lose.

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