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September 15, 2009

The Obama Presidency So Far

It is useful from time to time to recap for people who haven't been paying all that close attention. Or for people who are so focused on the little things they've lost sight of the big picture. So here we go; the Obama Presidency in handy bite-size review:

Domestic Policy: Thus far, the President's one major legislative triumph has been the spendulus. He passed it by scare-mongering that we were in for a Second Great Depression if Congress didn't spend money on Democratic priorities that had gone ignored for the past eight years. Obama blathered about "shovel-ready" projects, but the truth is that only a fraction of the thousands of programs in the spendulus have begun and there is a rising movement to cancel the rest of the spendulus as wasteful. Despite Obama's protestations that the spendulus has made things better, the economy has shed so many jobs that we haven't seen unemployment like this in a quarter-century.

Obama's other legislative goals—card check, a new financial sector regulation regime, mortgage reform/cramdown, greenhouse gas emissions control, and universal healthcare—have all stalled. Every bill that Obama bends his will to gets rejected by Democrats in Congress. Of course, Obama blames Republicans in Congress, the wealthy, corporations, and President Bush. Also racism.

Foreign Policy: Obama hasn't been any better for overseas policy, where he constitutionally wields a bit more power. He was off to a disastrous start when he insulted the leaders of Poland, Canada, and Great Britain. He offers the hand of friendship to oppressors in the Middle East, wants to sit down for a chat with our old enemy North Korea, and is trying to scuttle our close relationship with Israel. The icing on the cake is that he has sided with a dictatorial Chavezista in Honduras over that country's legitimate government. In a tragedy for constitutional democracy, Obama has directed that aid to Honduras be cut and visas for its citizens be denied.

Strategy: You would think that Obama—"the Great Campaigner"—would know a bit about reaching voters. However, it seems that was just an illusion spun by his minders and the media (but I repeat myself). Each of his primetime television appearances has been only a qualified success, and his more recent appearances have been characterized by foot-in-mouth mistakes. One thing his speeches have in common is that they all end up with Obama giving a patronizing lecture.

He does not seem to have realized that the public is waiting for President Obama to show himself, not Candidate Obama. We were tired of the never-ending election season before November 2008, but Obama has kept on campaigning. The bully pulpit is the only prerogative of executive office he uses with any skill. For example, this coming Sunday, he will be on five morning talk shows: This Week on ABC, Meet the Press on NBC, Face the Nation on CBS, and interviews on CNN and Univision. Unfortunately, his narcissism has worn thin; the public has Obama fatigue.

Polls: In the meantime, the President's numbers have dropped and dropped and dropped. It's not so much that he 's the least popular President at this point in his term. It's that he had so much further to fall. He got a small bounce from his primetime presidential address to Congress last week, but he's still at 50% approve, 50% disapprove. Even more bad news for Obama, support for his key legislative agenda—health care reform— is only up a single point since his primetime speech.

Opposition: A funny thing happened to Republicans and libertarians during Obama's first eight months: they rediscovered something worth fighting for. In January, Democrats—led by the President—were ascendant. They looked to enjoy a long and strong turn in the driver's seat. Instead, their own squabbles gave opponents a wedge to pry them out of power.

Their response to this hasn't helped. They namecalled—"rightwing extremist", "unAmerican", and (as always) "racist!"—but that has merely galvanized the opposition. Now Democrats are on the back foot; they react to us and 2010 is just around the corner.

My final word: Obama will never be as popular, have as much political capital as he did in February. He may get a bounce if the economy ever recovers, but he has burned too many bridges, dashed too many hopes, and given everyone too much reason to doubt his honesty to ever again command the respect or wield the power he did in February.

Moreover, the timing is off. Next year is an election year and few Democrats in the House are going to want to stick their necks out for the President's Far Left agenda. With all signs pointing towards substantial Democratic losses in Congress, the President isn't going to have it any easier in 2011. And then his own re-election season begins. In other words, if he doesn't get it done now, his next chance will be in 2013—assuming he is reelected.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:17 AM

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