Andrew Sullivan: What Obama’s Critics On The Left And Right Are Missing

Conservatives are rejecting Andrew Sullivan's Newsweek essay out of hand, but they ought to pay attention to what he's saying.

Even before it was published on the web this morning, Andrew Sullivan’s Newsweek cover story was garnering attention from conservatives, and none of it positive. The fact that it was Sullivan, who has been the bane of many on the right ever since the days of Sarah Palin’s comedic campaign for the Vice-Presidency, who wrote the article was probably bad enough for most of them. Rubbing salt in the wound, though, was the way Newsweek’s editors chose to highlight the story on their cover page:

John Hinderaker summed up quite well the general reaction to the cover story that I saw from conservatives on Twitter and in the blogosphere in a post last night:

Well, sure. We who are unhappy that unemployment has increased on Obama’s watch, that over-regulation has stymied economic growth, that our children now owe a $15 trillion debt that we can’t pay-hey, we’re just dumb! We obviously aren’t smart enough to understand how devastating our economy, unemploying millions of Americans and burdening our children with trillions of dollars in debt is really a great idea.

If that’s what you think, you are a liberal and you may take Newsweek seriously

This was all before the story was available for anyone to read, so it’s somewhat understandable that you’d see a reaction like that from the right. It’s a provocative title, after all, and it certainly leads one to think that what it’s advertising is an article talking about how stupid conservatives are for not realizing how great a President Obama truly is. Last night I noted on Twitter, though, that perhaps it was advisable to wait and see what the article actually said, to not judge a magazine article by its cover headline. Needless to say that suggestion wasn’t really all that well received. Undoubtedly the combination of the cover shot and the fact that Sullivan wrote the piece were enough for many to simply reject it out of hand. Even now that the article is posted some, such as Ann Althouse, say that they don’t even want to read it.

That is their right, of course, but perhaps it might be worthwhile to take a look at the article itself.  Having read through the entire 3,000-or-so word article I can say that at no point does Sullivan call conservatives stupid, in fact the word doesn’t appear a single time in the entire article.  For his part, Sullivan says he had nothing to do with the headline on the cover, which makes sense considering he’s not an editor at Newsweek. What Sullivan argues in this piece, at least from my reading, is that Obama’s critics on both the left and the right are missing the entire point of his governing philosophy and very likely the reason why he has a good shot at getting re-elected in the fall. With respect to conservatives, for example, he points out the extent to which the right has fallen into the trap of believing that the President is some sort of radical with designs to “transform” America into something resembling a European social welfare state:

The right’s core case is that Obama has governed as a radical leftist attempting a “fundamental transformation” of the American way of life. Mitt Romney accuses the president of making the recession worse, of wanting to turn America into a European welfare state, of not believing in opportunity or free enterprise, of having no understanding of the real economy, and of apologizing for America and appeasing our enemies. According to Romney, Obama is a mortal threat to “the soul” of America and an empty suit who couldn’t run a business, let alone a country.

Leave aside the internal incoherence—how could such an incompetent be a threat to anyone? None of this is even faintly connected to reality—and the record proves it.

This is a point I’ve made before myself, most recently just this past weekend. The GOP, especially its most conservative elements, has let itself be convinced of the idea that Barack Obama is some kind of radical socialist who wants to ruin America, that his foreign policy involves little more than appeasing our enemies and apologizing for America, and that he has engaged in policies that are radically different from anything any previous President has done or any mainstream politician has even proposed.  None of this could be further from the truth. Disagree with the wisdom of the President’s policies all you want, and I do in many respects. Point out the extent to which he has been an ineffective leader, something I’ve done several times and do again later on in this post. Suggesting, however, that Barack Obama is at his core any different in his policy positions from any other mainstream Democrat, and until not too recently quite a few Republicans, is to simply ignore history and reality.

It wasn’t Barack Obama who bailed out the banks, for example, that was George W. Bush.  It wasn’t Barack Obama who took the first steps to bail out General Motors and Chrysler either, that too was George W. Bush. The 2009 Stimulus Bill was a huge expenditure, and one can argue (as many have) that it was not the appropriate means by which to try to pull the nation of an economic downturn, but it wasn’t all that different in principle from the stimulus packages passed under President Bush in 2007 and 2008. The Affordable Care Act included elements that had been proposed by conservative public policy organizations since the 1990s and was most assuredly less radical than the single payer option that many of President Obama’s more liberal supporters were wishing he would push through Congress. And when it comes to foreign policy, the differences between the Obama Administration and the Bush Administration on the core issues are so minimal as to be essentially non-existent. Yes, Barack Obama is a Democrat, everyone who voted for or against him in 2008 knew that. He’s no radical, though, and anyone who has even a high school understanding of the English language should know that he sure as heck has not governed as a socialist.

Sullivan points out, though, that it isn’t just the right that seems to have a distorted picture of the President:

But the right isn’t alone in getting Obama wrong. While the left is less unhinged in its critique, it is just as likely to miss the screen for the pixels. From the start, liberals projected onto Obama absurd notions of what a president can actually do in a polarized country, where anything requires 60 Senate votes even to stand a chance of making it into law. They have described him as a hapless tool of Wall Street, a continuation of Bush in civil liberties, a cloistered elitist unable to grasp the populist moment that is his historic opportunity. They rail against his attempts to reach a Grand Bargain on entitlement reform. They decry his too-small stimulus, his too-weak financial reform, and his too-cautious approach to gay civil rights. They despair that he reacts to rabid Republican assaults with lofty appeals to unity and compromise.

(…)

What liberals have never understood about Obama is that he practices a show-don’t-tell, long-game form of domestic politics. What matters to him is what he can get done, not what he can immediately take credit for. And so I railed against him for the better part of two years for dragging his feet on gay issues. But what he was doing was getting his Republican defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to move before he did. The man who made the case for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was, in the end, Adm. Mike Mullen. This took time—as did his painstaking change in the rule barring HIV-positive immigrants and tourists—but the slow and deliberate and unprovocative manner in which it was accomplished made the changes more durable. Not for the first time, I realized that to understand Obama, you have to take the long view. Because he does.

Much like the conservatives still trying to make their peace with Mitt Romney, I have no doubt that the perfectionist caucus on the left to which Sullivan refers will fall in line come Election Day. I’m not sure that this group has a distorted view of the President, though, so much as they are so invested in their political ideology that anything less than perfection is simply unacceptable to them. Sullivan is right, though, to point out to liberals that notwithstanding the imperfections there is much for them to like about President Obama. One could say much the same thing to conservatives about Romney.

Having said all of that, I tend to disagree with Sullivan’s rosy view of the President’s leadership and his alleged skills as a domestic policy strategist. From my perspective, the President erred from the beginning when he allowed far too much of his domestic agenda to be hijacked by the Congressional leadership. The stimulus bill, for example, ended up becoming a “Christmas Tree” bill for a decades worth of Democratic pet projects that had little connection to growing the economy.  Perhaps that was inevitable, Congress is the stronger branch of Government in domestic politics and the Congressional leadership in 2009 had been around Capitol Hill far longer than Obama, in some cases far longer than the length of Obama’s entire political career. Those people weren’t simply going to sit back and let this green kid from Chicago run the whole show no matter what his title is.

Whether he was outsmarted or not, though, the President has spent three years letting his domestic agenda spin recklessly and making little effort to bring it under control. He and his supports complain, rightly in some cases, that the Republicans have eschewed compromise in the name of partisan advantage, but at the same time it was nearly two years before the President sat down with the Senate Minority Leader, who is arguably the most powerful person on Capitol Hill due to the control he exercises over his caucus. If you’re not going to talk to your opponents then you’re going to find it next to impossible to work with them too.

Perhaps the President’s biggest domestic policy blunder, though, occurred in December 2010 when he caved in completely to Republicans demands to raise the Bush Tax Cuts. As I noted at the time, given the state of the economy at the time there was little choice in the matter, however the manner in which he struck the bargain was completely nonsensical. It was a lame duck session, and the Democrats still controlled both Houses of Congress. Rather than drive a bargain, though, the President essentially gave the GOP everything they wanted, much to the annoyance of the Democrats in the House and Senate. There are any number of other ways that could have gone. Why not try to get the GOP to agree on a debt ceiling increase back then instead of waiting six months? Obama walked into those negotiations as a guy holding a Full House and negotiated like a guy holding a pair of deuces. That’s neither leadership nor the sign of a viable domestic policy strategy.

Sullivan is an Obama fan, no doubt, and he pretty much says in the essay that he’s backing the President’s re-election. That’s not entirely surprising. Nonetheless, the article does raise some good points that conservatives, and liberals, would do well to take to heart. Yes the Newsweek cover was provocative and perhaps over the top, but sometimes it pays to look past the cover and see what’s inside.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Rob in CT says:

    Pretty fair, Doug. I agree with you re: Obama’s less-than-stellar negotiation skills. I’m unsure about whether he could have managed Congressional handling of his agenda better, but it certainly seems plausible that he could have.

    I also think Sullivan is taking a too-rosy view of the kerfluffle with Netanyahu. Net won, because Congress is totally, reflexively “pro-Israel”, and this should not have been news to the Obama administration. I was frustrated primarily because I think the “pro-Israel” side is wrong and is doing harm to both countries, but secondarily because I think the Administration did a poor job of securing some Congressional support for their position before getting into a pissing match over the settlements (again, I think they were right on the merits, but that only goes so far).

    Re: the Stimulus, I’ve seen the “Christmas tree” and “wishlist” charge, though I really don’t really put much stock in it. It sounds exactly like the oft-repeated, never-substantiated charges of horrible regulatory oppression by the Obama administration.

    But let’s grant it. How much of it was due to the fact that the GOP opposed the Stimulus in lock-step unity?

  2. michael reynolds says:

    The problem I have with Obama is that he’s a smart, decent man playing a smart guy’s game with bullies and thugs. By which I mean the Republican party.

    Interestingly, he gets this in foreign policy: he has obviously no problem blowing up bad guys.

    He just doesn’t seem to quite get or be willing to accept that the GOP is not even slightly interested in the welfare of the country, or in running the government. The GOP has three wings: the Money, Bombs and Jesus wings. They have three interests: ensuring that the rich get richer, maintaining a constant state of war, and hurting minorities, especially at the moment, gays.

    Of course what liberals don’t get is that so long as the GOP has significant numbers to back its Billionaires, Bombs and Bigotry agenda, Obama cannot just snap his fingers and change everything.

    What Mr. Obama could be doing that he’s not is communicating with the American people. It’s not enough to do: you also have to show and tell.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Yes the Newsweek cover was provocative and perhaps over the top,

    Ya think?

    Even now that the article is posted some, such as Ann Althouse, say that they don’t even want to read it.

    That’s too bad. Sully reads her, if only to tear her a new one.

    As for Hinderaker…

    Well, sure. We who are unhappy that unemployment has increased on Obama’s watch, that over-regulation has stymied economic growth, that our children now owe a $15 trillion debt that we can’t pay-hey, we’re just dumb! We obviously aren’t smart enough to understand how devastating our economy, unemploying millions of Americans and burdening our children with trillions of dollars in debt is really a great idea.

    If that’s what you think, you are a liberal and you may take Newsweek seriously

    (my emphasis)

    No, what I think is you are a serial liar who thinks we don’t remember just exactly who is responsible for “devastating our economy, unemploying millions of Americans and burdening our children with trillions of dollars in debt (not to mention the unnecessary wars) AND thought it was a really great idea at the time.

    Well, I do remember.

  4. legion says:

    We obviously aren’t smart enough to understand how devastating our economy, unemploying millions of Americans and burdening our children with trillions of dollars in debt is really a great idea.

    And what we libs are apparently not smart enough to understand is how slashing gov’t spending, putting hundreds of thousands _more_ people on unemployment, slashing social safety nets and giving billions of $$ to the same idiots that destroyed the economy in the first place is going to create jobs, encourage living wages, and improve America’s economy in any way at all.

    Oh, that’s right – it was never _meant_ to. It was just supposed to transfer more money from the poor to the rich, without them having to do any work or create any jobs. Sully and HindRocket can each have one of my cheeks to bite.

  5. MBunge says:

    Yes, the guy who got health care reform passed after Bill Clinton couldn’t even get a Democratic Congress to vote on it clearly needs advice on negotiation from people who’ve never haggled over anything more complex than the price of a garage sale lamp.

    Mike

  6. Barb Hartwell says:

    I hope when the time is right Obama comes out humbly and crushes the last Republican standing not by lowering himself by attacking but by stopping the blows with his wits. He used to infuriate me by not fighting back but he has proved he is the better man.

  7. jfxgillis says:

    Doug:

    It’s fair, as somebody says, but WRONG.

    Obama didn’t “let” Congress “hijack” his domestic agenda, he forced Congress to do their Constitutionally-mandated job.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Barb Hartwell:

    but he has proved he is the better man.

    That really wasn’t very hard Barb, considering the competition.

  9. Tillman says:

    If there’s anything Obama failed to do decisively, it’s convincing his young fanatics to vote in 2010 for Democrats.

  10. Gingrich’s label of Obama as “the food stamp president” is another pea in the same pod.

    Check even rudimentary economic skills at the door, and treat it as cargo cult religion. If the big chief can’t deliver, throw him out.

    (This of course with the double irony that it comes from the “free market” party.)

  11. sam says:

    @Tillman:

    If there’s anything Obama failed to do decisively, it’s convincing his young fanatics to vote in 2010 for Democrats.

    Yeah, but….

    (H/T Pajama Pundit)

  12. ponce says:

    I think what decent Republicans(there are still a few left) don’t realize is that the Republican base would rather be angry than right.

    They live to hate.

    Trying to reason with them is like trying to reason with a child with a toothache.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    Barack Obama is scary smart and unfailingly pragmatic. It’s no wonder so many people can’t understand him. Three years of get stuff done mode, now it looks like he’s pivoting to campaign mode. I’m expecting a lot more talk about a ‘new Obama’ who ‘now gets it’. But it’ll be the same actor, different role. Going to be interesting.

  14. Septimius says:

    The right’s core case is that Obama has governed as a radical leftist attempting a “fundamental transformation” of the American way of life.

    Um, not really. The right’s core case is that under Obama the national debt has increased by over 40% ($10.6 trillion to $15 trillion); the unemployment rate went from 7.8% to 10.1% and is still over 8%; Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, healthcare, was unpopular when it passed and remains unpopular now.

    What exactly is President Obama’s case for re-election? What is his plan to get the economy growing again and reduce unemployment? What’s his plan for deficit reduction? How does he expect to work with a Republican House in his second term if he couldn’t do it in his first? What’s his agenda for the second term?

    The entire Obama re-election strategy will focus on demonizing Romney. There won’t be any policy proposals. All they will do is try to make Romney more unelectable. If they are successful, Obama will be re-elected. If not, Romney will win. Either way, it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not conservatives think he’s a socialist.

  15. @Septimius:

    What is his plan to get the economy growing again and reduce unemployment?

    Better than the cargo cult plan? Cut taxes (for the rich) again and hope it works?

    Some paranoid delusion that the economy would be fine without individual mandate?

    Austerity?

  16. David M says:

    @Septimius:

    First the individual pieces of the healthcare care reform are all popular except the mandate, and as part of what makes everything work, it’s popularity is irrelevant. Your issues with the national debt and unemployment rate seem to ignore the state of the economy when Obama was elected. I seem to remember a fairly large recession, I wonder why his conservative critics don’t mention it? Is it because they are ignorant or dishonest? (There really is no third option.)

    The economy has been growing, unemployment has been falling. You may not like his plans to continue the progress in those areas, and lower the deficit, but they certainly exist.

    Obama cannot force the Republican House to work with him, it is up to them to whether they are willing to start acting like adults and take their responsibilities seriously, or not. If the GOP wants to act like petulant children and do nothing productive, that’s their choice, but they are the ones who are unwilling to negotiate in good faith.

  17. @Doug:

    Perhaps the President’s biggest domestic policy blunder, though, occurred in December 2010 when he caved in completely to Republicans demands to raise the Bush Tax Cuts. As I noted at the time, given the state of the economy at the time there was little choice in the matter, however the manner in which he struck the bargain was completely nonsensical.

    Didn’t he basically get: extension of unemployment benefits, ratification of the START treaty, and the repeal of DADT in that session? All in exchange, basically, for something for which you term as something for which “there was little choice”? As such, it seems to me he did fairly well. And while the Dems did control both chambers, they had lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, so anything was subject to filibuster at that point.

    Also:

    Having said all of that, I tend to disagree with Sullivan’s rosy view of the President’s leadership and his alleged skills as a domestic policy strategist. From my perspective, the President erred from the beginning when he allowed far too much of his domestic agenda to be highjacked by the Congressional leadership. The stimulus bill, for example, ended up becoming a “Christmas Tree” bill for a decades worth of Democratic pet projects that had little connection to growing the economy. Perhaps that was inevitable, Congress is the stronger branch of Government in domestic politics and the Congressional leadership in 2009 had been around Capitol Hill far longer than Obama, in some cases far longer than the length of Obama’s entire political career.

    had it been up to me, the contents of that bill would have been different. However, having said that: I am not sure why we should assume that a president is going to be able to control the exact contents of legislation, especially of this nature. When is this ever the case?

    Indeed, since Congress makes legislation, I am not sure how the “hijacked” the process: isn’t that like saying that the pilot assigned to fly the place “hijacked” it?

  18. Jenos Idanian says:

    The problem I have with Obama is that he’s a smart, decent man playing a smart guy’s game with bullies and thugs.

    Barack Obama is scary smart and unfailingly pragmatic.

    Still waiting for proof that Obama’s as smart as his supporters say he is.

    Where is his record of accomplishments? Where are his scholarly works?

    He gives good speeches, especially when backed up with a teleprompter. Off the cuff, we get asthmatics with breathalyzers, Navy “corpsemen,” doctors performing unnecessary amputations and tonsillectomies, speaking before attentive crowds of “fallen heroes,” and so on. We have over a decade as a “Constitutional scholar” who never made professor and published nothing. We have a legislator who voted “present” in record numbers.

    He has credentials and a record of won elections. And that makes him “scary smart.” Oh, and he wrote two books about his favorite subject — himself. Can’t forget that.

  19. MBunge says:

    @Jenos Idanian: “Still waiting for proof that Obama’s as smart as his supporters say he is.”

    In brutally practical terms, he’s got an approval rating of 48% while Congress has an approval rating in the single digits to low teens. Bill Clinton had 4 years of peace and prosperity (and no Monica) and still couldn’t get 50% of the public to pull the lever for him in 1996. That Obama even has a chance to get re-elected in this environment is evidence that he’s either scary smart or blessed by the Almighty. Which would you prefer?

    Mike

  20. Scott O. says:

    @Jenos Idanian: You left out 57 states. Get with the program.

  21. Jenos Idanian says:

    @MBunge: That doesn’t require intelligence. It can easily be accomplished by a complacent media, efficient political machine, and inept opponents.

    Every truly intelligent person I’ve ever known or heard of had ways of showing how intelligent they were, in some way or another. They couldn’t keep it covered up.

    On the other hand, Obama has given me tremendous doubts of his intellectual gifts. For example, for a noted “Constitutional scholar,” he completely misrepresented Citizens United, blew off the War Powers Act, and has decided that the president can decide when Congress is in session and when it it is recessed. Color me decidedly unimpressed.

  22. Hey Norm says:

    Is Jenos the reincarnation of JTea?
    Just wondering.

  23. Septimius says:

    @David M: The popularity of healthcare reform is certainly not irrelevant if Obama can’t use the issue in his re-election campaign. It’s the signature domestic legislation of the first term! The Democrats spent an entire year trying to pass it.

    I absolutely didn’t ignore the debt and unemployment numbers that Obama inherited. I listed them in my post. The national debt was $10.6 trillion when he was inaugurated and unemployment was 7.8%. I am certainly not arguing that he didn’t inherit a bad economy. But, what’s his political strategy? “Give me 4 more years to not turn the economy around.” I realize that unemployment has dropped in the past 6 months, but it’s still 8.6%. How do you spin that? “Give me 4 more years and unemployment might drop to the level it was when I took office?” “Re-elect me and I’ll only increase the national debt by $2 trillion in my next term.” What policies does President Obama offer to “continue the progress?” You mention that they exist, but what are they?

    Obama is not the first president that has had to work with a divided Congress. Why is he the only president that gets a pass for this? Somehow, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan, and many other presidents were able to pass legislation when the other party controlled one or both houses of congress. What’s the re-election strategy for that? “I’m beholden to John Boehner. Please vote to re-elect me.”

    I’m actually being serious here. I think Chris Matthews is a total stooge, but when I saw this a couple of months ago I was shocked at how accurate he was. Obama has not made any sort of case as to why he should be re-elected.

  24. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian: OK, now that’s just silly, you’re confusing policy disagreements with intelligence. I realize you haven’t paid attention to much over the last couple years, so here’s why the bringing up the teleprompter is nothing more a request to not be taken seriously.

  25. Hey Norm says:

    Doug cut short the quote before the key graph:
    “…This kind of strategy takes time. And it means there are long stretches when Obama seems incapable of defending himself, or willing to let others to define him, or simply weak. I remember those stretches during the campaign against Hillary Clinton. I also remember whose strategy won out in the end…”
    This is what Doug calls losing control. Considering the list of accomplishments it would be scary to see Obama in control.

  26. MBunge says:

    @Jenos Idanian: “Every truly intelligent person I’ve ever known”

    Well, there’s your problem. From what you post here, I don’t think you’ve exactly got a firm grip on the concept of “intelligence”.

    Mike

  27. anjin-san says:

    Every truly intelligent person I’ve ever known or heard of had ways of showing how intelligent they were, in some way or another. They couldn’t keep it covered up.

    Well, lets take a look at you. Based on what you have said since you showed up here, you are either not very bright, or you are doing a wonderful job hiding your intelligence. You were ripped to shreds in a recent thread, and you did not even seem to be aware of it.

    Do you have anything to offer beyond repeating what you read on fringe right websites? Signs point to no…

  28. An Interested Party says:

    Still waiting for proof that Obama’s as smart as his supporters say he is.

    No doubt you will be waiting for the rest of your life as there is probably nothing that would convince you that the President is as smart as some of his supporters say he is…

    Obama has not made any sort of case as to why he should be re-elected.

    Even if this was actually true, the campaign has yet to get fully underway so of course once it does, he will saying a lot more on this subject…the sad thing, though, is that considering the pathetic state of his opposition, he probably doesn’t even really need to make all that much of a case as to why he should be re-elected to actually get re-elected…

  29. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @anjin-san:

    Do you have anything to offer beyond repeating what you read on fringe right websites? Signs point to no…

    Sadly, anjin, no, he doesn’t. That would require the part of intelligence we call “thinking.” And boy is it hard.

  30. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Where is his record of accomplishments?

    (facepalm)

    So, JI, confronted with a 3,000-word article detailing Obama’s accomplishments, you choose not to address the evidence; instead, you make a past-its-expiration-date TELEPROMPTER dig.

    Really, you’re the worst kind of troll. You make OTB a lesser site not because you’re persistent or consistent but that you’re lazy and boring.

  31. Ben Wolf says:

    @Septimius:

    Um, not really. The right’s core case is that under Obama the national debt has increased by over 40% ($10.6 trillion to $15 trillion)

    So you’re upset the private sector increased its savings by an additional $4.4 trillion dollars. You want the President to do what, take people’s money away?

  32. Hey Norm says:

    @ Ben Wolf…
    Also…Most of the debt increase is due to obligations from Bush….tax cuts, Medicare expansion, Iraq,Afghanistan. Those things don’t become free when administrations change. Hence the name; continuing obligations

  33. Septimius says:

    @Ben Wolf: No. I’m worried that the debt is rapidly becoming unsustainable.

  34. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Septimius: With good reason. Just check the skyrocketing yields for US bonds.

    (whisper whisper)

    Really? Hm. Well, if the world’s investors think America is a safe bet why shouldn’t Americans feel the same?

  35. Ben Wolf says:

    @Septimius: No amount of U.S. debt is unsustainable. How can it be when there’s nothing and no one to pay back? The President (of whom I am a frequent critic) has done nothing wrong on this score; in fact he has let slip on one or two occasions that he, alone among the Presidential contenders, understands that U.S. debt is not actually debt and that there is no fiscal crisis.

  36. David M says:

    @Septimius: If the individual portions that make up Obamacare are popular, it’ll be pretty simple to campaign on how it is making things better. You’ll notice the Republican’s don’t go into the details of what they don’t like about the health care reform beyond the mandate. There’s a reason for that.

    You may not like Obama’s jobs act, but it’s hardly a secret. You are correct the current GOP members of congress are much more interested in obstructing things than previous congresses. I hardly see how rewarding them for their damaging and irresponsible actions is a good idea though, so yes I advocate voting Democratic until the GOP comes to its senses.

    As to Obama’s re-election chances, the current economic conditions matter much more than the first few months of 2009. Also, even you can’t possibly believe Obama’s policies had any influence on the job losses immediately after he took office, so it’s a statistic that means nothing.

  37. Ben Wolf says:

    @David M: It’s unfair to hold presidents responsible for anything related to the economy in their first year in office. Ther policies cannot have a signifcant effect in such a short time.

  38. A voice from another precinct says:

    Doug,

    I had the same conversation about Obama’s record that you are giving here with my Mom the last time I was back in the US. I asked her the same questions and suggested that if she believed that Obama was dangerous that it might be because she was getting bad information. She responded that she listens to ABC Evening News “to learn the lies that the left is telling people” and noted that it was all she could stand to sit though 30 minutes of the broadcast. She went on to note that to “counteract that contamination” she got all of her other news from Pat Robertson, Trinity Broadcasting, and Fox News–the only reliable sources of information.

    This is the choir you are trying to preach to. You need a new sermon–or a new congregation.

  39. Septimius says:

    @David M: I noticed that the Republicans campaigned on repealing the healthcare law in 2010 and had one of the most successful election cycles in history. Then, when they took control in the House, they had a vote to repeal it. Every single Republican voted to repeal it (along with 3 Democrats). And, they didn’t just vote to repeal the mandate. They voted to repeal the whole thing.

    This GOP House is no more obstructionist than any other. Senate Dems were not shy about using the filibuster when Bush was President. In fact, there was a certain junior Senator from Illinois that was involved in several of them.

    Obama signed his stimulus bill into law on Feb 17, 2009, less than one month after taking office. The stimulus bill was Obama’s signature economic initiative of the first two years of his term. What other measure did he and the Democrats take to create jobs? Furthermore, unemployment peaked at about 10% in October 2009, ten months after Obama took office. It stayed between 9.4% and 9.9% for all of 2010 and was still above 9% until August 2011. Unemployment is still 8.5% today!

  40. anjin-san says:

    @Septimius

    In other words, Obama inherited an economic disaster, stopped the job hemmorage, that began under Bush and the employment situation has been steadily improving for some time now under his leadership.

    Thanks for laying it our for us.

  41. David M says:

    @Septimius: The House health care vote was a meaningless stunt that smart Democratic candidates will be able to use against them. The GOP gains in 2010 were due to the economy, not the moderate health care reform bill.

    Just because you are uninformed about the unprecedented obstruction by the current GOP doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

  42. Rob in CT says:

    @MBunge:

    Fair point, though I actually do have experience negotiating settlements involving rather large sums of money. I’m just a cog in the machine, of course, and the authority comes from on high, but I’ve learned a thing or two about negotiation over the years. I used to (naively) believe that it was best to come out with a “reasonable” first offer that erred on the side of reasonableness to demonstrate good faith. There is some truth to that, but it’s equally true that if you come out offering too much/demanding too little, you put yourself in a tough spot, because you will be expected to move off that number. I happen to think that Obama (and the Democrats in general – hardly just him!) have tended to come out with such “reasonable” opening offers and, as a result, have struggled to reach compromises. This is especially true given the nature of the GOP at present. Obviously I could be wrong, but that’s how I see it. It could be a “long game” designed to convince the public that the Dems are reasonable and the GOP is unreasonable and, therefore, elect more Dems in 2012. The thing is, even if the election goes really well for the Dems, it’s hard to see overcoming the filibuster in the Senate. One could posit a chastened GOP in that scenario, but if they weren’t after 2008, why would they be even if they’re beaten badly in 2012?

  43. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Rob in CT:

    One could posit a chastened GOP in that scenario, but if they weren’t after 2008, why would they be even if they’re beaten badly in 2012?

    I can envision a scenario that as the GOP’s base shrinks (i.e., dies off), the party’s wins get smaller and its losses larger until modern-day Republicanism either reinvents itself* or is replaced by a third party. I find this more likely than a total snuff-out following an electoral disaster.

    * – Think of the DLC’s founding post-Mondale, and how it seized the wheel post-Dukakis.

  44. Rob in CT says:

    I’m not arguing about a “snuff out.” I mean that a party that gets its butt kicked in an election after having been as obstructionist as possible basically has two choices afterward:

    1) decide that obstruction isn’t working (you can block some things, but you get little to no influence over laws that do make it through and if it all ends in electoral defeat what’s the point?) and try working with the majority to blunt the worst aspects (as you see them) of their policies; or

    2) double-down.

    I’m basically saying I see a double-down if they lose in 2012. You might be right about the longer-term situation – I tend to think there has to be some reinvention coming yeah – but I’m focusing on 2012 and the immediate aftermath.

  45. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Rob in CT: Agree, because if Romney loses, the dead-enders will declare it was because the GOP’s candidate wasn’t a “true conservative,” whatever that means now.

  46. doubter4444 says:

    @Scott O.:
    He got in Corpsmen and the teleprompter, though, so not bad!/

  47. beejeez says:

    I share the frustrations of Obama’s critics on the left, but I think they often underestimate the vast power of the right to hobble progressive legislation and the extent of congress’ addiction to Wall Street money. Nudging the country forward right now is like pulling out chest hairs one by one. I’d agree that Obama could have accomplished more with more seasoning in the Senate, but there’s no question in my mind that for all his imperfections, he is the best possible person for his job.