President Obama = President Carter?
That is what Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie argue in their Washington Post article.
Barely six months into his presidency, Barack Obama seems to be driving south into that political speed trap known as Carter Country: a sad-sack landscape in which every major initiative meets not just with failure but with scorn from political allies and foes alike. According to a July 13 CBS News poll, the once-unassailable president’s approval rating now stands at 57 percent, down 11 points from April. Half of Americans think the recession will last an additional two years or more, 52 percent think Obama is trying to “accomplish too much,” and 57 percent think the country is on the “wrong track.”
…Obama must be furtively reviewing the history of recent Democratic administrations for some kind of road map out of his post-100-days ditch.
So far, he seems to be skipping the chapter on Bill Clinton and his generally free-market economic policies and instead flipping back to the themes and comportment of Jimmy Carter. Like the 39th president, Obama has inherited an awful economy, dizzying budget deficits and a geopolitical situation as promising as Kim Jong Il’s health. Like Carter, Obama is smart, moralistic and enamored of alternative energy schemes that were nonstarters back when America’s best-known peanut farmer was installing solar panels at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Like Carter, Obama faces as much effective opposition from his own party’s left wing as he does from an ardent but diminished GOP.
Or is it President Bush 2.0?
The key to understanding Obama’s predicament is to realize that while he ran convincingly as a repudiation of Bush, he is in fact doubling down on his predecessor’s big-government policies and perpetual crisis-mongering. From the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists to gays in the military to bailing out industries large and small, Obama has been little more than the keeper of the Bush flame. Indeed, it took the two of them to create the disaster that is the 2009 budget, racking up a deficit that has already crossed the historic $1 trillion mark with almost three months left in the fiscal year.
Beyond pushing the “emergency” $787 billion stimulus package (even while acknowledging that the vast majority of funds would be released in 2010 and beyond), Obama signed a $410 billion omnibus spending bill and a $106 billion supplemental spending bill to cover “emergency” expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, improbably, a “cash for clunkers” program). Despite pledges to achieve a “net spending cut” by targeting earmarks and wasteful spending, Obama rubber-stamped more than 9,000 earmarks and asked government agencies to trim a paltry $100 million in spending this year, 0.003 percent of the federal budget.
In the same way that Bush claimed to be cutting government even while increasing real spending by more than 70 percent, Obama seems to believe that saying one thing, while doing another, somehow makes it so. His first budget was titled “A New Era of Fiscal Responsibility,” even as his own projections showed a decade’s worth of historically high deficits. He vowed no new taxes on 95 percent of Americans, then jacked up cigarette taxes and indicated a willingness to consider new health-care taxes as part of his reform package. He said he didn’t want to take over General Motors on the day that he took over General Motors.
Such is the extent of Obama’s magical realism that he can promise to post all bills on the Internet five days before signing them, serially break that promise and then, when announcing that he wouldn’t even try anymore, have a spokesman present the move as yet another example of “providing the American people more transparency in government.”
And we find out that President Obama is invoking the Dick Cheney/Bush Administration argument about not telling which health industry executives they’ve meet with…a position Senator Obama found rather distasteful.
But maybe there is hope,
Finally, it’s time to connect the poster boy for hope to the original Man From Hope. After Bill Clinton bit off more domestic policy than even he could chew, leading to a Republican rout in the midterm elections of 1994, the 42nd president refocused his political intelligence on keeping his ambitions and, as a result, the size of government growth, limited. Though there is much to complain about in his record, the broad prosperity and mostly sound economic policy under his watch aren’t included.
Indeed. We desperately need health care reform, but the legislation in the House and the Senate right now are not going to provide solutions. If anything it looks very much like they will make the situation worse, and at the worst possible time. Right now sending strong signals of higher taxes, even higher spending, deficits and debt that are threatening to spiral out of control are all bad things to do when also trying to turn the economy around. If the economy continues to be mired in recession and health care reform passes and taxes start going up, it is going to give ammunition to the GOP. They’ll point to unemployment, the budget deficits, the higher taxes, and then point to the guy in charge who wants to take the credit if things go good. Don’t laugh, it worked for Clinton when he ran against George H. W. Bush, and that was a much milder recession that was already over by the time of the election. In the next election President Obama wont be running for re-election, but he probably would like to keep the majorities the Democrats have in the House and Senate. Lose those, and his entire domestic agenda might need a substantial reset.