Greg Sargeant says something that crystallized my thinking about the state of the Administration today.
The question is whether Dem leaders will decide they’re tanking because voters don’t like the health reform bill they’ve been trying to pass, making them decide to shelve it – or whether they’ll conclude that voters don’t like failure, making them redouble their efforts to pass something they can call a historic accomplishment. Anyone taking bets?
The issue from my POV is that what attracted many of us to Obama was the competence that his campaign displayed. He was on message, unflappable, his campaign consultants weren’t eating their young on national TV and I think it’s safe to say that pretty much everyone – even those whose eyes cross with rage at his politics – believed he had a handle on things. So even if you disagreed somewhat with his politics or policies, you had comfort that the nation would be well-run.
For me it was a combination of that and a belief that his core values (government should help the powerless and keep the powerful in check) were balanced by a novel perspective for a liberal (part of the problem is that government itself has become too powerful and needs to be kept in check).
That’s what I read into the speeches and policy papers.
The problem, as I see it, is that in his first year he’s shown very little domestic competence (I think foreign affairs are a separate matter), and that he either never believed in the “new^2 liberalism” or got completely stuffed by the interest groups and their Congressional sponsors.
So the question is “now what?”
In foreign policy, I think he’s done some things right, some things wrong; I think we’re drawing down in Iraq too soon, and I worry (a lot) about making Afghanistan the centerpiece of our battle against violent Islam worldwide.
I think he’s taken the conciliatory road, bowing (literally, sometimes) to foreign leaders in the hopes that the anti-Bush rhetoric was right, and that the problem was just that we were mean.
He’s discovering – and Hillary is voicing – that that’s not the case, and that we need to be more forceful in our speech and acts.
That’s a really good thing, and exactly what I’d hoped for in supporting him – that he’d be conciliatory and either a) it would work; or b) it wouldn’t and then the commentariat and the non-shackled swing voters would follow him down either path.
So now the question is – having been slapped internationally and pivoting toward a more assertive national role – what will he do having been slapped domestically?
My hope, obviously, is for the Obama that I voted for and supported – one with liberal ends and novel means. That Obama can still be a terrific President – even a terrific two-term President.
The Obama we’ve seen so far – the one opening the interest-group buffet – won’t be.