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President Obama awards Bob Dylan the Presidential Medal of Freedom, “our Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
President Obama: you’re holding the answer in your hand.
Mr. President: Over 4000 peaceful protesters have been arrested. While bankers continue to destroy the American economy. You must stop the assault on our 1st amendment rights. Your silence sends a message that police brutality is acceptable. Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.
Captured by the AP’s Charles Dharapak
On the same day that Gabe Sherman has a nice piece on the romance between conservative-moderate-whatever NYT columnist David Brooks and the Obama Administration, Brooks has one of the most wrong-headed things I’ve ever read about Obama’s health care program, and the legislative strategy behind it. Let’s just pick a few points for scrutiny:
Obama’s challenge was to push his agenda through a Democratic-controlled government while retaining the affection of the 39 percent of Americans in the middle.
Wrong. Let’s try again.
Obama’s challenge was to push his agenda through a Democratic-controlled government
while retaining the affection of the 39 percent of Americans in the middle.
The administration hasn’t been able to pull it off. From the stimulus to health care, it has joined itself at the hip to the liberal leadership in Congress.
… who, we should recall, were elected by the people after the Republicans’ catastrophic failure. (Otherwise, they’d be the liberal minority in Congress.)
The White House has failed to veto measures, like the pork-laden omnibus spending bill, that would have demonstrated independence and fiscal restraint.
… and made conservative columnists happy.
The result is the Obama slide, the most important feature of the current moment. The number of Americans who trust President Obama to make the right decisions has fallen by roughly 17 percentage points. Obama’s job approval is down to about 50 percent.
… just slightly higher than the percentage who approved of George Bush when he was “re”elected in 2004, and almost double what he had when he left office.
All presidents fall from their honeymoon highs, but in the history of polling, no newly elected American president has fallen this far this fast.
Anxiety is now pervasive.
Well, there’s a recession.
The public’s view of Congress, which ticked upward for a time, has plummeted. Charlie Cook, who knows as much about Congressional elections as anyone in the country, wrote recently that Democratic fortunes have “slipped completely out of control.”
Charlie Cook is an utter hack and a hype-master who follows, rather than leads, conventional wisdom, providing pickup-friendly quotes that go straight to Politico and from there to Drudge (where his “out of control” line led for three days). He is easily spun by whoever he’s talked to most recently, and he loves stirring up drama with his wonky forecasts.
Yes, if the president’s and Democrats’ approval ratings go down, it will seem that they are in danger of losing ground (since so many seats were won by razor-thin margins) (if the election were held today) (which it’s not). But that is not the same as “slipping out of control.”
He and the experts he surveyed believe there is just as much chance that the Democrats could lose more than 20 House seats in the next elections as less than 20.
Who are these “experts”? Political forecasting is a fake profession, and do these “experts” know what the political climate will be in 15 months? I don’t. But I bet that if health care reform passes, the climate will be a lot more favorable to Dems.
There are also warning signs in the Senate. A recent poll shows Harry Reid, the majority leader, trailing the Republican Danny Tarkanian, a possible 2010 opponent, by 49 percent to 38 percent. When your majority leader is down to a 38 percent base in his home state, that’s not good.
Actually, if your majority leader sucks, that might not be such a bad thing. Look — he represents a swing state. Of course he will be in trouble if the Dems are on the skids. But if he loses, we might get someone good… like Schumer.
The public has soured on Obama’s policy proposals. Voters often have only a fuzzy sense of what each individual proposal actually does, but more and more have a growing conviction that if the president is proposing it, it must involve big spending, big government and a fundamental departure from the traditional American approach.
And the constant barrage of haterade from Republicans (some toting guns), amplified by the media, has nothing to do with that, right? Oh, wait…
Driven by this general anxiety, and by specific concerns, public opposition to health care reform is now steady and stable. Independents once solidly supported reform. Now they have swung against it. As the veteran pollster Bill McInturff has pointed out, public attitudes toward Obamacare exactly match public attitudes toward Clintoncare when that reform effort collapsed in 1994.
I polled a lot on Clinton’s health care plan in 1994, for NBC/WSJ. There were three “controversial” elements that killed it: cost controls, the employer mandate, and universal coverage. All were overwhelmingly supported by the public — even by a majority of Republicans. Yet the public opposed the “Clinton health care plan” — thanks to an assault by the insurance industry, as well as by Republicans. But neither of those groups really killed Clinton’s plan. That was accomplished by “moderate” Democrats.
Amazingly, some liberals are now lashing out at Obama because the entire country doesn’t agree with The Huffington Post.
Liberals aren’t lashing out because the country doesn’t agree with HuffPo. They’re lashing out because Obama looks to be in danger of knuckling under.
Some now argue that the administration should just ignore the ignorant masses and ram health care through using reconciliation, the legislative maneuver that would reduce the need for moderate votes.
Yes of course, that’s what they should do. Because once they pass something, the public will fall in line.
This would be suicidal. You can’t pass the most important domestic reform in a generation when the majority of voters think you are on the wrong path.
Yes, you can. It’s been done. Once the plan passes, public opinion will fall in line. I studied this in grad school; it’s called the “fait accompli effect.” Support for any president goes up when he passes his program, regardless of prior attitudes. In 1993, the country was evenly divided, and confused, about NAFTA. But after Clinton won his big battle to pass it, his ratings shot up. It’s not “suicidal” to win a major victory.
And, if voters have given you a majority, you can pass whatever you want. And you should. It’s called representative democracy, and it’s why we don’t put issues like health care to a direct referendum.
To do so would be a sign of unmitigated arrogance.
Let’s try again.
To do so would be a sign of
unmitigated arroganceballsy independence and unprecedented effectiveness.
If Obama agrees to use reconciliation, he will permanently affix himself to the liberal wing of his party and permanently alienate independents. He will be president of 35 percent of the country — and good luck getting anything done after that.
Nothing in politics is “permanent.” And there are more issues than health care that the country will use to judge Obama’s performance. For example, they will notice if the economy gets better.
…But fiscal restraint is now the animating issue for moderate Americans. To take the looming $9 trillion in debt and balloon it further would be to enrage a giant part of the electorate.
Why are “moderate Americans” a more important part of the electorate than the others? And did you know “moderate” is a nearly meaningless political term? It covers everyone from “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” intellectuals to rednecks who think we should nuke Arabs but protect the environment and abortion rights (or vice versa). And what makes you so sure they are “enraged”? Most moderate (i.e., politically disengaged) Americans save their strong emotions for their personal life, job, and spectator sports, rather than politics.
If Obama passes this, the moderates will fall in line and he can address the rest of his agenda — not that any of it is as important as health care. He’s lost ground (yet still has a net positive approval rating) because he’s trying to get things done, and making special interests with huge resources angry in the process.