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An increasingly wish-washy president signaling surrender

Richard Abrams, professor emeritus of history | January 21, 2010

I’m not going to get into the future-guessing game, except to say that with our increasingly wishy-washy President already signaling he is going to surrender to the pundits who eagerly declare that the Massachusetts election was all about the health care bills (as they say on “Law & Order,” they know drama!), it is beginning to appear that we will get nothing.  Having compromised most of the important features of health care reform already, any further compromise will be like dividing zero by two — and he won’t get a single Republican (or blue-dog Democrat) anyway.   If I can play pundit, I’d say that the people in Massachusetts — like many of the rest of us — are fed up with (1) the obscene attention that Obama-Goldman Sachs has paid to making Wall Street whole, while neglecting the still-rising numbers of unemployed, (2) handing out nearly a trillion dollars to bankers, insurance companies, and manufacturers without requiring them to use the money to make loans and maintain employment rather than go back to the casino to trade for various kinds of financial paper (as several of the European governments did); (3) Obama’s validating most of George W’s war and “security” policies; and (4) Obama’s stubborn, unproductive, even counterproductive  insistence on trying for “bipartisanship” when for the past 15 years of so the Republicans have made it amply clear they will not compromise on anything, or for that matter support anything proposed by any Democrat.  (Vide Minority Leader Boehner’s statement yesterday that the Republicans will oppose Obama’s proposal for a bipartisan commission to study and report on how to reduce the deficit, even though he and his lock-step colleagues proposed the very thing only a year or so ago.)  The Bushies never compromised on anything, nor did they worry about anyone filibustering anything they proposed though they never had 60 votes in the Senate — they just rammed what they wanted through.  And if the Bushies couldn’t get Congress to do what they wanted, they just did it anyway (executive orders; signing statements; etc.).  As our Great Leader, Richard Nixon, once told John Kennedy: voters don’t care about the statesmanlike things like negotiation and compromise, they admire leaders who act boldly and with resolve (George W’s favorite word).

So, NOW Obama is going to pay more attention to producing jobs??????????  Pathetic.  Hope and Change?  So far we have seen pitifully little in the way of progressive change while hope has all but vanished.


Comment to “An increasingly wish-washy president signaling surrender

  1. I am not sure if Bush, Nixon, or even JFK provide the best comparisons here. I see many parallels between FDR and Obama. Both entered office with tremendous popularity and received support for their economic policies during the first one hundred days. Both used their power to push Congress to pass signature legilation. For FDR it was social security. For President Obama it was the healthcare.

    The difference I feel was in the degree of grassroots support both reforms received. While FDR silenced some of his most ardent critics with social security. Obama created many new critics. By the end of their first term both faced resistance from the Supreme Court and their campaigns were marred with claims of “class warfare.” FDR avoided civil rights issues so as to not lose democratic support in the South while keeping his constituency together. Obama’s support for DADT, gay marriage, and tacitly for abortion has alienated some white Christian voters particularly in swing states.

    Also, unlike FDR, Obama did not enjoy a media monopoly. Both were popular in the mainstream press, but FDR was able to speak directly to the American people through his fireside chats.

    Today, it is much easier for people to just “tune out” and pay less attention to the president. In effect, Obama was too progressive in his first term. The Republican strategy has been nothing short of brilliant, but if Obama could have hung on to more of his support, his re-election would have been much less uncertain and he might not have been routed in the House. He still would have faced resistance from the Supreme Court, but maybe with the additional popular and legislative support the Court would have exhibited more restraint.

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