Thursday, October 25, 2012

Obama went wrong from the get-go

Ben Domenech has a very smart column recognizing that the basic mistake that Barack Obama made from the very beginning of his presidency was to cede the center and allow the far left in his party to craft his big policies.
Every voter who chose Obama in 2008 still wants him to succeed. But not all are convinced he can, and that’s partly because he has stopped trying to be the president he said he’d be. The need to fix Washington, the need for a bridge-building, post-partisan presidency was uppermost in centrist voters’ minds when they elected Obama, and he’d made that the core of his campaign. Washington is still broken – more so than before – and Obama is no longer even trying to mend it… The president’s error wasn’t that he refused to compromise. It was that he compromised so reluctantly, denying himself ownership of his own policies and making every accomplishment seem like a defeat.”

There are a number of reasons this is true, but in surveying the past four years, it’s incredible how much Obama has ceded the big policy decisions to others within his own party, failing to take command of the situations he was presented with. The contrast with Bill Clinton is not just a stylistic or ideological one – it’s a basic approach to dealing with intransigence in ways which allow you to claim victory with a smile instead of grinding your teeth as you defend a policy result no one particularly likes. We should’ve seen this from the get-go considering how Obama conceded leadership on not one but two major policy fights – the unsuccessful push for cap and trade, passed by the House but left to rot in the 60 vote majority Senate, and the ironically named Obamacare, which bears little in common with the health care plans he outlined for the American people in 2008.
He had the overwhelming majority in the Senate and just figured that he'd go for what the liberals had been panting for since the GOP took the Congress in 1994. He totally flipped off any chance of working with the Republicans in Congress, telling them "I won."

As the WSJ writes, Obama lied in that interview when he implied that Mitch McConnell led the Republicans senators led filibusters against his agenda from the beginning. He ignores that he had 60 votes in the Senate from spring of 2009.
By spring 2009, when Minnesota's Al Franken was seated, the White House had 60 votes and a GOP-only filibuster wasn't even possible. "We have the votes. F-- 'em," declared then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, according to the first-100-days chapters of Bob Woodward's new book.

The President is also missing the larger import of the Register's question. As Mr. Obama likes to remind voters now, in 2009 the economy had suffered a financial heart attack and needed to be nurtured back to health. That required careful management and attention to reviving consumer and business confidence.

Yet rather than work with both parties to fashion a growth agenda, he went all-in for a Keynesian spending blowout and subcontracted the details to House Democrats. And rather than wait to see how strongly—and even whether—the economy then recovered, he dove headlong into fighting to pass 40 years of pent-up liberal social policy.

It wasn't merely ObamaCare. The President also tried to impose a cap-and-tax on carbon energy production, end secret ballots for unions via card check, while promising to raise taxes in 2011 until he was stopped when voters elected a GOP House in 2010.

Mr. Obama likes to say he inherited "the most severe economic emergency we've had since the Great Depression," but then he claims that it didn't matter that he staged a two-year fight to remake one-sixth of the economy and threatened to remake another four-sixths.

If recessions following financial crises really are worse than normal, as the President also told the Iowa editors, then why didn't he take special care to postpone legislation that would add new costs to business, undermine confidence and thus weaken the recovery?

Mr. Obama didn't really answer the Register's question, so we will. He didn't focus on the economy because he didn't and still doesn't understand how the private economy works. He doesn't understand that incentives matter, or how government policies and regulation can sabotage growth. He really believes that government is the engine of economic prosperity.

Anyone who thinks the second term will be different should consult Mr. Emanuel's incisive counsel above.

Just ponder a minute to picture an alternate universe where Obama had compromised a bit to bring in some of the moderate Republicans to craft the stimulus or on healthcare. He would have been able to boast about how he had been bipartisan and reached across the aisle. I'm not even daydreaming about his having adopted some of the deeply held beliefs that conservatives have long desired to implement. I'm talking about picking up a few of the RINO senators. But Obama couldn't even do that. He was so arrogant that he figured it didn't care. And so now it is Mitt Romney who is playing the bipartisan card and Obama doesn't have any credibility to even pretend that he'd be able to work better with Republicans in a second term. No one believes that. He can talk all he wants about what he'd like to do in a second term, but why should anyone think he'd be able to do that better after the election if he were to win?