Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dorsal Fins Surround White House

Dorsal Fins Surround White House
Jonah Goldberg

You've got to wonder when White House political guru David Axelrod will look at the churning pools of poll data and, like Chief Brody in "Jaws," say: "We're gonna need a bigger boat."

The analogy isn't quite right, because in the movie, the shark ultimately loses. It's hard to imagine a scenario where Barack Obama and Axelrod victoriously paddle away on the flotsam of their own political wreckage. But in one sense, the analogy works just fine: This White House is rudderlessly lost at sea and inadequate to the challenges it faces.

At the beginning of the year, retiring seven-term Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., recounted a conversation he had with the president. Obama's unrelenting push for health-care reform in the face of public opposition reminded Berry of the Clinton-era missteps that led to the Republican rout of the Democrats in 1994. "I began to preach last January that we had already seen this movie and we didn't want to see it again because we know how it comes out," Berry told a newspaper.

Or, to quote Brody in "Jaws 2": "But I'm telling you, and I'm telling everybody at this table that that's a shark! And I know what a shark looks like, because I've seen one up close. And you'd better do something about this one, because I don't intend to go through that hell again!"

Convinced that his popularity was eternal, Obama responded by saying, yes, but there's a "big difference" between 1994 and 2010, and that big difference is "you've got me."

The funny thing is, Obama might have been right. Because things might be much worse for Democrats in 2010 than they were in 1994 -- and the big difference might well be Barack Obama.

In fairness, the biggest difference is probably the economy, which in political terms should be fitted for a pine box. Of course, Mr. Credibility, Joe Biden, says it's doing great, sounding a bit like the shopkeeper in the Monty Python "Dead Parrot sketch" who insists the bird's "just resting."

In 1994, when the Contract with America Congress took control, the jobless rate was 5.6 percent. Today it's 9.5 and may well climb higher. More than 18 percent of people who want full-time work can only find part-time jobs. Consumer confidence is falling again, housing sales recently hit a 15-year low, the stock market is off 11 percent since its April highs for the year.

While some people -- such as yours truly -- think Obama and the Democrats deserve much of the blame for the worsening economy, one can be agnostic on all that and recognize that voters have lost faith in the Democratic Party (which is not quite the same thing as saying they have bottomless respect for the GOP). The congressional generic ballot -- asking which party voters prefer -- is as bad for Democrats today as it was in 1994. Stu Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Report -- not exactly an RNC direct-mail operation -- says Obama's approval rating (already below 50 percent) will likely rival Clinton's in November of 1994. Already, Democrats in tight races, including the Senate majority leader, are distancing themselves from the White House, and pretty much everyone has stopped trying to make lemonade out of the ObamaCare lemon.

Moreover, Obama has lost his connection with the American people. He's aloof without inspiring confidence. On issue after issue -- terrorism, immigration, the oil spill, the environment and the ground zero mosque -- he seems determined to craft his responses in a way that will annoy the most people possible.

Liberals are frantically trying to explain away Obama's problems. Some want to protect their investment in Obama, and some want to protect their investment in liberalism. So some claim that his mistakes stem from not being progressive enough, while others insist that he's played his cards right, but we need to wait a bit longer for the payoff.

I'm dubious on both counts. Obama has delivered massively for progressives, and it strikes me as idiotic to say that if he only squeezed a bit more liberalism into his first two years, everything would be better. Moreover, I don't think the payoff is coming, because I think the policies are wrong.

But, again, that's an argument for a different day. What's clear right now is that the president who claimed to be the personification of a world-historical moment has clearly misread his mandate, the mood and the moment. He's lost at sea, and not even a bigger boat will save him.

To read another article by Jonah Goldberg, click here.
Obama's Epic Failures
Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama returns from his August vacation with a growing pile of problems facing him on just about every front. The economy is in a nosedive, his party is on the brink of losing its majority and the country is losing faith in his ability to lead.

To a large extent, it could be said that it wasn't just Obama who was on vacation, it was his presidency. Here's what has been happening while he's been away:

1) FAILING ECONOMY: The weak Obama economy continues to unravel at an ever-faster pace, raising fears of another recession. Failure marks every economic problem he said he could solve: The housing industry is in a collapse, foreclosures are rising, jobless claims are mushrooming and the recovery -- such as it was -- appears to be vanishing.

The "evidence mounts that the economic recovery is coming unglued," writes economics reporter Neil Irwin in the lead story of Thursday's Washington Post. New home sales have hit an all-time low, durable goods orders are "a bare fraction" of expectations, the economy growth was growing more slowly in this second quarter than previously forecast. Top economists say the worst is yet to come.

The Congressional Budget Office is now forecasting a mediocre 2 percent economic growth rate in 2011, meaning that future job growth will be in very short supply.

2) LOSING CONGRESS: Polling data and other reports from key midterm-election battleground states in the past week suggest that Obama's party could lose its majority in November.

More than 70 House seats, most held by Democrats, are now in play, and Republicans need only 40 to take control. And The New York Times reported for the first time Thursday that "The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate," according to a new analysis of the most competitive Senate races.

With polls showing much more enthusiasm and energy among GOP-inclined voters than among the Democrats, the majority party is now in danger of losing more than 10 Senate seats, enough to topple them from power.

3) CLIMBING DEFICITS: CBO reported last week that the Obama administration will run a $1.3 trillion budget deficit this fiscal year, after last year's $1.4 trillion deficit -- continuing the tsunami of red ink that has pushed the national debt to nearly $13.4 trillion.

The spectacle of the federal government running unprecedented deficits, while runaway spending continues to spiral at an alarming rate, threatens our nation's future solvency, weakens our economy and undermines our national security.

4) LOSING IRAQ: No sooner did U.S. combat forces leave Iraq last week, than a rash of deadly bombings by al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists killed or wounded several hundred Iraqis.

Obama argued during his 2008 presidential campaign that Bush's war in Iraq was a mistake because al-Qaida terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center in New York were in Afghanistan, not Iraq. In fact, al-Qaida is coordinating and stepping up the bombings in an aggressive move to topple the government in Iraq.

5) GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT FAILURES: First came the West Virginia mine disaster that left 29 miners dead and revelations of lax regulation by the government that could have prevented it. Then the deadly Gulf oil-rig explosion and the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history that revealed a regulatory bureaucracy asleep at the switch, and an impotent White House that did not seem to know how to deal with the BP catastrophe from the very beginning. That was followed by the widespread egg salmonella outbreak that showed woefully inadequate agriculture inspections. This is the government that we want running our health care? As we near the midway point in Obama's term, he has lost the nation's trust and confidence in his presidency.

The White House doesn't seem to have a clue about what to do about an economy that is veering into another dangerous downturn. Obama clings stubbornly to his failed $800 billion spending stimulus and plans to inflict the largest tax increase in American history on a struggling economy, despite pleas from government analysts that this is only going to inflict more harm on the private business sector.

"Under current law, both the waning of (Obama's) fiscal stimulus and the scheduled increases in taxes will temporarily subtract from (economic) growth, especially in 2011," CBO warned Congress and the White House. What we have here, of course, is a failure of leadership that is the result of breathtaking inexperience and an ideology that believes in enlarging the federal government at the expense of the business community, job-creating investment by the private sector, and the economy. He has no one with any business experience in his team of top White House advisers.

He returns to Washington at a time when Americans are deeply pessimistic about the country's future -- with his job approval polls at a low 43 percent (50 percent disapprove) -- and without any clear sign that he knows how to deal with the issues that he was elected to fix.

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