If it were my job to advise President Obama on what to do over the next two years to ensure his reelection, I'd probably quit. The political situation in Washington is now so dire it is hard to see any way for Obama to retake the initiative and pull the country out of the serious slump it is now in. And that could mean the end of his Presidency.
Obama's chronic weakness in the face of hard policy decisions and fighting the insane Republican Party is becoming increasingly dangerous for his prospects as a two term President. And he will have no one to blame but himself.
We've had a largely jobless recovery because Obama spent most of the nation's money on bailing out the financial sector and ensuring their CEO's got billion dollar bonuses. While the stimulus saved jobs, it hasn't created anything worth talking about because, as most serious economists warned, it was way too small to have a real impact. The Obama administration focused on helping rich people and placed its faith in them trickling the money down to the masses beneath them. Socialism was used to preserve Reaganomics, and the results have been completely predictable: Growth in corporate profits and unemployment and poverty for everyone else.
The Republicans and Fox News have convinced people that Obama has been enforcing a radical government take over of the country and that the lack of jobs is due to his interference. And so the public put the Republicans back in government. This means warfare for the next two years and even smaller leeway for Obama to enact intelligent legislation. The Republicans are now so far to the Right that to meet them halfway would be to shock even Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.
The result of this "bipartisan" policy (if they can even get there) will be more failure, more job losses and more bad PR for Obama -- because for some strange reason, the Democrats are completely unable to pin the blame on the awful state of the economy on the people who actually caused it (ie. corporate America and the Bush Administration). Instead, they allow the Republicans to rant and scream and blame them for everything. And in the classic case of an abused spouse, they refuse to argue back and make meek overtures of "working together" to resolve their differences.
In hard times, people want to see real leadership and bold decision making. And as we have seen with George Bush, it doesn't really matter what those decision are, at least in the short term. Obama could have set the wheels in motion for a serious restructuring of the country, but instead, he settled for piecemeal bits of legislation that patched up a rotting system on the verge of collapse.
Obama's window of opportunity to radically shake up the country has now gone. He achieved a few admirable goals -- a semi decent health care reform package, a partial stimulus that saved jobs, the closing of Guantanamo and the cessation of the use of torture as official policy.
Other than that, he has largely followed the policies of the previous administration, most tragically the war in Afghanistan, and the corporate socialist model that put the needs of the rich above everyone else's. His Presidency will be forever tarred with those choices and he will kick himself for not acting more boldly when he had the chance.
Obama seems like a nice guy, an astute politician with a thick skin and a gift for communication.
But his professorial, softly softly approach to very serious problems just will not cut it. I'm still waiting for the man who electrified the nation in 2008 to return to government. Because without him, the country will be doomed to Republican rule for another generation. And that could very well break the nation beyond the state of repair.
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