THE BLOG
03/08/2014 04:22 pm ET Updated May 08, 2014

Voices From Bush-Obama America -- Is Obama Tough Enough for Putin?

A stubborn spring hides as winter stretches its misery across the country, acting as if March 21 is a year away. Who will bear the blame if it snows on March 21? Obama, of course! Blame Obama! B.O.

The B.O. Syndrome continues to infect Washington. Yet the odor reached another low point with claims that the same President who oversaw the death of Osama Bin Laden isn't tough and wears a weakness that encouraged Vladimir Putin's comfort in exercising the narcissism and nationalism in Russia's aggressions on the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Thomas Friedman said it best in a column this week: "There is much nonsense being written about how Vladimir Putin showed how he is 'tougher' than Barack Obama and how Obama now needs to demonstrate his 'manhood.'" Friedman continued "...spare me the Putin-body-slammed-Obama prattle. This isn't All-Star Wrestling."

It is one thing to reduce budget battles and judicial nominees (or maybe not) to the typical partisan rings with the entrainment value fit for Linda McMahan. It is quite another to play B.O. in the face of a crisis threatening to throw the future back to something resembling the Cold War. John McCain's ramblings -- citing an article from Obama's Columbia's days--as ammunition in attacks on Obama's sense of Russia is as absurd the assertion: "Putin does not respect Obama." Why would he? Putin lacks respect for the world and his own people.

Beyond Washington, how does the Bush-Obama America answer the question: Can you blame Putin's aggression on Obama? We first take the question to Iowa's Allamakee County in the Northeast corner of the state. As the caucus starting point in American presidential politics, Iowa is always a good place to watch. While Obama carried the Allamakee in 2008 and 2012, Republicans (3,734) outnumber Democrats (1,938) in the county. Yet Independents (3,886) outnumber Republicans.

2014-03-07-ScreenShot20140307at5.37.21PM.pngLarry Schellhammer owns a farm in the county and is chairman of the County's Board of Supervisors. He is a Republican whose first vote for president was Gerald Ford in 1976. In fact, he never voted for a Democrat in a presidential election until he cast a vote for Obama in 2008. Yet he was disappointed in the president's first term and voted for Romney in 2012. He describes himself as a "progressive-conservative," and he joins the chorus of conservatives who see Obama leading the nation down a path of Socialism. "Politically he is very good and they're doing everything they need to do. He seems to be like Teflon... nothing really sticks. I mean he could go through one problem after another and nothing really sticks. So, in some ways he's a great politician. I guess my feeling is I don't agree with the direction he is leading the nation."

Yet he does not blame Obama for Putin's aggression.

You can't even blame it all on politics. I think it's just the change in the world economy. Economically, I would say you could probably go back into the '90s and start looking at a lot of these countries kind of with the computer revolution with just the change in what countries are buying and selling and the shift in who's consuming different commodities. I think you can go back and take a look at that and I guess you could profile it pretty carefully by that. As other economies have grown, you know, dependence on the U.S. ... has diminished to the point that they don't need to be told what to do. Their economy is strong enough that they can make deals on their own. They don't have to be dependent on a bigger brother country.

I think we're into this whole global economy and global situation. I think the roles of countries has kind of been turned over and it's a new deal. It's a new perspective on how we get along, and how we answer threats like this... And I don't know really what the answer is for these.

I'm afraid that we don't command the respect as a country that we once did and that you can take someone like Putin to show that... It's almost like they kind of have free reign and all we can do anymore is kind of chastise them. It's kind of like if your kid acts up and the only thing you can do is tell them not to do it and there's nothing to back it up anymore. Sometimes that works with a child and sometimes it doesn't, and this time they're just kind of thumbing their nose at the rest of the world saying, 'What are you going to do? What exactly are you going to do to stop me from doing what I want to do?'

He says one word would describe the Iowan view of Obama and Congress. "Frustration." He wants Washington to look at how local governments solve problems as a model.

In my view, you have to be able to afford what it is you that want to do. Sitting on the Board, there's a lot of things I'd like to do but you can't afford to do it with the tax base that we have. So you have to pick and choose the things that you're willing to stand up and support. And I think once you get bigger from county government, at each step, whether state level or federal level, the money gets bigger and there is more room for them to get away from that basic principle of just covering the basic needs for the people or basic needs like government can provide that individual.

He says Chris Christie is the best potential candidate he sees that reflects his progressive conservatism but questions if the New Jersey governor can escape the wrath of scandal. As for Hillary Clinton "I think as far as policy goes, I think that she might be a very reasonable candidate. I'm just not sure what she's going to kind of pull forward as her legs of her campaign or how she's going to try and sell herself and how they're going to position her. It will be interesting to see how that all plays out."

He says the Tea Party-establishment divides in his own party is leading the GOP to defeat in 2016. "You can't get the Republican party to agree on much of anything anymore. And the oldest trick in the book is to divide and conquer. So, you know, if the Democrats just allow the Republican party to just flounder and fight amongst themselves, they will win. They will continue to win."

The Next View: Bush-Obama County Newspaper Editors on Obama's impact on 2016.

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