If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Obama

Tuesday offers ominous signs and portents for Obama’s agenda of Lukewarm Dishwater. No, it’s not that his personal endorsement means squat. Rather, Obama actually would benefit from a Rightist takeover of at least one chamber of Congress. For his legacy and re-election. Tuesday’s results offer a chance that Democrats might muddle through with less carnage. Good for them, possibly bad for Obama and even worse for all of us.

Clinton surely benefitted from Newt after 1994. Clinton, more so than Obama, was a tactical political genius and counter-puncher. So what if the divided government meant a Clinton presidency offered almost no historic liberal achievement. Can you say ‘school uniforms’? In the eyes of many, Clinton remains the best Republican president since Reagan.

Obama’s case is different. He’s no Clintonian boxer. Nor is he the same voracious, natural political animal (in all senses). He’s obviously bright – didn’t Medvedev look into his eyes and see Obama’s IQ? But if Obama has any actionable convictions, they’re more classified than presidential Blackberry txt messages.

He’s not helped by the soggy Cherrios that is the (undeserved) Democratic majority on the Hill. Obama desperately could use *something*, *anything* to give him definition — and a plausible excuse for the inaction, watering down and plain fumbling. The Obama Administration is the Newsweek of American politics.

Obama’s had plenty of time to prove he’s more than Democratic mush. Time shows he’s incapable of defining himself and his agenda through purposeful, concrete, definitive action (unless it means doting on Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe). His weakness demands others define him by *their* actions. In this case, Obama benefits with a Rightist House showcasing a Pence or Cantor tripping over themselves. Obama doesn’t float like a butterfly or sting like a wretched SNL joke, but then Pence et al. are not even at Newt’s natural insurgent level either.

A Rightist Senate or House doesn’t mean Obama counter-boxes like Clinton and the government shutdown. Instead, he’s like the perversely passive aggressive co-worker, relative, spouse or neighbor we’ve all met and come to loathe — energy-sucking, life-draining, smothering all with empty promises, rhetoric of change, work to be completed, assignments met, etc. The results? Always 35% of what is promised, sometimes vehemently. And when reminded of the gap, anger at *us* that we actually hold that person to what they said they would do. That’s the Obama Administration.

Democrats would benefit also from losing one of the chambers. First, it would remind them why they were put in control in 2006. Second, realizing that many of the current Democratic ‘institutions’ in the Senate and House have sat too long, the netroots get more time to support candidates who actually belong to the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. No Tea Bag extremism by any stretch. Or Newt-esque incendiary babble. Just ordinary politics at the ward level seeking a new Democratic Party firmly rooted in the liberal democratic tradition that remembers *why* they are liberals and progressives – rather than just water-carriers for this or that constituent interest group.

The Stiftung’s overall political agenda is a restoration of the Republic. Specifically a repeal of most of the Permanent National Security State’s poisonous encroachment on the American collective consciousness, where their perversion and destruction of the Constitution is the New Normal. This is a crucial reason Obama and the Democrats are actually Bush’s best friends. By defending, endorsing or continuing much of the Bush Administration’s most subversive achievements and corruptive militarization of our nation. In that sense, the Bush Library might want to have an “Obama Wing” for papers from his third term.

Is our premise valid that a Rightist chamber (or both) might be sufficiently reactionary to goad even the passive Obama into pushing back? Either by new found conviction or political convenience (either would do)? Would a Rightist chamber force Obama to do what he’s refused to do so far: begin to repair the damage to the 4th Amendment, take Bob Gates seriously and actually *cut* the defense and related budgets significantly, etc. ?

At the least, a Pence or Cantor-esque leadership would allow the White House to tack with more tolerable if still insincere posturing. Although Obama demonstrates an alarming tendency to fawn over those committed to his destruction. Accompanied by brusque disdain for his loyal or natural allies. It’s conceivable that Obama might just go full on Neville Chamberlain and sign lots of scraps of paper with Pence, etc. But we doubt it. Obama does have an eye for optics.

Obama might think Tuesday a good thing for himself. Perhaps he thinks with a Democratic majority 2012 is winnable. Especially if the Movement’s fratricide nominates someone Pure and Southern/Southwestern – an anti-Romney if you will.

A friend who’s put a man in the White House said it before about Obama. Recall 1980 for a moment. 20% inflation. Hostages. Oil crises. The Peanut Farmer telling America you’ve got malaise. The Soviets seemingly were invading Fairfax, Virginia. OK – now imagine a televised presidential debate two weeks before the election. But instead of aww shucks RWR, Barry Goldwater hectors from a stand across from the Peanut Farmer. Who wins that election? This veteran of *many* (we are being deliberately vague) Republican presidential campaigns says hands down, even with Mondale, Billy on the Libyan payroll, everything, the Peanut Farmer (and he was involved in that race for RWR). We agree.

Just goes to show. Things are not what they seem. After 16 years of bi-partisan endorsement of a culture of Fear, Threat, War and Plutocratic Privilege it will become what always was. 8 years of Obama’s heretofore ‘high minded’ and ‘bi-partisan’ gloss effectively will banish memories of pre-Bush America into amber. Any chance of restoring what we had? Lost. One need not embrace Hegelian dialectics to perceive the multiple ironies of Tuesday’s primaries and November ahead.


  1. Comment says

    Bai’s essays are always endless and never really seem to say much. He has written long dispatches on John Edwards inner thoughts c2002 and he is written about Biden’s favorite books – etc.

    Btw – the neos now sound like a bunch of Greek colonels re Turk

  2. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Matt Bai murders countless trees to tell us that nobody knows who or what Obama is or stands for. Btw, we claim dibs on the whole ‘brand’ thing about the Boy King when he was still worried about 3:00 AM phone call ads.


    “Obama seems to exist on a separate plane from his party’s other elected leaders, somehow deflecting much of the anti-Washington fervor that threatens to dispatch the rest of them. This is probably not only because voters see him as a more inspiring leader than Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi, but also because they don’t see him as a party leader at all, at least in the traditional sense. It’s not simply how Obama came to govern that creates this impression. It’s also a simple matter of who he is.

    Whatever you may think of Obama’s policies or his politics, after all, his brand represents — by the very nature of his age, his life story and the color of his skin — a subversive force inside the governing establishment, and that’s his advantage in this tea-party moment. Washington is, in fact, broken — or at least most people believe it is, even if Obama stops saying so in his speeches. Voters may yet see Obama, in the years ahead, as disappointing or transformative or neither. But the one thing he will never really embody is the status quo.”

    – – – – –

    Not status quo? Oh really? Put aside whether he is incompetent and another Carter, Just on his record. Launching health care ‘reform’ by cutting back room deals with Billy Tauzin and Big Pharma? Sounds pretty status quo to me. Lobbyists and actual industry reps in key positions? Same. OK, *escalating* the war in Afghanistan – not so status quo. Allowing Olympia Snowe, Lindsay Graham and Susan Collins to determine his presidency? That might go into the separate incompetent bin above, so scratch it.

    Promoting financial reform Wall Street actually applauds laughing their asses off? Damn, more status quo. Kagan? Rats again. Relying on BP to manage and control the clean up? Foiled again.

    In fact, Obama in action is the embodiment of the status quo. He is the inert change agent that fizzles out. Bai’s weird piece is reminiscent of some high school newspaper columnist who discovers Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, and, like speculates on the zen possibilities, like whoa.

    For once we can at least empathize why Emanuel must look around the room and (possibly) suppress a WTF?

  3. Hunter says

    Much has been made here (and elsewhere, I suppose, but…) of the revolving door between the two sides of the military-industrial complex, and its role in perpetuating the Permanent National Security State, the corruption of the military, of the Congress, etc. More has been said generally of the revolving door between all aspects of government (the Judiciary least of all) and ‘Industry’. Ultimately, this is all driven by money (obviously: this is why Industry is interested in the first place). In the case of the military, the money is constitutionally under the control of the Congress, though that august body has not exercised much control for quite some time now. For that matter, the same is true of the various bureaucracies of the Executive (though there the President does have some more legitimate authority in, e.g., proposing a budget). So: to bring the flow of money under some control requires attendance to that most corrupt institution of all: the Congress. Ideas? Bueler? Bueler? The only idea that strikes me as even a little sane is publicly funded elections (see Lessig), but I wonder what the good Doktor thinks.

  4. anxiousmodernman says

    The thing about Democratic mush is that, when you step in it, it absorbs you.

    I accept your analysis of the politics, even as it offends my sensibilities because, honestly, how can I coherently wish for a Rightist takeover of anything? I don’t want the ping pong to continue, I want it to stop. History will force America’s hand catastrophically if our leaders continue to poo-poo the realities of class-resentment, social schism, real economic stagnation, and environmental degradation. The ideological conversation concerned with the ping ponging between the Republicans and the Democrats does not even vaguely approximate the real world. You know all this, and post about it, and I accept your breakdown of the electoral politics, but only with sadness.

    In a way, we have a new trickle-down theory, the trickle-down theory of public concerns. Our leaders are so out of touch in their dealings with industry interest groups and other special interests. The public is doubly-removed from political representation in their lack of access, and even if you try and “trickle up” your concerns via the full time PR machines (many of whom are well-meaning folks who are willing to talk and listen), what gets fed through is utterly transformed by whatever narrow frame is being used. Had a long conversation with my friend in an industry association last night, and he’s got it exactly backwards: no big picture, but endless hammering away at the most “realistic” legislative solutions for financing some very good things, green energy things. The big picture is prohibited for these guys. Why? Well, big picture = radical and, you never know, there may be a Rightist takeover of one of the houses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CommentLuv badge