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Obama’s Rock and Hard Place Problem

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Posted on March 17 2010 2:43 pm

Someone (well before Joe Biden) once famously observed, “If you think you’re a leader, turn around and see if anyone is following.” President Obama would do well to mark these words as his support on the Left rapidly corkscrews into the sea.

“Wake Up and Stand Up.” So urges the bold motto of a seedling movement calling itself the Coffee Party, a leftish alternative to the Tea Party movement.

But it’s going to take more than a jolt of java, which so far amounts to not much more than a wishful exhortation, to energize the left.

So begins Kate Zernike’s article at nytimes.com – Democrats Need a Rally Monkey – which on the feel-good meter rates right up there with “but apart from that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” The Left, out-messaged, out-hustled and outmaneuvered by the Right is demoralized and adrift – with a waterfall fast approaching in November. And that’s the Pollyanna version.

Similarly up-beat is Mimi Hall’s Obama’s liberal base ‘disengaged’ in USA Today which goes on to describe enclaves in the country where the Left is now throwing their poo at the administration.

Georgia and South Carolina, where the environmental group Friends of the Earth (FOE) this month ran TV ads denouncing the Obama administration’s decision to approve $55 billion in private industry loan guarantees for what would be the first nuclear reactors built in the United States in three decades.

The group also was alarmed when Obama talked in his State of the Union Address about investing in “clean coal” and opening new offshore oil drilling, spokesman Nick Berning says.

If the base is sitting on its hands, or using them to throw things, there is no question that it is Obama’s base, and it’s ticked.  The recurring drumbeat, which becomes more intense the further left you move, is that Obama has betrayed his … fill in the blank here: Progressive/Socialist/Marxist … principles.

One the best hell-hath-no-fury pieces is David Michael Green’s self-explanatory  Now, I’m Really Getting P****d Off which makes up in venom what it lacks in vitriol.

(While the title probably makes a strong language warning self-evident please be advised anyway.)

Like any good progressive, I’ve gone from admiration to hope to disappointment to anger when it comes to this president.  Now I’m fast getting to rage.

How much rage?  I find myself thinking that the thing I want most from the 2010 elections is for his party to get absolutely clobbered, even if that means a repeat of 1994.  And that what I most want from 2012 is for him to be utterly humiliated, even if that means President Palin at the helm.  That much rage.

Did this clown really say on national television that “I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of you know, fat cat bankers on Wall Street”? […] Then why the hell did you help out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street?  […]  Why have your policies been tailored to helping Wall Street bankers, rather than the other 300 million of us, who just happen to be suffering badly right now?

(Further thoughts from Professor Green here. Cinch up those seatbelts.)

The “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” theme is amplified by Chris Hedges who argues that Ralph Nader was right about Barack Obama.

Obama lies as cravenly, if not as crudely, as George W. Bush.

[…]

Obama did nothing to halt the collapse of the Copenhagen climate conference, after promising meaningful environmental reform …. He empowers Israel’s brutal apartheid state. He has expanded the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan … And he is delivering war and death to Yemen, Somalia and perhaps Iran.

Depending on whom you read, Camelot has already slipped through Obama’s fingers or is about to. Stanley Kutler takes the former position in The System Works, Obama’s Approach Doesn’t.

The Obama Moment had come—and was gone with his inauguration. The time was ripe for meaningful action to revitalize a deeply wounded and troubled nation. It was not to be. …

Alas, candidate Obama, the bold, dynamic advocate for change, has morphed into President Obama, a terribly cautious man, too eager to please and compromise. … [H]e ironically allowed the drift of “politics as usual,” and he failed to deliver the message to the country that he had inherited and that he had a mandate to change failed, disastrous policies.

For his part, Frank Rich, whose waning patience with Obama is palpable, argues in The Up-or-Down Vote on Obama’s Presidency that the mishandling of the Health Care Reform has brought his administration to the edge of the precipice.

“They are waiting for us to act,” Obama said on Wednesday of the American people. “They are waiting for us to lead.” Actually, they have given up waiting. Some 80 percent of the country believes that “nothing can be accomplished” in Washington … The percentage is just as high among Democrats, many of whom admire the president but have a sinking sense of disillusionment about his ability to exercise power.

The erosion of Obama’s base, at precisely the time he needs an effective counterweight to unrelenting pressure from the Right, is both ominous and ironic. This is, after all, the constituency he has already sacrificed significant political capital to appease, and arguably the one closest to his heart. With both the Left and Moderates showing clear signs of buyer’s remorse, and a reinvigorated Right knocking at the door, it is difficult to see where the next Obama surge is going to come from.

There is, however, no indication that any of this has disturbed the President’s equanimity, as he grimly presses on with a Health Care Reform bill most Americans – across the political spectrum – say they don’t want.

As HuffPo’s Simon Johnson points out in Does the Obama Administration Even Want to Win in November? a strategy based on this kind of insouciance is unlikely to turn out well.

The Obama team — both political and economic wings — seems to feel that their base has nowhere else to go, and all they need to do is drift towards the right in a moderately confused fashion to assure re-election for the president.

Jimmy Carter had the same sort of idea.

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