It has been a month since Senator Scott Brown won his surprise victory over Martha Coakley in a race for the seat once thought reserved only for the liberal lion Ted Kennedy, a veritable Mufasa among the Left. And rather like the Disney Mufasa, Kennedy’s legacy was thrown from the cliffs by an underachieving younger sibling, to be trampled by a stampede of tea partiers. I speak, of course, of the man whom Chris Matthews called the “fourth Kennedy brother,” Barack Hussein Obama. Yet, unfortunately, it does not appear to have dawned on Mr. Obama that the stampede that crushed his champion’s legacy is headed straight for him if he does not immediately get out of the way. This may be for the best, as Dick Cheney said this weekend at CPAC, “I think Barack Obama is a one-term President,” but even with only one term, or the scant few months he has left until November of this year, President Obama could do countless amounts of damage.
Witness his tactics on health care. Rather than starting over and scrapping the universally panned packages of pork-barrel goodies that his party has embraced as a sign of good will towards the American people, President Obama has instead resorted to a trick so pathetically naïve it is insulting: trying to talk Republicans out of their opposition. There are an infinite number of problems with this approach, which the average Wesleyan student may not see. So at the risk of offering the President free advice, I think it only appropriate that I perform a public service by explaining the problems with trying to talk your way out of national disgrace, so that any of my peers who run for office will not be tempted to engage in it. I do not think this is an idle danger, most Wesleyan students either think that repeatedly stating how compassionate they are, or repeating talking points they memorized from last night’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” are perfectly acceptable communications strategies.
The first reason why the President’s tactic is a foolish one is quite simple: the opposing party has absolutely no incentive to listen. If Obama were dealing with a Congress controlled by Republicans, or even one with a sizable minority, he might plausibly be able to make the claim that failing to respond to White House entreaties constitutes a failure of governance on the part of the opposition. However, as any talk show host/Republican politician will tell you, their capacity to stop the President’s agenda is so limited, even with the election of Scott Brown, that even if they voted reliably against every single thing the President proposes, it would be insufficient in many cases to stop him. Moreover, because President Obama’s election was framed by so many media outlets (including a few juvenile writers at the Argus) as a fundamental realignment which would leave conservatism/the Republican party dead on arrival for the next twenty years, any move the Republicans make to aid the President necessarily looks like hammering the nails into their own coffin. This is especially true when you consider that President Obama enjoys below 50 percent approval ratings after one year, and that his Congressional peers fare far worse, which means that there is no advantage to be gained, popularity-wise, in appearing on the same screen.
The second reason why the President’s tactic is wrongheaded is a bit more complex, so I will use small words for the benefit of the American Studies majors. Even if the opposing party shows up to talk out their differences with President Obama, the President runs the risk of saying things which are either blatant gaffes or so confrontational that they make his opponents see the meetings as cover for partisan bashing. Both problems occurred when the President went to address the GOP summit a few weeks ago and, when he wasn’t lecturing the legislators present on how ignorant they were, proceeded to say some truly cringe-inducing, ignorant things. For instance, in response to a question from Congressman Mike Pence on whether the President would consider embracing further tax relief, President Obama said, “The problem is, I couldn’t find credible economists who would back up the claims that you just made.”
Anybody with even the slightest sense of economic philosophy should have blurted out that line. As nearly every ECON 101 student knows, there are plenty of credible economists, both living and dead, who subscribe to the notion that tax relief is a means of creating employment/growing the economy. Greg Mankiw and James Buchanan are two obvious choices, as are every economic advisor John F. Kennedy ever had.
Moreover, Pence’s statement prior to the question explained that he had calculated the effects of Republican alternate economic plans using the models employed by the President’s budget experts. Are the President’s analysts themselves not “credible” economists?
And this wasn’t even the worst of it. One statement that was noted with incredulity by former Congressman Dick Armey at this weekend’s CPAC was the President’s remark that “I am not an ideologue.”
This, coming from a man who has surpassed FDR’s domestic spending, appointed self-described communists to White House positions, had the most liberal voting record in the US Senate before being elected, and delivered a Wesleyan commencement address!
Whether the President is an ideologue or not becomes moot at this point. What matters is whether he can say things which will convince the opposing party that they are dealing with a sane person, which he did not.
Of course, I do not expect any of this to register with the President’s blind supporters on this campus. They are probably of the same mind as liberal comedian Jon Stewart, who described President Obama’s attempts to debate the GOP into a corner as “f**king awesome.” I suppose I shouldn’t try to dissuade them—after all, arguing with people who even Rahm Emanuel described as “f**king retards” is probably a futile gesture—but one has to try.