Obama the pretender
"America is circling the political toilet in part because Obama had the chance to fix many longstanding problems and did not rise to the occasion, a fact the former president is still stubbornly unwilling or unable to see," writes @ryanlcooper. https://t.co/rAF1Rz1LZY
— The Week (@TheWeek) November 24, 2020
As a socialist, I have a confession to make: Back in 2008, I was a campaign volunteer for Barack Obama. I supported him over Hillary Clinton in that year's Democratic primary for the obvious reason — she had supported the Iraq War, and he had not — but I worked for him because I read his 1995 book Dreams from My Father. It seemed to me he was an excellent writer and an unusually thoughtful person, especially for a politician. Maybe he wouldn't be able to fix all the problems, but he would surely try, and at least be a breath of fresh air. Finally, someone to vote for rather than picking the lesser evil through gritted teeth — and with the massive Democratic majorities in Congress that followed his election, little stood in his way.
Twelve years on from that minor episode of door-knocking and phone-banking in rural Colorado, it's looking increasingly possible that the ensuing two-year period from 2009-2010 will be the last time the Democratic Party ever controls both the presidency and both houses of Congress. Democrats will have to sweep two January runoffs in Georgia to be able to control a tied Senate next year, and if they don't, a future of ever-more extreme gerrymandering and judicial vote suppression might make it impossible for Democrats to ever win again.
What went wrong? Obama attempts to grapple with the massive failures of his presidency in A Promised Land, his new memoir describing his rise to power and early presidency, but ultimately the book is slippery and unconvincing. America is circling the political toilet in part because Obama had the chance to fix many longstanding problems and did not rise to the occasion, a fact the former president is still stubbornly unwilling or unable to see.
A Promised Land is a maddening book. On the one hand, Obama's graceful eloquence is there (if somewhat more forced than it was in Dreams), and his discussions of his family life and his relationships with his closest staffers is genuinely warm. Unlike virtually every book written by a politician, it is obviously his own work. Time after time Obama nails some bit of history or politics with a firm, confident touch — on the buffoonish yet alarming rise of Sarah Palin, the accidental origins and racist history of the Senate filibuster, or even on the basics of Keynesian economics.
But on the other hand, Obama elsewhere evinces a political naivete and passivity that borders on the incomprehensible. For the sake of brevity, let me address just the three most important policy decisions of his presidency: the 2008 bank bailout, the 2009 Recovery Act stimulus, and his foreclosure policy.
Yet the all-important discussion of the size of the stimulus passes in a couple sentences. When economic adviser Christina Romer mentioned in an early meeting that it should probably be over a trillion dollars, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel — who Obama personally coaxed into taking the job — instantly snapped that it was impossible. "There's no f---ing way," Emanuel said, claiming that the public and conservative Democrats would not countenance such a large number. The most they would be able to get was: "seven, maybe eight hundred billion, tops … and that's a stretch." Joe Biden nodded, and apparently that was the end of the conversation.
On any grounds one might care to choose, this was a brain-meltingly bad political decision. Here we have the single most important determinant of the future success of Obama and his party — the strength of the economy — and they didn't even try to make the stimulus as big as the hole it was supposed to fill, much less include a margin of error in case the data was underestimating the size of the collapse (it was, by a lot). Instead, two guys made gut check guesses about what could be got through Congress, and that was that. Adviser David Axelrod even gloomily predicted afterwards they would get rinsed in the upcoming midterms. What?
Here is an excerpt from Obama’s book where he talks about drones and targeted assassinations:
In places like Yemen and Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, the lives of millions of young men like those three dead Somalis (some of them boys, really, since the oldest pirate was believed to be nineteen) had been warped and stunted by desperation, ignorance, dreams of religious glory, the violence of their surroundings, or the schemes of older men. I wanted somehow to save them—send them to school, give them a trade, drain them of the hate that had been filling their heads. And yet the world they were a part of, and the machinery I commanded, more often had me killing them instead.
How is those boys upbringing any different from how our boys are brought up? The hubris/hypocrisy of this statement....I can’t even..
Just for fun I’ll post this essay on Kamala’s campaign.
Ms. Harris is the only 2020 Democrat who has fallen hard out of the top tier of candidates. She has proved to be an uneven campaigner who changes her message and tactics to little effect and has a staff torn into factions.
Some Harris aides sitting at the table could barely suppress their fury about what they saw as the undoing of a once-promising campaign. Their feelings were reflected days later by Kelly Mehlenbacher, the state operations director, in a blistering resignation letter obtained by The Times.
“This is my third presidential campaign and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly,” Ms. Mehlenbacher wrote, assailing Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Harris’s sister, Maya, the campaign chairwoman, for laying off aides with no notice. “With less than 90 days until Iowa we still do not have a real plan to win.”
Wanna bet? I say less than 2 years before Biden drops out and Kamala is the president. Which of course is the plan.
“You can’t run the country if you can’t run your campaign,” said Gil Duran, a former aide to Ms. Harris and other California Democrats who’s now the editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee.