Hard times for a columnist with deadlines to meet. Everything is in the air, variables multiply dizzily.
Handicapping the Middle East, more than ever, is mug’s game. Years on, Obama is still an enigma wrapped in a candy bar wrapper, Putin… what does he want? Who is Angie Merkel really? She has destroyed the Liberals, will she now destroy the Greens?
For me the two most significant things of the last few days, things that I think will be seen as turning points a few years from now, have been the American people’s, grassroots (both the right and left’s,) refusal to be stampeded into another war and the new Pope declaring that he never has been a “right-winger“.
The demographic shift evident in the last election and the growing estrangement of the aspirational middle class from the super rich and a general disenchantment with the “conservative revolution” is offering the president-elect some interesting opportunities. However it is still going to be a hard slog, lowdown and dirty. The question now is, can Obama fight?
The slow implosion of the Republican Party — along with the growing strength of a Democratic coalition dominated by low-to-middle-income voters — threatens the power of the corporate establishment and will force big business to find new ways to reassert control of the policy-making process.(…) Although the stars are lined up in favor of the anti-corporate left, American business, when its back is to the wall, has historically proved to be extraordinarily resourceful. Thomas B. Edsall – New York Times
There is a new playing field… Will the real Obama (if there is one) please stand up? In the next few months we are going to discover whether Obama is one the longest headed, devious, cold blooded politicians to ever sit in the White House or just an empty suit. Everything he has done in politics appears to have been programed to peak at this very moment.
It seems to me that since getting elected in 2008 Obama simply tried to do everything he could to get reelected and do nothing that might prevent him from getting reelected. That defines his first four years.
He followed the plan he describes in his biography, one he developed as a lone young black man surrounded by white people, which was to “be courteous, smile a lot and don’t make any sudden moves”… It worked.
Whatever Obama may really be we will see from now on.
Taking on the gun lobby will be the real test of his mettle, if he dares to go to the mat with that monster and wins, we will be looking at a serious president, and that could be extrapolated to other areas. All other adversaries will be intimidated if he humbles the NRA. If he fudges on that he will begin to look vulnerable, even a bit lame duckish. This is to be or not to be.
What does he want to do?
It seems to me that by nominating Kerry and especially Hagel, that he wants to downsize America’s military micromanagement of the world’s affairs, which should have been done when the USSR collapsed (perhaps sooner) and use the resources thus saved on strengthening America’s infrastructure and welfare state.
I think he will continue to be a huge disappointment on human rights. It seems impossible to close Guantanamo Bay prison since there is no place to send its inmates. Obama’s solution seems to have been to simply take no more prisoners and kill all of them directly where they live. So I imagine he will continue with the drones because they are a very cost effective way of intimidating far away poor people without putting boots on the ground and dispatching carrier battle groups. That simple, that cold.
If he wants to be remembered for anything besides having been the first African-American president though, he is going to have to hit the ground running.
Readers of mine should not be under the impression that I am a big fan of Obama’s or of the Democrats… I wrote this back in 2008:
I find myself against almost everything that the Republicans stand for, but at least they seem to truly stand for what they say they stand for (although many evangelicals doubt this). I respect that quality, even in a jerk like Bush… He defends his people (the very, very rich) to the bone. But the Democratic Party to use highly technical language, really, really, sucks: with few exceptions, a herd of Judas Goats leading the poor to slaughter, bells a tingling.
Having said that I still say Obama is a better pick than Romney.
On the movie screen, Robert F. Kennedy’s appeal is obvious: authenticity. He cared. He showed it. People saw that and cared about him in return. With Obama, the process is reversed. It’s hard to care about someone who seems not to care in return. I will vote for him for his good things, and I will vote for him to keep Republican vandals from sacking the government. But after watching Bobby Kennedy, I will vote for Obama with regret. I wish he was the man I once mistook him for.
I realize that voting for Obama is not an attractive proposition; it’s a little like having your leg cut off to save you from dying of gangrene… but that is the only thing on the menu. The Republican party is now in the hands of rogue billionaires who are stimulating fascism in order to evade taxes and regulation… They want to even go back and repeal the reforms of Teddy Roosevelt. This is really that simple: avoiding a ultra-right coup d´etat.
No matter what you may feel or think about Barack Obama, no matter how disappointed you may be by his failure to live up to the promises he made in 2008 or the hope he inspired four years ago; it is essential for every progressively minded American to do what they can to keep Mitt Romney out of the White House. The only instrument the American people possess in this case is their vote and the only realistic alternative to Romney is to reelect Barack Obama.
The following clipping from TPM by Sahil Kapur, explains the situation perfectly.
A potential Mitt Romney presidency carries huge implications for the Supreme Court that have conservatives excited and progressives fearful about the future. Liberal-leaning Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 79, and Steven Breyer, 74, are likely candidates for retirement during a Romney administration. The GOP nominee has vowed to appoint staunch conservatives, and the influential conservative legal community will make sure he follows through. Replacing even one of the liberal justices with a conservative, legal scholars and advocates across the ideological spectrum agree, would position conservatives to scale back the social safety net and abortion rights in the near term. Over time, if a robust five-vote conservative bloc prevails on the court for years, the right would have the potential opportunity to reverse nearly a century of progressive jurisprudence. For all those reasons, conservative legal activists anticipate that a Romney win would be the culmination of their decades-long project to remake the country’s legal architecture.(…) a Romney presidency — even a one-term presidency — would pose a slow-release threat to key progressive accomplishments, and why small-government conservatives view his candidacy as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (emphasis mine) Sahil Kapur – TPM
The idea of wiping out all the progress made in over a lifetime of legislation and rulings… a veritable coup d’etat by the most reactionary elements in America, is truly too horrible to contemplate.
I had my doubts for a while, but now I think I might have been right to imagine in a previous post that President Obama threw the first debate, that he deliberately underperformed.
The question would have to be, why take such a huge, deliberate risk?
This is why I think he took that risk.
All the analysts are in agreement (and always have been) that this election is going to be very close… the economy is what it is and getting reelected with unemployment hovering around 8%, if not mission impossible, is mission pretty difficult. Playing it safe could turn out to be a bigger mistake than boldness when everything is playing out within the statistical error of the polls.
Analysts also agree that the Obama campaign was very smart to spend a lot of money early on in defining Mitt Romney as a hard hearted, tin eared, out of touch, clumsy, flip-flopping phoney. This early attack was successful in selling its narrative of Romney to voters before people were as over saturated with attack ads as they are at this stage.
Then why put up such a weak defense in the first debate? Why encourage his opponent’s aggression?
My reading is that Obama believed that if he had attacked Romney personally with the same brio in the first debate as he did in the second debate people might have found him overly aggressive.
Why would he think that?
Because there is probably no politician in America, black or white, with a deeper understanding of American race psychology. One of the reasons being that perhaps the most important person in his whole life was a nice, little old white lady from Kansas, the woman who raised him, his own grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.
“a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. (…) not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity – she doesn’t. But she is a typical white person, who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know…there’s a reaction that’s been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way, and that’s just the nature of race in our society.(…) some of the fears of street crime and some of the stereotypes that go along with that were responses that I think many people feel. She’s not extraordinary in that regard. She is somebody that I love as much as anybody. I mean, she has literally helped to raise me. But those are fears that are embedded in our culture, and embedded in our society, and even within our own families, even within a family like mine that is diverse.”
And if you don’t believe racism is alive and well in America, all you have to do is follow the Drudge Report, where a chorus of every imaginable racist dog-whistle is blown daily. I don’t think a white person can get assaulted or mugged by a black person anywhere in America without Matt Drudge covering it, echoing it and trumpeting it. By his numbers, readers appear to lap it up
So I believe that Obama thought that if in the final weeks of the campaign he was going to be able to attack Mitt Romney cruelly, brutally, that he could not be seen to “throw the first punch”, to be the aggressor, to be someone with a chip on his shoulder, looking for a fight. His goal is not to be seen as someone who starts fights, but to be the sort of person that the American psyche loves, the hero of every classic western, the person who “finishes fights”.
In this case Obama didn’t start the fight, he got up off the floor with a bloody nose and fought back.
If you study the effect of Obama’s stunningly bad debate performance, all the sound and the fury is coming from Obama’s supporters. They are electrified, galvanized… to use Samuel L. Jackson catchy phrase they finally seem to have awakened “the f**K up”.
Take a look at this video from Jon Stewart and you’ll see how electrified and awakened they may have become.
Thinking this all over and being a firm believer in the Occam’s razor, I am left with only two possible conclusions:
One. Either Obama doesn’t care whether he loses the election or not and didn’t prepare for the debate at all, or…
Two, that he gave exactly the performance he wanted to give in order to generate exactly the response from his heretofore apathetic base that he desired them to have.
The third possibility, that the President tried his best and that was all he could come up with is really too troubling to contemplate at this stage.
Since Obama is known to be obsessively competitive at even the most petty levels, I find it impossible to believe that he just let Romney walk over him. My opinion is that he threw the first debate in order to fire up his dormant base. They are now begging for him to draw blood in the next debate. If he comes out aggressively, nobody, but perhaps Fox News and Matt Drudge, will ever accuse him of being an “angry negro”.
Certainly if Obama gives a sharp and aggressive performance next time, nobody is going to feel sorry for Romney and Obama’s campaign will catch on fire.
The only votes that count in elections are those that are actually cast, apathy is the greatest enemy of the 2012 Obama campaign. Now the possibility of a Romney victory becomes a reality and perhaps that will finally “wake” those 2008 voters up.
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