Obama: Stuck in a Ditch

Barack Obama is stuck in a political ditch, and it’s his own fault. At his press conference today, the president admitted he’d taken a “shellacking” at the polls on November 2. But he refused to say that his policies may have contributed to his party’s historic losses in the House and above-average losses in the Senate. Instead, Obama said the problem was that he hasn’t done enough to foster the recovery. Sorry, Mr. President, you’ve done too much already. The problem is that the electorate thinks your solutions are the wrong ones.

When it comes to compromise with the Republicans, Obama gave little ground. True, he left the door open for a full extension of current tax rates. He did say the 1099 provision in the health care bill may be too burdensome to implement. He did more or less admit that cap and trade is dead. He even suggested the EPA ought not to regulate carbon admissions without congressional consent.

Overall, however, my impression was that Obama is unbowed. Listen to him, and you get the impression that he simply doesn’t believe Republicans have serious prescriptions for the country’s problems. You can be a New York Times columnist and hold that view, but not the president of a divided government. During the press conference, Obama kept trotting out that line from the health care debate, the one where he says that as soon as Republicans have ideas similar to his, he’ll be happy to work with them. He kept referring to an energy bill and electric cars, as though those were the most pressing issues of the day. Call me cynical, but I don’t think Rand Paul is going to vote for more funding for electric cars. Finally, on spending, Obama said there are places where government can trim, but we mustn’t scrimp on important “investments.” This is a total misreading of the election. The electorate doesn’t want any more investments.

The president’s inability to move towards the electorate suggests that all the predictions of gridlock over the next two years could be right. Until Obama understands that the public voted Republican for sound reasons based on policy, and that Republicans have intellectually legitimate reasons for thinking and acting the way they do, he’ll be stuck in the ditch. And he might not be able to escape by 2012.

  1. Whiskey Sam

    The more intractable he is, the better chance he’s one and done like Carter. I can live with gridlock for two years if that’s the outcome.

  2. Rob Long
    C

    When Clinton got pounded, in 1994, he got really granular. Cops on the street. School uniforms. Started talking about welfare reform. Started moving to the center, of course, but that was easy for him to do: the economy was growing, the pie was getting bigger.

    But Clinton got nailed for things he almost did, like health care reform. Obama got nailed last night for things he did, things he’s proud of. Clinton’s administration didn’t really start until 1995. Obama’s started right when he took office.

    I don’t see any room for Obama to retack and move closer to the voters, even if that became, somehow, something he’s temperamentally able to do.

  3. Duane Oyen

    Obama really said what he has to say to avoid surrendering. The question of what is real will come when he is handed legislation or negotiates on a budget. As one person here (I forget which contributor) said, just chop 5% off of everything, period, and send it over. Let TVG then be revealed as the stubborn one.

  4. tabula rasa

    Obama is unlikely to change, in the same way a violent ex-husband doesn’t change, but as P. J. O’Rourke said in a recent Weekly Standard: “This is not an election on November 2. This is a restraining order.”

    Obama: you’ve now been served. Comply or face the consequences (a one-term presidency).

  5. Denise Moss
    C

    …but as P. J. O’Rourke said in a recent Weekly Standard: “This is not an election on November 2. This is a restraining order.”

    If you didn’t read P.J. O’Rourkes piece, it’s here. Hysterical and dead on as usual.

    Obama won’t shift with the wind. When have you ever had a professor change his lesson plan? I came to hate Clinton for his lack of moral compass on issues…or anything as a matter of fact. But the stubborn ideologue is proving even more dangerous.

  6. Chris Bogdan

    I’m just glad someone else watched the presser so I didn’t have to.

    Here’s a thought: what if the improved electoral fortunes of the GOP send a signal to the markets – they improve and the economy follows to some degree. What are the odds that Obama will seize the moment to declare victory, claim that he did everything he set out to do, and retire after one term? If the economy continues to improve after that, it’s because he “fixed” it – if it doesn’t, then it’s the fault of Republican obstructionism (and it’s no longer his problem anyway). Thus his legacy is diverted from it’s Carter-esque trajectory.

    The media will be only too happy to sell that story because it also limits the damage they did to themselves by carrying his water for so long.

    Am I being too hopeful?

  7. Jimmy Carter

    Chris Bogdan, I don’t think Obama wants the economy to improve. He wants to own it.

  8. Ken Sweeney

    The lame duck President held a press conference today. His long, meandering and insufferable responses sounded like a Phd student that was refused tenure. Soon his world tour with 3,000 of his closest advisors will give us a break. I hope he brings the golf clubs.

  9. Trace

    One of the more tragic elements of the current situation, I think, is that conventional wisdom says the president will turn increasingly to regulation. I think that the current amount of regulatory turmoil which creates huge uncertainty and takes forever to resolve as the wheels of government grind on, represents a serious and material impediment to growth.

    I don’t think Obama or his administration see that AT ALL.

    Therefore he will continue to toil away creating increasing amount of uncertainty in all areas of human endeavor, making it yet more difficult to know what is going to happen: what new burden will be placed on them, what new requirement they will be asked to meet, what new agency and rules and guidelines they will be forced to submit plans to in advance of their implementation. From the perspective of his administration this is all healthy, appropriate oversight. Teaching the American people about this activity happening well outside the walls of Congress I think will have to be a significant priority if they are going to understand who is still responsible for the lame economy in 2012.

  10. Good Berean

    Stuck in the ditch is right. But Obama is not Bill Clinton. The Clintons are more motivated by power than ideology. Obama is the creation of the ideologues on the left, and they are willing to fight. They may fall back to the strategy of the dialectic, but they still have their man in the executive office and they know that their chances of having that sort of power again in the near future, given the conservative sentiment of the electorate, is a very remote possibility.

    A better analogy is “cornered”. And, country folk know, “when ya got a critter cornered, yer gonna be in for a fight.”

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In