Sunday, June 26, 2011


It’s Barack Obama’s world and you’re just living in it.

Spare me all the crap about what a tough hand he was dealt when he walked into the White House – the multiple wars, the horrid economy, the obstructionist Republicans. Sure, Barack was dealt a tough hand, if the game is to become one of those transformative Presidents worthy of Rushmore. But let’s say we lower our standards a bit. Let’s say Barack doesn’t need to be the next Lincoln or Roosevelt. Think of him simply as an ambitious politician with a strong desire to be loved. Now let’s look at his hand. Here’s a guy who, in January ‘09, was inaugurated in a fashion that may have made the Messiah jealous. He was then put in a strong position to be hailed as the Jackie Robinson of American statesmen, receive star treatment from Hollywood and the mainstream media alike, generate some solid legislative accomplishments, easily win re-election, and finally, when his second term is over, live out his life with the moniker of “Mr. President.” Put all that together, and I’d say he’s sitting on, if not a pair of aces, at least a pair of kings. Not too shabby.

When Barack came into office, he was indeed severely limited in his ability to generate “the change we’ve been looking for.” But those same limitations, when combined with his natural political skills, made him almost impossible to beat in 2012. To be sure, if the unemployment rate is high enough, he could lose. But it would have to be sky high, because most voters appear poised to blame Bush and the Congress for the horrid economy, rather than Barack. Even those voters who don’t think Barack is doing a particularly good job on economics seem to approve of his Presidency. Talk about Teflon.

It reminds me of the old story about the two friends who camped out in the woods. Upon spotting a bear, one immediately starts running, prompting the other to say “What are you doing, you can’t outrun that bear.” “I don’t have to,” his friend responded, “I just have to outrun YOU.”

Well that is pretty much all Barack has to do in this climate. He doesn’t have to fix the economy. He just has to look like a better economic steward than Bachmann. Or Romney. That wouldn’t exactly require a remake of Don Quixote, now would it?

In the next several months, I expect the Republican Party to reap what they have sowed ever since President Reagan shoved them in the rightward direction. Back in the day, a guy like John Huntsman may have been the type of Republican who could have caught fire in his own party and appeal to Democrats and Independents as well. But now, in 2011, he’s pretty much toast. You know the problem – he’s not Cro-Magnon enough for Rush, Beck, and the other talking heads who have the ears of the party faithful. I’m not even sure that Romney can win, or to put it another way, I’m not sure that he can win AS Romney. He might have to run as Faust like he did in 2008. And if that happens, somehow I don’t see Barack Obama losing to a chameleon who just sold his soul to Grover Norquist and the Tea Party.

Just look at recent history and all the times that a sitting President has run for re-election. Those bids were successful in 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2004 (and as horrid a President as Bush was, that says volumes). The only upsets were in 2000 and 2012, and in both of those occasions, the President had lost the support of many in his own party. If the GOP wants to win, it had better hope that the Dems lose their love for Barack. Sorry, Dittoheads, but I don’t see that happening.

This last week is a perfect illustration of why, from a Democratic standpoint, Barack truly is an untouchable. His performance was the stuff that mutinies are made of – one kiss-off to the liberal wing of the party after another. But will there be a mutiny? Don’t make me laugh.

Hell, I can just point to my own behavior as an example of the typical liberal voter. On Wednesday night, just before I sat down to watch his Afghanistan speech, I was miffed at the President for his foreign policy. Let’s leave aside my obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and how ineffectual (and at times incompetent) he has been in that area. I was annoyed that he couldn’t make the case for his latest war in Libya, or at least treat the American people with enough respect to allow our representatives to decide whether we should continue our involvement in bombing that country. And I was annoyed that he was about to announce a pullout from Afghanistan at a snail’s pace – leaving twice as many American troops in that country as when he took office, and ensuring that this increasingly-pointless war would at least rival Vietnam in its duration.

So yes, I was pissed at the guy. And yet what did I do just before the telecast started? Needing to change shirts after work, I went into my bedroom closet and pulled out my “Dream Realized” T-Shirt with Barack’s portrait on the front. Pissed? Yeah. Ready to vote against him and in favor of Mitt or Michelle? Not on your life.

Nor am I alone, apparently. After the speech, which should have made any honest-to-God liberal sick, the reviews on the left were almost universally negative … but tepidly so. Absent was any effort to connect Barack’s incoherent policy in Afghanistan with his silent policy in Libya; taken together, they represent the kind of furtive Presidency that should have impressed even a Cheney. And absent was the willingness to demand a compelling explanation of why we’re embarking on a second decade of propping up a corrupt regime engaged in what seems to be a perpetual civil war, one that now has very little to do with Al Qaeda. No, the muted criticism seemed to be confined largely to the idea that the “pull-out isn’t fast enough.”

Not fast enough? Is that the most we liberals can say?

Assume that Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani had been elected President in 2008. And then assume that they would do exactly what Barack has done in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya these past 2 ½ years. Is there any question how outraged the American left would have been by this point? Is there any question that people would be protesting on the streets, MSNBC would be hurling acid-laden vitriol, and Romney/Giuliani would be viewed as war-mongers and secrecy-freaks?

President Obama essentially told us that America will stay the course in Afghanistan, but what he didn’t really tell us is why. He seemed to think that as long as he added some anti-war rhetoric and announced that instead of tripling the number of troops in Afghanistan by the end of his first term we will only be doubling that number, everyone on the left would be appeased. And do you know what? He’s right. Because everyone on the left knows that his name is Barack, and not Mitt or Michelle.

Fast forward to a bit later in the week and head a couple of hundred miles up I-95, and you’ll see the same dynamic at play. In Manhattan, 600 hundred or so gay activists paid a reported $1,250 per head to hear Barack bob and weave on the issue of gay rights. Yes, he believes in them (whatever that means), but no, he won’t commit to the cause with respect to the one hot-button issue that everyone is talking about – gay marriage.

It was the same position he has been taking for years. And each time, we hear the obligatory whines from the gay community about how Barack needs to suck it up and say what every progressive believes in his or her heart: that gay people have a right to be married. But will these activists really stay home in November 2012? Or let me ask that question this way: after what happened with Gore, Bush and Nader, do they really believe there’s an alternative to Barack?

I doubt it. Most likely, these gay activists left that fundraiser pissed off at Barack. Then they went home, put on their “Dream Realized” T-shirts, and went to bed.

There’s an old saw that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Here in America, our President -- Barack “Jackie Robinson” Obama -- is sitting on a pair of them.


Mary Lois said...

Love this column, Dan, although I don't agree with it wholeheartedly. I like the idea that Barack may indeed win a second term, but I think that if that does happen he may come out from behind his equivocal mask. We may actually see some significant change in his second term. He's still trying to please everybody so he can get elected, and he ends up pissing off both sides. I'm going to link this column on Facebook.

Anonymous said...

You need to work on your dates.

"Just look at recent history and all the times that a sitting President has run for re-election. Those bids were successful in 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2004 (and as horrid a President as Bush was, that says volumes). The only upsets were in 2000 and 2012, and in both of those occasions, the President had lost the support of many in his own party."

The upset was GHWB 1992. 2000 was not an upset (even though it was upsetting) and 2012 hasn't even happened yet and the premise would be in this case that Barack lost, which pretty much shoots down your whole article.

Daniel Spiro said...

Thanks, Mary Lois.