August 25, 2009

Danger: Train wreck in progress

Do you hear that? It's a sound of a train wreck in progress.

After falling flat on their face over the health care issue, and losing considerable job approval ratings in the process, the Obama administration brand marketing wizards have decided that it might be a good idea to divert attention from the carnage in order to repair the Obama brand.

That's not a bad idea. In fact, given the drubbing their agenda has taken at the hands of the Town Hall protesters (or more accurately hard questioners), a diversion might just stem the flow of ratings points away from the President. 

That's not the problem.  The problem is what they did to divert the public's attention.   Keep in mind that as a very leftward leaning President, Obama has his left ear closer to the ground than his right ear.  Consequently he's more likely to hear feedback, both positive and negative, from the far left than from the right.  Town hall protesters are deemed un-American, but complaints from his base are taken seriously.

And what pray-tell is his base unsettled over?  Or rather, going crazy over? The possiblility of the single-payer option  the government-paid option being taken off the table by the administration.  The comments by Sebelius that government as a "competitive" provider is not mandatory to reform, drew far left ire.  Big time.  And the Obama administration heard it.  They were probably prepared to have points siphoned off from the conservatives they felt were willing to give him a chance.  They may have even been prepared to lose some appeal to moderates (though not all).  But to start bleeding support from all sides?  That's the making of a train wreck.

The administration, when confronted with a challenge go back to the playbook.  Early on it was 'blame Bush'.  And up until recently it has been trotting out the President to speak to the press, yet again.  They probably went to the well too often, too soon with that ploy because while it created spikes in approval ratings in the past, it has not stemmed the general tide of downward sloping approval ratings.  They had to try something different.

With their ear to the left side of the ground, they remember what got them elected in the first place.  Their grassroots support had a huge anti-war component to it.  Obama, having made some initial traction with his support base on Gitmo and on ending Iraq, decided to beef up Afghanistan.  It plaed well to the middle because it supported his sales pitch that it was supposed to be about Bin Laden, not Iraq.  The argument probably was tolerated by the far left as a necesary evil to oust the Republicans and to get a Democrat into the White house.  But that anti-war goodwill started getting eaten up with Afghanistan and the apparent cave in on health care may have hastened the President's dilemna.

So going back to the well, and shoring up the liberal support probably seemed like a good idea.  What worked really well for them were the 'impeach Bush' and 'try the war criminals' memes.  So Eric Holder re-ignites the prosecute the CIA fires.  Let's put some people in jail.  This from the same left who felt that protests against Bush would cause Marshall Law to be imposed and every protester would be imprisoned and elections cancelled forever with Bush as the perma-President.  Yes, the hypocrisy is almost comical; they want to prosecute people who were trying to protect the country from an actual foe, whereas they were imagining a foe of freedom in Bush and believed they were going to be prosecuted for it.

The idea of prosecuting CIA personnel for trying to defend the country is assinine.  So bad in fact that there are rumors that liberal Leon Panetta, he of the no-intelligence-experience-but-now-heading-the-CIA fame gets it.  Apparently there were rumors he threatened to quit over it.  If he gets it, why doesn't Holder?  And does Holder have free rein here?  Has Obama lost control of his team?  That would certainly lead to a train wreck.

Alternately, if the White house is behind this agenda, then they have misjudged the American people.  This comes across as a vendetta and worse, as putting the nation's safety at risk by tying the hands of the covert defenders in order to score political points.  If that perception takes hold, you can count on another 10 points dropping off the President's job approval.  Yep, for them, that's a train wreck too.

The last possibility is that since Place Holder is leading this charge, and Obama and Holder have pulled this Alphonse and Gaston routine before, it's all contrived.  Maybe the script calls for Obama once agains to sweep in and say, we're not going to proceed with this - we have to look forward not backwards.  With that approach they temporarily appease the far left with the thinking that CIA folks are going to jail.  They can reclaim the middle ground with Obama saying that Holder's efforts are counter-productive and Obama is more bi-partisan and forward looking.  Of course the left might be enraged again, but if he frames it as saying "I'm above this petty stuff, trust me", maybe they'll buy it for a while.  By buying himself time, perhaps he can still sneak through health care 'reform' (shouldn't that be 'deform') in some shape.  That will appeal to his base partially.  It might keep them content.  And it might buy him time for Democrats in 2010 with the same old tired line that "this will take time to make a difference, so trust us".  Is there a train wreck in there too?  Absolutely - for that ploy to work in Obama's favor, every calculation described above has to go his way.  What could possibly go wrong?

For starters, the conservative giant has been awakened.  People in middle America won't sit still for CIA personnel being charged with crimes.  It might play well in Tehran, but in Atlanta? No way.  People intrinsically understand that in the broader world, you sometimes have to play outside the box in order to protect the Americans.

Secondly, who is to say the far left won't be completely disillusioned if Obama calls off Holder?  And who is to say Panetta won' actually quit?  That damages the President's credibility on both vetting (yet again) and on believability over whether CIA prosecutions make any kind of sense to even entertain.  And if Obama is losing the middle ground rapidly, this also starts to look a lot like waffling on the issue. Even if Holder is under control, it starts to look like he may be a loose cannon. That harms his visionary image and reinforces the lack-of-experience image.

There's just too many what-ifs for raising this issue now to be considered a good idea.  This is certainly a train wreck that's under way.  Stay out of the way of the debris that's going to fly everywhere.  On the other hand, it's in America's best interest for the Obama train to come to a screeching halt.  And if protests help hasten that impact, they need to keep going - even if it means contributing to a train wreck, because the alternative to an Obama train wreck, is an American train wreck.

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