April 21, 2011

Obama caught in his own crosshairs

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Ed Morrissey at Hot Air writes perhaps the most politically astute paragraph I have read this year.  In particular, while the paragraph positions the debt ceiling fight on good ground for Republicans,  his last sentence is amazingly precise on how to deal with President Obama's personal approval ratings - an item which will be key in 2012.
"Expect to hear more of the argument that Republicans agree with Barack Obama — circa 2006, though, not 2011, on debt ceilings. Crowley notes that the White House now says that Obama regrets the vote, and it’s clear that he does, but for all the wrong reasons. Republicans have a good argument in this case that a vote against a debt-ceiling hike is a mainstream and not extreme position, but that enabling trillions more in deficit spending is not just extreme but also extremely dangerous. For the White House to argue otherwise is to admit that Obama really was the emperor who wore no clothes in 2006, just a year before he claimed to have all the expertise necessary to be President of the United States." 
 It sets up the following alternate explanations of the Obama flip-flop on the debt ceiling, none of which show the President in a positive light.

(1) He was being disingenuous in 2006 and really didn't care about the debt ceiling. He voted against the limit because of who the President was and not because he wanted to curtail spending.  Evidence since his election bears out that he is a classic tax and overspend liberal.  Now that he's president, he simply wants to spend more and his numerous white elephant purchases aren't enough for him.  He can't bring himself to reign in his spending wish list, so he's got to get more debt approved.  In other words, he's not prepared to cut debt even though he talks about it because - he's disingenuous.  There is the argument that he does care but that this is simply too big an issue not to take immediate action (the easy route). The president could argue that yes he cares about the debt ceiling but that immediate solvency is important too.  That's a valid position but in a political light, he cannot carry off that argument with sincerity.  Does the president care about the debt ceiling?  It seems only inasmuch as it hampers his agenda.  If he were serious about fiscal responsibility his budget proposal would not be full of gimmickry and accounting tricks to curtail spending.  He would not be calling Paul Ryan's budget extreme, only misaligned with American priorities (he'd be wrong but at least he wouldn't be demagoguing).

(2) He was being political in opposing more debt - which he's admitted to - and therefore, was trying to play to both the middle and his base in order to help himself in 2008. In that case he's a political opportunist without conviction and cannot be trusted in anything he says. Ask a liberal about Guantanamo or using military tribunals. Ask them about his promises around leaving Iraq. Liberals already know he lies. The fact is they mostly don't care. But for those for whom character matters, this matters.  

(3) In 2006, as Ed Morrissey puts it, two years away from winning the presidency, he was too inexperienced for the job. Never mind that all his actions since then have borne out this truth. Hillary Clinton was right - experience matters, not that she had the right experience either.  Either he didn't realize the implications of his actions and has since had to learn on the job, or again he was being dishonest with voters. In the first case, that inexperience has caused significant damage and America cannot afford more on-the-job training for this guy.  In the latter case, he can't be trusted to be honest with the American people.THAT is a big deal.

In addition, the president cannot argue that by refusing to acquiesce on raising the debt ceiling the Republicans are taking an extreme position.  And boy, do his surrogates and he love to portray the Republicans as extreme. It's a political crutch.  But if he chooses to do so in this instance, by his own prior actions, he admits his own extremity.  He has taken away his own crutch by his previous vote.  Now, he can paint the Republicans as being political, but that is fr more easily countered.  The GOP could simply argue that his claims of them being political are themselves in fact political.  After all, the GOP is being motivated by a need to save the nation from financial collapse and getting a moratorium on the repeated raising of the debt ceiling is an honorable objective, not a political one.  If Obama were to counter 'where was the GOP in 2006?' well, they were out of touch with their constituencies and it resulted in losing elections in 2006 and 2008. Their years in the wilderness has brought them starkly, back to reality - both fiscal, and with voters.

No matter what the positioning the president takes with this, it is damaging and it needs to be hammered from now, past the debt ceiling battle, right through to the election in 2012.  The president is dishonest, inexperienced and/or a demagogue and partisan political hack not above the fray he claims to have wanted to bring the American political system beyond.  There is no evidence to the contrary on the latter point and on the first two points, plenty of evidence those statements are not wrong.  This is yet another golden opportunity for the GOP if they don't miss it.  Hammer away Republicans, with Alinsky-like intensity and relentlessness, and not just in the mainstream media - there are ways around that roadblock as I have been saying for years.

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