Former Hillary strategist: Obama plan is awesome — if he wants to lose the election

posted at 2:45 pm on September 19, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama’s team seems to think that demonizing the wealthy will win him back his base and let him roll to re-election.  Not so fast, says Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton adviser Mark Penn at Huffington Post.  Obama’s plan makes for great strategy, Penn says, only if the President wants to pattern his next election like that famous Democrat, Walter Mondale:

Obama’s team actually believes that in the last six months they have courted independent voters and that didn’t work, so now they are turning to activating the base with higher taxes on the wealthy. However, he never made any meaningful appeal to those voters in terms they would understand. He supported extending the Bush tax cuts, temporarily zoomed up in the polls, and then promptly repudiated what he had done, only to then fall back down.

The 2010 mid-term elections were fought over Obama’s healthcare plan and on his plan to raise taxes on the wealthy by ending the Bush tax cuts. The results were, in his own words, a “shellacking.” After his most recent speech to Congress, voters in New York City’s Ninth Congressional District just elected a Republican for the first time since 1920.

And now, Obama is pressing the case for higher taxes, following in the footsteps of Walter Mondale. Higher taxes always seem to poll well, but in reality the country sees that as a last resort.

Voters see it as a last resort because the call for higher taxes always seems to follow a rapid increase in spending.  That was certainly true in 2010, when Democrats lost 63 seats in the House and nearly lost the Senate as well.  Penn reminds the White House that the anger over spending hasn’t yet dissipated from the midterms, and Obama is now stoking even more discontent by positioning himself as a typical tax-and-spend liberal — exactly as Mondale did in 1984.

That’s not the only historical parallel, either.  Penn thinks that Al Gore had the 2000 election sewed up until Gore went to his left and tried to run as a firebreathing populist.  John Kerry did the same thing in 2004, Penn says, with the same result.  Even in good times, voters don’t respond well to class warfare.

That will be especially true for Obama, who won in 2008 with what Penn says was a unique coalition of low- and high-income voters.  Obama lost the middle-class vote but in the end transcended income classes.  This latest John Edwardsesque iteration of Obama could solidify his hold on low-income voters, but he’s about to chase off everyone else.

If nothing else, Penn argues, it’s a missed opportunity to grab the center:

America wants to see the president focused on stimulating jobs and innovation, not on raising taxes in a near recession. The president could be out there with tax reform that promotes America’s greatest asset — the country’s hard working and ever successful professionals — and yet raises funds by closing the gap on taxes on capital. He could have tax reform that righted the balance between capital and wage income without opening up class warfare. And he could be moving forward on immigration reform, on trade deals, on new policies and programs that put America at the frontier of new technologies on energy and pharmaceuticals.

Instead, the president has wandered into the thicket of class warfare that will only compound the difficulties before his climb to re-election.

Unlike Penn, I’m not sure Obama has “wandered” anywhere he didn’t already tread repeatedly.  It’s not as if this is Obama’s first speech on who’s not paying their “fair share.”  It may be the first time that Obama has offered explicit tax hikes that backed up his rhetoric, but let’s also recall that Obama hasn’t produced legislative language for any of his major initiatives until now.  He relied on Nancy Pelosi to write the Porkulus package in 2009, and Pelosi and Harry Reid to write ObamaCare in 2009-10.  Obama handed off Wall Street reform to Chris Dodd and Barney Frank.  Now we’re getting a good look at Obama’s idea of specific policy, and it should surprise no one that he’s starting to look like Mondale — or even Jimmy Carter.

Penn’s essay will inevitably prompt more speculation about Hillary Clinton’s ambitions.  If Hillary was to run, her platform would almost certainly look a lot like Penn’s generalized approach — and that would definitely appeal to the voters Penn rightly says Obama is chasing out of the Democratic Party coalition.

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Now we’re getting a good look at Obama’s idea of specific policy, and it should surprise no one that he’s starting to look like Mondale — or even Jimmy Carter.

Starting to? He’s been Jimmy Carter since day 1.

aunursa on September 19, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Nothing a carelessly orchestrated campaign of stoking class and racial tensions won’t cure, and if it means that property gets destroyed and people killed….well ya gotta break some eggs to make waffle batter

Bishop on September 19, 2011 at 2:51 PM

IRS probe for Penn coming in 5…4….3

angryed on September 19, 2011 at 2:51 PM

And on those heels, libs ready to primary obama

ConservativePartyNow on September 19, 2011 at 2:52 PM

He who treads into the thicket of class warfare only emerges on the other side to the pond of “in-over-your-head” followed by the clearing of ex-presidency.

Meric1837 on September 19, 2011 at 2:53 PM

I can’t even get wound up about this today…

catmman on September 19, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Rush says he’s using class warfare and “revo1utionary” language for pure “incitement” to a soft revo1ution to replace capitalism. Øbama’s choice of language is “like throwing cherry bombs into the crowd.” Can’t get much blunter than that.

petefrt on September 19, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Not to worry, Governor MoonBeam is recruiting a ‘handful’ of candidates that will make Obama look like a reasonable moderate.

Skandia Recluse on September 19, 2011 at 2:53 PM

The Obama Experiment has failed.

portlandon on September 19, 2011 at 2:54 PM

The ‘Rats are deserting Obama’s ship of state.

kingsjester on September 19, 2011 at 2:54 PM

Worse than Carter.

rbj on September 19, 2011 at 2:54 PM

Since day one Obama has been running for President for Life of the AFL-CIO.

meci on September 19, 2011 at 2:54 PM

The Obama Experiment has failed.

portlandon on September 19, 2011 at 2:54 PM

The Malaise Project, is in full swing though.

upinak on September 19, 2011 at 2:56 PM

Quick….

Report Penn to Attaaaaaaack Waaaaaatch!

astuddis on September 19, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Voters see it as a last resort because the call for higher taxes always seems to follow a rapid increase in spending. That was certainly true in 2010, when Democrats lost 63 seats in the House and nearly lost the Senate as well. Penn reminds the White House that the anger over spending hasn’t yet dissipated from the midterms, and Obama is now stoking even more discontent by positioning himself as a typical tax-and-spend liberal — exactly as Mondale did in 1984.

That’s not the only historical parallel, either. Penn thinks that Al Gore had the 2000 election sewed up until Gore went to his left and tried to run as a firebreathing populist. John Kerry did the same thing in 2004, Penn says, with the same result. Even in good times, voters don’t respond well to class warfare.

Obama should be required in his speeches to display — whenever he again refers to “people” which he continues to do (“the most vulnerable people,” “the neediest people,” “the folks,” “those among us who haven’t got as much as the rest of us…” and such — he should be required to display a big sign with which “people” depicted, defined, named, identified.

Class warfare is tiresome but it still works with about 25% of the voting public who is swayed by their lusts for something someone else is perceived to have that they don’t. And the inevitable among those who blame others for just about every failure in their own lives.

But it fails with the rest of us. I agree that “even in good times, voters don’t respond well to class warfare” but Obama seems to embody that very thing as he also uses it with every opportunity to insult Americans.

I’ve concluded that what Obama wants isn’t so much another term as it is, decidedly, to harm the U.S.A. He genuinely wants to inflict as much damage (in his mind, “payback” for resentments he maintains about the U.S.A.) on the nation as possible and he’s going about continuing to do so. If it means losing an election, he seems to be willing in light of is goal.

Lourdes on September 19, 2011 at 3:00 PM

This is what you get when you vote for Hope & Change – without asking for any specifics, credentials, track record, etc.

gullxn on September 19, 2011 at 3:02 PM

Obama is now stoking even more discontent by positioning himself as a typical tax-and-spend liberal — exactly as Mondale did in 1984.

Obama has become a spend-and-tax liberal: wild spending and giveaways during his first two years with money he didn’t have, THEN increasing taxes to “pay for” his overspending that didn’t “stimulate” anything.

In 2008 he promised a free lunch–giveaways with no one to pay for them. Now he asks everyone else to pay for the “free lunches” he gave to his rich cronies and union bosses.

Sorry, Barry. We won’t buy any more Solyndras.

Steve Z on September 19, 2011 at 3:02 PM

Bob Beckel was Mondale’s campaign manager and on Fox’s “The Five”, he’s a fierce defender of Obama’s approach and a shrill class warrior. Interesting post.

cartooner on September 19, 2011 at 3:04 PM

We’re gonna need a bigger bus.

Drained Brain on September 19, 2011 at 3:04 PM

Former Hillary strategist: Obama plan is awesome — if he wants to lose the election

very clever headline, morrissey! no-one would bother to read a blog post that said “Mark Penn: [anything]“.

sesquipedalian on September 19, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Does Penn think that Obama is capable of being moderate?

Please – only the dimmest among us didn’t realize this guy was a hard-core radical during the 2008 campaign. He was obvious. He attended a Marxist Church, complete with a fire-breathing Marxist Pastor who was “caught on tape”. Obama says he sat in those pughs for 20 years and never heard that ugly rhetoric … and no sane person should have believed him.

You’ve got a radical here who quit work in the private sector to become a community agitator. A desciple of Alinsky. A guy who wants to “spread the wealth around”.

No, the guy was obviosly a FAR-LEFT hack from day one – and even those among us of AVERAGE mental capabilities realized this.

But … ONE THING I would like to emphasize here … is that Dimmocrits thought he was the “business” back in 2008 – the savior for all their woes.

The problem is – they picked the wrong “savior”. And now – three years after Carville wrote that the Dimmocrits would control this nation for the next 40 years – the Dimmocrits are fighting to stay off the endangered species list.

And … there’s a lesson in there for Republicans – who, I think – are about to find themselves in the very same fortuitous circumstances the Dimmocrits woke up to in January, 2009.

Who they CHOOSE to lead them will be important. That guy (or gal) will either save this nation or pilot her to the scene of the crash.

Choose wisely – the pendulum swings very fast – just ask the folks who were supposed to be in charge of this nation for a generation, but who will, instead, be writing resumes soon.

HondaV65 on September 19, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Obama and Obama’s policies have failed in almost every way imaginable.

He seems personally intractable. He persists in his failure. He doesn’t or won’t or cannot learn.

So what is Plan B, that is, what he thinks he needs to do to win re-election so he can shove the entire Marxist agenda down our throats in the next four years through every under-the-radar, behind-the-scenes and jackboot method possible?

That is the question.

I think the answers are almost endless, and I’m not sure he even knows yet what they will be. But they range, in my estimation, from war with Iraq to a border war with Mexican cartels to some falsified national security crisis that shuts down the internet.

Don’t just think “outside the box,” break the box.

rrpjr on September 19, 2011 at 3:10 PM

Except Obama is just proposing something that he knows Congress won’t pass, so he thinks it is a win-win for him. Play to his liberal base, but because the tax hikes won’t actually be enacted and send the economy into a death spiral, he can demogogue to his heart’s content. “Oh only if they had done what I wanted, things would have gotten better….”

txmomof6 on September 19, 2011 at 3:13 PM

So…when is this clown going to be impeached? At this point that is all I care about. Anything else has been occuring for the past three years.

RDE2010 on September 19, 2011 at 3:13 PM

Starting to? He’s been Jimmy Carter On Steroids since day 1.

aunursa on September 19, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Jimmy Carter was better.

antisocial on September 19, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Not to worry, Governor MoonBeam is recruiting a ‘handful’ of candidates that will make Obama look like a reasonable moderate.

Skandia Recluse on September 19, 2011 at 2:53 PM

My heart really aches for the state formally known as California. God only knows where it will be ten, fifteen years from now.

RDE2010 on September 19, 2011 at 3:17 PM

He was the “pragmatic”, “thoughtful” and rational President according to his admirers in the press.

Others thought the opposite: that he was a raging ideologue unable to walk away from his obsession with progressive redistributive policies.

Others like me.

I and others got it right. Our vaunted press is corrupt and incompetent.

Opposite Day on September 19, 2011 at 3:19 PM

So…when is this clown going to be impeached? At this point that is all I care about. Anything else has been occuring for the past three years.

RDE2010 on September 19, 2011 at 3:13 PM

Impeaching Obama would give the democrats a “do-over” and a clean slate for 2012.

As bad as Obama can make things over the next year, no impeachment.

cozmo on September 19, 2011 at 3:20 PM

Don’t just think “outside the box,” break the box.

rrpjr on September 19, 2011 at 3:10 PM

Like I’ve written, my estimation of Barack Obama is that his goal is to wreck the U.S.A. He’s going about doing that. That illusion of charm and grand speeches is simply the hood he pulls over the intentions to keep people looking elsewhere, to encourage not recognizing just what he’s up to (how can you dislike or mistrust such “a great speaker” or “cool guy”…).

Who they CHOOSE to lead them will be important. That guy (or gal) will either save this nation or pilot her to the scene of the crash.

Choose wisely – the pendulum swings very fast – just ask the folks who were supposed to be in charge of this nation for a generation, but who will, instead, be writing resumes soon.

HondaV65 on September 19, 2011 at 3:09 PM

I pray that the GOP does not follow the DNC model of following celebrity and flash in lieu of very closely examining intentions, goals and history.

The 2012 election does appear, quite seriously, pivotal as to our nation’s future and I pray that the Right does not emulate in 2012 the Left’s mistakes from 2008.

Lourdes on September 19, 2011 at 3:22 PM

He was the “pragmatic”, “thoughtful” and rational President according to his admirers in the press.

Others thought the opposite: that he was a raging ideologue unable to walk away from his obsession with progressive redistributive policies.

Others like me.

I and others got it right. Our vaunted press is corrupt and incompetent.

Opposite Day on September 19, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Exactly right. I’ve been among you “others” since Obama first became a publicly recognizable figure and it still boggles me how so many voters were literally “in love” with him (and some still are).

It’s proof, however, that there’re among our human populations some people who can be and are more easily fooled and misled, if not willingly misled. Isn’t limited to poverty-afflicted, affects people in all income levels and educational levels. It seems it’s something sorta’ instinctual in people: they either have accurate instincts or they don’t, or, they refuse to recognize and follow the right instincts when they do have them.

Lourdes on September 19, 2011 at 3:26 PM

I hear a lot of talk about primaries and people waiting to jump in, but so far there’s not a single challenger to Obama and the deadlines are getting closer.

Anybody know the drop dead date for entering the race?

John Deaux on September 19, 2011 at 3:26 PM

“Class warfare” is all that Barry knows. And that’s the only kind of sentence in which you can use Barry’s name and the word “class”.

GarandFan on September 19, 2011 at 3:27 PM

I’m tellin’ ya, e doesn’t want a second term.

otisframpton on September 19, 2011 at 3:28 PM

The ‘Rats are deserting Obama’s ship of state.

kingsjester on September 19, 2011 at 2:54 PM

I don’t want them to bail on him too soon until it’s too late for another donk to have the chance to grab the nomination. I want to sink them with Oboobi at the helm. 8)

AH_C on September 19, 2011 at 3:29 PM

My heart really aches for the state formally known as California. God only knows where it will be ten, fifteen years from now.

RDE2010 on September 19, 2011 at 3:17 PM

Begging the sane states for a bailout is where it will be.

stvnscott on September 19, 2011 at 3:33 PM

Community organizer

Thats all he knows

cmsinaz on September 19, 2011 at 3:34 PM

Even in good times, voters don’t respond well to class warfare.

So how did Obama get elected? Was it all because of “white guilt”?

Well if so, I hope those bastards feel guilty now.

Squiggy on September 19, 2011 at 3:35 PM

I don’t want them to bail on him too soon until it’s too late for another donk to have the chance to grab the nomination. I want to sink them with Oboobi at the helm. 8)

AH_C on September 19, 2011 at 3:29 PM

You don’t have to worry about that – because Obama won’t jump out of this race. And – that’s the ONLY way another Dim has a shot at the nomination – if Obama voluntarily gets out of the race. There’d be a full on race war in the Dimmocritic ranks if someone, like Hillary, tried to “coup” … “The One”.

Obama won’t get out because his true goal has been to “transform” America. Say what you will about Obama – but he is, at his core, a quite LOYAL and STALWART “revolut1onary” who will endure and sacrifice whatever it takes to reach his transformational goals.

ObamaCare? It’s the single biggest, and most transformational of his policies. He spent an incredible amount of political capital to get it passed – he won’t allow it to be stopped by a Republican potentially winning the oval office. Or – even worse, another Dimmocrit besides him might throw ObamaCare under the bus to get rid of it as a political negative for Dimmocrits.

No – Obama will not bow out. He has too much left to accomplish in his mind to do that.

HondaV65 on September 19, 2011 at 3:39 PM

“We’re going to tax their a$$e$ off…” – W. Mondale

“If you love me, you’ll let me tax your a$$ off…” – B.Obama

What’s with liberals and a$$ taxing?

Wyznowski on September 19, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Starting to? He’s been Jimmy Carter since day 1.

aunursa on September 19, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Bordering on Hugo Chavez, and Castro!

capejasmine on September 19, 2011 at 3:46 PM

No matter how many times I hear it, it is hard to believe that people exist who think Obama is too far right….

But apparently his “base” feels that way. LOL

jeffn21 on September 19, 2011 at 3:48 PM

The Day of Rage on Saturday was to be the precurser to this latest round of ObamaClass Warfare. It was a F.A.I.L.

Next he’ll trot out the goonions and that’s going to be quite the spectacle. Likely a loin girding experience.

/He needs to be removed from office. Very soon.

Key West Reader on September 19, 2011 at 3:54 PM

Obama can’t grab ‘the center’ because between the Progressive Left and the Progressive Right isn’t the mass of the population.

Grab all you want for that center and you will just find your hands in your pants.

Class Warfare and Populism isn’t popular because it destroys the economy… and those who aren’t Progressives know that. It is fear mongering at its best and destructive to civil society at its worse. And no ‘center’ will ever like that no matter WHO runs on it.

ajacksonian on September 19, 2011 at 3:55 PM

HRC doesn’t even HAVE to run for president to serve the same function that Teddy Kennedy served in Carter’s undoing. She’s already perfectly filling the role of ‘the Dem who is everything Obama isn’t’ without lifting a finger.

She’ll be the Dem nominee in 2016..not 2012.

DrW on September 19, 2011 at 3:59 PM

Leave Obama be, and let him alone to campaign, rant, and rattle on however he wants. He’s the best thing to happen for any successful Republican candidate.

Special Forces Grunt on September 19, 2011 at 4:01 PM

And over at HuffPo, Obama’s base, are almost unanimous in their declaration that Obama has already over-comprimised with the republicans. When Obama falls, there is going to be a wailing and gnashing of teeth and even gums.

bigmike on September 19, 2011 at 4:03 PM

Pathetic. This is resonating only with the marxist elements of the democrats. He’s gonna get increasingly desperate and the GOP needs to play this fish for a long time before they boat him.

Question is, can Boehner bring the game until there is a GOP candidate?

bloviator on September 19, 2011 at 4:04 PM

rrpjr on September 19, 2011 at 3:10 PM

I meant “war with Iran.”

rrpjr on September 19, 2011 at 4:07 PM

If Hillary was to run, her platform fiscal policy would almost certainly look a lot like Penn’s generalized approach Øbama’s

Just my opinion. They are two peas from the same pod.

UltimateBob on September 19, 2011 at 4:07 PM

I wasn’t rich until Obama became President

400lb Gorilla on September 19, 2011 at 4:13 PM

She’ll be the Dem nominee in 2016..not 2012.

DrW on September 19, 2011 at 3:59 PM

She’ll be in her 70s then. Remember how unkind the press was to Ronald Reagan because of his age?

I know, I know, he was an (R) and she’s a (D), so she’ll be treated more kindly by the press. But she’s also a female, and the press won’t be able to cover their misogyny for very long.

UltimateBob on September 19, 2011 at 4:13 PM

I see the stock market took another dive and I look forward to seeing Obama’s poll numbers do the same.

Ann on September 19, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Any attempt to appeal to the left is doomed to fail.

Once again: they don’t attack him because he’s not liberal enough, or not a leader. They attack him because he’s failing.

If his approval rating was 55% or so, or the unemployment rate were 7.9%, they would in line and chanting.

Their thinking is completely subsumed by the idea of social direction of the economy. They cannot accept that it is the primary cause of our current woes. So no matter how far left Obama runs, it will never be enough for them; the policies make the situation worse, and then liberals claim we need more of the policies.

HitNRun on September 19, 2011 at 4:48 PM

“He genuinely wants to inflict as much damage (in his mind, “payback” for resentments he maintains about the U.S.A.) on the nation as possible and he’s going about continuing to do so. If it means losing an election, he seems to be willing in light of is goal.”

Who does that sound like?

ncjetsfan on September 19, 2011 at 5:03 PM

Bill Clinton was impeached but was not removed. He was only convicted by the House. The Senate did not convict. Even though there was clear evidence of obstruction of justice, the Dems would not vote “guilty”.

Do you think that the Senate would actually convict Obama? Not going to happen. It takes 2/3rd of Congress to convict.

Voter from WA State on September 19, 2011 at 3:54 PM

Not just Democrats who voted Not Guilty. Senate Republicans too. See “Trent Lott”.

Del Dolemonte on September 19, 2011 at 5:35 PM

This latest John Edwardsesque iteration of Obama could solidify his hold on low-income voters, but he’s about to chase off everyone else.

He’s increasing the number of low-income as quickly as possible.

Jeff2161 on September 19, 2011 at 5:52 PM

It’s not class warfare. It’s what Obama believes.

MaggiePoo on September 19, 2011 at 6:17 PM

“He could have tax reform that righted the balance between capital and wage income without opening up class warfare.”

Megan McArdle Thinking about Taxes

I tend to think that we tax labor income more heavily than capital income not because capital income is more awesome or virtuous than labor income, but because the supply of capital is more sensitive to tax rates than the supply of labor. Most people have the choice between working and starving, and the latter isn’t really very attractive, so hours worked are only weakly responsive to tax rates, at least near current levels. But with capital, people have the choice of saving it here, saving it somewhere else with lower tax rates, or spending it now. Spending it now is pretty attractive, especially since it faces much lower tax rates than saving. So you have to be more careful about how heavily you tax capital income.

For some reason, Progressives keep thing that the sheep will stand still to be sheared. They won’t. Raise the Capital Gains tax, and people will sell stock less often. As a side effect of that, they’ll be a lot more careful buying stock, because they won’t be looking for growth anymore, they’ll be looking for dividends. Or they’ll spend their capital elsewhere.

LarryD on September 19, 2011 at 6:20 PM

Kinda makes me wonder if he actually wants to get re-elected.

galvestonian on September 19, 2011 at 6:22 PM

Hey, Penn, just you hush now. Let Barry do this thing, I’m sure it will work out juuuuust fine.

Freelancer on September 19, 2011 at 6:23 PM

Do you think that the Senate would actually convict Obama? Not going to happen. It takes 2/3rd of Congress to convict.

Voter from WA State on September 19, 2011 at 3:54 PM

This is why the electorate should either never elect a Democrat President, or never give the Democrats control of Congress. Republicans will clean house, Democrats won’t. Both will impeach a Republican, but the Democrats will never impeach one of their own.

LarryD on September 19, 2011 at 6:25 PM

So…when is this clown going to be impeached? At this point that is all I care about. Anything else has been occuring for the past three years.

RDE2010 on September 19, 2011 at 3:13 PM

Impeach the first black President? Right. Not if he were caught on video ripping live newborns apart with his teeth. Saving America takes a distant second to avoiding the “black outrage” at impeaching homeboy.

SKYFOX on September 20, 2011 at 6:29 AM