The first months of President Obama’s second term are being built around a simple premise: No caving.
From the sequester to immigration reform to the broader debate about the role of government in American life, Obama is in an ultra-assertive mood, practically daring Republicans to defy his wishes…
These days, however, GOP figures are deriding Obama’s approach as that of a “roadshow president,” as House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently called him.
Conservatives accuse Obama of being happier making airy claims and promises at campaign-style events than engaging in the nitty-gritty of governance. In particular, they suggest that his purported willingness to compromise to avert the sequester was vague at best and bogus at worst.
As the nation’s top Democrat, President Obama has a clear imperative: to ratchet up pressure on Republicans for across-the-board spending cuts by using the power of his office to dramatize the impact on families, businesses and the military.
But as president, Mr. Obama is charged with minimizing the damage from the spending reductions and must steer clear of talking down the economy. A sustained campaign against the cuts by the president could become what one former aide called “a self-fulfilling kind of mess.”…
If severe economic pain ultimately fails to materialize, Mr. Obama could be blamed for hyping the situation, much like his cabinet secretaries were in recent weeks.
Do we have a president or a perpetual candidate? It’s not an entirely unfair question.
Even as Barack Obama was warning of the dreadful consequences of the budget sequester looming on March 1, he spent days away from Washington, apparently out of touch with Democratic as well as Republican congressional leaders…
It appears that Obama prefers delivering such messages to crowds of adoring supporters over actually governing.
His theory seemed to be that if he kicked his job approval rating up a few points, Republicans would agree to the revenue increases he is promoting, just as they agreed to a tax-rate increase in the “fiscal cliff” showdown.
Democrats get to do the P.C. Shimmy. Traditional presidents go through a normal set of motions: They identify a problem. They come up with a proposal to address the problem. They try to convince the country that their proposal is the best approach.
Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy, the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn’t address the problem (let’s raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. Then he returns to Washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town.
Mini-maxing is when a player designs a [video-game] character that is fantastically good at one thing, at the expense of everything else. So you could end up with a character who is, say, obscenely good at hitting things with a sword – but can’t convince a bunch of sailors to drink free beer. The mini-maxer doesn’t mind; he’ll just go around the game trying to resolve as many problems as he can by hitting them with a sword (tabletop gamers – err, “D&D players” – often call this The Gun is My Skill List, although obviously substitute a sword for a gun in the name). The problems that the mini-maxer can’t resolve that way he’ll either ignore until later, or else flail about on the screen while hitting the buttons quickly and/or at random (“button-mashing”), in the hopes that eventually the laws of probability will allow him to bull on through anyway.
And that’s where we are now. Barack Obama knows how to do one thing: elect Barack Obama to public office. And that’s not ‘elect Democrats.’ Or ‘elect liberals.’ Or even ‘elect people that Barack Obama likes.’ It’s just him: his team is trying pretty hard right now to figure out how to use their over-specialized skill more generally, but they don’t have much time to figure it out and the system is actually rigged against them in this case. Barack Obama certainly doesn’t know how to govern effectively; take away a Congress that will rubber-stamp the Democratic agenda and he flails about. He’s so bad at this, in fact, that when confronted with a situation where all he had to do was do nothing to fulfill a campaign promise (the tax cuts) we somehow ended up with a situation where Obama gave in on 98% of those tax cuts and voluntarily signed up to take the blame for the AMT fix. In short: Obama was woefully unprepared for the Presidency, and he hasn’t really spent the last four years trying to catch up. Instead, he goes from situation to situation either trying to recast the problem in ways that he does have some skill in (permanent campaigning for office), or else… flail about on the scene while hitting people’s buttons quickly and/or at random, in the hopes that eventually the laws of probability will allow him to bull on through anyway.