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Monday, June 25, 2012

tit for tat - Cal Thomas/Bob Beckel: The Obama Presidency (USA Today, We.13Jun12)



Cal Thomas is a conservative columnist. Bob Beckel is a liberal Democratic strategist. But as longtime friends, they can often find common ground on issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot.
USA Today: Has the Obama presidency failed?
By Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel, USA Today, We.13Jun2
Cal: No one knows the exact moment when a presidency fails because it usually isn't just one moment, but a collection of moments. President Obama is racking up a series of "moments," key among them his out of touch claim that the private sector is "doing just fine." Despite the spin and wishful thinking by those who support him, those moments may doom him to a single term.
Bob: They may, but I have my doubts. There are still five months until Election Day, and that is a lifetime in today's 24-hour news cycle politics. That is plenty of time for President Obama to get some good news for a change, but more important it gives voters, many for the first time, a chance to take a hard look at Mitt Romney. I'm betting they are not going to like what they see.
Cal: So, that's the plan. Never mind the president's record; demonize Romney. Not exactly the "new tone" the president promised four years ago.
Bob: He tried, but the Republicans wouldn't meet him halfway.
Cal: In February 2009, the president told Matt Lauer of NBC's Today show that if the economy did not recover in three years, his presidency would be a "one-term proposition." Unemployment numbers, the stock market and other economic signals are pointing in the wrong direction. I doubt any of these will head upward by November. According to the most recent Rasmussen poll, just 31% believe the country is headed in the "right direction." Unless the president performs the miracle so many of his supporters thought he was capable of four years ago, he won't win a second term and you'll have to get used to saying "President Romney."
Bob: First of all, the economy is in much better shape today then when Obama was sworn into office. Second, the numbers you refer to are simply a snapshot of a week in the spring of the year. The stock market has been way up during President Obama's first term, and what you are seeing is a slight pullback. Unemployment is down two full points since the worst of the recession, and millions of new jobs have been created since the first stimulus checks hit the economy in late spring of 2009. Are we better off than since then? Absolutely. The 800,000 Americans who landed new jobs this year sure think so.
Cal: Tell that to the jobless. At least 14 prominent Democrats have separated themselves from the president's attacks on Bain Capital. In addition to Newark Mayor Cory Booker's defense of private equity, former president Bill Clinton said Romney "had a sterling business career." And Bob Shrum, who ran John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, said: "I think we ought to just face reality here. (If) you just let this be a referendum, I don't think the president could win." Taken together, these moments signal that many prominent Democrats see the potential for losing the White House.
Bob: You conservatives are spinning this to make it appear Democrats are abandoning the president when nothing could be further from the truth. Bill Clinton has depended on private equity firms like Bain for his campaign money, his charities and for his own income. Cory Booker needs private equity groups to help his Newark renewal programs, and he has gotten it. Shrum may be right that the president might lose a referendum today, but the November election is not a referendum. It is a contest between Obama and Romney, which I believe Obama will win.
Cal: Most people would agree that Jimmy Carter's presidency was less than successful, to put it charitably. You were part of that administration. Was there a point when you and your colleagues thought, "Oh-oh, things aren't going well; we could lose this thing"?
Bob: Of course. The Arabs had cut off our oil supplies, interest rates skyrocketed, Ted Kennedy launched a primary campaign against us, and the Iranians had kidnapped 52 of our citizens. You think all that didn't make for a few sleepless nights? But I can tell you this — No one panicked, especially the president. Despite all that, the race was tight right up to the election for one very important reason that Mitt Romney will learn: Incumbent presidents are very tough to beat, and Barack Obama is in a far stronger position today than Jimmy Carter was then.
Cal: There are turning points in every presidency when voters have rendered a verdict, usually before Election Day, about whether a president deserves re-election. For Lyndon Johnson, it was the hated Vietnam War. For Richard Nixon, it was Watergate. Had the full force of that scandal broken before the 1972 election, Nixon might have not won a second term. George H.W. Bush broke his "no new taxes" pledge and doomed his re-election chance. Would you agree that the markers for a failed Democratic presidency are different from a Republican one?
Bob: I don't think Nixon would have had a prayer if Watergate broke in full before the election. Johnson declined to run in 1968, but if he had, he would have easily beaten Nixon. Even so, a wounded Hubert Humphrey almost beat Nixon. To your larger point about the press, I don't think markers are different for Democrats than Republicans simply because the things that bring down presidents are big events, and these will dominate the news and the course of a presidency no matter who is in the White House.
Cal: I have been traveling in Europe and am astounded at how the president's popularity has faded, in some cases faster than in America. Recall the reception he received in Berlin during the campaign. This week there is this from the German publicationSpiegel Online International: "Germans were ecstatic when Barack Obama took over the keys to the White House from George W. Bush. Now, though, a new Pew Research Center survey shows disillusionment with the U.S. president is widespread in Germany and that Obama has not lived up to the high expectations Europeans had of him." What's next, a request that his unearned Nobel Peace Prize be returned?
Bob: Shiny medals and European votes don't matter much in our elections. What looked like Obama's popularity in Europe was really relief that Bush was on his way out. Today, Europeans aren't thinking much about U.S. presidents as they deal with their own economic problems. Obama is delivering on his promise to wind down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Europeans' biggest complaint about the previous administration.
Cal: The Wisconsin recall election last week on Gov. Scott Walker sent two strong signals. One was that the unions no longer exert the power they once did. The second and possibly more important message was what can happen when Republicans stand by their principles and sell them with conviction to voters. National Republicans could learn a lot from Walker's example.
Bob: You're exactly right. Voters are looking for leaders with conviction, but Romney can't sell that. His list of "evolved" positions is almost as long as his list of positions. Most notably, as the Supreme Court is about to rule on the Affordable Care Act, Romney was for the individual mandate, which other Republicans now hate so much, before he joined the crowd and was against it. Romney took so long to wrap up the nomination because the party's base is confused about which of Romney's principles are genuine and which are window dressing.
Cal: Romney does have plenty of work to do in convincing conservatives that his conversions on a few issues are the real deal. And, sure, that complicates his run. But the closer we get to November, the more the focus will be on Obama's present policy failings and not on the past nuances of Romney's political views. I don't like to see any president fail. A failed presidency emboldens our enemies and no one, regardless of their political beliefs, should want that to happen.
Bob: I couldn't agree more. Failed presidencies have usually meant our country was in serious trouble, but this one has not failed … yet."

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Mar 11, 2008 - "My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world.  I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it." -- B. Hussein Obama

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