Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

July 8, 2010

A PRESIDENT WITH NO TIME TO WASTE.... Love him or hate him -- or occasionally maybe both -- President Obama is not exactly pursuing a laidback, static agenda. Peter Beinart recently made the case that Obama has recorded more significant milestones in 18 months than the last two Democratic administrations achieved in 12 years. Rachel Maddow observed, "The last time any president did this much in office, booze was illegal. If you believe in policy, if you believe in government that addresses problems, cheers to that."

So, why is the president in such a hurry? Newsweek's Howard Fineman thinks it has to do with Obama's style and sense of history.

So far in his presidency Obama has been tackling, even seeking out, sweeping, controversial challenges: the stimulus, the auto bailout, health-care reform, a new arms-control treaty with Russia. He still wants to deal with comprehensive energy and immigration legislation this year. So, is he in [a] hurry because he figures there may be no second term?

Well, my answer is this: Obama is playing a deep, longer-range game, one that involves burnishing his identity as a "historical," history-making figure. The president is swinging for the fences because that is what home-run hitters do. He hopes (expects) voters will reward him for the effort. Hence, his focus on the toughest topics in the broadest way. To switch sports analogies, if he were an Olympic diver, he'd always be attempting the dives with the highest degree of difficulty. If the execution isn't perfect, he gets a higher score anyway.

Jamelle Bouie thinks there are more structural factors at play.

Yes, President Obama has sped through his agenda as quickly as he could manage, but it's important to recognize that presidents have a very small window of opportunity for action. Presidents are at their strongest in the beginning of their terms; they have the momentum of an electoral mandate, the support of their party, and an enthusiastic staff. As time progresses, the president's power to persuade diminishes, opposition calcifies, and intra-party tensions flare up.

It's likely that President Obama has his eye towards history. But truth be told, all presidents have their eyes towards history.

My take is far closer to Bouie's, and I'd emphasize two related points.

The first is that Obama has proven to be far more ambitious than recent presidents because of circumstances -- Bush failed so spectacularly, Obama really didn't have much of a choice but to craft an unusually bold agenda. The to-do list was simply too long and too important for any other course of action.

The second is that Obama no doubt realizes that presidents very rarely have congressional majorities this large. Sure, FDR and LBJ had even bigger Democratic majorities, and no president before him has ever had to get 60% of the Senate on literally every bill of consequence, but the current Democratic majorities in Congress are the largest either party has had in a generation, and they'll very likely be the largest of Obama's tenure.

"The president is swinging for the fences because that is what home-run hitters do"? Perhaps, but he's also swinging for the fences because he's got a friendly pitcher on the mound, who's about to be replaced and won't return.

Steve Benen 3:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Who's the friendly pitcher?

Posted by: NealB on July 8, 2010 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

The friendly pitcher would be Ms. Pelosi, I would think. There is a chance (smaller than the MSM would have you believe - they're selling horseraces - but a chance nonetheless) that He Of The Orange Glow might be Speaker next year.

Posted by: LittlePig on July 8, 2010 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

"...The first is that Obama has proven to be far more ambitious than recent presidents because of circumstances -- Bush failed so spectacularly, Obama really didn't have much of a choice but to craft an unusually bold agenda. The to-do list was simply too longa and too important for any other course of action."- Benen.

This is the most prominent reason for his agenda...NECESSITY. Bush left office with the country falling off a cliff. So Benen's observation is more accurate than either he quotes.

"...because he's got a friendly pitcher on the mound, who's about to be replaced and won't return..."- Benen

This is what I'm talking about. Why are you even saying such crap? Your doom and gloom comments are way off base. These republicans have been over exposed for the shock doctrine hypocrites they are. They will not pick up seats or get reelected for the most part because they represent failure at every level and the low information goobers supporting them are still a minority. No matter how much money you throw at a pig or how many bonnets you put on it...it's still a pig and the republicans are the pig party now wallowing in oil instead of mud.

Posted by: bjobotts on July 8, 2010 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

And he has inherited quite a few. Unfortunately, he's dropped the ball on indefinite detentions, and the Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan FUBAR is probably going to be the main takeaway of his legacy.

Posted by: Uli Kunkel on July 8, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

both are right, and bouie's point should be repeated often - we ain't got much time.
Which is why I will never understand the shouts from the Left to always scrap something and go back to the table.

Posted by: Alli on July 8, 2010 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

we are specialized in offering all kinds of world brand sh0es,appare1,jeans,t-shirts,hoody,jackets,coats,pants,handbags,wallets,watches,sunglasses,belts,caps etc..

free shipping!free return!lowest price!

$3o Air J0rdan sh0es,Sh0x sh0es,Gucci,1V sh0es

$33 True-Religion jeans, Ed Hardy jeans,1V,C00gi jeans,Aff1icti0n jeans

$15 Ed-Hardy ,1v ,Guc ci Bikini

$15 P0L0, Ed-Hardy, Gu cci, 1v, Lac0ste T-shirts

$25 C0ach,Gu cci,1v,Prada,Juicy,Chane1 handbag,

$10 C0ach,Ed-Hardy,1v sunglasses

$9 New Era caps.

Welcome to ----------------www.netsowntown.com------------

Posted by: ttadge on July 8, 2010 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

The liberals have been so starved for their agenda they can't see the forest for the trees. If they took a step back like Madow did the other night on her show, they will see he has really changed a lot in this country for the better and they owe him more vigorous support. Not that he can't be criticized, but in the larger scheme of things he has pushed the progressive agenda forward more than anyone since LBJ. Of course it hasn't been perfect, but neither were Social Security, Medicare or any other major progressive policy initiatives. Policy needs time to work itself out and it becomes more popular and hopefully it will be improved.

What Obama needs is his very own superstar political strategist (or Darth Vader) to articulate his vision better. The only reason he is not getting more credit for the victories is because the messaging/perceptions are so badly handled, He needs to clean house and get a more effective messaging team behind him.

Posted by: TyLaw on July 8, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure I'd call it a friendly pitcher. More like the bases loaded. The runner on third is making a break to steal first, the runner on second is standing off the bag waiting for an opinion poll to tell him which way to run, and the runner on first is blaming the batter because the other two won't get out of his way.

Knocking the ball over the fence is good, but if the runners don't stop clogging the bases it's not going to accomplish much.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 8, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure I'd call it a friendly pitcher. More like the bases loaded. The runner on third is making a break to steal home

fyt

Posted by: DJ on July 8, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps President Obama wants to actually solve some of the country's problems and isn't quite as concerned with political issues as we think...?

Posted by: zappawannabe on July 8, 2010 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, but it was written as intended. The runner on third, although wearing the same uniform, isn't really on board with the goal of pushing runs across the plate. He feels safer on first, where he doesn't have to pursue such a radical agenda.

Whether he's proceeding there via second base or just taking off across the diamond, I leave to the reader's imagination.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 8, 2010 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

I love sports but hate lame analogies.
Pres. Obama seems to see the Presidency as part of his life not the whole thing. He is a relatively young man who does not seem to care so much about future elections as long as he gets the chance to point the country in the right direction.

Posted by: hornblower on July 8, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Add in the idea that legislation is only one part of the mix. He needs to move the legislation NOW while he has the majorities. If the Reps take back one or both houses, Obama can focus extensively on using the regulating and enforcing power of his office, engaging on foreign policy more prominently, and reminding the public that his veto pen is the only thing keeping us from returning to the twelth century.

Posted by: Mark on July 8, 2010 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

There's another reason: he will have only one term, either because he chooses not to run again or because he won't win re-election. Obama has admitted that he has made several decisions, notably the decision to prioritize health insurance reform, based on the view that he may serve only one term. Though he has two more years before the next presidential election, things are looking very bleak for the Democratic Party, mostly because it truly stinks at politics. Unless there is a dramatic shift in mood, either because the GOP wins control of Congress and overreaches with special investigations about birth certificates and secret FEMA camps (likely) or because the Democrats learn how to sell their policies to the American people (unlikely), Obama cannot win in 2012. I think he sees the writing on the wall.

Posted by: ameshall on July 8, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Bouie? That piece of scum? Jesus don't bother with that ass.

Posted by: mnpundit on July 8, 2010 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Had you noticed that self serving people like Fineman bring an assumption of self serving to every analysis of anything anyone ever does? Cuz I have.

Posted by: thebewilderness on July 8, 2010 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Love him or hate him or both. He's been weak tea on domestic issues, terrible on civil rights and the wars. He's lost control of the message, and the Dim Dems don't have a clue. That's the bad stuff.

But the Rethugs don't really have a candidate for 2012. Scott Brown? Pretty face with no brains. Sarah Palin? Pretty face with even fewer brains. Mike Huckabee? Preacher and little else. Newt Gingrich? Has-been multiple adulterer (I realize that doesn't matter in Rethug circles). Jeb Bush? Bush fatigue is still with us. Mitt Romney? A flip-flopper extraordinaire. John McCain? Senile old bat, and outrageous flip-flopper. There's no one there.

Only anger drives the Rethug party of 2010, and even though the teabaggers have taken control of the party and may score some gains in November because of a low turnout, that won't carry to 2012. The mid-terms will not be a belle weather for the presidential. The economy is far more likely to be the determining factor, and given the moronic stupidity of the Dim-Dems about creating jobs, and helping people Obama certainly isn't a shoo-in for a second term.

Posted by: rrk1 on July 8, 2010 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Nah, Obama's not a home run hitter. He's a doubles hitter with a high on-base percentage: lots of hard-hit balls, some of them go over the fence. He doesn't strike out much and rarely makes baserunning errors. He goes deep in the count, and when the pitcher makes a mistake, Obama makes him pay for it.

(Okay, that's as far as I can take this sports analogy. Who's up next?)

Posted by: massappeal on July 8, 2010 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Obama describes himself as an incrementalist, and looking at the incompleteness of the reforms he's pushed through, it's appropriate. It's the breadth of the attack on a wide range of fronts that Obama hopes to be rewarded for with a second term, not just one defining marker. Fineman's characterization of Obama as a home run hitter is just nonsense from Obama's own view of what he's doing and from his self awareness of the unpleasant realities of the compromises he's made to get parts of a liberal's agenda through.

Since the de jour metaphor is baseball, Obama's more akin to Ty Cobb than Babe Ruth. He has lots of hits, but a self imposed disdain for home runs or even swinging for them.

Posted by: gone_west on July 8, 2010 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: ameshall on July 8, 2010 at 4:36 PM

Completely unsupported nonsense. He's already accomplished 10Xs what the republican party is even capable of. Spending freeze? More tax cuts for the wealthy? Deregulation? No energy policy? Continuing the failed policies that created our current disaster? Owned by big oil and Ins.? And idiots whose rhetoric cannot withstand criticisms. Though dems may disappoint the alternative is insane and demonstrates complete failure and lunacy.

Listening to minorities with big megaphones is still hot air. Obama will win a 2nd term because of his accomplishments in the face of this republican disaster and because the alternative is proven failure. Dems will win in nearly all races because the alternative has gone completely 'round the bend. Dem voters will not be complacent due to the 'necessity' to survive this republican disaster and the fear of the horrifying consequences of insane republican candidates. (there are no matching dem personalities to Palin, Bachmann, Angle, King, etc...the list is huge and they have all been exposed more now than ever so their cons are not working anymore.) You'll see.

Posted by: bjobotts on July 8, 2010 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Obama will win a second term regardless of the economy and will win in a HUGE landslide if the economy turns in 2012. Right now it's a referendum on Obama but come 2012, the GOP candidate will have to articulate his positions and explain how he or she will be different the Bush. The problem is because Bush did everything the conservative platform and movement called for, the candidate will have to toe a line that no Republican is capable of doing (unless they have an Obama type figure that appears out of nowhere).

Posted by: Archon on July 8, 2010 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

OK, WM, you've had four hours to figure out that the same spam post attempting to sell crap that appears ALL THE TIME has shown up once again.

Why does it take so long to notice, and why can't you block these things in the first place?

This is more annoying than the Sarah Palin etc. crap that shows up here in the margins. I realise you can't do much about that, although a comment on another thread above asks you to. Oh, that thread has one of the selling crap spam posts also.

Posted by: emjayay on July 8, 2010 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

I think your read is right, and the sad thing is that there will still be so much left to do, crucial things. And we will be arguing about school uniforms in all likelihood.

Posted by: bob h on July 9, 2010 at 5:54 AM | PERMALINK

"He needs to clean house and get a more effective messaging team behind him."

He needs to put 2 or 3 million people back to work. Quick. Over a year ago when he was digging the hole he's gotten himself into, his incompetent economic team was telling him to say unemployment would top out at 8 or 9 percent. Less than a year later, those projections were proved incorrect, and we've had unemployment pushing 10% for over six months now; with no end in sight. He needs to get busy and fire Summers, Geithner, Emanual, and the whole lousy crew (if their ouster is not already in the works).

Millions upon millions still out of work is failure. Obama's failure. Blame it on the Republicans. Doesn't fix a damn thing. The time for drastic action (58 Democrats in the Senate) is long past due.

Posted by: NealB on July 9, 2010 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly