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August 22, 2011 2:25 PM ‘If I Were President’

By Steve Benen

The New York Times came up with a new feature, which ran over the weekend, called, “If I Were President.” The point of the exercise is to ask “a range of Americans who don’t labor in politics or the media what they’d do” if they sat in the Oval Office.

It’s not a bad idea for a feature, but the results were underwhelming. Participants came up with plenty of worthwhile ideas — investments in infrastructure, education, and clean energy, for example — that the actual president has already endorsed. And therein lies the problem: “If I Were President” doesn’t even try to be realistic, or take into consideration the limits on the power of the presidency. It presupposes that a president can simply do as he or she chooses.

As Jon Chait noted, “[T]he entire concept makes no distinction between the notion of ‘if I were president’ and ‘if I were king.’ If you were the president, of course, you would need a course of action that could be accomplished either through an executive order or that could be passed through both the House and Senate. The proposals generally make no allowance whatsoever for Congress.”

And that, in turn, makes the point of the feature underwhelming. That said, it does get one thinking about what the president could have done differently.

Ezra Klein argues he’s pondered this, and can’t come up with better decisions that would have led to “dramatically better outcomes.”

…I’ve never been able to come up with a realistic scenario in which a lot more got done, the economy is in much better shape, and the president is dramatically more popular today. […]

Indeed, if you had taken me aside in 2008 and sketched out the first three years of Obama’s presidency, I would have thought you were being overoptimistic: an $800 billion stimulus package — recall that people were only talking in the $200-$300 billion range back then — followed by near-universal health-care reform, followed by financial regulation, followed by another stimulus (in the 2010 tax deal), followed by the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” followed by the killing of Osama bin Laden and the apparent ousting of Moammar Gaddafi? There was no way. And yet all that did get done.

Agreed. On the accomplishment front, if you’d told me in December 2008 that Barack Obama, after 32 months in office, would accomplish all of the things Ezra mentioned — along with New START, auto-industry rescue, student loans, food safety, etc. — I would have been skeptical. It generally takes presidents two terms to put together that many accomplishments. Indeed, most presidents leave office with far fewer landmark achievements. The notion that Obama would do all of this in 32 months would have seemed fanciful, and yet, here we are.

As for Ezra’s larger point, I’m hard pressed to imagine a better course, too. The White House could have been far more aggressive on housing policy in 2009, and may have been able to get a slightly larger stimulus, but in terms of achieving “dramatically better outcomes,” my imaginary hindsight-to-do list is pretty thin.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • SadOldVet on August 22, 2011 2:31 PM:

    If the title of the show was If I were republican president?; then this column would be obviated as republican presidents are elected (and sometimes selected) to rule. Democrat presidents seem to think they are elected to govern!

  • jjm on August 22, 2011 2:33 PM:

    Yes, I think it is BECAUSE Obama accomplished so very much -- and despite Congressional obstruction is continuing to do things, like raising the mpg rate -- that the GOP is running so hard against him.

    I've made the point in post after post: if Obama, as their trolls keep saying, is an 'empty suit,' 'charlatan,' 'weak,' 'ineffectual' then WHY try to UNDO everything he managed to accomplish? Why not let him crumble to nothing on his own?

    But even the so called progressives are starting to believe he has 'done nothing.'

    So kudos to Ezra Klein and you Steve for reminding us! (not to mention helping liberate the Middle East and North African in a low key, but very effective way! and capturing and eliminating bin Laden.)

  • Danp on August 22, 2011 2:38 PM:

    “[T]he entire concept makes no distinction between the notion of ‘if I were president’ and ‘if I were king.’

    To be fair, nominees for President don't seem to understand the difference either. And when the media blathers about broken promises, you have to wonder if they do.

  • martin on August 22, 2011 2:38 PM:

    We are a country of people who watch cartoons instead of learning how our country works:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUxPHJ36u0w
    (go to 1:35)

    Mr Catcha says its the miingshi school

  • Ron Byers on August 22, 2011 2:40 PM:

    You are right Steve. The president has accomplished a lot more in his 3 years than Clinton accomplished in 8. Infinitely more than George HW Bush accomplished in his 4.

    How come the press doesn't realize what Obama has been able to do despite a congress dead set against letting him do anything?

    Maybe it has to do with the "what have you done lately" vision of the national media. Collectively they national press corps seems to have the same short term memory as my grandson's goldfish.

    Maybe it has to do with a deliberate decision by our corporate masters (media and otherwise) not to let us remember what Obama has accomplished. I sometimes thin we are closer to George Orwell's 1984 that I would like.

    Maybe Obama's problems cleaning up GWB's messes are just so large that any accomplishments pale by comparison with how much needs to be done.

    Maybe the President is just too modest and doesn't seem to toot his own horn very much. God knows the National Democratic Party and Congressional Democrats often seem ashamed of the administration's accomplishments.

    I don't know Steve, why don't people reflect on what Obama has accomplished.

  • SW on August 22, 2011 2:40 PM:

    Here's an idea. How about if the president didn't buy into the bullshit austerity line that GOP has been peddling ever since a Democrat was elected to the Whitehouse, and also didn't buy into the notion that green shoots were sprouting all over the place and we had done enough in terms of expansionary monatary policy. How about if instead he had been warning all along that an obsession with budget cuts would cause irreparable damage to the economy and push us back into recession. That the role of the federal government is to be countercyclical, that it is the exact opposite of the family budget and if the federal government is belt tightening at the same time that everyone else is it will kill us. That the Republican prescription for the economy is a prescription for disaster and that the positive good that people were seeing early on was in danger of being snuffed out by an early pivot to austerity.

    It is true that the policy that we ended up with would not have been substantially different. But if this was the message that he was giving the population and if it were coupled with a real effort on the part of the justice department to prosecute those responsible for the financial crisis in the first place, we wouldn't be playing on the Republican's end of the field today. He would have at least fulfilled his obligation to inform the public. At least folks would understand why things are as fucked up as they are. Instead it has been all too easy for the Republican's to trot out their tired old blame government bullshit and in the absence of a compelling alternative narrative many people believe it.

  • the_dan on August 22, 2011 2:42 PM:

    Policy-wise, he could've been not such a dick about deportation for his first 31 1/2 months, and he could have been more aggressive about implementing mortgage relief programs.

    Politically, he could've claimed victory on Dodd-Frank better, and I really really wish he wouldn't have diseducated the American people with GOP economic rhetoric like "government needs to tighten its belt just like families do."

  • plim schmuggin on August 22, 2011 2:45 PM:

    The big mistakes of the Obama administration have to do with the economy: being bolder, communicating better, and having a backup plan.

    Obama should have argued forcefully for a larger stimulus, at least as a starting point for negotiations and put in a trigger for additional stimulus if benchmarks related to unemployment and/or growth weren't hit within 18-24 months. Unfortunately, he started negotiations around politically-oriented numbers (gotta be less than $1T) instead of economic-oriented numbers.

    If we go into a double-dip, the second dip could credibly be called the "Collins-Snowe" recession.

    He never made the pitch that the US economy is enormous and will take time to set a new course (like turning around an aircraft carrier).

    And he let the GOP change the conversation from jobs to debt without a fight.

  • agorabum on August 22, 2011 2:46 PM:

    Too much of the stimulus was "shovel ready" work; I would have liked to see something (obv. passed before the midterms) that funded much bigger and longer lasting infrastructure projects.
    Hopefully that would have had enough pork for the home districts to get that 60th senator...

  • cwolf on August 22, 2011 2:47 PM:

    The President could have - but dod not:
    Close Gitmo
    End the war in Iraq & remove US military from that country.
    End the war in Afghanistan & remove US military from that country.
    End the drug war in Colombia et al & remove US military from those countries.
    Stop bombing Somalia, Yemen, etc.
    Stop supplying Israei with WMDs.
    Get (or even try to get) single Payer HCR.
    Stop the DEA from being assholes and ruining lives.
    Close Scores of Mil Bases in Europe, Asia, etc.
    Demilitarize Space or the Oceans.
    Certainly much more.
    All or most of the above could have been accomplished with a presidential sig.

    In addition, Some of the things he is credited with are not his accomplishments or amount to PR lipstick.

    Had Obama acted on some of the above, Congress would have shown him more respect & made other accomplishments more likely.

  • BrklynLibrul on August 22, 2011 2:48 PM:

    You need to read some of the comments over at Ezra's place. They destroy his arguments. Enough shilling for the administration, Steve -- it's so transparently careerist.

  • c u n d gulag on August 22, 2011 2:51 PM:

    The Bush Junta members, and the bankers and financiers who basically sent the world's economy down the drain, should have been charged, tried, and, if found guilty, sent to Gitmo.

    And the prisoners there charged, tried, and if found guilty, sent to Super Max prisons until they served their time, or passed away.

    Them's my $0.02 worth.

  • Archon on August 22, 2011 2:55 PM:

    The President in effect has a free hand in foreign policy so whatever happens in that field, Obama owns it

    The domestic situation is much more complicated. I think Obama in the long run will be vindicated by his accomplishments although I do think it's fair to argue what would have happened if he invested every ounce of political capital into a major job innovation program (like Green) instead of health care.

  • Plim on August 22, 2011 2:58 PM:

    "Collins-Snow Recession"

    Don't forget it.

  • wvng on August 22, 2011 2:59 PM:

    cwolf's "if I were king list" started with "Close Gitmo" - which, of course, the democratic Congress kept him from doing by denying the necessary funds. As nearly as I can tell, the only thing he could have done differently is better and more consistent progressive rhetoric, not anything in terms of substantive legislation. And if he had frightened conservative Dems off with that more progressive rhetoric, we might well be sitting here with far fewer accomplishments to tout and a weaker position going into 2012.

  • Robert Waldmann on August 22, 2011 3:04 PM:

    I think the problem is not having an "If I were President" feature but with failing to edit it. Any entries which made proposals not within the authority of the President should have been sent back with a highlighted copy of the Constitution and an explanation that anyone who is so completely ignorant of that document is not welcome to participate (ever again) in any policy debate hosted by the New York Times.

    OK one maybe the first time a warning would be OK but publishing things inconsistent with the Constitution is a waste of ink and of the New York Times's reputation.

  • Jamie on August 22, 2011 3:04 PM:

    Obama's done quite a bit, but the unemployment rate is still 9% so reelection is chancy. His best hope is probably a craze GOP nominee.

  • IGD on August 22, 2011 3:04 PM:

    I agree that in this is clearly a pretty amazing list of accomplishments...and would be recognized and parroted as such if it did not run against the preconceived media narrative of Democratic administrations. However, this does not preclude criticizing how the president achieved these clearly positive outcomes...namely, through a style that has grown wearisome to those that believe one should begin by vociferously arguing for the evidence-based, best solution and then settle for the best one can get at the end of negotiations.

    This is clearly not what happened in most or any of these legislative achievements. If he believed a higher stimulus was necessary then he should have argued for this loudly until the very last moment possible before reaching a compromise, and he should have clearly forewarned the consequences of insufficient stimulus. Likewise, in the case of healthcare, he should have argued for a medicare expansion or a public option loudly and aggressively, before caving. Because he has failed to do these things, the narratives guiding our political discourse have not budged, which is more than disheartening because many of these are clearly simply factually incorrect. Put quite simply, it is often hard to tell what he believes versus what he is settling for.

  • Danny on August 22, 2011 3:08 PM:

    A lot of people have very quickly forgotten that the popular sentiment in the fall of 2008 was that you'd almost have to be a fool to pursue the Presidency given the state of the country at that time. When Obama was inaugurated he had two deteriorating, costly fullscale wars in the middle east, the fight against Al Qaeda, trillion dollar deficits, job loss of 800k ppl/a month, etc etc on his plate.

    During his first term he's been hit with everything from deep horizon, to the arab spring, to wikileaks, to the rise of the Tea Party and unprecedented republican obstructionism, the manufactured S&P downgrade, European debt woes etc, etc.

    He's had his work cut out for him from day one. I think he's performed splendidly. In the end he may prevail or succumb depending on the strength of the economy, I think he'll be remembered as a good president that worked his -ss off for the good of the nation.

  • SLF on August 22, 2011 3:13 PM:

    How about not tripling down in Afghanistan? Or bringing those Americans and that money home? Or using stimulus money to rebuild infrastructure and create jobs? Or not wasting time chasing down whistle blowers? Or not breaking promises to let the Bush tax cuts on the filthy rich expire? Or taking advantage of a Democratic House when he had it? Or leveling with the people? Or calling out Republican lies? Or not buying into the Republican frames or this stupid, false debt ceiling "crisis"? Or fighting for principle, even if you lose, because it's the right thing to do and sets an example? Or campaigning enthusiastically for Democratic candidates in 2008? (Sestak could have used some help.) Or not dissing the progressive base again and again? Or -- shock! -- actually reproving your COS when Rahm let fly a highly offensive bully snarl about concerned Democrats who want the public option? (I'm talking about the "f------ r-----" remark: forget the f word: on what civilized planet is the r word part of a working vocabulary?) Or not accepting a new CIA nominee who says torture is sometimes okay? Or saying NO to more deep drilling? I could go on.

  • Josef K on August 22, 2011 3:17 PM:

    To be fair, its unlikely everyday Americans comprehend just how tightly-sealed the feedback loop of contacts and influence is in Washington, or how constraining it is upon initiative at nearly every level. I speak from some experience here.

    There are a thousand and ten things that, ideally, could have done in the last two and a half years that would have made a serious difference, a thousand and eleven of them having no real chance to see fruition because a sizable portion of Washington has a vested interest in the status quo. Arguably the President has such an interest as well, albeit more for tactical reasons.

    Add to that a very confused national electorate, with very pervasive voices that keep it confused, and soon the President is effectively 'trapped' by their circumstances as opposed to being able to control them. And I'm afraid that a cold-eyed look at President Obama's career to date suggests he prefers working and advancing 'consensus' rather than challenging it. The trouble is consensus in Washington these days doesn't translate into anything remotely positive for the country as a whole.

    I'm not sure President Obama understands this or even comprehends it. What kind of future the country sees depends heavily upon him doing so and finding some way of expanding the benefits.

  • SecularAnimist on August 22, 2011 3:28 PM:

    Steve Benen wrote: "... if you’d told me in December 2008 ..."

    If you had told me during the 2008 campaign that the next president would approve the largest expansion of offshore oil drilling in US history, AND a massive expansion of coal mining on public lands, AND a pipeline to move hideously polluting Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico, I would have assumed that McCain and Palin won the election.

  • Anonymous on August 22, 2011 3:28 PM:

    wvng on August 22, 2011 2:59 PM, Took issue with:

    cwolf's "if I were king list" started with "Close Gitmo" - which, of course, the democratic Congress kept him from doing by denying the necessary funds.

    I won't go into the "lack of funding" argument because it is laughable on its face.

    As far as the idea that what he "could have done differently is better and more consistent progressive rhetoric",,, his rhetoric would have had greater impact if he wasn't such a pushover for "Tea Party Rhetoric", or scared shitless by the turtle, and/or had actually accomplished some of the things I mentioned along with some other fine things he could have done, mentioned in other comments.

  • cwolf on August 22, 2011 3:30 PM:

    RE: Anonymous on August 22, 2011 3:28 PM:
    Don't know why it didn't give my nik but I wrote that comment
    cwolf

  • Kane on August 22, 2011 3:33 PM:

    Perhaps the primary purpose of the exercise was not to provide a wish list, but rather to provide a good dose of reality.

    Ask a child to make a wish list for Christmas or a birthday, and their imagination will run wild without a thought or care about costs or practicalities. But ask an adult to put their wish list to paper, and suddenly the realities of what is possible becomes clear.

  • Ron Byers on August 22, 2011 3:37 PM:

    The solution to many of the complaints in this thread don't involve Obama as much as the failure of Congressional Democrats and the Democratic leadership. We don't need a stronger President. We need bolder Democrats. The Democratic party needs to be reinvigorated with a new generation of true believers. The same old hacks will always produce the same old failures.

  • Kane on August 22, 2011 3:40 PM:

    It's unfortunate that so much of what President Obama has accomplished has gone unnoticed and unreported. It's one thing to disagree with policy, it's another thing to be unaware of policy.

  • Michael on August 22, 2011 3:40 PM:

    I give up, listening to half of you, you'd think Obama was a republican prez, you are all idiots , and deserve what gets elected,
    nuff said.

  • Rich2506 on August 22, 2011 3:44 PM:

    Most of my wish list consists of the President being more obviously a Democrat and an unapologetic one at that. It was an absolutely awful idea to pivot over to deficit reduction as a focus. Completely bad stuff all around. It to him away from his Democratic roots and gained him nothing electorally. Whatever else he gets accomplished, a lousy economy can sweep it all away.

    In response to martin's Olive Oyl cartoon, Dr. Fate was replaced by his wife in 1997. Very interesting stuff as we saw "How would a housewife utilize magic if she had the chance?" The comic created a pretty interesting society.

  • Bartender on August 22, 2011 3:49 PM:

    What would I do "if I were president"? I'd take a vacation.

  • June on August 22, 2011 3:50 PM:

    If Obama were a Republican president -- after he had presided over the capture of bin Laden -- the GOP would be spending this August trying to make the case to amend the Constitution to make Obama president-for-life. Instead, we get still-unchallenged garbage from GOP candidates suggesting that the Prez doesn't love America nearly as much as they do.

    The rise of the racists/insane is really a very ugly picture of this country indeed. And on the other hand, the willful ignorance of those who claim to be Democrats/"on the left" is very frustrating.

  • Mitch on August 22, 2011 3:54 PM:

    Obama has done some good, for sure. But on the most important issues he is unimpressive to say the least.

    ACA is pretty far from a progressive form of health care. It still panders to the Insurance cartels and Big Pharma. His statements about austerity have been ridiculous. The Patriot Act is still violating civil rights. We're still bleeding dry in the War on Terror. We've given far too much to Wall Street and asked for nothing in return. Worst of all, he continually parrots Republican talking points, which does nothing but move the discourse even further to the right.

    Then again, I'm probably a part of the "professional left" so my opinion doesn't matter to Obama.

    That was a snark. Don't get all mad, people.

    All of this stuff is as much a fault of the Blue Dogs and other Democratic sellouts as it is Obama. But the fact remains: He is the Leader of the Democratic Party. He is the single most visible American in the world. If he does not champion Democratic ideals and systems then no one will.

    I, personally, don't believe that he is a sellout. I believe that Obama is crippled by the fear that the public/Media will crucify him if he acts too "Librul" and so he is cautious and accomodating to the Right. He knows that his enemies already call him and Islamo-fascist-communist-unAmerican traitor. So he goes out of his way to appear "moderate" . . . all it does is make him appear weak, all it does is make him more vulnerable to the attacks of the Right.

    Even so, I will still vote for him. But only because there is no other option. Voting for a third party opens us up to another Nader. Voting for a Republican (which some on the Left have suggested as a means of protest) is stupid and suicidal. Not voting at all is the same thing as doing either of the above.

    The Democratic Party is still the only hope that we have of pulling this nation back on track. But let's not pretend that Obama has been a champion of progressivism or of Democratic ideals. He has not been.

    But he is better than the alternative.

  • Alli on August 22, 2011 3:56 PM:

    COULD HAVE'S are just as lame because you already know the outcome of Obama's actions and pretty much anyone will just write that they would have done the opposite and blah blah blah. They look smart and everyone calls them smart even though if they were actually in charge they would have fucked up.

  • Jamie on August 22, 2011 4:22 PM:

    We often come back to the problem that an Oklahoma democrat is to the right of a New York City Republican.

  • Chesire11 on August 22, 2011 4:30 PM:

    I suppose ritual evisceration of John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell were off the table?

    (sigh!)

  • DAY on August 22, 2011 4:42 PM:

    Politics is the Art of the Possible.
    Many folks here have yet to understand this.

  • Marko on August 22, 2011 5:19 PM:

    Yes, how about a poll on, "If I were Speaker of the House", or, "If I was the leader of the Scum Bag Party"

  • SecularAnimist on August 22, 2011 5:29 PM:

    Ron Byers wrote: "We don't need a stronger President. We need bolder Democrats."

    There are plenty of bold progressive Democrats in the House of Representatives.

    What we need is a Democratic president who will stand with them, and fight with them, rather than running away from them into the arms of the Republicans.

    During the health care "reform" debate, progressive Democrats in the House -- not Obama -- were pushing for single-payer, a public option, Medicare expansion.

    Obama through the progressive House Democrats under the bus and went for a 30-year-old Republican proposal, the "individual mandate", entrenching the for-profit insurance corporations as the basis of America's health care system for the forseeable future.

    Likewise, the progressive House Democrats passed the Waxman-Markey energy / climate bill -- and "strong, bold" Obama did nothing to support it in the Senate.

    And the House Progressive Caucus -- the largest caucus in the House of Representatives -- put forward their budget proposal, called The People's Budget, which was far better than anything that Obama has proposed.

    Of course, you would not even know that The People's Budget existed from reading this blog.

    Indeed, you would not even know that the House Progressive Caucus exists from reading this blog.

  • beb on August 22, 2011 6:02 PM:

    I agree with cwolf's list of things Obama could have done, but didn't.

  • jdb on August 22, 2011 6:23 PM:

    Obviously there are some Obama haters here, and I receive frequent e-mails from a relative, who feels the same as you do. Since you all seem to be saying pretty much the same thing,I am curious as to who are the pundits, bloggers, politicians, etc. that provide you with your talking points? I would like to read some of them, just to understand better exactly where you are coming from. Also, I'm curious about the collective feeling toward an alternative - primary, third-party, GOP, etc. Is there someone who you would prefer to be President, and who is that person? Thanks

  • Ron Byers on August 22, 2011 6:38 PM:

    Secular Animist, where are the bold Democrats in the Senate? What about in the States? Where are the rising new candidates working to take back the seats won by the Tea Party in 2010? I live in a state where my "DemocratiIc" Senator sounds more and more like a Republican. Claire McCaskill seems to be running to the right of any and all of her opponents. We all know how that strategy worked for the "Blue Dogs" in 2010.

    Nancy Pelosi did wonders with the progressive caucus, but the party has never learned the lesson of 2010. The progressives won. The "Blue Dogs" lost. What the hell is wrong with the professional Democrats? Don't they read polls or talk to people? Are they all out to three martini lunches or are they on the corporate take?

  • yellowdog on August 22, 2011 7:55 PM:

    A lot of the rumbling and unhappiness with Obama from the left concerns his view of the deficit. To hear some Democrats tell it, any Democrat who speaks of the deficit is a liberal-hating closet Republican who is advancing GOP talking points. Talking deficit is some sort of liberal litmus test.

    This is wrong and short-sighted. I don't think Obama has communicated his concerns about the deficit convincingly to Democratic audiences, or those audiences are plugging their ears with wax. We have some major policy problems to address with Medicare and Medicaid. They would exist if Bernie Sanders were president or John McCain were president. How do we solve them? That's the real question. Denying the problems will not make them go away. In fact, it will only guarantee that anti-Medicare right-wingers will take the lead and use the opportunity to destabilize and destroy the program. Cantor and Ryan have said as much.

    If you have any stake or belief in Medicare and Medicaid, the next election is one you absolutely cannot sit out. You do not want to leave this question in the hands of a GOP President or GOP Congress.

    Of course, this problem exists on top of the major jobs problem. Don't fall into the too-easy belief that we have to choose to address either deficits or jobs. We have to address both--jobs now, deficits over the next decade.

  • Doug on August 22, 2011 9:40 PM:

    Many "Obamanots" apparently don't remember the article posted here only a few weeks ago concerning the TRUE state of the economy in late 2008/early 2009.
    The Obama transition team and Administration planned for and agreed to a stimulus to meet an economic situation based on the data they had. Which, it turned out, was wrong. The situation was more than TWICE as bad as it was thought at the time. GDP was falling at an annualized rate of 8.9%, NOT 3.7%. Jobs were actually disappearing at a rate of over 1,000,000 PER MONTH and not 800,000. In other words, the stimulus as designed by the Obama Administration was perfectly capable of meeting the demands of the economic crisis AS THEY KNEW THEM.
    Of course, it's all STILL President Obama's fault. Why? I don't know, perhaps he took longer than he should have learning how to use his magical Presidential powers? Well, that makes as much sense as almost all of the carping I've read.
    Those complaining that the ACA "rewards" HCI companies miss the point entirely. The ACA is designed to ensure that ALL citizens can afford to purchase HCI because that's the way the system currently operates: through HCI companies. There's absolutely nothing in the ACA that prevents an adoption of single payer or Medicare buy-in some time in the future.
    In order for there such a switch to occur, however, there first has to be a constituency favoring that switch. A very large constituency. Larger than just those currently in favor of one. How does one develop that contituency, you ask?
    How about by getting people into a position where it's THEIR tax monies being spent? Those subsidies aren't going to pop up out of thin air, you know. So now, we have TWO constituencies, one wanting maintain their access HCI and another wanting costs to be kept as low as possible. How about getting the two groups together to support something that meets BOTH requirements? Single payer or Medicare buy-in, your choice.
    Was that simple enough for you?

  • david1234 on August 22, 2011 10:06 PM:

    I think outside of the economy, Obama has been a great President, but the economy is a very big deal.

    The Democrats did not get hammered in 2010 because the economy was bad. They were beaten because Obama stopped trying to do anything about it. He rightly deserves credit for halting the free fall of the economy and preventing another Great Depression (although he refused to claim that accomplishment as he should have). But when the stimulus proved to be to small to get unemployment actually heading downward, he gave up trying to do anything meaningful about it. Instead of telling the voters to throw the Republicans out for supporting policies that will damage the fragile economy, he adopted their rhetoric and said that we needed to focus on America living within its means when the unemployment rate was 9%. I believe the President is sincere when he spouts this economic drivel. It has been bad policy and terrible politics that hurts his party.

    The Democrats can crush the Republicans in 2012, if they make the election a referendum on the future of Medicare. What the Republicans are proposing no redeeming value. But Obama insists on undercutting this issue by putting Medicare cuts on the table for no real reason that I can see. I do not wish that Obama would be challenged by someone from the left. But I sometimes wish he would be challenged by someone who was politically competent.

  • jdb on August 23, 2011 7:44 AM:

  • yellowdog on August 23, 2011 10:23 PM:

    @jdb
    Thanks - I hadn't seen that.

  • sk on August 24, 2011 2:08 PM:

    The economy has been a disaster under his watch. Sure the GOP has offered the resistance Benen notes, but Obama never had to buy into the austerity. He has been more enthusiastic about cutting spending and raising eligibility ages than the GOP could have ever dreamed! He did not "have" to do that. His office, and FNMA and Freddie, have the ability to help reduce debt overhang, all by themselves - but they don't. They want some one sided deal where the banks get off scot-free.

    Civil liberties have been a disaster. It is harder for citizens to seek redress if the government fails them - citizens are spied on without any sort of way to address it. Muslims in particular have a right to be paranoid. He has enthusiastically expanded everything Bush did on that front.

    And most of all, the rhetorical battle has been a colossal failure. Yes, the bully pulpit is overrated, but a President's rhetoric can create a framework for advancing policy. Obama for the most part, embraces Republican arguments - plays on the GOP turf and will never refute their fundamental claims. He almost never identifies the GOP by name as the problem even when that is true, and often does not even count himself as a Democrat by implication.

    Obama has been good on social issues, and that's about it.

  • sk on August 24, 2011 2:15 PM:

    One thing to note in some of the more elaborate defenses of Obama's policy and rhetorical choices domestically seem to imply that 1) Obama knows what he is talking about on the economy and 2) that he shares liberal goals. I don't think he has really earned either stripe.

    The deficit obsession is not a problem per se, but this is an unusual economic time. Indeed the CBO projections in 2009 had us needing to plug a GDP hole of about 3 trillion dollars. But he and his folks wanted a lower, less stimulative stimulus (with the money in the least effective forms). His goal of cutting spending in a depression is the equivalent of giving long term wellness tips to someone bleeding to death.

    What is fascinating is how he invokes confidence and fears of inflation, all sorts of GOP disproven canards - inclding their memes on Social Security's imminent death - to do his stuff. Really though on the need to curb social security and whatnot, he has been honest this entire time. He is an entitlement cutting president - he has never shied from that, and I am not sure why his defenders claim a liberal aim when he doesn't even say that.

  • Dick Cheney-fan of Obama's forighn policy on August 24, 2011 5:28 PM:

    If Obama can start war he can stop them. that is no small thing.

    I just dropped by through a link from Greenwald's blog. I dropped this book mark long ago due to Benen's incessant cheerleading and apologizing for the Obama administration which is by most mesures a third term for Bush.

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