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Sunday, October 25, 2009

What If He Can't?

Toby Harnden, the great columnist and blogger for The Telegraph newspaper, has an article titled Barack Obama must stop campaigning and start governing.

The thrust of the article is that the U.S., being the land of the permanent campaign, naturally gave rise to the President who is on permanent campaign:
Perhaps we should not be surprised that the land of the permanent campaign has produced a president like Barack Obama. During his White House bid, Mr Obama's staff argued that his masterful oversight of the machinery that ultimately got him elected was his highest achievement.
There definitely is truth to Harnden's observation. Having no substantive achievement in his life other than his own political career, Obama's claim to the throne was that he claimed the throne. Much like the proverbial dog chasing the car, now that Obama has caught the throne, he doesn't know what to do with it.

Harnden then notes the paradox of asking someone who never governed anything to govern a vast nation with competing interests and checks and balances:

Therein lies the problem. While campaigning could centre around soaring rhetoric, governing is altogether messier. It involves tough, unpopular choices and cutting deals with opponents. It requires doing things rather than talking about them, let alone just being.

Mr Obama is showing little appetite for this. Instead of being the commander-in-chief, he is the campaigner-in-chief....

Beyond the grand announcements, fine speeches and his eager acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr Obama has yet to achieve anything of substance. It is time for the campaign to end.
What if Obama is incapable -- psychologically, philosophically, intellectually -- of stopping the campaign? There seems to be no desire or ability to govern in the traditional sense described by Harnden. Why would we expect the One seeking revolutionary societal change to fall back on traditional methods of governance?

When it comes to governance, what if the One who campaigned on the theme of "yes we can," just can't?

UPDATE: Whoa! Even Clarence Page is sick and tired of the permanent campaign: "A deeper problem is what the [Fox News] flap reveals about Team Obama, which seems to be more comfortable with campaigning than governing."

Related Posts:
Fear Stalks The Land
Obama is "Door No. 2"
The "Richest 5%" Are The New Kulaks

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  1. Permanent campaigning was the hallmark of the Clinton White House. All the Clintonians are back. So waht did you expect?

  2. The first step in changing is understanding that there is a problem. I'm not sure he'll be able to understand this is even a problem until his term is over and he's got the advantage of hindsight.

  3. Page is on target.

    Although "The Nixonian List" has now reached beyond just FOX. They are going for the jugular of Lou Dobbs at CNN as well.

    Now, I presume, they will try to force CNN to fire Dobbs. For his strong rhetoric on illegal immigration??

    Every news organization out there ought to be concerned about the endless campaign Obama is waging against them. This is NOT going to stop with FOX.


  4. I have maintained since early 2008 that Obama was like Robert Redford's character in "The Candidate". His slogan was "Bill McKay for a Better Way".

    McKay ended the movie by winning after overtaking the popular incumbent. The final words are something like "So what do we do now?". I think Obama ended up the same -- maybe he didn't even think it was possible for a black man to win the Presidency.

    Anyway, he doesn't seem to have a clue about how to be President. But he sure seems to have a clue about how to make dirty deals and use thuggish tactics.

  5. When did the permanent campaign start? Probably with Clinton. W amped it up to fever pitch on the coals of 9/11 and Obama has kept it at that level. I don't think a President has any choice but a full court press anymore - the internet and cable news scrutinizes every cuff link and stray comment to supersaturation, not responding is no longer a choice any more.

    Unfortunately, we are too partisan a country at this point to do anything but permanently campaign. We are media beings from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep, you can't step off the tracks now. The 2012 winner, a Republican I might guess, will be exactly the same as Obama and W and Clinton - probably worse.

    The permanent campaign is partly a function of the proliferation of media - now we can surf on our IPhones and Blackberries, read the Net, the paper, watch cable TV, and listen to AM radio. There's so much media we are immersed in, how could you escape it? Surely Bush didn't try to avoid politicizing every last inch of his presidency.

    This is the era of the end of objectivity as an ideal, as something desired and sought after in public life. Fox gives lip service to objectivity, but we know that MSNBC is liberal and Fox is Republican. Their biases are clear as a bell.

    The only thing left is to come out of the closet and just admit it. That'll probably happen within the next ten years. We no longer need to pretend to inhabiting the same universe as each other, it's over, we Americans despise each other viscerally. We can't even agree on the facts anymore. One party thinks Obama was born in America, the other overseas. One party thinks Obama a decent man trying to get health care for all the other sees him as a socialist who wants to appease the Terrorists who want to behead us, but only after he establishes a totalitarian state here in the US first.

    To seek an end to the permanent campaign is to wish for some outdated reality where there are facts apart from commentary - but this is completely dead, dead as Dillinger, in our public life.

    We Americans WANT a permanent campaign, we want a permanent culture war with each other, legislating away evolution with politics, or labeling everyone who challenges a Democrat as a racist. We are a scandal driven culture obsessed lurid, fatuous trivia. This requires pseudo-conflict amped up to the point of constant outrage and hysteria. Obama is well-suited for this, because he is a crypto Marxist/Fascist/Totalitarian/Muslim/foreigner who wants to kill the elderly, take your guns, and die while apologizing beneath the falling sword of Terrorists.

    Obama is President but he can't change the tide of history and American culture - we want continuous conflict with each other. It's just going to heighten, mark my words. The holidays are coming, it's time, don't you think, for OReilly to start covering the War on Christmas? Beck has a new conspiracy to sell and Dobbs and Olbermann have some of their canned hokum to peddle too. Bring it on!

    There is no question that Obama is in permanent campaign mode. The only mistake is to think that he's unusual in this respect. His predecessor was the same and so will his successor be, too. It's repulsive but here to stay.

  6. William - I read the same column this morning too, I agree with Lisa above as well. The POTUS is too arrogant to ever figure this out....

  7. "W amped it up to fever pitch on the coals of 9/11"
    You're kidding, right? The man could hardly be bothered to even give press conferences for most of his 2 terms. How about some examples of the permanent Bush campaign, particularly as it relates to the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Individual attacks on reporters and news services for partisanship? Did the man even say anything unkind about democrats for the two months following 9/11? Heck, even after that. Quotes and citations (no Rush Wikiquotes, please).

    This they're-all-the-same stuff is a load of hooey. No president has ever behaved the way President Crybaby is carrying on.

  8. What should frighten everyone about Obama is that he is purely an idealogue. He set his agenda even before he began to campaign in 2006. Since then, the world has changed ALOT (i.e., the financial system nearly collpased, the middle class started engaging in political protests, many for the first time ever, etc.), but he remains inflexible and steadfast with his agenda that only the far left care about in the new world we find ourselves in.

    People are, for good reason, scared witless about the federal government debt, defiicts, and the economy/jobs. The top 2 things Americans are concerned about in most polls is almost always the federal debt (or deficit) and the economy (or jobs).

    Since he's been in office, jobs losses have acclerated and the debt has exploded. So the two things people are concerned about have gotten worse. Granted, he tried to deal with the jobs via the "stimulus" plan, but that just piled on $800 billion of additional debt and the result is another 2 million jobs evaporated. And what's his response? To highjack the healthcare system, and since 85% of the voters have healtcare it ranks very low in their priorities.

    That's my biggest gripe. He isn't effectively dealing with the issues Americans feel are important. Instead, he's dealing with the 50 year obsession of the liberal elite to jam through universal healthcare. And when he's done with that, Cap & Tax is next on his list. And again, that never ranks in the top three issues Americans are concerned about in any polls I've seen.

    When people finally wake up and realize he's more concerned about jamming through the far left liberal agenda, rather than dealing with the real issues the majority of people think are important, I suspect his approval ratings will decline and never recover.

    He's been very ill advised.

  9. The backup for a campaign promise is a plan, something more substantial than a scribble on a cocktail napkin. A President can be forgiven a misstatement during a speech, provided a correction follows and it wasn't written on a teleprompter. The U.S. deserves more respect than for a President to make up policy as he goes along. A President who makes up his facts and programs is lying, plain and simple.

    There can be no reasonable debate on healthcare, for example, because the Obama Team and Democrats in Congress have not released a readable document spelling out the researched policy that they want to implement.

    The government demands detailed, researched Environmental Impact Statements before starting a building. We should have Official Policy Statements before our representatives change our society.

    We need proposed results, expected evolution, methods, justifications, comparative studies, past successes of similar policy, funding sources, expected difficulties, the works. Not what might work, but what has worked.

    I hope people of all parties and positions could agree that this is fundamental. It is non-partisan to demand that the President and all politicians show the careful research behind their proposals.

    No company can run without books of account. No government can write legislation without a plan in the background. The plan is there. Let's see Obama's written plan. If there is no researched plan, then that is a horrible misuse of his office.

    Where is the policy paper, Obama's research on healthcare reform?
    --> easyopinionsoutlink.blogspot.com/2009/07/few-words-about-policy.html

  10. Professor, the last line in this post may be the crux of the matter for why Obama reacts so strongly to any criticism. Its so simple and obvious, we all miss it:
    "...that while it truly didn't matter what anyone said about W, because he had such a firmly established core being, it matters utterly what the critics say about the UR's clothes, because there is no emperor."

  11. IMO this unending campaign was intended to be a 4 year full frontal assault on the American people. I doubt there was ever a plan for governance, so why bother running a candidate with those skills.

  12. hope is not a plan, change is not a goal, and Ear Leader is nothing more than a ventriloquist's dummy that you suckers were dumb enough to fall for.

    i told you so.

  13. I think cowboy Curtis is the only person left in America to hold this position. If he doesn't think, by this point, that W was a partisan who used 9/11, absolutely nothing will persuade him at this point.

    For the rest of us, though, I think deIlio's comments at the start and every last insider's account confirms my viewpoint.

    Why should this rankle? Really, I don't get it. After all, the daring, bold 50+1 strategy of Delay requires, mandates a permanent campaign, because one's margins of victory are so slender that it requires one to squeeze every last vote in Congress.

    Similarly, the country is so partisan and divided right now, and the media presence in our lives only spreading (handheld computers, netbooks, Bluetooth right in our ear by default, etc), that campaigning is never going to leave us.

    Be honest - as we speak Palin is lining up her ducks - Oprah, once her book comes out, supporting the conservative and not the GOP candidate in New York, etc. Huckabee's Fox show was one long warmup for another bite at the apple.

    I don't know what planet Curtis is living on, but clearly there is no persuading him otherwise. The rest of us, I think, are aware enough to see what's in front of our faces.

    Republican candidates are, as I type, campaigning for 2012. Obama is of course doing so, as someone who wants a second term. I don't know what kind of naivete it would take to avoid that conclusion.

    My biggest problem with Fox is their dishonesty, which is, I admit, old-fashioned of me. They do what the MSM does, exactly the same! THey claim objectivity but then won't come clean about their own institutional biases. Why not?

    It's because Roger Ailes knows there is still prestige left in CLAIMING neutrality, even though nobody wants it for themselves and nobody practices it.

    Like I said, though, partisans on both sides will never give up the fight, even over something as obvious and pointless as whether or not their organization has an innate slant.

    Of course they do! News organizations sell their audiences for ad revenue. You think that they don't slant their coverage towards the highest income audiences? These companies are ALL businessest. Trust the capitalists to do what's in their self-interest!

    Obama is of course in full-campaign mode. My own wish as a citizen is that he should stop, but he can't get off a moving train and neither can Palin or Romney or anyone else.

    There is NO 'alternative' to full campaigning except to ALSO have a backup plan. It's not either/or, of course!

    But having a plan won't save you in this era when most legislators don't even read the laws they put together, larded with so much pork and full of exceptions and are thousands of pages long.

    In this day and age, the best you can do is to campaign for us 'rubes' non-stop, going on Letterman and OReilly, and try to have some real substance int he policy as well. But that's not going to get you much, I'm afraid. The GOP base is so riled up that they don't want subtlety right now, and the Democrats are as always, easily cowed and adrift. They are a tepid, mostly reactive party of cowards.

    I would support small govt, well tailored tax laws for innovation. But this is getting too long already...

  14. "I don't know what planet Curtis is living on, but clearly there is no persuading him otherwise."
    How would you know? You and Steve won't make the arguments. You just throw up your hands and say it can't be done because my mind is too closed--without ever actually having made a case one way or the other. The two of you make a blanket assertion, without any examples, and demand that it be taken at face value--probably because you don't have any to give.
    Hey, if you've got examples of W using 9/11 to attack democrats in the aftermath of the event, then I'm all ears. If it was such a regular and obvious occurrence, then that ought to be a pretty simple task.

  15. Curtis might be worth engaging but he can't hear me with his fingers in his ears.

    Simple test, Curtis: Is Fox biased towards the GOP, yes or no? Or is it 'fair and balanced.' You can't address my blazingly obvious comments about Fox, so you DON'T.

    Nuff said.