Yesterday’s “Buffett Plan” speech may be remembered as marking a fatal moment of turning in Barack Obama’s presidency.
Yes, Mr. Obama will remain in the Oval Office for at least a year and a half more. Who knows, he may even win a second term. But there was something about Washington’s reaction to his remarks that signaled he is no longer seen as holding the levers of power in the nation’s capital – or if he grips them, no one believes he knows how to work them.
One player after another was left wondering, what’s new here? Same old; same old. In his witty New York Post column this morning, former Reagan White House speechwriter and Commentary editor John Podhoretz likened listening to him to finding yourself transported into the movie Groundhog Day. Over and over the same scene is replayed, the same characters, the same set, the same lines. (http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/groundhog_day_bam_is_spinning_his_TkFGIicE1mHOQiEppLQeXN )
And now he’s told his whoppers about the rich paying less that even the mainstream media is starting to trot out the facts. The Associated Press ran an analysis of the numbers this morning, concluding, “President Barack Obama says he wants to make sure millionaires are taxed at higher rates than their secretaries. The data say they already are.” (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iP3lhS4ZQ-UhyUvFfUgdPCiu-jJA )
It would be one thing if the administration’s policies of two years ago had worked. Then more of the same might have made sense. But despite his protests to the contrary, the president took a bad situation and made it worse. After the massive monetary creation of the last months of the Bush administration, it would have been appropriate to allow the new liquidity to work its way through the economy.
As it happened, that injection sparked a revival in May-September 2009, a recovery that all the sterile spending, anxiety about massive debt and taxes to follow, suffocating regulations, confounding compromises of the rule of law, and passage of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank managed to kill. The result was not a deep recession with a sharp recover (per most post-World War II downturns) but an economy that hit the floor like a dead fish and just lay there.
Even so the president roles out the proposals that he rolled out before, and even before that. This rote repetition marks the administration as not just inept in making economic policy. It is an incompetent political player, as well. And in Washington, fumbling politics is fatal.
The consequent rumblings are making news, or at least some of them are.
From the Black Caucus you hear that if he weren’t one of our own, we’d be marching on the White House by now (http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/182209-cbc-chairman-if-obama-wasnt-in-office-we-would-be-marching-on-white-house ).
From New York Times columnist, David Brooks, we read (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/opinion/brooks-obama-rejects-obamaism.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/opinion/brooks-obama-rejects-obamaism.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all> ) the thrill is gone; this is not the Obama I fell in love with.
And the Chicago Tribune wonders out loud, maybe it’s time for Mr. Obama to step down and Hillary Clinton to take his place (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-chapman-obama-reelection,0,622512.column).
All this comes at the same time that the ineptness of the administration’s diplomacy in the Middle East, the very region where they promised to be so brilliant, looks like the administration’s economic policies, worse than nothing. We’re not talking about military actions here, which have followed on those of the president’s predecessor. We are talking about the heart of the region’s troubles, Iran on one hand and Israel-Palestinian on the other. Everyone knows that the fiasco of Palestinian statehood being played out in the United Nations this week is a result of diplomatic ineptness by the United States.
Of a critical victory in World War II, Winston Churchill said: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” In the campaign of 2012, this week may have marked such a point of turning.