Friday, November 27, 2009

Obama's mistakes

Fred Barnes, in the Opinion Journal. Remember this:

"Change must come to Washington," Mr. Obama said in a June 2008 speech. "I have consistently said when it comes to solving problems," he told Jake Tapper of ABC News that same month, "I don't approach this from a partisan or ideological perspective."

Well, Obama certainly hasn't brought bipartisanship to Washington, and he hasn't brought much "change" either. What did he do wrong?

First, Mr. Obama misread the meaning of the 2008 election. It wasn't a mandate for a liberal revolution. His victory was a personal one, not an ideological triumph of liberalism. Yet Mr. Obama, his aides and Democratic leaders in Congress have treated it as a mandate to radically change policy directions in this country. They are pushing forward one liberal initiative after another. As a result, Mr. Obama's approval rating has dropped along with the popularity of his agenda.

Closing Gitmo, the government take-over of the car companies (buy a FORD!), the bailouts, the deficit, cap and tax, the huge expansion of government. Don't. Want. And I'm not alone, as Obama's falling numbers suggest.

Next mistake:

Second, Mr. Obama misread his own ability to sway the public. He is a glib, cool, likeable speaker whose sentences have subjects and verbs. During the campaign, he gave dazzling speeches about hope and change that excited voters. His late-night speech at a Democratic dinner in Des Moines on Nov. 10, 2007, prior to the Iowa caucuses, convinced me he'd win the presidential nomination.

But campaign speeches don't have to be specific, and candidates aren't accountable. Presidential speeches are different. The object is to persuade voters to back a certain policy, and it turns out Mr. Obama is not good at this. He failed to stop the steady decline in support for any of his policies, most notably health care.

Those tingle-up-the-leg moments when Obama speaks apparently don't do much to sway non-Obama-zombies. Obama has gotten an enormous amount of support by the media for his policies, with the full sway of Hollywood filling-in as his propaganda arm. And still, people don't want.

Lastly, and this is my favorite I think:

Third, Mr. Obama misread Republicans. They felt weak and vulnerable after losing two straight congressional elections and watching John McCain's presidential bid fall flat. They were afraid to criticize the newly elected president. If he had offered them minimal concessions, many of them would have jumped aboard his policies. If that had happened, the president could have boasted of achieving bipartisan compromise on the stimulus and other policies. He let the chance slip away.

Remember all those articles about how Republicans, as a party, were dead? We would be wandering in the dessert for forty years, yada yada yada. Things looked bleak (actually, they looked bleak ever since somebody chose McCain as the candidate), and liberals were happy to dance on our grave.

Given this situation, Mr. Hope and Change, Mr. I'm-going-to-reach-across-the-isle decided he didn't need to do that. Oh, he was all about reaching out to dictators and tyrants. But Republicans? Not so much. So he didn't. He locked them out of meetings. He even called patriotic Americans who oppose his policies "teabaggers."

The point in all this is Mr. Obama could have given a little and gained a lot. To change Washington, he would have had to corral congressional Democrats, who weren't interested in bipartisanship or compromise. He would have had to disappoint his base and, at times, anger liberal interest groups. Mr. Obama wasn't willing to go that route.

In Washington it's business as usual, except for one thing. The bigger the role of government, the more lobbyists flock to town. By pushing for his policies, the president effectively put up a welcome sign to lobbyists. Despite promising to keep them out of his administration, he has even hired a few. So nothing has changed, except maybe that Washington is now more acrimonious than it has been.

Hope and Change, folks.