Thursday, September 05, 2013


Reports indicate that the president is having a very difficult time winning supporters for the Syria, particularly in the House, and especially among House Republicans, whose motives, surely, are pure and not in any way political.

If Obama loses, and agrees to abide by the results of the vote, the master media narrative will be that this was a humiliation for him, weakening him for the rest of his presidency.

But you know who's not going to go along with that narrative? The public.

If we get to that point, and the press (as it surely will) begins talking about a mortally wounded presidency, it will just be a continuation of a media narrative we've heard all year, with one pundit after another after another looking into the dire state of Obama's "mojo." Sequestration, Benghazi, the IRS, Edward Snowden ... is the recovery of Obama's "mojo" even possible?

And yet with all that, the public has just shrugged. There's been a dip in hia approval rating since the November elections, but it's still in the same narrow band where it's remained for three and a half years:

The public wants what it wants -- in this case, to avoid war -- and will be pleased if war is avoided. Obama's standing will stay roughly the same because enough people still see him as right, or more or less right, on a wide range of issues (unlike George W. Bush at roughly this point in his presidency, who'd proved to be utterly wrong on everything, from Iraq to Katrina to Terri Schiavo to Social Security).

What the public doesn't care about is the Beltway's obsession, which is the power ranking of public officials. The public won't care that losing makes Obama look weak.

I've seen how this works locally. In 2005, Mayor Mike Bloomberg lost a bitter battle to get a football stadium built on the West Side of Manhattan. The public opposed the stadium project, while supporting a bid for the 2012 summer Olympics, of which was the stadium project was a key part. Bloomberg couldn't get his stadium approved, he lost the Olympics bid ... and then he won reelection by 19 points a few months later.

Insiders are obsessed with the notion that defeat weakens politicians; the public doesn't care. Ordinary people suffer defeats all the time; we have to dust ourselves off and keep going. It doesn't surprise us when it happens to politicians, however fascinating and earth-shattering it is to the power-obsessed.


Now, if Obama loses the vote and attacks Syria anyway, that would be a different matter. But I think he'll suffer long-term political consequences only if the result is a quagmire -- the public has been beaten down by years and years of war and presidential unilateralism, and is somewhat resigned to both. The teabaggers are sure they know what the president's powers are limited to -- though that standard seems to have changed for them since the last presidency -- but the rest of America isn't sure anymore.

And if this leads to an impeachment, that'll change everything. I don't believe the non-teabag public wants impeachment at all. A brief campaign against Syria which has impeachment as its most visible lingering aftereffect would not be bad for Obama (and Democrats) politically -- not by a long shot.


Victor said...

Hokey Smokes, Bullwinkle!!!

A non-"Harbinger of doom, despair, and agony on me, deep dark depression, excessive misereeeeeeey, if it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all -doom, despair, and agony on me," post!!! ;-)


Philo Vaihinger said...

Presidential unilateralism?

Like Truman in Korea?

Philo Vaihinger said...

Impeachment not bad for Obama or the Democrats?

That's nice.

And the country?