Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Can this presidency be saved? Arianna Huffington has it exactly right:

If the Obama White House is going to change course in time to avoid hitting the looming electoral iceberg, the president and his advisors need to immediately jettison two false ideas that are taking them wildly off course.

The first of these is the notion that the public's widespread anger over joblessness and the bank bailout will be dissipated by the magic bullet of passing a health care reform bill. Over the last few weeks, I've talked to several high-ranking White House staffers and this idea seems as deeply entrenched among them as the idea of Obama's Kenyan birth is among the birthers. And about as valid.

Health care is vital, but it's still the economy, stupid. Especially since many parts of health care reform, even if it passes, won't take effect until 2014. Nate Silver has crunched the numbers. His conclusion: "I don't particularly expect a boost in the Democrats' numbers if they pass a health care bill: the plan, after all, has become somewhat unpopular."

The other false idea that I've heard from White House advisors is that, even if they take a hit in 2010, they're going to be okay for 2012 because they'll bring back David Plouffe and recapture the magic of 2008. If this is really their plan for 2012, they might do better to bring in James Cameron. Perhaps he could CGI in all the voters who turned out in 2008, inspired by the message of "Yes, We Can," and who are now watching disillusioned from the sidelines.

... there are two steps [Obama] must take if he is to course-correct. First: stop listening to Larry Summers. Second: stop thinking that reaching a consensus is the same thing as leadership.

Fire Rahm? Fine, go ahead -- as a way of pleasing a relatively small number of lefty bloggers and blog readers. Far better, though, to fire the whole damn economic team. That alone would raise Obama's approval ratings half a dozen points literally overnight.

Only economic populism can get Obama out of this mess. I'm not saying I think there's much of a chance it can happen, I'm saying nothing else is going to work, unless a miraculously robust economic turnaround simply emerges, and that the naturally political tendency to do what your big contributors want has to be weighed against the likely loss of millions of votes if you follow that path of least resistance.

And if Obama can't actually get anything past the Berlin Wall that is GOP/Blue Dog obstructionism, he at least needs to be seen trying. The ideas have to be pro-ordinary citizen and seem pro-ordinary citizen. They have to make sense or he has to use his great rhetorical gifts to explain them in ways that, to the ordinary American, make sense. It's his only hope.

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