Sunday, October 24, 2010


Here's Peter Baker of The New York Times, giving us the conventional wisdom that President Obama might benefit from big losses in the midterms:

The reality of presidential politics is that it helps to have an enemy. With Democrats controlling the White House and Congress, they shoulder responsibility for the country's troubles. No amount of venting about George W. Bush or the filibuster rule has convinced the public otherwise. But if Republicans capture Congress, Mr. Obama will finally have a foil heading toward his own re-election battle in 2012.

"No amount of venting": that's an interesting phrase for Baker to use. Yes, on the part of the White House there's been "no amount of venting" (i.e., quite a bit) about Bush, but there's been literally "no amount of venting" -- as in virtually none -- about filibusters. When have you ever heard the president try to explain why big Democratic majorities struggle to get things done? When have you ever heard him try to explain how the process works?

Attacks on the Bush presidency, and warnings that Republican successes in the midterms will bring us Bush 2.0, actually make it harder for the public to understand what's going on. Attacking Bush reinforces the impression that Republicans had power then; warning of a possible upcoming era of neo-Bushism suggests that Republicans could misuse power in the future. All of this makes it hard for voters who aren't politics wonks to grasp the fact that Republicans, using the filibuster and relentless party discipline, have a hell of a lot of power right now, and are abusing it.

Would Obama benefit from having an identifiable enemy? I'm not sure. But it's clear that not only has he failed to focus voters' attention on the enemy he has now, he's actually said things that push the enemy even further into the shadows.

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