Obama the Conflicted
Obama’s new conference of yesterday was an interesting amalgam of blown opportunities and a realization of a reality that no longer fits his campaign narrative.
It was heartening to see Obama flanked by individuals such as Paul Vockler. It represents a realization that there’s a real economic problem and that problem is not going to be solved by the likes of Senator Reid or Speaker Pelosi. And, perhaps he realizes that his presidential legacy is not Reid’s or Pelosi’s problem. In fact, I suspect that by giving their most loyal constituency the presidency, that Reid and Pelosi have delivered all they intend to give.
But, what Obama said speaks volumes of a reality he needs to better grasp. That his only way out of this economic mess and his only key to an enduring legacy, of the positive sort, is economic growth. Nothing else but economic growth. And, in fact, he slipped those word, “economic growth” into his economic pronouncements. Yet, he watered it down with all of the usual New Deal, liberal bromides of “middle class” tax cuts.
And, here in lies the problem. His instincts are that of a redistributionist, a socialist. Yet, his legacy hinges on the degree to which he will return economic policy to that of Reagan. He grew up in the world of ACORN and Saul Alinsky; a paradigm of extorting money from “the rich.” But, the paradigm falls apart if it is not operating in a society that cleaves to a rule of law and actually has something worth extorting. There are any of a number of third world countries where, if such tactics were tried, would result in the powers that be ruthlessly gunning down the Alinsky/ACORN acolytes. And, now that Obama fully owns the economic mess his liberal fellow travelers created, he’s discovering that there isn’t a whole lot to extort. The wealth and concomitant slack that Reagan’s economic policies engendered are all now wrung out of the economy.
Most of his economic bromides will only deepen the recession. Perhaps turn it into a depression. He’s still some 70 days out from the presidency but the country has already tied him to these economic straits. I think there’s a dawning realization that he can little to make things better than to promote policies that allow individuals to create wealth. Ironically, he is linked at the hip to all the Joe-the-Plumbers that he so trashed during the campaign. Yet, it flies in the face of his socialist need to control.
Oh, what to do! What to do!
What to do was to have used that news conference to more forcefully articulate fundamental economic principles for economic growth. That should have been his only theme; repeated over and over. And, had he done so, he would have bought himself room to maneuver by virtue of a rebounding stock-market, a honeymoon and public opinion to use as a cudgel against the power barons of Congress. Oh yes, the market rose yesterday; largely by virtue of who was on stage behind him. (Also, we probably had a lot of bargain hunting.) But, the message was muddled and the markets without clear direction will continue dither and dwindle.
One of the virtues of the electoral college is it’s ability to force a president to govern from either a center-left or center-right coalition. Obama himself and his Democratic power broker friends in both houses of congress come from political environments that are left-far left coalitions. For the first time in his life, he had to run an campaign that had to pull in the middle. His legacy and his political future will depend on keeping that middle. Reid and Pelosi are not his friends.