By: Mark Berman
You may have noticed that the excitement surrounding President Obama’s re-election campaign does not measure up to the euphoria that accompanied him everywhere he went four years ago. You could even argue that there is no excitement at all this time around. And Obama has no one but himself to blame.
While promoting his wife’s candidacy in 2008, former President Clinton reportedly said of Obama: “A few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags.” An unfortunate choice of words, but the point Clinton was trying to make was that Obama was a political amateur, not ready for the White House.
Clinton, perhaps the best politician alive today, proved prophetic because the early days of Obama’s presidency were filled with political blunders that no experienced president would have made.
The health care battle is a prime example. Obama wanted to work with Republicans on this to make it a bi-partisan effort. A noble goal, but Obama had to know after his first meeting with congressional leaders that the GOP was not going to work with him on anything. At that point he just should have pushed ahead with his plan. Obama had a majority in the House and a filibuster-proof super-majority in the Senate. He could have pushed through whatever he wanted.
He also had a mandate from the American people. He ran on a platform of “Hope and Change,” and the voters basically said, “All right. We believe in you. Go ahead and do what you think is best.”
Instead, Obama squandered all of this by continuing to negotiate with Republicans who refused to negotiate back. Maybe they didn’t know it yet, but Republicans were stalling until they could actually have a bit of power. That happened in January 2010 when Republican Scott Brown shocked the political world by winning the Senate seat of liberal lion Ted Kennedy, who died the previous summer. No longer did the Democrats have a filibuster-proof super-majority. Now the GOP could block whatever it did not like. And it did not like anything Obama had to offer.
In his first year in office Obama could have done whatever he wanted; he had the support of the American people and a majority in Congress, and he did not take advantage of the extraordinary opportunity. Maybe Obama thought he would have that majority for at least two years, until the mid-term elections. But an experienced politician would have known you can’t count on anything and you have to seize the moment.
It’s exactly what Lyndon Johnson did. Knowing full well that Vietnam was about to explode, he pushed through all of his social agenda in the first few months after taking office. LBJ was a seasoned politician, “The Master of the Senate,” who knew you have to take advantage of situations immediately because your advantage could quickly dissolve.
It’s a shame Obama did not know this. If he did, we would have health care reform that is actual reform instead of just a bailout for the insurance companies, which remain the biggest problem with our health care system. Now they have even more power and influence.
Perhaps the next four years will be different. There will indeed be a next four years because despite Obama’s shortcomings, there is no way he can lose to someone like Mitt Romney. Maybe Obama is now a seasoned politician who is up to the task of navigating Washington.
We will soon learn whether that is true. But in the meantime, his disillusioned followers are staying home and not buying his “Hope and Change” message anymore, realizing Obama is not the second coming – that he is just another politician unwilling or unable to keep his campaign promises.