Ted Van Dyk’s article in today’s WSJ, Obama Needs to ‘Reset’ His Presidency cautions that Obama must take a time out and find “a reset button for domestic policy.” Interesting that he uses the words “time out” – something one would tell a misbehaving child. Surely, the President’s reckless spending and use of all the White House “toys” like a kid in a candy store is the reason for this choice of phrase.
Clearly Mr. Van Dyk was a huge fan of this President, thought his campaign “superb” and appreciated his promises of “reaching across party and ideological lines to get the public’s business done.” Van Dyk opines:
“You displayed an intellect and sense of cool that made us think you would weigh decisions carefully and view advisers’ proposals with skepticism.”
You know what I get from that phrase? Since the President acted “cool,” some mighty educated people actually believed this to be more than just a pose on his part. Not unlike Madonna’s use of “Voguing” back in the day. Now perhaps they begin to see that a pose has neither to do with governing nor an ability to adapt to the changing realities on the ground.
At that point, Mr. Van Dyk goes off the rails and we see that his blanket approval has come to an end:
The first warning signals for me came with your acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. In it, you stressed domestic initiatives that clearly were nonstarters in the already shrinking economy.
He then complains of Obama stocking his White House with “Clinton administration retreads who had learned their trade in the never-ending-campaign culture of the Clinton years.” Again, blame Clinton. But who did Mr. Van Dyk think this man was going to hire? He faults Obama for his “reliance on these Clinton holdovers.”
Your chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, defined your early strategy by stating that the financial and economic crises presented an “opportunity” to jam through unrelated legislation. To many of us, the remark was cynical and wrong-headed.
The crises did not represent an opportunity. They presented an obligation to do one thing: Return our financial system and our economy to good health.
Does Van Dyk assume any Democratic president would have been this reckless? Hillary Clinton had different health care proposals, different proposals for helping homeowners in this crisis and a much better understanding of the economy. None of her ideas are being utilized, I’m afraid. She just may have exhibited the good sense Mr. Van Dyk longs for and put the financial floor back under us before attempting a more drastic change. But we’ll never know…
Van Dyk discusses Mr. Obama being unfairly compared to FDR & LBJ. Discussing President Johnson’s “Great Society legislation”…
…at every stage, congressional leaders of both political parties and financial, business, labor and other private-sector leaders were consulted. Johnson wanted to assure that his legislation was substantively sound and could get consensus support in the Congress and the country.
Your strategy, by contrast, has been to advocate forcefully for health-care and energy reform but to leave the details to Democratic congressional committee chairs. You did the same thing with your initial $787 billion stimulus package. Now, you’re stuck with a plan that provides little stimulus until 2010. A president should never cede control of his main agenda to others.
President Obama is in over his head, so of course he “outsourced.” Why is this gentleman surprised? Mr. Van Dyk willfully ignores the fact that the biggest culprit here is not a “Clinton retread,” but the Queen Bee herself, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She crafted the stimulus package behind closed doors and the President willingly allowed her this control. Perhaps that was his devil’s bargain for her help in kicking the ladder out from under Hillary. Republicans were not the only ones to be shut out of the crafting of the Stimulus package. Many Democrats were as well. Van Dyk continues:
This tactic has already had negative consequences. Frightened by the prospective costs of your health-care and energy plans — not to mention the bailouts of the financial and auto industries — independent voters who supported you in 2008 are falling away. FDR and LBJ, only two years after their 1932 and 1964 victories, saw their parties lose congressional seats even though their personal popularity remained stable. The party out of power traditionally gains seats in off-year elections, and 2010 is unlikely to be an exception.
He then offers up a prescription for a fix:
– Cut back both your proposals and expectations. You made promises about jobs that would be “created and saved” by the stimulus package. Those promises have not held up. You continue to engage in hyperbole by claiming that your health-care and energy plans will save tax dollars. Congressional Budget Office analysis indicates otherwise.
It’s time to re-examine these initiatives. Could your health plan be scaled back to catastrophic coverage for all — badly needed by most families, but quite affordable if deductibles are set at the right levels? Should the Rube Goldbergian cap-and-trade proposals be replaced with a simple carbon tax, with proceeds to be allocated to alternative-fuels development?
The evolving health and cap-and-trade bills are loaded with costly provisions designed to gain support from congressional leaders and special-interest constituencies. In short, they have become an expensive mess. This legislation will not clear Congress by the August recess, as you have requested, and could be stalled for the remainder of 2009. Settle for incremental change: Do not press Democratic legislators to vote for something they fear will destroy them in 2010.
– Talk less and pick your spots.
Applause and adulation are gratifying. But the more you talk, the less weight your words will hold. Let voters see you at your desk, conferring with serious people about serious matters. When you do choose to talk, people will understand that it’s important and they should listen.
“Let voters see you at your desk!” Doing some “work.” Great ideas!
– Conform your 2009 politics to your 2008 statements. During your campaign, you called for bipartisanship and bridge-building. You promised to reduce the influence of single-issue and single-interest groups in the policy process. Yet, in your public statements, you keep using President Bush as a scapegoat.
You have ceded content of your principal proposals to Democratic congressional leaders who in large part have yielded to special-interest constituencies and excluded Republican leaders from policy formulation. This certainly was the case with the stimulus plan. It has been the case with health and energy legislation, with the notable exception of Sen. Max Baucus’s attempt in the Senate Finance Committee to develop genuinely bipartisan legislation.
He concludes by telling Obama
“You have an enormous reservoir of goodwill among Americans of all persuasions. They want you to succeed. Level with them and trim your proposals to what is practical in the current environment.”
But ironically, it is Mr. Van Dyk’s closing statement with which I most take issue:
You had things right in 2008. Take a timeout. Get back to yourself. Make a fresh start.
He did not have things “right” in 2008 because there is no “self” to ‘get back to’. His campaign was always “words, just words.”
While I graduated college with high honors, I am no genius, yet I figured this out from my living room couch back in January of 2008. I watched this man at a debate and his “performance” told me everything I needed to know. I then looked at his voting record and the corporate interests with whom he surrounds himself, his addiction to pretty sound bytes and an over reliance on canned speeches rather than a resume that indicated he had worked even on a smaller level to achieve his stated goals. His current proposals are loaded with top heavy payback for special interests that arguably got him elected in the first place. Wall Street has gotten bailed out. Not Main Street. He lives in support of an oligarchy, like his immediate predecessor. If these are true Democratic principles, its the first I’ve heard of it.
The obscene amount of money spent on his inauguration, expensive “dates” and pizza parties and his hiring not less than 30 “czars” all of whom require staff and total salaries in the millions are more accurate indicators of the man than any of his campaign rhetoric.
Like Obama’s other supporters, perhaps Mr. Van Dyk has yet to understand that speeches will never equal governing ability. He too, blamed the Clintons for being “polarizing” as Bush was, but how true is his claim? Clinton passed true bi-partisan legislation. He had to, as he was working with a Republican Congress for 6 of his 8 years and did very well in that regard. But in his case, he also had deep knowledge of the economy and a willingness to reach across the aisle and conform to the existing reality. He certainly left the country in better shape than he found it.
President Obama, by contrast is the “salesman in chief.” That is what the DNC wanted. How is he supposed to pull us back to “reality” with his proposals when he clearly did not have these reasoned intentions in the first place, or a true understanding of how to get us there?
Apparently, Mr. Van Dyk has yet to travel the last mile in his awakening.