Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Obama's Unhappy Birthday

In less than three years since his election was seen as the nation’s triumph over its own history, a combination of his own shortcomings, crushing economic challenges that destabilized the electorate and residual racism has put Barack Hussein Obama in danger of becoming a one-term president.

At his birth 50 years ago, his parents’ marriage was illegal in 16 states of the Union. Now, at the low point of his tenure in the nation’s highest office, the President is still seen as illegitimate by millions of Americans. (No other has been the target of a Birther controversy and polls showing large numbers of voters think he’s a Muslim.)

Yet, for all that prejudice and a drumbeat of accusations that he is a closet radical, Barack Obama’s birthday woes ironically stem even more from his own political misjudgments in acting as a mainstream mediator rather than a strong leader.

If there was anything his “Change” supporters expected, it was the kind of determination he showed in pushing through a badly needed stimulus bill over wall-to-wall Republican opposition (only three in the Senate and none in the House voted for it) as the first President in memory not given even a brief “honeymoon” by the other party.

Yet, after that adamant opposition was clear, Barack Obama made two crucial mistakes—-the strategic one of devoting 2009 to health care reform rather than job creation and compounding it with the tactical error of not pushing a plan of his own but letting Congress in an ugly spectacle that disgusted voters produce a 2000-page abortion, which the GOP converted into the political weapon of “Obamacare” that helped spawn the Tea Party.

Even after that, the President has been a slow learner, failing in December 2010 to take his last chance to kill tax cuts for the superrich that would have reduced the deficit by $4 trillion in a decade, judging that newly elected Tea Party House members would have to negotiate after they took office.

We all know how that turned out. Even as late as last month, he was hoping to make a Grand Bargain with John Boehner, with no apparent awareness that diehards led by his own deputy Eric Cantor would not let him.

Now the narrative is all about liberals feeling let down, but that may be less about ideology than temperament and, as 2012 fund-raising goes into high gear, Barack Obama is not in a hopeless situation.

With the GOP as divided on a nominee to oppose him as it was in the debt-ceiling crisis, he may rediscover the campaign inner warrior that served him so well in 2008. More than just an election is at stake.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President. Just think about Harry Truman and start giving ‘em hell.

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