Can kicking

I’m trying to define exactly what it is about Obama I’m finding so dissatisfying. It’s not necessarily his politics. He’s more or less center, I’m center-left on most things. We’re not that far apart. It’s not his pragmatism. I’m a pragmatist, too. God knows we could use more of that in our politics now. No, I think what it is is how he seems to get his ass handed to him so often.

Compare and contrast with Bill Clinton, the Great Triangulator. Clinton often didn’t seem to stand for anything, but in retrospect, I was more consistently happy with his tenure while it was happening than I am with Obama’s. After the mid-terms of 1994 culminating with the federal government shut-downs of 1995 and 1996, you could always see what Clinton got as part of any deal. He didn’t get everything he wanted, but he got something. As hard as the right tried to minimize him and hand him defeat, he always seemed to come out the other side with at least a partial victory. At least, that’s how I remember it.

These days, Obama talks a good game, but he doesn’t seem comfortable in his presidential skin. There are flashes of presidential behavior (Bin Laden), but for the most part he seems like one of those overly obsequious parents who never stops negotiating with a willful child and, ultimately, never seems to make any headway in stemming their willfulness. For someone who ran such a masterful campaign to win the Presidency, he seems to have no idea what Americans think makes a successful president.

A classic example is the 14th amendment option (the one that says the debt of the United States will not be called into question). At a very early point in the debate, Obama said he would not exercise it. No, it had never been done before and, yes, had he done so, it would have likely ended up in court, but it was an option. It was a negotiation ploy. It was a freakin’ stick! Instead, he got all professorial and appealed to his opposition’s better angels. Guess what? They don’t have any. At least not when dealing with him. They know better by now. In any event, Clinton’s position on the 14th was that hell yes he’d use it “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me.” See?! Sounds like a president to me.

Three times he put the extinguishing of tax breaks for the wealthy out there as his objective towards reaching a more equitable solution to our budget imbalances. Three times he kicked the can down the alley until next time. What happens when there are no more next times? Clinton understood far better (and sooner) than Obama that in order to lead you have to look like you’re winning every once in a while. Obama never seems to win. Health care reform, for example, was so watered down and limp as to have seemed hollow at best.

Even when he wins, it smells like a defeat.

5 thoughts on “Can kicking

  1. You mean this one.

    I reject that I must be happy with the manner and form of the solution just because it didn’t spell the end of the world from a progressive point of view. I reject that being disappointed with the president somehow ensures a Republican win next November. I fully believe that politicians should win because they deserve it, not because they’re not the other guy.

    I keep giving Obama a chance and I keep being disappointed. That has nothing at all to do with Michele Bachmann or Mitt Romney or Theodore Roosevelt. Just because he’s the only guy we got doesn’t mean we need to like him.

  2. Also, I’m willing to make a wager regarding the outcome this sentence seems to imply:

    Progressives apparently oppose the forced expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

      1. What you have is three Republicans and three Democrats who have to agree on $1.5t in cuts or increased revenue plus a pledge by the president that he won’t renew them absent tax code reform. The Republicans have already said they won’t appoint anyone who would agree to a tax increase of any kind.

        The Republicans *do* have a vehicle to prevent their expiration. One is their demonstrated disregard for the well-being of the country and a willingness to drive us over a cliff rather than compromise. Two is their Democratic opposition which clearly *does* care about the country and has shown again and again that they’re willing to take any deal, not matter how repugnant, in order to keep the other side from pulling the trigger.

        Like I said, I’ll take that bet. I hope you’re right and I’m wrong, but I just don’t see why the future would be any different than the past in this regard.

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