Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 1, 2010

We Miss Bush!

This, from Democratic pollster Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling, caused quite a stir yesterday: “[B]y a 50-42 margin voters [in Ohio] say they’d rather have George W. Bush in the White House right now than Barack Obama. Independents hold that view by a 44-37 margin and there are more Democrats who would take Bush back (11%) than there are Republicans who think Obama’s preferable (3%).” Jensen extracted this message:

A couple months ago I thought the Pennsylvanias and Missouris and Ohios of the world were the biggest battlegrounds for 2010 but when you see numbers like this it makes you think it’s probably actually the Californias and the Wisconsins and the Washingtons.

There’s not much doubt things are getting worse for Democrats…and they were already pretty bad. Somehow the party base needs to get reinvigorated over the next two months or there’s going to be a very, very steep price to pay.

All that is true, and confirms the growing sense that the wheels are coming off the Democrats’ bus. Observing the last month or so — the BP oil spill, the economic numbers, the steady erosion in Democrats’ polling numbers — liberal pundits have slowly come to terms with the actual political landscape. If there is a 10-point gap in Gallup polling — which is registered and not likely voters — we really are talking about very big losses for the Democrats.

But the most delicious part of this was the Bush comparison. Obama has, for his entire candidacy and presidency, blamed Bush for practically everything. He has contorted his predecessor’s policy decisions — including downplaying all talk of democracy promotion and reversing a reasonable approach to terrorist prosecutions — in order to be the not-Bush president. But now, the public likes Bush better. Think of that. Recall how reviled — unfairly, very unfairly, I would submit — Bush was at the end of his term. And in a mere 18 months, the public has decided that for all his shortcomings, he was a better president than the guy who is there now.

This tells us several things. First, Obama’s juvenile buck-passing hasn’t and won’t work. The election game plan of threatening the return of Bush isn’t going to fly. Heck, the voters wouldn’t mind having him back! Second, Obama has, to a degree we have not seen in recent years, shied away from acknowledging error. His “out” was always that Bush had messed things up — far worse than we even imagined. Now with Bush-bashing proven to be entirely counterproductive, what will Obama do to deflect blame? And finally, you have to keep faith with the American people. They may get impatient and lose perspective, but they remain exceedingly fair and possess a large reservoir of common sense (e.g., a mosque at Ground Zero is absurd, Bush was a decent man who made tough calls, we shouldn’t dump on loyal allies). It is good to be reminded of that.

This, from Democratic pollster Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling, caused quite a stir yesterday: “[B]y a 50-42 margin voters [in Ohio] say they’d rather have George W. Bush in the White House right now than Barack Obama. Independents hold that view by a 44-37 margin and there are more Democrats who would take Bush back (11%) than there are Republicans who think Obama’s preferable (3%).” Jensen extracted this message:

A couple months ago I thought the Pennsylvanias and Missouris and Ohios of the world were the biggest battlegrounds for 2010 but when you see numbers like this it makes you think it’s probably actually the Californias and the Wisconsins and the Washingtons.

There’s not much doubt things are getting worse for Democrats…and they were already pretty bad. Somehow the party base needs to get reinvigorated over the next two months or there’s going to be a very, very steep price to pay.

All that is true, and confirms the growing sense that the wheels are coming off the Democrats’ bus. Observing the last month or so — the BP oil spill, the economic numbers, the steady erosion in Democrats’ polling numbers — liberal pundits have slowly come to terms with the actual political landscape. If there is a 10-point gap in Gallup polling — which is registered and not likely voters — we really are talking about very big losses for the Democrats.

But the most delicious part of this was the Bush comparison. Obama has, for his entire candidacy and presidency, blamed Bush for practically everything. He has contorted his predecessor’s policy decisions — including downplaying all talk of democracy promotion and reversing a reasonable approach to terrorist prosecutions — in order to be the not-Bush president. But now, the public likes Bush better. Think of that. Recall how reviled — unfairly, very unfairly, I would submit — Bush was at the end of his term. And in a mere 18 months, the public has decided that for all his shortcomings, he was a better president than the guy who is there now.

This tells us several things. First, Obama’s juvenile buck-passing hasn’t and won’t work. The election game plan of threatening the return of Bush isn’t going to fly. Heck, the voters wouldn’t mind having him back! Second, Obama has, to a degree we have not seen in recent years, shied away from acknowledging error. His “out” was always that Bush had messed things up — far worse than we even imagined. Now with Bush-bashing proven to be entirely counterproductive, what will Obama do to deflect blame? And finally, you have to keep faith with the American people. They may get impatient and lose perspective, but they remain exceedingly fair and possess a large reservoir of common sense (e.g., a mosque at Ground Zero is absurd, Bush was a decent man who made tough calls, we shouldn’t dump on loyal allies). It is good to be reminded of that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s about loyalty and persistence: “Fifty-seven years ago, an armistice ended the fighting in Korea — another unpopular conflict, far bloodier than the Iraq war, although shorter. … Yet when the war was over, the United States did not abandon South Korea. We had done so in 1949, when our post-World War II occupation of Korea ended, opening the door to North Korea’s invasion the following year. This time, instead, we kept a substantial military force in South Korea. The United States stuck with South Korea even though the country was then ruled by a dictator and the prospects for its war-devastated economy looked dim.”

It’s about the worst-run and worst-prepared campaign this season. The latest on the hapless Pennsylvania Democrat: “Republicans criticized U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak yesterday for requesting an earmark they say would have sent $350,000 to a company, in violation of House rules.”

It’s about the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee throwing millions down a rat hole in a fruitless attempt to save a weak candidate: “Republican candidate Pat Toomey has a 10-point lead over his Democratic rival in the race for a Senate seat in the key swing state of Pennsylvania where worries about the economy dominate, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday. In the latest sign that President Barack Obama’s Democrats could struggle at the November 2 midterm vote, 47 percent of likely voters said they would back Toomey and 37 percent said they favored Democrat Joe Sestak.”

It’s about the enthusiasm: “Americans with the strongest opinions about the country’s most divisive issues are largely unhappy with how President Barack Obama is handling them, an ominous sign for Democrats hoping to retain control of Congress in the fall elections. In nine of 15 issues examined in an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, more Americans who expressed intense interest in a problem voiced strong opposition to Obama’s work on it, including the economy, unemployment, federal deficits and terrorism.”

It’s about time: “As Obama Struggles, Bush’s Legacy Recovers.”

It’s about the lunacy of Iranian engagement: “An Iranian newspaper with close ties to the country’s supreme leader has responded to a campaign by French celebrities to save the life of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning by calling its most prominent member, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a ‘prostitute’ who ‘deserves to die.'” By the way, where are American celebrities?

It’s about as far from the “summer of recovery” as you can get: “U.S. auto sales in August probably were the slowest for the month in 28 years as model-year closeout deals failed to entice consumers concerned the economy is worsening and they may lose their jobs.”

It’s about loyalty and persistence: “Fifty-seven years ago, an armistice ended the fighting in Korea — another unpopular conflict, far bloodier than the Iraq war, although shorter. … Yet when the war was over, the United States did not abandon South Korea. We had done so in 1949, when our post-World War II occupation of Korea ended, opening the door to North Korea’s invasion the following year. This time, instead, we kept a substantial military force in South Korea. The United States stuck with South Korea even though the country was then ruled by a dictator and the prospects for its war-devastated economy looked dim.”

It’s about the worst-run and worst-prepared campaign this season. The latest on the hapless Pennsylvania Democrat: “Republicans criticized U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak yesterday for requesting an earmark they say would have sent $350,000 to a company, in violation of House rules.”

It’s about the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee throwing millions down a rat hole in a fruitless attempt to save a weak candidate: “Republican candidate Pat Toomey has a 10-point lead over his Democratic rival in the race for a Senate seat in the key swing state of Pennsylvania where worries about the economy dominate, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday. In the latest sign that President Barack Obama’s Democrats could struggle at the November 2 midterm vote, 47 percent of likely voters said they would back Toomey and 37 percent said they favored Democrat Joe Sestak.”

It’s about the enthusiasm: “Americans with the strongest opinions about the country’s most divisive issues are largely unhappy with how President Barack Obama is handling them, an ominous sign for Democrats hoping to retain control of Congress in the fall elections. In nine of 15 issues examined in an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, more Americans who expressed intense interest in a problem voiced strong opposition to Obama’s work on it, including the economy, unemployment, federal deficits and terrorism.”

It’s about time: “As Obama Struggles, Bush’s Legacy Recovers.”

It’s about the lunacy of Iranian engagement: “An Iranian newspaper with close ties to the country’s supreme leader has responded to a campaign by French celebrities to save the life of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning by calling its most prominent member, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a ‘prostitute’ who ‘deserves to die.'” By the way, where are American celebrities?

It’s about as far from the “summer of recovery” as you can get: “U.S. auto sales in August probably were the slowest for the month in 28 years as model-year closeout deals failed to entice consumers concerned the economy is worsening and they may lose their jobs.”

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Neocon Obama?

Jen, my take on the speech is rather different from yours, as I relate in the New York Post this morning. The first half of the speech featured a dramatic shift in tone and spirit for Obama — one in which he, for the first time, endorsed the notion of an activist American role abroad and said such a role was good both for the United States and the world:

The fact that Obama was willing to use this nation’s involvement in Iraq — which he had opposed so completely and whose extension in the form of the surge in 2007 he argued against flatly — as an example of what America can do when it puts its mind to it is stunning. “This milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment,” he said.

I grant you that the speech descended into liberal boilerplate in the second half, but that is to be expected; what’s interesting in presidential speeches is what’s new in them. And this was new. And surprising. Bill Kristol agrees.

Jen, my take on the speech is rather different from yours, as I relate in the New York Post this morning. The first half of the speech featured a dramatic shift in tone and spirit for Obama — one in which he, for the first time, endorsed the notion of an activist American role abroad and said such a role was good both for the United States and the world:

The fact that Obama was willing to use this nation’s involvement in Iraq — which he had opposed so completely and whose extension in the form of the surge in 2007 he argued against flatly — as an example of what America can do when it puts its mind to it is stunning. “This milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment,” he said.

I grant you that the speech descended into liberal boilerplate in the second half, but that is to be expected; what’s interesting in presidential speeches is what’s new in them. And this was new. And surprising. Bill Kristol agrees.

Read Less




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