Commentary Magazine


Topic: top aide

Blame Obama for Blaming Bush

Jonathan Martin reports:

After three consecutive losses in statewide races, some top Democrats are questioning a tactic aimed at boosting the party’s candidates in each of those contests: Bush-bashing. . . “Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”

Almost on cue, James Carville pops up to counsel: “Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the health-care debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”

There is one big problem with shifting tactics: the “not Bush” strategy comes right from Obama and is frankly more an obsession than a strategy. Starting with his Inaugural Address, continuing through his announcement on stem-cell research, barreling on through his ill-advised anti-terror policies and Middle East gambit (more daylight between the U.S. and Israel!), and casting blame for the jobless recovery, Obama has reflexively blamed Bush for nearly everything. It is how he got elected and now he can’t seem to give it up. It fills in the time, of course, when he’s not passing his own agenda and not succeeding in any foreign-policy effort.

It was stunningly petty conduct by Obama, behavior we really haven’t seen from any other president once in office. It is part of Obama’s larger failing — the inability or unwillingness to transition from a campaign partisan to an effective chief executive. While the “blame Bush” tactic was never effective, now it looks counterproductive and tone deaf. Martin explains:

“This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,” wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. “Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.”

Further, given the flurry of major steps Obama has taken in the year since he took office — from the stimulus to more bailouts to health care — Bush looks even more distant in the public’s rearview mirror.

“Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,” explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.

The excuse mongering only reinforces the growing perception that Obama is isolated, disconnected, and in over his head. Whether he is willing to give up the security blanket of blaming Bush for his travails remains to be seen. But until he moves on, his fellow Democrats will have a hard time doing so. They can add that to the list of their Obama-induced woes this election year.

Jonathan Martin reports:

After three consecutive losses in statewide races, some top Democrats are questioning a tactic aimed at boosting the party’s candidates in each of those contests: Bush-bashing. . . “Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”

Almost on cue, James Carville pops up to counsel: “Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the health-care debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”

There is one big problem with shifting tactics: the “not Bush” strategy comes right from Obama and is frankly more an obsession than a strategy. Starting with his Inaugural Address, continuing through his announcement on stem-cell research, barreling on through his ill-advised anti-terror policies and Middle East gambit (more daylight between the U.S. and Israel!), and casting blame for the jobless recovery, Obama has reflexively blamed Bush for nearly everything. It is how he got elected and now he can’t seem to give it up. It fills in the time, of course, when he’s not passing his own agenda and not succeeding in any foreign-policy effort.

It was stunningly petty conduct by Obama, behavior we really haven’t seen from any other president once in office. It is part of Obama’s larger failing — the inability or unwillingness to transition from a campaign partisan to an effective chief executive. While the “blame Bush” tactic was never effective, now it looks counterproductive and tone deaf. Martin explains:

“This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,” wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. “Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.”

Further, given the flurry of major steps Obama has taken in the year since he took office — from the stimulus to more bailouts to health care — Bush looks even more distant in the public’s rearview mirror.

“Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,” explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.

The excuse mongering only reinforces the growing perception that Obama is isolated, disconnected, and in over his head. Whether he is willing to give up the security blanket of blaming Bush for his travails remains to be seen. But until he moves on, his fellow Democrats will have a hard time doing so. They can add that to the list of their Obama-induced woes this election year.

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Squandering Mr. Obama’s Teachable Moment

In his interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, President Obama said this:

The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

He went on to say this as well:

If there’s one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here … that people will get it. … What they’ve ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there’s these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. … I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we’re in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago. That also means, by the way, that we can spread out what we do so it’s not so cram-packed. It doesn’t mean I back off the agenda of health care, or energy, or education, or financial regulatory reform, or dealing with our deficits. But it does mean that it doesn’t have to be all on top of the other piled on. And we’ve got a lot more time to explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing. We have a lot more time to answer critics who argue that we’re not doing the right thing.

What a shame; the election in Massachusetts was a wonderful teachable moment for Mr. Obama — and he seems to have drawn all the wrong lessons from it.

First, the president is still engaged in whining and finger-pointing, an act that long ago became tiresome. Unable to master events, he increasingly looks for ways to scapegoat them. Blaming everything under the sun on the “last eight years” won’t cut it (especially since one of the last eight years now covers Obama’s tenure). It simply makes Mr. Obama look petty and small-minded.

Second, Mr. Obama and his press spokesman Robert Gibbs and his top aide David Axelrod are practicing psychiatry without a license. They speak about the need to “understand” the public’s “anger,” as if it was a rooted in something other than a reasonable verdict on Mr. Obama’s agenda so far. The polling data shows that what is costing the Democrats isn’t some kind of free-floating anger that has gripped voters in need of therapy; it is opposition to what Obama and the Democrats are trying to do to the nation.

Third, the president’s “mistake” is that he and his administration were just so busy doing so much good stuff for so many people that, well, they plainly forgot to explain to simple-minded Americans just how much good stuff the Obama administration is doing for them. I guess Rahm Emanuel needs to add “remind people how great I am” to the presidential “to do” list.

Fourth, Obama and his acolytes believe they have a “communications problem” when in fact they have a substance and competence problem. They are pushing proposals that are counterproductive and highly unpopular; that is why the American people are rising up against the president and his agenda.

Mr. Obama’s words are so laughably out of touch I’m not sure he really believes them. If he does, he is more self-deluded than I imagined. And his administration is in more trouble than I thought.

In his interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, President Obama said this:

The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

He went on to say this as well:

If there’s one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here … that people will get it. … What they’ve ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there’s these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. … I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we’re in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago. That also means, by the way, that we can spread out what we do so it’s not so cram-packed. It doesn’t mean I back off the agenda of health care, or energy, or education, or financial regulatory reform, or dealing with our deficits. But it does mean that it doesn’t have to be all on top of the other piled on. And we’ve got a lot more time to explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing. We have a lot more time to answer critics who argue that we’re not doing the right thing.

What a shame; the election in Massachusetts was a wonderful teachable moment for Mr. Obama — and he seems to have drawn all the wrong lessons from it.

First, the president is still engaged in whining and finger-pointing, an act that long ago became tiresome. Unable to master events, he increasingly looks for ways to scapegoat them. Blaming everything under the sun on the “last eight years” won’t cut it (especially since one of the last eight years now covers Obama’s tenure). It simply makes Mr. Obama look petty and small-minded.

Second, Mr. Obama and his press spokesman Robert Gibbs and his top aide David Axelrod are practicing psychiatry without a license. They speak about the need to “understand” the public’s “anger,” as if it was a rooted in something other than a reasonable verdict on Mr. Obama’s agenda so far. The polling data shows that what is costing the Democrats isn’t some kind of free-floating anger that has gripped voters in need of therapy; it is opposition to what Obama and the Democrats are trying to do to the nation.

Third, the president’s “mistake” is that he and his administration were just so busy doing so much good stuff for so many people that, well, they plainly forgot to explain to simple-minded Americans just how much good stuff the Obama administration is doing for them. I guess Rahm Emanuel needs to add “remind people how great I am” to the presidential “to do” list.

Fourth, Obama and his acolytes believe they have a “communications problem” when in fact they have a substance and competence problem. They are pushing proposals that are counterproductive and highly unpopular; that is why the American people are rising up against the president and his agenda.

Mr. Obama’s words are so laughably out of touch I’m not sure he really believes them. If he does, he is more self-deluded than I imagined. And his administration is in more trouble than I thought.

Read Less




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