To his credit, David Brooks delivers the harsh news to the Obami:
Voters are in no mood for a wave of domestic transformation. The economy is already introducing enough insecurity into their lives. Unlike 1932 and 1965, Americans do not trust Washington to take them on a leap of faith, especially if it means more spending.
The country has reacted harshly to the course the administration ended up embracing. Obama is still admired personally, but every major proposal — from the stimulus to health care — is quite unpopular. Independent voters have swung against the administration. Voters are not reacting to the particulars of each bill. They are reacting against the total activist onslaught.
Brooks suggests some things Obama now could do, ranging from the innocuous (“propose some incremental changes in a range of areas and prove Washington can at least take small steps”) to the unlikely (Who thinks Obama has the patience or the inclination to “take several of the Republican health care reform ideas — like malpractice reform and lifting the regulatory barriers on state-based experimentation — and proactively embrace them as part of a genuine compromise offer”?) to the scary (please, no “constitutional debate” with “amendments of one sort or another”).
Frankly, Obama shows none of Brooks’ passion for the nitty-gritty of governance. Aside from sporadic rhetoric, Obama has rejected true bipartisanship at every turn. So the prospects for a successful domestic agenda are not great. But because they are already touting their great achievement in Iraq, the Obami might stop husbanding resources for a domestic agenda that is going nowhere and instead start using their capital on some historic foreign endeavors. Obama could complete the job in Iraq (and actually call it “victory”), spend the resources (financial and otherwise) to do the same in Afghanistan, and help bend history in Iran.
So far, Obama’s performance on Iran has been pathetic, as Jamie Fly sums up:
The administration’s public statements on Iran in the days leading up to today’s protests have been shameful. One wonders whether they might be more successful if instead of playing rhetorical games with the Iranian regime, this administration was focused on rallying international support for and implementing those “crippling sanctions” they used to threaten if Iran did not accept President Obama’s outstretched hand. All in all, another missed opportunity to stand on the right side of history and support the protesters who represent the best chance for resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis.
But it’s not too late. The country (ours and theirs) would respond favorably. He could deploy his vaunted eloquence to rally world opinion and support the oppressed and imprisoned. He could make “hope and change” more than a punch line. And here at home, Republicans would rally to his side.
Think that’s unlikely, too? Well, maybe if he wants that “one really good” term, he could use it to achieve something truly important. If the alternative is dickering with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid over a fiscal commission, it might seem like the thing to do. But then again, maybe all he really wanted was to win the presidency.