Jewish World Review April 13, 2011 9 Nissan, 5771
Obama Faces Problem on Left, Not Right
By Roger Simon
Obama continues to anger progressives in his party and has created a huge amount of running room to his left: He abandoned a single-payer health care option, he agreed to extend tax cuts to the rich, he has expanded the war in Afghanistan, and instead of keeping his campaign promise to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, he is going to resume military trials there.
Is there no Democrat who is going to seek to exploit the gulf between Obama and his own progressive wing in 2012? The White House thinks not. But let's put aside that question for a few paragraphs and look at the Republican field.
In a celebrity-driven, media-driven culture such as ours, being a political celebrity is a huge advantage in political advancement. Campaign 2008 featured three genuine political celebrities: John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
(I am defining a political celebrity as someone whose life and career are followed not just by people who care about politics, but by a broader segment of the population. In other words, people who are fascinated by stars and superstars.)
McCain and Obama got the nominations of their parties, and Clinton ran a good second. But the potential Republican field of 2012 is packed not just with non-celebrities, but non-entities.
True, Donald Trump meets my definition of a political celebrity. But he can't get the nomination. Not only is his born-again birtherism repugnant to the Republican mainstream, but when you enter "Trump" and "bankruptcy" in your Google search box, you get 3.47 million hits. This could be a bump on his road to the White House.
As to Mitt Romney, who if you stretch things a bit, is a semi-celebrity, he has a shot at the presidency only if the economy falls apart and Americans really think a businessman president will help them out of a crisis. Unfortunately for Romney, the economy continues to improve. And just as Obama had to overcome racism to become president, Romney would have to overcome anti-Mormonism. It can be done, but it is an extra mountain for him to climb.
Sarah Palin is a true celebrity and would have a chance, I believe, for the Republican nomination, but she has no chance of beating Obama.
She and the rest of the Republican field face the Behind-the-Desk Test, an optical test that almost every voter thinks about either consciously or unconsciously: Can I imagine this candidate sitting behind that big desk in the Oval Office making critically important, sometimes life or death, decisions?
(Those who fantasize that Army Gen. David Petraeus would have a good chance of running as a Republican are delusional. Americans are in no mood to elect a warrior to the presidency. Most Americans want fewer, not more, wars.)
So that leaves the Democrats. Which one of them could mount a credible campaign against Obama in 2012?
Howard Dean might. He ran a disastrous presidential campaign in 2004, but he has learned a thing or two since then and has been a critic of President Obama's policies in the past. And Dean hoped for, but did not get, a Cabinet post from Obama, increasing Dean's irritation. (Some of Obama's top advisers neither liked nor trusted Dean.)
But Dean, perhaps dreaming of a Cabinet post in Obama's second term, said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in January, "Barack Obama is the best chance that we have of holding onto the White House in 2012, and I intend to support him."
So how about Hillary Clinton, our secretary of state? She is far more popular than Obama. According to a Gallup poll released on March 30, Clinton has a favorable rating of 66 percent, compared to Obama's 54 percent.
And Clinton has said a number of times that she has no intention of continuing to serve in the Obama Cabinet should he win a second term.
But she also told CNN last month that running for the presidency does not interest her: "You know, I had a wonderful experience running, and I am very proud of the support I had and very grateful for the opportunity, but I'm going to be, you know, moving on."
One place she could be moving on to, especially should Obama wish to reward her for her loyalty, is the U.S. Supreme Court. As I have written before, no matter how controversial some of her past positions, as a former senator, she is eminently confirmable.
And then there is Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich. He is an unabashed, unashamed, unassimilated liberal. He voted against funding the war in Iraq, believes in the abolition of all nuclear weapons, is for single-payer health care, withdrawal from the World Trade Organization and NAFTA, repeal of the Patriot Act, abolition of the death penalty, legalizing same-sex marriage and medical marijuana, and the creation of a Department of Peace.
He ran for the presidency in 2004 and 2008. In a Democratic candidate debate in October 2007, he was forced to admit he had once seen a UFO at Shirley MacLaine's house in the 1980s. This was not considered helpful to his presidential aspirations.
In August 2010, Kucinich said on ABC's "Good Morning America" that he had no plans to run against Obama again, but that was a political lifetime ago.
Could Kucinich really get the nomination in 2012? No. But should he do well among liberal Democrats in places like Iowa, for example, he could send a message to the White House.
It takes two wings to fly, and so far, President Obama has not been paying a lot of attention to his left one.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
© 2009, Creators Syndicate