Jewish World Review July 13, 2011/ 11 Tammuz, 5771
The Presidency Matters, But How Much Does Obama?
By Jonah Goldberg
In 1994, the Republicans took back the
But Clinton was right. The presidency matters, period. Soon, Clinton had more going for him. The news conference after the
In 2010, President Obama's party suffered from an even worse "shellacking" in the House than Clinton's had in 1994. Few asked whether Obama was still relevant, in part because the Democrats still held the
And that's what is amazing about Obama's presidency right now. It is almost entirely pro forma. Save for a few marginal exceptions (like an overly sympathetic media and the loyalty of Senate Democrats), his place in American politics rests entirely with what the job brings to him and not what he brings to it.
Obama seems incapable of moving public opinion, at least among people who don't already agree with him. You can tell his handlers have noticed because his talking points have become top-heavy with jargon freshly minted from focus groups: corporate jet owners, "winning the future," raising revenue instead of raising taxes, etc.
Similarly, his shopworn rhetoric has become more desperate. On
When Obama says people should drop their political rhetoric, he means everyone else.
The most telling sign that Obama's presidency has been shorn of its pretensions to greatness is not rhetorical but substantive. Obama began his presidency using his deficit reduction commission as an excuse not to worry about the debt or deficit, as he borrowed trillions of dollars more. When the commission released its recommendations, he politely ignored them.
Ever since Obama's decision to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts until 2013, he's been pulled in a direction not of his choosing. Amid talk of a second stimulus, he began the year with a budget that increased the deficit, and it sank without a ripple, voted down 97-0. In April, after the
The national conversation now is not one he wants to have. "I'd rather be talking about stuff that everyone welcomes, like new programs," he said at Monday's news conference. But, "The politics that swept (
But even as Obama has been forced to put aside his understanding of what governing means, Clinton's point is still valid. When it comes to getting the deal done, it's very difficult to go around the presidency, and it's very easy for the president to declare victory even after a failure. Obama may not be bringing much to the table, but it remains his table -- because it came with the office.
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