The writers at The Economist claim, not surprisingly, that the President seems to be getting a handle on the foreign policy element of his job but is failing on the domestic front, an analysis that is about 50% correct. Discussing the President’s foreign policy accomplishments the magazine notes:
“In foreign policy in particular Mr Obama has already done some commendable things. He has held out a sincere hand to Iran; he has ordered Guantánamo closed within a year; he has set himself firmly against torture. He has, as the world and this newspaper wanted, taken a less strident tone in dealing with friends and rivals alike.”
Actually, Mr. Obama has failed in each of these areas if he is to be judged by his campaign rhetoric. The “sincere hand” he held out to Iran was in fact the weak hand and no success can be implied. Gitmo has been ordered closed, but Obama watchers know that the order was not accompanied by an alternative for holding the terrorists anywhere else, thus the promise comes with the infamous Obama expiration date and can be reversed at any time. On renditions the President has simply outsourced the problem and declared victory. The failure to adopt a strident tone with friends and rivals (rivals? Surely they mean enemies. Or perhaps the Euphemizing Army has crossed the pond) is a rehash of the liberal complaint that results would be different only if we just made nice to folks. So, on the matter of foreign policy The Economist got it all wrong, as usual.
Fortunately for the writers, the bullseye on domestic policy was much larger and harder to miss even when blinded by ideology. The writers point to two major missteps by the President:
The first is Mr Obama’s failure to grapple as fast and as single-mindedly with the economy as he should have done. His stimulus package, though huge, was subcontracted to Congress, which did a mediocre job: too much of the money will arrive too late to be of help in the current crisis. His budget, though in some ways more honest than his predecessor’s, is wildly optimistic…
…Second, Mr Obama has mishandled his relations with both sides in Congress. Though he campaigned as a centrist and promised an era of post-partisan government, that’s not how he has behaved. His stimulus bill attracted only three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House. This bodes ill for the passage of more difficult projects, such as his big plans for carbon-emissions control and health-care reform
As Rubin wryly notes:
the real issue is that the Right was correct about Obama: he’s an ultra-liberal at least on domestic policy, not a pragmatic centrist either on policy or in style. His mode of governance — denigrate the opposition, engage in ad hominem attacks, refuse to compromise on substantive policy, disguise radical policy intentions with a haze of meaningless rhetoric — bespeaks someone supremely confident in his ideological views and undaunted by fears (which are slowly creeping up on his Red state colleagues) of having overshot his mandate.
As has been discussed before by several writers here, the bloom is off the rose of the Obama presidency in record time. Steyn remarks, even the “smart set” is beginning to voice doubts about the wunderkind Obama:
“The nuancey boys were wrong on Obama, and the knuckledragging morons were right. There is no post-partisan centrist “grappling” with the economy, only a transformative radical willing to make Americans poorer in the cause of massive government expansion. At some point, The Economist, Messrs Brooks, Buckley & Co are going to have to acknowledge this.”
For those looking for even more obvious indicators of a failed strategy I would suggest (as Rubin implies) that the next nine months of U S Treasury auctions might be a good place to focus attention. Much has been made of the threat of China no longer buying U S debt and this week brought talk of a new reserve currency to replace the dollar. Neither will happen. China will continue to buy treasuries because there is no place for them to park cash that offers equivalent safety. However, buyers of U S debt will demand a higher rate of return on their purchases because they know that the United States will inflate its way out of the current economic recession. Interest rates are going up and there is little the Federal Reserve can do about it in the long run. This increased cost on the national debt will crater both the Obama budgets and the President’s political ambitions.