Even more inept than Obama’s economic wizards, no easy task, is this White House’s crew of public relations losers. They’ve only lost nearly every messaging battle against the relentless, outrageous Rightwing Noise Machine. Whether scorning the fight against the wrong enemies, “Obama’s” TARP, failed Stimulus, insufficiently noxious anti-terrorism, subversive Obamacare, or defending unspeakable Bush tax rip-offs, deranged extremists have buried the president’s bully pulpit in nonsense. Amazingly, the fringe wins by banging the same idiot drums and telegraphing the same bareknuckle lies.
As the reactionary GOP House leader, John Boehner, admitted when talking up his Pledge, reflexively regurgitating Newt Gingrich’s 16 years ago, “we are not going to be any different than we’ve been.”
Against this 100% predictable onslaught, Team Obama’s PR ineptitude is staggering, ignoring the most obvious lesson from the Bush-Cheney-Rove juggernaut: 24/7 media coverage bombards any difference between campaigning and “governance.” Divorced from policy, or reality, political outreach now leans on image, barefaced promotion, and the next, gerrymandered election.
Case in point: Obama signed his health insurance subsidy and, while majorities favored key parts, today only 40% like what happened. This week’s AP poll shows more than 2-1 want a STRONGER bill, not repeal, yet this WH punts and mutters. Likewise, 80% (and key Pentagon brass) don’t want “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” yet it endures like our endless wars.
Worst of all, incorrigibly spineless Democrats won’t force Repugs to filibuster tax relief for all but the top 2%. Weeks before a midterm fiasco, this jaw-hitting-the-floor betrayal signals the Democrats cede both political capital and any moral high ground.
What, Not Why, Matters
Historians will puzzle why Obama the master campaigner sucked at governance, screwing up his own media frames. No doubt inexperience, insecurity and an obsession to play it safe explains countless arrogant establishment picks. Obama’s risk-adverse scaredy-cats never go for the big win but feverishly dodge the smallest loss. How can once savvy campaigners so badly misread the call for a transcendent national mission and, when finally criticized by friends, attack their own base after dithering away moderate-liberal support and alienating a skittish flock of centrists. Remarkable performance, in so short a time.
How many voters dreamed of an aloof technocrat who slices everything in half, then in half again, and then declares, “Another campaign pledge delivered.” This WH isn’t just cowed by bullies; it refuses open resistance and nails its own base for “apathy.” That racists on the right would ravage this president was inevitable, but two years have passed and this White House remains “bewitched, bothered and bewildered,” powerless against the glaringly false propaganda (Muslim, non-citizen, Kenyan president).
How many cheering at the inauguration foresaw, despite major intervening legislative victories, Democrats now fighting for their lives against moral midgets furious with the New Deal, Medicare and federalism. Talk about erstwhile winners nibbled to death by the divisive, deluded ducks.
Extremists won GOP primaries because the entire ruling class didn’t deliver, proving when government as an idea fails, incumbents everywhere become targets for know-nothings (thus Karl Rove’s dump on Christine O’Donnell). Tea Party jack-offs mirror this breakdown, rather incoherently, but zero trust in the government “we have” invites fascistic factions.
Bringing it On Yourself
The horrendous, though overplayed revulsion against everything Washington represents the Great Squandering, beyond the melodramatic “decline and fall of one phenom” who turned presidential gold into midterm lead. Establishment Republicans like Rove underestimated the damage to America of ceaseless predator drones against a newly-elected, thus fragile administration without sea legs.
For the Democrats, what’s notable is what did NOT happen: no one pulled a Clinton, messed with an intern and imploded. No sordid Chicago ties return to haunt Obama, nor did one terrorist or military attack enable Republicans to slander Dems as “weak on defense.” Economic conditions are bad but arguably better than two years ago. Nor have money or corruption scandals rocked the Democrats (compared to GOP sex scandals). Of course, this president took no big risks, fought for few principles and thus 50% disapproval numbers followed suit.
In fact, this administration misread the times and mood, doing in itself, demonstrably unprepared for prime time against vicious opponents. Recall deluded bipartisanship bunkum when Obama should have assailed the right for actively working against America, wanting us to fail. Throughout, this White House obscured Task # One: keep it simple and secure public support, for example by sharply skewering ignorant Tea Party pitchforkers early on. More obsessed with invisible al Qaeda enemies in Afghanistan, Obama has yet to battle greater domestic dangers closer to home.
A Cornucopia of Missed Opportunities
Okay, Obama loyalists, tell me: aside from the degree of financial collapse, what terrible, unpredictable events happened that didn’t offer positive outreach opportunities? The surprise BP oil spill was a cornucopia of missed chances, beginning by letting the notorious polluter dictate the clean-up. Here was the perfect storm to vilify bad corporations and paltry energy oversight, then push for environmental master plans and galvanize enough political capital to neutralize idiot science deniers. Great presidents yearn for the chance to show leadership and this worst environmental catastrophe, still in heavy destructive mode, was (is) that – already utterly forgotten. Way to go, Barry.
Has there been one serious, surprise blow against our national interests, except the treasonous backbiting from Palin, Beck, Gingrich and Limbaugh? 98% of what’s happened since ’08 was predictable – racist backlash, DINOs aligning with dinosaurs, rising disgust with endless, pointless wars, and disappointment with halfassed economic fixes against long-term systemic and structural time bombs.
Opening Gaps Reveal Tectonic Cracks
In fact, despite misleading Democratic Party fundraising sales pitches last week, Republicans have a perfectly clear and bold, if regressive “vision:” favor the rich, screw the middle-class, enhance corporatism, ramp up militarism overseas, and leverage every worn-out, culture war wedge issue. Amplified by the Tea Party, that rightwing vision is the only one out there. Can anyone put what Democrats stand for in one sentence?
There is no greater gap in American politics than what this President said to garner 63 million votes vs. what he does, whom he appoints, and the corporate class he honors. No wonder that CFO of a veterans group told the president she was “exhausted of defending you” and “deeply disappointed with where we are right now.” Likewise, we on the amateur and professional left are exhausted criticizing your failures. Whatever “narrative arc” you once extolled never appeared, though one optimistic projection is that a GOP House drives you leftward (especially after impeaching our first Muslim, alien in the WH). We should live so long.
How about this bold Obama agenda – periodic liberal leadership, powered by trust in the Constitution, less torture and rendition, fewer state secrets to cover egregious assassination programs, more gay military rights – and occasional commitment to enhance the bottom 90%, not just the top 10%? Too much to ask? Then consider refunding good-faith donations as a good-faith acknowledgment of a brand betrayal, not falsely alleging, as the president did this week, the whining, disloyal left is “not serious” about change.