A substantial majority* of Americans believes that the country is headed in the wrong direction. This is considered bad news for Barack Obama. After all he is the president. I’m with the majority on where the nation is heading and, as one who felt as optimistic about this presidency as any in my lifetime, I am disappointed. This is based less on what he has done than what he hasn’t done, either by omission or a timid pursuit of his initiatives. As a tactician he he’s shown little aptitude for horse trading, poker or haggling in general.
But there are other considerations in fairly measuring his performance. He did inherit a nation in worse shape than any president since FDR who, in a political sense, was more fortunate. His presidency began three years after the start of the Great Depression, which by then left no doubt that it belonged to his predecessor, Herbert Hoover. Obama was elected and inaugurated only two and four months after most of us realized what had hit us. Since then an increasing larger part of our current discomfort is taking place on his watch. Unlike FDR he is being held accountable for problems created during the presidency of his predecessor, George Bush.
The president of the United Sates has absolute power, but only over the executive branch of government. His influence on the legislative branch is limited to vetoing laws of which he disapproves and has no direct control over the laws Congress passes. In his first two years the House approved hundreds of measures that would have won majorities in the Senate were it not for parliamentary maneuvers exclusive to that body.
I’ve heard Obama voters say they wish he were “more like Bush.” They should be reminded that for the first six of his eight years Bush had a Republican controlled Congress, made possible by a modicum of help and minimum obstruction from Democrats. The same can’t be said relative to Obama’s tenure. Since Lyndon Johnson’s presidency a “Democratic controlled Congress” has become a textbook oxymoron.
Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell openly stated his intent to make Obama “a one term president.” This thinking may not be unique to members of the party out of power. But to say so publicly is to my knowledge a first. While I admit to begrudging admiration for McConnell’s candor, it is evidence of his party’s scorched earth policy. Let the nation burn if necessary until they can own what’s left.
Every Democratic president since LBJ has been subject to unprecedented incivility by Republican Congressional opposition. A cursory look at the record shows no evidence of this degree of discourtesy being returned in kind. I’ll of course be voting for Obama out of ideology. But apart from that I could also never vote for a candidate selected as its nominee by this mean spirited assortment of thieves, frauds, xenophobes, lunatics, bigots, and dunces.