Saturday, January 23, 2010

I'd have made a better choice as President

How stupid is Barack Obama? I don't mean that as an insult, but as a genuine question.

He must be stupid, because this stuff is so obvious.

Let's say you were elected president of the United States tomorrow. You had an agenda of maybe six big items which you wanted to deal with in four years. How would you go about that?

You would probably take something moderately manageable, not very controversial within your own party, which you could get at least a small amount of bipartisan support for- say, illegal immigration amnesty and building a fence to close off new illegal immigration. Do a very thorough job of working out a sane policy for it, one which many independent voters would stomach, and which wouldn't cost much money up front. You would get some legislation into Congress based on the well-worked-out policy, and it would pass. Victory in bag, base happy, independents pleased with your bipartisan credentials.

This would set a platform for future forays into policy delivery. It would also demonstrate that you could read the environment- in Obama's case the overwhelming fact of all facts that the US government has spent, is spending and will spend far too much money. No big ticket policy items! None. Not one. You would still fund the war in Afghanistan, because you have to. You still have to pay for the war against wahhabism because you have to. Just don't add any big ticket items to federal expenditure. Explain every once in a while on a TV show (very few and far between) that you would love to have 'Cap and Trade', universal health provision and spend more on the liberal shibboleths, but there just isn't the money right now. Don't cut taxes, but don't increase them either.

Fast forward a couple of years. The US economy, ever-bouncy as it is, has recovered. There is more tax revenue coming in. The US army and marines are gone from Iraq, all but a token force of 15,000 as a guaruntee of future US support. People are largely happy with the way your smart amnesty for illegals/stopping more coming policy worked out. People see you as judicious, wise and easy to work with. Republicans warm to you. They actually want to help your policy agenda, at least some anyway.

So you introduce 'cap and trade' legislation, while making sure that no large US industry pays a suicidal price for it. The plans are medium to long term, and there is a big carrot at that end. Pass or not pass? Numerous 'soft' Republicans back the measures, and they go through both house and senate. Win Number 2!

A year later, when the sky hasn't fallen in and your ability to turn sensible policy into workable legislation is proven beyond doubt, you introduce an enhanced form of means-tested medicaid which covers anyone who can't pay for their own medical care. It will bring healthcare coverage to all poor Americans. You insist that while it will be expensive, it is a tolerable price for a civilised nation. You don't shirk the hard work of working out how to pay for it all without bankrupting the country. You also make sure that in the bill, there is a mix of market reforms and rationalisations which centrist Republicans can vote for. There is a bit of a scrum, but the good will of the nation ensures you come out on top. Hey presto, another big policy enacted. Win number 3!

You run for re-election, pointing out how wise and judicious you've been. Everybody agrees. You also point out the three or four big policies you have yet to implement. And there is your reason for being re-elected. People think, hey, this guy can get stuff done and he's not an idiot. I'll vote for that.

Now, contrast that with what Obama has actually done. Yes, he is a political incompetent of the rankest kind. Did he pay attention to the prevailing climate? No. He apparently doesn't know what 'political facts on the ground' are. Did he pay attention to money? No. Did he get an easy win in the bag first? No. Did he give moderate Republicans any incentive whatsoever to back any of his policies? No. Did he persuade independent voters that he was a judicious and pragmatic framer of legislation? No. Did he choose the right policy to promote at any particular time with the care and attention it deserves? No. Did he persuade any knowledgeable American that he had either a micro or macro plan for what he was going to do in office, which actually made sense in the circumstances? No.

The man is inflexible, and in political terms, stupid.

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