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The Campaigner

Let's face it, it's been a tough year or so for the President. He came in riding a wave of popularity and super majorities in both houses of Congress. On paper, he should have been unstoppable. But that's not how it panned out. Republicans focused on a cynical strategy of obstructionism, betting that their efforts would leave President Obama with nothing to show for a year of trudging on Health Care, which—right or wrong—is the President's primary domestic policy focus in these first two years of his administration. Of course, Blue Dogs and lefty Dems haven't helped him either, proving that numbers sometimes do add up to nothing.

The President himself has made some missteps and not getting out in front of the Days of Rage of last summer's nonsensical Tea Party protests and Town Hall donnybrooks is something he's still paying for. He lost the narrative and for most politicians that is the end of the story.

So where is the guy who campaigned like a warrior and beat everyone from the Clintons to the McCains and a host of others along the way? Where is that rough and tumble upstart from Chicago? He's back. This week marks the Final March of Reform and the President is doing what he does best: Campaigning. The entire White House apparatus is in campaign mode. Get your fact sheets, talking points (thoughtfully broken down into Twitter-friendly 140 characters or fewer), and marching orders. President Obama minced no words when he told congressional liberals that the chances for reform in our lifetime and his Presidency (and by extension, their own political fortunes) are on the line. If not now? If not us? When and who?



You know I'm a big supporter of Obama. He's got a good head on his shoulders. That's why it surprises me that he has allowed himself to appear mawkish and overly conciliatory when everybody knows America likes a Winner. And he won that election.

I was mightily impressed when Obama early on invoked the example of Ronald Reagan as a leader. It showed me he was on the right track. But he's got to apply the same skills--scratch that: he's got to embody those same skills. Reagan didn't give a damn what the democrats wanted or thought, and it showed. Of course, Reagan had to deal with a democratic congress, and he had the respect of Tip O'Neill for being both a formidable opponent and a man of his word. Criticism to Reagan was water off a duck's back, where Obama seems to take it to heart. Reagan told Republicans to jump and they said "How high?" Obama seems to still be in "junior senator" mode.

For those who are offended by the Reagan example, then let's say FDR. Of course, FDR didn't give a fuck because he was one of America's princes (much like our last Oval Occupant). And FDR had a much starker reality from which to draw popular support.

It's been said many times before: Obama could abolish income tax, declare America a Christian nation, and throw the head of bin Ladin on the White House lawn, and 1/3 of the country still won't vote for him. But if he shows some fighting spirit along with his characteristic unflappability, he'd win converts--simply from looking gutsy. We can't keep counting on the TEA partiers to keep looking ridiculous.

My biggest disappointment so far with Obama is that he hasn't been able to inspire/whip Congress into implementing his goals.

To be fair, Obama doesn't have anywhere close to the party majorities in Congress that FDR (or even LBJ) had. Check out this 538 article that has the numbers: "during 1937-38, the Demorats actually controlled about 80 percent (!) of the seats in both chambers."

That doesn't explain how Reagan got anything done, but still. Something to think about.

I think you're both underestimating the obstructionist approach the Republicans have taken in all this. It is the core of their strategy. If they can keep the Democrats from moving on their major domestic issues then they can run on that. "They have both houses of congress and the white house and what have they done?"

We're also seeing the weaknesses of the 50 state strategy. Sometimes a conservative Democrat is not actually better than a liberal Republican. The Republicans are maintaining their bloc and the Dems can barely muster a simple majority. It's maddening.

But what I see happening now is what Bar is hoping for. I think Obama had to give "bi-partisanship" a try before ramming legislation through. Now he's pegged the Republicans as the Party of No and has come out publicly in support of reconciliation for healthcare reform. He's also going back to his core strength, which was to rally public support. Outside of Rasmussin (which skews older, whiter, and GOP) the polls show an increase in support for reform. After the madness of last summer, that's amazing.

I think another unfortunate reality is that too many legislators, Democratic and Republican alike, are simply in the pockets of various special interests (such as insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, etc.).

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