Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Obama: Go to the ropes

The extraordinary agitation in the press and in both presidential campaigns over every economic and polling indicator and every campaign utterance and PAC commercial—five months before the election—is undermining Obama’s re-election.

Obama and the Democrats want a choice election. They have an articulate messenger for just that kind of election. However, Obama is beginning to wear out his advantage with too much campaigning and too much effort explaining in what Mitt Romney thinks.

The problem isn’t that Obama’s demeaning the presidency by being in Cleveland explaining yet again what his audiences will have to decide in November. Nor has he lost his winning style. He runs the risk, however, of becoming a bore well before the public is truly roused to make its historic choice.

Furthermore, he’s making it easier for Romney to talk about Obama and talk less about his own proposals.

Obama’s campaign would be well served if he took a vacation and spent more time in Washington. It’s not important that the vacation refresh or that he secure a breakthrough with Congress. What he ought to dare do is (1) raise expectations that big decisions are approaching in Washington and (2) give Romney and his resurgent Republican Party more space to really express themselves.

To be a choice election, Obama should give his opponents every opportunity to get people exercised about who they are as well as comfortable with what he’s trying to do.

Let the Republicans spend fortunes saying Republican things about Obama and America.  Essentially, until the fall, Mr. President, why not leave it to others and that reasonable voter out there to decide whether what they hear from Republicans is reasonable and in their interests?

Many Democrats and Bill Clinton can be counted on to suggest Obama only fight harder and try to be more dramatic, empathetic, and comprehensive in outlining his multi-year master plan for the next US budget—but for five months making speeches that are more complex, consistent, and yet more newsworthy than the hour-long addresses he’s making now?

Jimmy Carter didn’t lose to Ronald Reagan because there were gaps in his case for re-election. He lost, in large part, because the gaps in Reagan’s resurgent Republicanism didn’t matter.

This polling comment in John Cassidy’s column in the New Yorker today gets to the heart of the matter:

“The key difference between Romney and Bloomberg is that Romney hasn’t used his money to create an independent platform; he’s thrown in his lot with the G.O.P., which many independent voters view with suspicion. According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, fewer than a third of Americans have a positive view of the Republican Party, and just nine per cent of them have a “very positive” view. That, rather than his own record as a businessman and a governor, is Romney’s Achilles heel.”

Romney isn’t a Tea Partier, a closet red-Tory, a one-note billionaire, a religious crank, or a shady businessman. He isn’t an outsider or larger than the Republican Party, as were Eisenhower the life-long public servant, Nixon the striving neurotic, and Reagan the Hollywood (and after-dinner) performer.

Obama doesn’t have to spend his energy connecting the dots. Romney, Paul Ryan, and the rest are bread-in-the-bone Republicans. They’re in perfect sync. Nevertheless, a Republican Congress, Senate, and presidency in troubled times is a bracing proposition. Obama ought to let the idea sink in for a while.

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