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)

Monday, October 29, 2012

The bain of Obama’s campaign

In the white-hot last days of this important presidential election, liberal columnists are starting to tell us why their candidate may be losing. You’d think that before deciding to deflate our morale they might have assured themselves they had something new, urgent, and possibly even redemptive to say.

Frank Bruni in Obama's Squandered Advantages in yesterday’s New York Times clearly didn’t. Is there anything in these platitudes that is fresh and, more important, convincing in the way he repeats them?

“There’s room in those numbers for Obama to pull well ahead of a rival as profoundly flawed as Romney. Yet he hasn’t.

“But Obama’s greatest gift has been Romney himself, whose wealth, his tin-eared allusions to it, his offshore accounts and his unreleased tax returns are an especially awkward fit for a moment of increased anxiety about income inequality.

"The main cause for this contest’s closeness is arguably Obama — and the ways in which he has disappointed, confused and alienated some of the voters who warmed and even thrilled to him four years ago. During his first term, he at times misjudged and mishandled his Republican opposition. As a communicator, he repeatedly failed to sell his policies clearly and forcefully enough.”

Damn it.

Obama’s policies "disappointed" liberals. Nevertheless, he could have sold them to most everyone else.

Obama halted a Great Recession and bolstered a capitalist recovery in tandem with George Bush’s Federal Reserve and conservative governments in Canada, France, Germany, Great Britainand California, for that matter. Yet, according to Bruni, the snob didn’t bother to seduce Republicans in Washington.

Why didn’t he keep up the "thrill" of election night 2008 the way Lyndon Johnson did for those amazing few years after Jack Kennedy’s assassination—when America was feeling both omnipotent and less than perfect at the same time?


Obama’s first two years of legislative accomplishments were not bold, flawless, liberal gestures, but were good enough to save the economy and open up a pathway to universal health care.

They’re whipping boys for Republicans who sat out the drama. They didn’t save dozens of Obama Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections. Next week, however—when some 20 million more Americans bother to vote—they should weigh heavily in Obama’s favor, and against Mitt Romney.

Obama’s record as an incumbent politician is only one-half of the character issue. The other half is Mitt Romney’s performance as aspiring presidential candidate.

On healthcare, he’s been unconscionable. In the midst of crisis—the Recovery Plan negotiations, the auto bailouts, financial regulatory reform, and Congress’s game of chicken with the country’s international debt obligations—Romney played inside party politics or simply stayed out of sight. About the future, he’s made tax and spending promises his transition team assures us he’s too smart to pursue.

His career at Bain Capital isn’t Romney’s Achilles heel, as liberal strategists have instructed us. If anything, to those who care, it’s a positive. It stands out as an oasis of discipline and success. Bain’s mission may be myopic, but it’s demanding and Romney was good at it.  

Furthermore, during frustrating economic times, when those who vote still have a great deal more materially they could lose, why would steely Obama strategists think it would be to Obama’s advantage to run as a seasoned politician against a seasoned businessman?

In truth, Romney is not any less a professional politician than Obama, or aiming to be anything other than a politician for the next four years.

The choice for voters may be bitter, but it’s not unclear. We know there are many questionable and risky things Obama won’t do for votes, for his base, or for immediate national approval. Except when talking about the Mullahs of Iran, have we seen Romney draw a line, even in the air?

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