Friday, October 29, 2010

What's up with Obama

On the eve of the Rally to Restore Sanity and The March to Keep Fear Alive I find myself wondering what President Obama is really thinking. Sometimes it seems as if people have already forgotten the perhaps unprecedented brilliance of his campaign to win the Democratic nomination in 2008 and his then unflappable consistency against every Republican angle in the presidential contest.

He is now facing losses for his party in these mid-term elections that will not be trivial, and that may be a huge understatement. Has the Spockian side of his persona already calculated why this is not a big problem and could even play to his advantage. His mind is certainly active. What's his current, and personal, political thinking?

Could it be that he is proud of the legislation that has passed, knows that the next two years will be highly unlikely to offer another such opportunity, and just wants to sit back and: use his veto; fine tune and fix flaws with what has already been passed working with his executive branch policy teams; focus on serious foreign policy issues; and watch the Republicans skewer each other as they finally have enough power to try to do something other than oppose anything Obama.

Using immigration reform as an example of the latter, it is, I dearly hope, highly unlikely that the Republican party can base its policy proposals solely on xenophobia, fear, racism, and hatred. Their policy proposals certainly would have some harsh aspects but they cannot simply ignore the corporate interests, small business owners, and agricultural industries that each in their own way want constructive immigration reform. Having some responsibility to structure legislation, they will either splinter or risk losing any credibility as the "party of American business". The pressure will be on.

Take energy policy as another open issue. Cap and trade would be dead in their proposals(there is debate on right, left, and in the middle on this issue by the way) but the Republicans can't credibly build an energy policy on "drill baby drill", give up our national parkland, and cut off those mountaintops. There are major powers in corporate America on all sides of the political spectrum who see great promise in green energy investments even apart from any heartfelt concern about the environment. They see Germany and China now already leading the way in these major new businesses. Once again, the Republicans would be forced to exercise some judgement and compromise or risk looking like fools rather than the savvy politicians and patriots that they somehow see themselves as today.

Obama can watch the carnage and make an effort to get his own party in order as well such that some of the purely political hacks that undercut his credibility over the last two years can be cleared like Bush's brush. 2012 comes and the incumbant Obama retains the nomination, the Republicans fight like dogs during their nomination process and either come up with some unattractive compromise or end up with a Perot like third party break out. Remember - Perot won just over 19% of the popular vote in 1992 assuring Bill Clinton's election.

So that's one scenario that could be lurking in Obama's brain.

The other thought that comes to mind is one in which he wouldn't mind being a one term President, just as some Senators in recent years call it quits when they see the political gridlock as pointless. Obama's stature would be immense, he would be free from the political gamesmanship that is now required, and with his relative youth and vitality he could conceivably have long term global and national influence of considerable magnitude. Carter and Clinton have certainly carried on in major ways, Carter after achieving almost nothing in office and Clinton after disgracing himself. This may sound completely far-fetched. What makes this thought even come to mind is Obama's continued efforts to demonize the corporate business community and deny that he is doing it.

Just a few weeks ago the White House held some sort of forum with a group of highly influential corporate and investment types, the types of people who can certainly influence investment and EMPLOYMENT in this country, and Ken Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot(where Langone pioneered giving stock to virtually all employees and made many store managers and department floor managers wealthy as the company grew), an exceptional philanthropist, and one of the most respected members of the business community in this country, asked Obama during the Q&A why he continued to attack corporate America uniformly. President Obama denied doing so and then proceeded to trash Langone as if he were a child who belonged in prison. This seems almost like deliberate self destructive behavior. I don't get it.

What's Obama really thinking? Then again, is he, or is he just a hard working, smart, and highly political person making decisions and statements as best that he can each step of the way without any more certainty of the outcome than any other regular human.


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