Saturday, November 02, 2013

Obama's pronounced credibility decline

The thought above must get out of my system, so hopefully there will not be a need to write about Obama for a good while after this.  There has been too much here already.  He has seriously declined in popularity and credibility this year but, putting that in perspective, taking a look at potential Republican alternatives is a ghastly thought.

In Obama's first term his efforts were made more difficult by Republicans who voted in lockstep against anything proposed by Obama, just as Mitch McConnell said they would.  That was at first just a sideshow as Democrats controlled both houses of Congress in his first two years.  It was then that Obama was able to push though, with the slimmest of margins, the Affordable Health Care Act and the Dodd/Frank financial reform act.  Both included some welcome good initiatives and much in good intentions, but both were larded with earmarks and many minor, some major, regulations that were intrusive, misguided, and others that we will not see the full negative consequences of for several years.  It is unclear whether the President fully read or understood either of the more than 2000 page bills.  For many, even for supporters, there was an undercurrent of the reaction, "I thought we lived in a Democracy, not a Washingtonocracy".

Nevertheless Obama succeeded in passing the bills,  projected a confidence in an improving economy, and handled foreign policy relatively smoothly with the exception of the increase of his commitment to Afghanistan, sending literally airplanes fully packed with U.S. dollars to Karzai and his family while receiving little or no commitment to reform from these incredibly corrupt leaders. His commitment to drones and their regrettable collateral damage was, from a military point of view and the view of much of the U.S. public, mostly successful in eliminating some of the most dangerous terrorists.

This second term has not gone smoothly.  His standing internationally has been diminished considerably.  First he made his "red line" comment about Syrian chemical weapons and then ignored their use until it was impossible to ignore the mass killing in a suburb of Damascus.  Did he react.  No, he decided to wait almost a month until the U.N. inspectors determined that chemical weapons had been used(not really questioned anywhere at the time) while Assad continued to bombard the affected area with conventional weapons.  Obama continued to threaten action as he amassed warships off of the coast of Syria, but the time to act as punishment had passed.  It was the diplomacy of Vladamir Putin, of all people, that defused the situation and got assurances from Syria that they would disassemble their chemical weapons capability over time.  This was no moment of leadership or assertiveness for Obama and the credibility of any future threats he might make is seriously diminished, but thank goodness we did not get involved in another middle east war.  Unfortunately that war rages on, the carnage of civilians continues, and Assad remains in power.  No success there for Obama.

That was a minor event in Obama's international credibility collapse compared to the NSA actions as tip of the iceberg was revealed by Edward Snowden.  While the "all countries do it" excuse has some real truth to it, apparently no one does it anywhere near as extensively as the NSA.  Obama stayed virtually mum on the issue for almost a week and then finally commented that the NSA had overreached.  He left more complete earlier attempts at explanations and apologies for Vice President Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.  A more straightforward and direct leadership comment delivered more promptly by Obama himself would have been more appropriate, in fact seemed essential.  His attitude at the outset and even now seems to be "this will just blow over".

On the domestic front the complete breakdown of the initiation of the Affordable Health Care act website and technology in general, plus a lack of clear communication of the program, has been discussed here in detail so no need to say more.  Just as Obama and the Democrats were getting the upper hand over the divided Republicans due the fact that the public rightly blamed them for the 16 day government shut down, now any leverage that Obama may have had to force through an immigration bill before year end that many Republicans actually wanted to support has been lost.

Throughout the year Obama's refusal to give more rational Republicans anything at all to work with, any negotiation where they could claim some victory however minor, has always been putting the immigration bill at risk, and this health care debacle seals the deal.  Now it's next year.  The House Republicans have offered some piecemeal proposals for immigration reform, some of which are just lame and focused on border security and some of which would be seriously constructive moves forward, but Obama will accept nothing but a comprehensive bill.  The cynic could say how would anything but yet another comprehensive 2000 page bill allow for all of the earmarks and political accommodations  needed to sooth its supporters.  As always in this term he accepts no serious negotiation.  This is truly sad.

To complete this I refer you to my prior post about regulating home health care workers, which is just too much federal government intrusion into a difficult issue for many families.  Why make it more difficult.

It's all out of my system now, and hopefully any further commentary on the disappointing Obama will not be here near term. 


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