In the Arena

He’s Cratering! Oh wait…Never mind.

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Pete Wehner, like many over at the Commentary blog, suffer from Obama Failure Tourette’s Syndrome…every few hours, like clockwork, they jump up and shout, “He’s Failing! It’s falling apart! He’s cratering!”

Today’s hilarious edition comes as a new poll shows that the President’s approval rating has nudged up a bit to a very solid 58%. Not that polls mean anything at this stage of an Administration. This President is trying to do difficult things in both the domestic and foreign arenas. They are not whiz-bang things like invasions or tax cuts, the constant, irresponsible Republican opiates. They are the sort of efforts–health care, middle east negotiations, financial sector reform–that require the investment of political capital in the hopes of reward down the road.

All of these Obama efforts may come a cropper. His presidency may well fail. But I haven’t seen him do anything as flagrantly irresponsible yet as George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts, his co-President Dick Cheney’s refusal to take Al Qaeda seriously before 9/11, ┬áthe furious effort to gin up a rationale to go to war with Iraq and the disgraceful neglect of the situation in Afghanistan–all of which Obama is trying to clean up now. And make no mistake, the cynicism of the more intellectual Republican commentators–pretending Obama’s (and Bush’s) Keynesian efforts to deal with the recession are the reason for momentous Bush deficits…plus the gathering effort to paint him into an Afghan war escalation–is every bit as toxic as the populist craziness sweeping the base of the party. I see lots of political tactics, not very many substantive policy suggestions, from the disloyal opposition these days.

Wehner fearlessly predicts that Obama’s alleged unpopularity will lead to crippling defeats in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races, which will cause a lot of “damage” to the Democratic Party. Maybe so, but I’ve been doing this a long time–and I’ve seen Presidents come back from far worse. Bill Clinton lost the Congress in a 1994 tidal wave and won the presidency in 1996. George W. Bush approved torture policies that migrated from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib and he still won reelection after the disgusting effects of those policies were revealed in the spring of 2004.

Of course, both Clinton and Bush faced uninspiring challengers. The Republicans are fairly deficient in the leadership department at the moment. Their potential candidates are cowed by Boss Rush–it was sad to see Tim Pawlenty, a good governor, make a fool of himself, pandering to the Boss, on the subject of health care rationing last week–“rationing” being the baloney euphemism for death panels among the non-nutter GOPS who still feel the need to fudge this issue. (And, as I’ve pointed out before, pulling the plug on granny is the last thing we have to worry about to so long as doctors are paid by the blood test, rather than salaries. Granny is a cash cow who needs to be kept alive.)

The point is, this sky-is-falling screeching is easy, painless and, occasionally, short-term, effective. But Republicans would be better served if they started thinking about policy rather than tactics–and their potential leaders started thinking about courage rather than fudge.

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