Sunday, May 06, 2012

Weakness of Obama's Reelection Case

So the President is back on the campaign trail making a case that he helped to downsize or end foreign military engagements and the savings from which he wants to use in parts to reduce debt and in parts for development back home. He is also out with Julia. The first case is at least reasonable, whereas I find the whole Julia thing very repulsive and I suspect most Americans would find it so too. May be Obamas are visualizing future lives of their daughters there if he had not been to White House. Whatever is, I sense that this 'Julia' tack is simply a wrong way for America. Where is there 'morning in America'?

But campaigns are multitudes of arguments and the President will make many such arguments in months to come; (now that collectively American Politicians have stopped any governance). Here is one such appraisal of Obama's basic case for reelection.

By and large Americans would find Obama's foreign policy handling reasonable and on better side. Essentially he kept the word - ending of Iraq war despite warmongers like Sen. McCain making lot of noise. In Afghanistan, though Americans would wish to end that campaign too; they would understand Obama's reasoning in continuing that engagement at some level. Regardless of flouting of International Laws and accepted conventions, in general Americans would be supporting of 'all those drone attacks' and of course love the way Obama finished OBL. That is all fine. Obama's general support to Arab Spring and effective handling of Libya situation (without additional commitments); all that is good in eyes of average Americans. Iran is still work in progress, but so far Obama's support to Israel by America will be perceived at an acceptable level; regardless of hyperventilation by GOP on that matter. Americans find continued engagement of Obama Administration with China 'OK'. Overall Americans should find it satisfactory the simple, cool down demonear of Obama Administration with rest of the world; especially when compared to  'sword flashing cowboy diplomacy' of the predecessor.

It is the domestic policy where the water is muddy. Handling of recession and banking mess will be considered as a net positive for Obama. However it is possible that 'navigation of economy during 2008 recession' will be an undersold accomplishment for various reasons. Auto industry bailout - that would raise eyebrows for Americans; but everything which ends well will be considered well. It is the stimulus and over selling of that in terms predicting reduced unemployment rate; that will continue to weigh on Obama's political record. It is a surprise that Obama does not argue forcefully that of the total stimulus amount one third was the tax cut for middle and lower income folks, one third was direct help to States and only the remaining was spend as stimulus. Obama could argue that as indeed inadequate government support in recessionary times.

Lack of strong convictions, absence of solid commitments and visible efforts thereof to contain debt while increasing short term spending; that is where perceptions about Obama go most negative among Americans. People understand that GOP is one pony trick only - tax cuts for rich to trigger some hypothetical growth while ruthlessly cutting everything on which weaker sections of society depend. Further American People do know that GOP has been equally irresponsible when it comes to debt curtailment. But that does not mean American People are ready to accept a President who does not have a firm debt reduction plan and commitments. Simply stated, President Obama is lacking here and there are no signs that he would propose any credibly policies in this regard during the campaign season. That is shame. It is because, Obama Campaign seems to have fully double downed on 'arousal of base' as the electoral strategy rather than articulating a persuasive, decisive policy argument. (No wonder Obama critic Jennifer Rubin's criticism holds here.) In other words, Obama is simply playing defensive with a complete lack of well articulated 'political agenda' to take our problems head on.

Finally, it is the Affordable Health Care law where Obama is going to have the hardest time convincing Americans. The core argument against Obama here is - he simply overstepped 'conservative limits' in proposing the mandate. The mandate may or may not be legal; but the point is why did he and Democrats resort to such a legally risky policy? Another time, another place; such a policy might have worked. But Obama and Democrats allowed definition of American Center constructed by Tea Party. When neither you are careful in avoiding legislation which may not get public support, nor you are vigilant in defending those policies; the resultant political vacuum is an ideal setting for your opposition to manifest in a new avatar. That is what Tea Party means. Given all this, one wonders why did Democrats not come up with less risky mechanics than the mandate? In the name of 'controlling health care costs'; essentially Government landed underwriting more entitlements. Yes Americans understand that unless health care 'reach' is increased; the cost does not come down. But what is less convincing to Americans is how all this increase in coverage is going to reduce the overall cost exactly when any serious implementation of ObamaCare starts in future. Obama Administration needed to be much more prudent, scrupulous and convincing in this regard. Meanwhile the whole 'process of sausage making' (passing the bill in Congress) has left a bad taste with Americans. The contradiction of Obama 2008 Campaign claiming to 'cleanse Washington' but adopting essentially the same corrupt practices; is too glaring for Americans to ignore or digest. The fundamental thing to watch in the reelection campaign is whether Obama can douse these doubts in minds of Americans - that he may resort to corrupt process to pass 'nanny state' laws. So far Julia's of Obama Campaign hardly help to douse those doubts.

(Lightly edited and corrected the title on Monday, May 07, 2012.)

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