By lex, on October 16th, 2011
The musings of a lifelong Democratic billionaire on our current political leadership:
Mr. Zuckerman maintains that America will solve its problems over the long haul—”I am not somebody who’s pessimistic about this country. I have had a life that’s been better than my fantasies,” he says—but he’s certainly pessimistic about the current administration. That began shortly after inauguration day in 2009.
At that time he supported Mr. Obama’s call for heavy spending on infrastructure. “But if you look at the make-up of the stimulus program,” says Mr. Zuckerman, “roughly half of it went to state and local municipalities, which is in effect to the municipal unions which are at the core of the Democratic Party.” He adds that “the Republicans understood this” and it diminished the chances for bipartisan legislating.
Then there was health-care reform: “Eighty percent of the country wanted them to get costs under control, not to extend the coverage. They used all their political capital to extend the coverage. I always had the feeling the country looked at that bill and said, ‘Well, he may be doing it because he wants to be a transformational president, but I want to get my costs down!’”
Mr. Zuckerman recalls reports of Mr. Obama consulting various historians on the qualities of a transformational president. “But remember, transformations can go up and they can go down.”
Zuckerman is on to something here: The president’s jobs bill – the one he summoned Congress to listen to him speechifying yet again about – is essentially a dead letter. Pieces and parts may yet be enacted, but on the whole – despite his country-crossing “pass this bill now” demagoguery – it has little to no chance. Harry Reid turned down the opportunity to give the bill an up or down vote in the Senate, essentially negating the president’s fall-back (principal?) strategy of running against the GOP House in 2012.
I too would like to see something done to alleviate the pain of the long-term unemployed in this country, and those living on the edge of economic uncertainty. I would like to trust that the president has some sort of rational plan to this time – finally – do some good. But fundamentally, this issue has stalled because of a lack of trust.
It was always easy for conservatives to distrust the president’s political instincts, formed as they were within the safe and sterile precincts of academic orthodoxy, and entirely outside any meaningful real-world experience. It was always rational for all but the most tingly-legged partisans to feel misgivings at his lack of experience. But the better part of a trillion dollars went up in smoke to curry more favor than to create value. To be more accurate, this burden was rather heaped on the shoulders of a rising generation, or own children, some of whom raise inchoate howls of anguish, rage and hopelessness on the streets of our capital cities. The president’s signature health care bill was rammed through in the face of significant popular opposition, all in the name of letting “no crisis go to waste.” The man who won the Nobel Peace Prize through the act of being elected has started or participated in at least two new wars without closing out the old ones. He has bowed to tyrants and apologized profusely to the world for the original sins of America, as though they were in some way unique, and as though he were somehow above and apart from them. As though he were not one of us.
It is no longer his instincts that we distrust, nor yet his experience. It is the man himself.
Win or lose in 2012, it’s hard to see how he gets past that. Barely three years in to an eight year opportunity, he is already a lame duck, a morning after regret.
He ran on the theme of hope and change, and while a .500 batting average gets you into the baseball Hall of Fame, hope is nearly extinguished in the short term, and change has proven to be not all for the better. He ran as a post-partisan candidate, and governed as a triumphal ideologue. He promised those who had a psychological need for it absolution from our national birth stain, and then permitted those who objected to his policies on principal to be castigated as unreconstructed bigots.
What we needed was a leader. What we got is a footnote.