Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, August 21, 2009

  He can be rolled

A watershed occurred today in the history of the Obama administration. For the first time, a major voice in the corporate media has stated what many other political observers must have been thinking for months now: that the President has shown that he can be rolled. Whether or not one agrees with that assessment, it has now become a definite part of the political landscape in Washington by virtue of having been enunciated in the press. The debate is on, whether Obama "can be rolled".

Sooner or later the President will have to address the problem of that perception, whether he wants to or not. It will seep into every major political struggle for the foreseeable future. If Obama cannot demonstrate the opposite - that he's willing and able to push back against his political opponents - then it will become a dominant perception and a nearly intractable political force for the remainder of his presidency.

Here is Paul Krugman in the NY Times:

It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can’t be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.

Krugman's other point, that once in office President Obama has refused to dance with them that brung him, is well taken but also widely acknowledged by now. What Krugman has introduced into the mainstream of national political debate is the perception that Obama has been demonstrating that he seeks to avoid confronting his political opponents and doesn't have the will to make them pay a price for toying with him.

So, this is the point where we will see whether Obama can finally shake himself free of the delusions that post-partisanship is possible or even desirable in today's Washington; that by virtue of good will he can he turn congressional Republicans from opponents into allies; that it's possible to enact legislation to meet the country's pressing needs with the help of a party that has long opposed precisely those reforms that are most critical now.

We'll also discover whether the President has figured out by now that Americans really are not very interested in political process but rather in seeing results. Even without any bipartisanship whatever, new legislation that addresses the current crises or that makes a positive difference for people will be welcomed by voters. On the other hand, if getting Republican votes makes a bill ineffective, nobody will think any better of the President because the lousy measure was achieved through bipartisanship. Instead, Americans will just think less of Obama and of Democrats if they cannot advance their own agenda while holding the White House, the Senate, and the House.

crossposted at

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