Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Obama Adopts Daffy Duck Strategy -- And Loses

I give John Podhoretz today's "must-read" award for his New York Post column, "It's the day the emperor officially has no clothes." You gotta' pass this one along.

If Barack Obama loses next November, we'll look back on Sunday -- July 31, 2011 -- as the day he became a one-termer.

He demonstrated the one key quality common to all unsuccessful leaders: Haplessness.

In the most confrontational partisan moment of his presidency, Obama ended up looking remarkably powerless. He didn't get his way. To put it mildly.

The deal he endorsed on the debt ceiling will long be an object of debate for both right and left. There's so much for everyone to dislike in it that people are lining up to rage against it, even though it will surely pass.

But there won't be much debate over the fact that just 10 days after Obama insisted he would not agree to any deal without tax hikes -- "Don't call my bluff, Eric," he warned House Majority Leader Eric Cantor -- he assented to a deal without any tax hikes.

"I'm going to the American people on this," Obama told Cantor. And he did. He gave three press conferences and a nationally televised prime-time address from the Oval Office. And over the course of the week he did so, his poll numbers plunged 10 points.

Obviously those numbers were affected by the generally horrible economic news and the overall debt chaos. But the fact is Obama's appearances not only didn't help him, but seem to have driven the debate further to the right.

News reports in the middle of July suggested that Republican negotiators had agreed in principle to new revenues up to $800 billion in the so-called "grand bargain" Obama had sought.

That would have been a huge accomplishment for Obama, because he would have split the Republican coalition and brought about a political civil war in the rival political party.

But the president increased his revenue demand by $400 billion. In other words, and surely inadvertently, he tanked his own "grand bargain."

This was a negotiating strategy he apparently picked up from Daffy Duck, who once ended a rapid-fire exchange at gunpoint with Bugs Bunny by turning the rifle on himself and pulling the trigger...

And that is why Obama is in such terrible condition. He has had two huge dust-ups with the Republicans since the 2010 election, and in both cases, he gave in -- first on extending the Bush tax cuts, and now on the deal to avert a debt-ceiling debacle.

What do you call a leader who can't lead -- who has lost the ability to turn the public discussion and turn the conversation in the direction he wants and needs it to go?

You call him a loser.

"This may bring my presidency down," Obama reportedly told Cantor in their testy exchange, "but I will not yield on this."

He yielded on this. And it may bring his presidency down.