There’s a certain humorous irony in watching a man who promoted his work as a community organizer show a complete inability to properly organize his priorities. But this is exactly what Obama did and it’s now costing him and his party big time.
Obama was elected in the middle of the biggest economic meltdown our country had seen in almost a century. The looming crisis was seen as so dire that almost every politician on both sides of the isle were calling for government intervention of some sort and the first economic stimulus bill was signed off on by a Republican POTUS. Businesses were closing, banks and major manufacturing companies were teetering on the edge of collapse and jobs were being lost at an alarming rate with the dark promise of many more job loses to come in the following year.
So, of course, the biggest issue that Obama felt he had to make Job #1 and his signature issue in his first year plus was… healthcare.
Sure, he had people working on the stimulus bills while he was going on the offensive on the healthcare front, but his work on healthcare was and is seen as his big issue. That was the issue he promoted the most. That was the issue he had big buzz meetings and debates with both Republicans and Democrats about. That was the issue he did far more promoting of than he did on his economic responsibilities.
Make no mistake, he did do some good insofar as the economy. We were in a hard free fall and even a number of the experts on the Right who are now attacking the stimulus for 2010 political gains were calling for action by the government and even talking up the positive nature of the things they turned around and attacked the day after Obama was sworn in. What has been done by this administration has likely lessened the severity of the economic depression we are still in now.
But the two major problems for Obama and the Democrats with the economic situation we’re now in are (1) that you can’t really claim success in bad times even if you had them and (2) that even positive measures will take at least another two years to begin to really make a massive turnaround happen. To explain that a bit in more detail-
(1) Things suck right now. People feel like nothing that has been done is working and they look at the jobless rate, the manufacturing sector trembling and the private sector’s crumbling and see never ending gloom and doom. It’s not something you can boast about as a success. The thing is, it may well be a success.
We will never know what would have happened if the stimulus bills had not been passed. We will never know how bad the recession may have gotten without the steps taken by the government and we may never know if the steps taken actually did absolutely nothing. We can point to successes like GM and some recent gains in the manufacturing sector, but we’re really only discussing probabilities when talking about where we are VS where we might have been. That’s a hard sell as a positive in an election.
2) It took a long time to create this mess. The crash our country was going through was huge. Turning this thing around, hell, for that matter just slowing the free fall down, was not going to be a snap of the fingers and wave of the magic wand type of thing. We’re looking at a situation where even if everything was done right we’re going to see another two or three years of this recession before any better times really start to get going. Again, that’s a hard sell during an election year.
So, of course, President Priorities made it an even harder sell by making healthcare the thing that everyone saw as his primary focus in his first year.
We lost jobs while we watched politicians debating healthcare. Businesses crumbled while we watched arguments about end of life care. People lost their homes while we watched the President and the Democrat’s Congressional leaders talking about medical bills.
That’s what sticks out in people’s minds the most about Obama’s first year and a half in office. Sure, he talked about and worked on economic issues, but his big fight was healthcare. The perception to many is that he fiddled while Rome burned down around him. Oh, and he created a massive government program when he did this that his opponents can and do claim adds to the deficit and to the poor economic situation by harming some free market sectors.
And the kicker is that he got his win, he got his healthcare bill passed, and no one wants to run on it. Even in the parts of the country where healthcare polls well you have Democrats so sure that it’s a losing issue that they’re treating it like a radioactive substance. The upshot of this is that they don’t have anything to run on in races where the Republicans are running campaigns where the big weapon they pull out is that the incumbent Democrat (or even Republican) voted with Obama for healthcare and the stimulus bills. It’s so bad you even have some Democrats attacking Obama and/or ObamaCare in their own campaign.
So why is this a matter of poorly organized priorities? Because Obama should have focused the lion’s share of his efforts and attention on the economy and kept healthcare as an issue for down the road.
The economy should have been Job #1 and Focus #1 for Obama and the Democrats from day one. We would still be in a less than great economic situation, but a few things would very likely be different right now.
One thing that would hopefully be different would be that Congress, without the large fights and distractions of the healthcare battle, might have done a better job on the economy. We might have seen better targeted stimulus funds and we might have seen better control over some of the money that went though the cracks and the loopholes to end up in scams and schemes. We would still be hurting, but maybe not as much as we are right now.
There would also be a perception difference. The tooth and nail fights we may have been watching would have been for economic factors. The overriding memory of Obama’s first year and a half of would be a POTUS fighting for economic matters. The thing that people would remember would be an Obama fighting for the betterment of the lower and middle class American’s economic situation and not debating whether or not he wanted to pull the plug on grandma.
There have been some positive economic signs in the last few months. There could have been more and they could have actually been something that Democrats could have run on. But the President picked the wrong priority. He made the wrong bet and it may well have backfired. He has nothing to show for his first year and a half in office that anybody but the most far Left are truly happy about and the majority in Congress that he needs to have may be threatened because they either can’t or simply won’t run on the only real success their side has to point to.
This is a perfect example of what many discussed as his inexperience as a politician and as a public servant. He chose to fight for something that was far more popular with his base than with the population as a whole and was left holding an empty bag and left with a party facing a tough election with even less. He picked a cause that would make only his most rabid base and most Left leaning advisers truly happy while the biggest issue that most people were most worried about was, in the minds of many now, neglected by him as he pursued this cause.
And this truly wasn’t an either or matter. He could have fought his A-Game for the issue that the vast majority of Americans were far more concerned with and come out in a much better place for it than he and his party currently find themselves in. He could have found some success, or at least a record of fighting for the right issue, for himself and his party to run on in 2010 and 2012. He could have worked to improve the economic situation and then tried to build on that with his healthcare issues. Maybe the nation would have been more accepting of the idea if it was in a fiscal recovery rather than a fiscal crash.
This poor choice of priorities has also shown another failing in Obama that time and experience usually (but not always) helps to fix in a politician. He has a very thin skin. It also gets thinner the worse things are going for him. We’ve gotten to see of late a snippy Obama who criticizes his media critics, even the ones who usually support him, for complaining about or criticizing him on his policies. He has shown an attitude of almost a “how dare you question me” mindset from time to time when the public face he wears slips a bit.
He’s made this mess he is in so much worse than it would have been and pretty much did so just by his own choices and actions. He’s also let slip into his public persona a glimpse at an attitude that does not give one hope that behind closed doors he is open to advice from his advisers that is critical but needed to begin to get us and him out of this mess sooner rather than later. Obama has made his party weaker than they could have been and Obama has made his Presidency weaker than it could have been.
Obama’s greatest enemy is not the Republican minority or the Tea Party; it’s his own inexperience and failings. Unless he suddenly matures and wises up in the near future he is in for a rough two years on his way to the end of his single term and the history books will look as unkindly on him and his years as they now look at Carter and his time in office and the only person that Obama will be able blame for this is Obama himself.