Do President Obama’s advisers realize they’ve got him frittering away the last political asset he has left?
As unpopular as the president’s policies -- and especially his results -- have proved, a majority of Americans still like and, somehow, even trust him personally. But his new political strategy is based on a manuever that even fellow Democrats see as transparently cynical.
He’s tramping around the country “demanding” that Republicans “put country before party” to pass his “jobs” bill right now -- knowing full well that there’s no chance they will.
That is, the president is posing as the one man in Washington who’s above the partisan fray -- and the pose itself is just a nakedly partisan ploy.
The bill is just more soak-the-rich baloney: The “jobs-creating” stuff is overwhelmingly ideas we’ve already tried on Obama’s watch, and gotten 9-plus percent unemployment for our troubles. And he pays for it with tax hikes that he not only knows are anathema to Republicans, but that he couldn’t even get the old Democratic Congress to pass.
So, aside from small bits that might pass as bipartisan gestures, the bill has zero chance of becoming law anytime soon, no matter how often the president demands immediate action. Lefty Robert Reich says it plainly wasn’t meant to pass; centrist Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) calls it “terrible,” and even radicals like Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva have raised objections.
In fact -- and here’s the really cynical bit -- for all his finger-wagging, and peremptory tone, Obama doesn’t care about passing it. Sure, he’d like to get the unemployment rate down below 8 percent, but even his own economic team has publicly said that’s impossible before the next election.
No, it’s the much-publicized “Truman” strategy -- a bid to set up Congress as his real opponent in next year’s election, much as Harry Truman did back in 1948. His only hope is to pretend that it’s Congress that’s keeping the chickens out of every pot, Congress that wants veterans to starve, Congress that’s protecting its rich buddies while he selflessly defends the little guy.
How obvious can the White House be? Obama declared in his speech last week that he’s taking his message “to every corner of this country” -- but he’s actually taking it to swing states like Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina, which he has to win in November 2012 to keep his job.
Team Obama is calculating that if they make the right noises about helping wounded veterans and saving teachers, the details don’t matter. As long as they continue whipping up class resentment -- yeah, it’s those rich doctors making a couple hundred grand a year by working 60-hour weeks saving lives that are forcing poor kids into substandard classrooms -- they hope to eke out a narrow victory in what will be a fiercely competitive election.
Thing is, the public’s not buying it. A recent Bloomberg poll shows that by a margin of 51 percent to 40 percent, Americans doubt Obama’s plan will bring down the jobless rate.
The president’s drive for the bill isn’t going to shift that number much; if he keeps up his act, he’s just going to alienate the people he’s trying to impress -- the “independents” who want leaders of both parties to stop playing politics and start solving problems -- if that’s even possible.
Worst of all, he’s going to convince people who still believe in him that he’s just another politician (or worse) -- someone willing to throw his own party under the bus if he thinks it will help him.
The anti-O’s-policies wave hasn’t ended, as Tuesday’s special House elections proved. The Democrat in Nevada got wiped out, while Republican Bob Turner’s upset win in Anthony Weiner’s Brooklyn/Queens district was a stinging rebuke to the president’s approach not only on the economy, but also on Israel. Now, the White House risks adding to the wave, by building anger at the president personally.
Team Obama may think they’ve laid a cunning trap for the Republicans by daring them to vote against “jobs,” but they may have just outsmarted themselves.