Monday, January 25, 2010

Hitting the overload button

Things haven't been going all that well for President Obama lately. Health care reform, his focus for much of the first year, has hit a few unforeseen roadblocks: Church opposition to the abortion parts of the bill, the wild unpopularity of what's been discussed so far, and the election of a Republican to replace the late Senator Kennedy; in addition, the economy is beginning to make some people long for Jimmy Carter-style "malaise," and there's been a growing realization that applauding President Obama just for showing up (as the Nobel Prize Committee did) might have been a bit of a miscalculation.

But not to worry, say Obama aides:

But in an indication Obama was absorbing lessons from the upset Republican victory for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, he turned to a trusted outside adviser for help in guiding the party's strategy in congressional elections in November.

David Plouffe, Obama's 2008 campaign manager, was known for keeping the political operation on an even keel by admonishing aides and supporters against "bed-wetting," or panicking in times of trouble.

Plouffe will work with both the White House and congressional Democrats, who worry more losses could be in store for them in November.

Obama, who is taking a populist turn that includes a vow to crack down on Wall Street excesses, is to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Wednesday. Analysts will be looking closely at that speech for any sign of a reframing of his agenda.

"He is going to fight for what he's always been fighting for," White House adviser Valerie Jarrett told NBC's "Meet the Press" program. "We're not hitting a reset button at all."

Really? A reset button? It's a good thing they're not hitting a reset button, considering that the last time that was tried, it got a little embarrassing--remember?

"I would like to present you with a little gift that represents what President Obama and Vice President Biden and I have been saying and that is: 'We want to reset our relationship and so we will do it together,'" Clinton said, presenting Lavrov with the red button.

What the foreign minister got, however, was a button that said "peregruzka," which translates into Russian as "overcharge" or "overload" (depending on the context). Oops...

"You got it wrong," Lavrov teased Clinton, but said he would put it on his desk anyway.

So now I've got to wonder--is it the reset button or the overload button that the Obama administration is determined not to hit? I wish I could believe that they don't intend to hit the "overcharge" button, but that, unfortunately, has been the party's game plan from the get-go, so it would be foolish to suppose that suddenly that particular button is off-limits.

But seriously, the task before the Democrats in upcoming days is to insist that everything is going to continue exactly as planned, and that everything is fine and there's no need for resetting or re-framing or re-anything, while feverishly working behind the scenes to throw out all of their ideas that have thus far proved to be unsuccessful, unpopular, or both (mainly both). All of this is geared toward keeping the 2010 mid-term elections from being a complete bloodbath--because if that happens, the preferred 2012 campaign message about not changing horses in midstream is suddenly going to seem ridiculous--and "Vote for Us, because We're Nothing Like--um, Ourselves, for the Past Four Years, But We're Hoping Nobody Notices" is not, historically, the most effective campaign strategy. Just ask John McCain.


Geoff G. said...

Just out of curiosity, what is the Catholic position on the health care bill? I know the Church supports the Stupak amendment (as do I), but is there any sort of moral calculation here regarding the expansion of health care coverage to people who don't have it and the potential lives saved there?

I think the correct way to look at the bill from a pro-life perspective is to see what the costs in human life are with the status quo compared with the costs in human life with any bill that's likely to pass (probably the Senate bill at this point).

Yes, it smacks of ethical and moral calculus, but an improvement is an improvement.

c matt said...

I can't really agree that the Church's opposition to abortion funding in the bill was unforeseeable. More accurately, they probably figured the opposition wouldn't be taken seriously by anyone.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I recently heard a commentary on the Massachusetts senate race presented at a local Democratic Party meeting. I wasn't there because I'm a Democrat, I'm not, I only vote for Democrats because Republicans (the ones who run for office anyway) are so utterly insane. I was there because they were sponsoring a panel discussion on local transit funding, which is of great concern to me.

But I heard the "party line" on Scott Brown. They identify that on most issues, Scott Brown is to the left of Dede Scozaffava. It may be true. That would be a big help for a Republican running in an independent minded state like Massachusetts. I don't know a lot about Scott Brown, because he wasn't mailing his campaign biography to other states. He was running in Massachusetts. I'm pretty sure I know the number one reason he won. The Democratic candidate took the election for granted and didn't bother to campaign. I've seen that syndrome before. It is a sure fire way to inspire voters to turn to your opponent in droves. Voters hate being taken for granted. I don't expect they much appreciate the last minute calls for volunteers from other states to do virtual phone banking into Massachusetts either.

Anonymous said...

Siarlys Jenkins,

you're dreaming.

Anonymous said...

But in an indication Obama was absorbing lessons from the upset Republican victory for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, he turned to a trusted outside adviser for help in guiding the party's strategy in congressional elections in November.

Always running for office. Governing? Not so much.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Anonymous, please, show us God has given you the wisdom of Daniel... tell me my dream, because I cannot remember what it was.