by Mike Kimel
I think you have to go back to Bob Dole in 1996 to find a Republican nominee for for President whose signature accomplishment wouldn’t be repudiated by most members of his own party in November 2012. The 2000 and 2004 nominee is best known for turning a surplus into a deficit (although most current Republicans approve of the way he did it, cutting tax rates, increasing military spending, and launching two wars) and was kept discretely away from the last Republican National Convention. The 2008 nominee is best known for the McCain-Feingold Act, and the 2012 nominee, of course, will forever be tied to Romneycare. As to Bob Dole in 1996, well, I couldn’t remember him having any signature issues so I googled him. Google took me here but I still didn’t find anything that really said “Bob Dole” to me.
Sure, he agreed or disagreed with all sorts of things, but he wasn’t the champion of any and there wasn’t anything he was really known for. The 1988 and 1992 nominee, George Herbert Walker Bush, these days is best remembered for ending the first war in Iraq without taking out Saddam Hussein or taking Baghdad and for “read my lips, no new taxes.” Breaking that promise got him excoriated by Republicans. Reagan seems to be the most recent Republican nominee for President of the US who has a signature issue that remains popular with Republicans today.
As the co-author of Presimetrics, a book on Presidents, their policies, and the effect of those policies; I’ve talked to a lot of people of all stripes about Presidents, and Republicans today simply don’t seem to approve of most former Republican presidents, or at least their policies. Before Reagan was Ford, best remembered for pardoning Nixon and Whip Inflation Now. Nixon is best remembered for Watergate, going to China and meeting Mao, and price controls. Eisenhower for big government programs. Hoover, for being the hapless fellow who had recently become President when the Great Depression began.
At first I thought that says something about today’s Republican party. And perhaps it does. Perhaps it indicates the party’s values today are very different than they ever have been.
But it also may serve as a warning to Obama. I’ve pointed out before that except for one or two issues (Obamacare and Supreme Court justices he’s nominated), Obama’s first term has looked an awful lot like the third term of GW Bush would have looked. Tax rates remain low, the percentage of personal income going to taxes is down and the bail-out is basically an extension of Paulson’s bazooka. In four years, four long years, Obama hasn’t managed to figure out a single new approach to dealing with the economic mess that wasn’t pioneered by the guy who got us into the hole in the first place! The same is true of most other aspects of the Obama presidency. Policies on civil liberties are essentially the same as they were under GW. The “good war” in Afghanistan is still going on, and the war that was getting increasingly inconvenient (even the folks at the National Review had managed to figure out there was a problem by 2007 leading to the death of the “painted schoolhouse” anecdotes) was ended discretely, with everyone pretending that Iran wasn’t firmly in the driver’s seat. Foreigners, at least the non-Pakistani ones, seem to like Obama, but that’s more because there’s less bluster about “with us or against us” – actual policy remains very similar, complete with a down-to-the-bone inability to distinguish friend from foe.
Obama seems to have been re-elected not with enthusiasm among Democrats, but rather due to a sense that Romney was even worse. Part of that came from a feeling that Romney’s views on business weren’t really about business, they were just about profiting from loading companies up with debt, as if that approach to running the government hasn’t been championed by every President we’ve had since 1980 other than Bill Clinton. And truth to tell, a lot of the foreboding about Romney came not so much from Romney, who at some point stood for everything and anything, and thus stood for nothing at all, but rather from the particularly in-artful downticket comments (think Akin or Mourdock) on “legitimate rape” (???, !!!!!) and abortions. Most Democrats and many independents aren’t happy with Romneycare, er, Obamacare. They see it as a distant second or third best compared to the socialized medical systems of every industrialized country that produces better healthcare outcomes than we do, and at lower cost to boot. The one bit of actual enthusiasm for Obama might have come on the gay rights side, as a growing number of younger voters in much of the country don’t have the bias against openly gay people that remains strong among social conservatives, particularly the older generations. But even there, the camel’s nose entered the tent during the previous administration – most Republicans were smart enough not to piss off Dick Cheney by criticizing his daughter.
All of which is to say, Obama is potentially headed down the Republican presidency path in more ways than one. Despite his re-election, unless Democrats are infinitely more forgiving than Republicans, Obama might eventually become his party’s George Bush- the name nobody wants to mention, the face nobody wants to see at campaign stops, and the legacy nobody wants to remember. The longer he follows the same policies as his predecessor, the greater the likelihood he will be viewed the same way by his own party’s posterity.
A lot of Democrats seem to believe that now we’re going to see the “real Obama.” I hear Democrats say that Obama isn’t constrained by the need for re-election any more, and he has realized that rolling over and playing dead doesn’t make Republicans or Wall Street like him any better. Perhaps that’s true, perhaps the next four years will be different, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Its been my experience that in general, people don’t change that much. If he’s been behaving a certain way for four years, it is very likely we’ve seen the “real Obama.”
In thinking about my vote, I decide it was about 35% for BHO and 65% against the lying odious unprincipled elitist chameleon.
It’s easy to point out the similarities to the previous admin, because so many policies have continued – especially in foreign affairs/security/police statism.
But that has been pretty much a constant since WW II [or earlier] regardless of Prex or party.
Plus, it’s true that the last two Dem presidents have been de facto Republicans — by standards as recent as 1990.
I understand that there is a lot about BHO that is disappointing. But to equate him to Shrub, or Romney, or any modern Rethug requires an extreme parallax view.
Modern R’s have sailed off the political landscape into some ideological terra incognita where they foundered on the shoals of intellectual nihilism.
And came within 3 1/2% of taking the country down with them.
Dems have been sucked to the right to fill a vaccuum left by the absence of real conservatism.
I think there’s lots of room on the political left, but I don’t know how anyone can get into that space and do anything meaningful with our current political system
Nixon may be one of the most complex President’s of modern time. Watergate aside. Got us out of LBJ’s Vietnam mess – though awkwardly, arms control agreement with USSR, he founded the EPA. Started the middle east peace process, (LOL – is still a work in progress). Ended Bretton Woods, supported many civil rights advancements. Revenue sharing and he pushed the family assistance plan. A lot of the latter was the result of Nixon being poor as a kid.
Then there was the Watergate mess, too bad, because he might be remembered much differently. Maybe Republicans need to model him a bit more minus the Watergate piece.
A two page exposition of what Bush did to the surpluses from CBO.
I second jazz on Obama!
Obama seemed to be less likely to make it a crime to criticize religious zealots who demand religious freedom includes enforcing their reading of god’s mind through laws.
Obama also seemed less likely to appoint a judge to the SCOTUS that would roll back Rowe v Wade, which I agree with VP Biden, I don’t agree with abortion but I will not force my decision about when life starts any more than my belief that war is a mortal sin.
If Obama does not let Bush tax cuts expire my 80% reservation will be realized.
There is plenty the fed can do with taxes rising taking heat off inflation expectations.
Still better than the LBO con artist.
Anon, please explain how CBO estimates back around year 2000 of $5.6 trillion surpluses would actually work. Because that would have meant a $5.6 trillion drop in nongovernment savings of financial assets over ten years.
This comment has been removed by the author.
I am not sure what Obama will accomplish in his second term with the GOP House. Possibly nothing on domestic issues, or maybe just immigration reform. I can think of a half-dozen substantive accomplishments that would have been highly probable under a President Romney but are highly improbable under President Obama: new/additional tax cuts for the wealthy/job-creators; a new Supreme Court member who aligns closely on most issues with Scalia/Thomas; repeal of Obamacare, replaced by very different broad health care program reforms (relying on vouchers, block grants, tax credits); repeal/gutting of Dodd-Frank regulations on Wall Street; a large increase in defense procurement spending (big-ticket items); and new federal legislation and executive orders regarding gays (hello DOMA and DADT) and pro-choice women (goodbye Planned Parenthood funding).
Bob Dole had a horrible (which is to say, decent and humane) record expanding the Food Stamps program.
Obama is pushing the grand bargin, Digby has been all over this especially with this latest post: http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-so-called-trial-balloon-in-black.html
SS is on the block which is the sell out as digby notes with this post of FDR’s 1940 letter to the dem convention: http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/11/it-is-best-not-to-straddle-ideals.html
From the letter:
The party has failed consistently when through political trading and chicanery it has fallen into the control of those interests, personal and financial, which think in terms of dollars instead of in terms of human values.
The Democratic Convention, as appears clear from the events of today, is divided on this fundamental issue. Until the Democratic Party through this convention makes overwhelmingly clear its stand in favor of social progress and liberalism, and shakes off all the shackles of control fastened upon it by the forces of conservatism, reaction, and appeasement, it will not continue its march of victory.
And yesterday I watched the History Channel’s “The men who built America”. I’ve writen here about the identical language, rhetoric and ideas put forth and carried out from 1900 to 1930 or so.
I’m with Mike, we have lived the real Obama. It is the one who’s model for ideals and leadership are found in the persona of Reagan. A man who created a fantasy world of grandure about himself and managed to live it.
Reagan live a delusion, Obama does not appear to realize this and in that regard is a great republican but for the lack of one current trait of the republican ideal: selfishness.
Is Obama ideological or does he simply believe the ideological people around him? Does he seek truth or simply seek a long resume?