While Mr. Obama is in most ways the polar opposite of the previous occupant of the White House [a person whose name I shall never speak again], he shares with him one common attribute. Mr. Obama acts, like the previous occupant, as if America can do anything. And do it at once.
This belief is of course a touchstone of American culture, if not its identity. This is the land of open skies and unlmited opportunity, the land of the impossible dream. This is a land where a black man can become President of the United States. If only it were an office of real power!
The presidency, we must remember, is an anomoly among the mature democracies. The founding fathers, so suspicious of power, checked and balanced it into little more than a stage for speech-making. While the president can send troops into foreign lands almost without real constraint, domestically he can only preach.
While Mr. Obama certainly can preach, who can hear him over the frenzied screams of his opponents? In the poisoned atmosphere that passes for political debate in America, no charge is too unfouned, no rumour too absurd, no lie too audacious. And Americans are greatly concerened about public debt, just not their personal debt, of course. Add fear caused by recession and mix with anger. Thus Mr. Obama is placed on the defensive.
Mr. Obama’s great mistake was to do try to do everything at once: fight the recession, create jobs, reform education and social security, and extend healthcare. He also left such little details as paying for it to the future. All too American, one might conclude. Like the previous occupant, Mr. Obama is unwilling to tell Americans that their taxes must go up and their personal standard of living come down.
As a result his administration is vulnerable to the hysterical objections of his opponents and his domestic agenda is at risk.
Instead, Mr. Obama should have concentrated on fighting the recession. Then as the economy revived, he would have taken credit for the recovery. His overriding goal should have been to crush his political opponents, sending the right-wing crazies back to the fringe where they belong. He should have branded them with the stigma of financial imprudence, true as it is. Now they hurl the accusation at him.
He should have remembered that he just barely won the election, against an old white guy and his idiot running mate. He needed to reinforce his political high ground.
There may still be time for Mr. Obama to gain the offensive. But with more caution.
Yes, we can! Actually, no you cannot.