Too Fast, Too Furious – 2010 Midterm Edition

American Economy Fail

Think of the American economy as a car, President Obama starts. Republicans were behind the wheel for eight years before they drove it into a ditch. So Democrats got the keys. Now they’re in the ditch. And it’s hot. It’s muddy. There are bugs everywhere. But they got their boots on. And they’re pushing, they’re clawing, they’re doing everything they can to get the car out of the ditch. They look up and see Republicans just standing there, saying: You’re doing it wrong. So Obama asks them to come down and help, but they go: No, no, we’re good, and keep “sipping on a Slurpee”. While you’re reading this article, you might be interested in vehicles. You might also be interested in this great spare saver offer, so check this out!

So Democrats keep slipping and sliding and finally they shove it out of the ditch. The car’s not pretty. It looks-. Well, it looks like a car that was stuck in a ditch for two years. It looked like it has a car stereo but not used in a long period of time, it has cracks in it but can be replaceable. It desperately needs a tune-up, could use a carwash, “but it’s moving.” Obama wipes his brow, opens the door when he gets a tap on his shoulder. It’s the Republicans. They want the keys back. No, Obama tells them, you can’t have them. You’re a terrible driver. You’ll just put the car in reverse and drive it back into the ditch.

Now Obama pauses at the podium. He smiles before his favorite part of the car analogy: “There’s a reason why, when you want to go forward, you put it into ‘D,’ and when you go backward, it goes into ‘R’. It’s not a coincidence.”

Obama and his 29 year old speechwriter/“mind reader” wunderkind Jon Favreau have been driving the Car Speech across the Midwest all summer. They kind of have to. The 2010 Midterm Elections are five weeks away, and Democrats are in trouble.


Think of the America political psyche as a pendulum. At rest, it’s tilted a tad right of center, but it swings left and right with the political times. It oscillates right during times of war and urges for Less Government. And it swings left in lieu of economic hardship, social issues, and Bush presidencies. The pendulum almost broke swerving left after the last one. So far so that the Incredibly Shrinking Republican Party was deemed white, nestled in the foothills of Appalachia, and an endangered species. It really only had two talking points: tax cuts and “drill baby drill!” MSNBC cheered the possible demise of the entire Republican party. They were wrong.

But Obama was wrong, too. He misread his sweeping 2008 election as a mandate for federal activism. Except Americans didn’t want a more involved government. They just didn’t want George W. Bush. Or 95% of him in John McCain. And so the pendulum swung back to the center in the wake of lingering high unemployment, obstructionist Republicans, and delayed Change. Remember the iconic “Hope” poster that was a clarion call for fresh thinking? It was donated to a museum by a pair of lobbyists and is now the work of satire.

Obama Hope Or Dope Poster

And so President Obama and his 2008 Election Dream Team are scrambling to recreate the magic that brought out voters—especially college students—in record numbers. It was much easier then. Republicans were handicapped by Still President George W. Bush. Sarah Palin by a) geography and b) the English language.

Now, for really the first time in Obama’s meteoric rise, he must stop and defend his record. He ran for President on a light record. Yes, his vote against the Iraq War was gutsy, right, and distinguished him from Hillary. But he generally shied away from controversy, voting present 130 times in Illinois state senate.

As President, Black Cinderella’s achievements are all well-and-good—keeping us safe, healthcare reform, improved global image, credit card consumer rights, tobacco regulation, Wall Street regulation, ending the Iraq War (our Korea)—but they won’t bring out voters.

Obama vs Bush Political Cartoon

It’s the economy, Dr. Spock. Americans don’t blame Obama for the Great Recession. They blame him for the painfully slow recovery from it. Unemployment is 9.6%. The Stimulus package jumpstarted the economy, but it’s sputtering. Fortunately for Obama:

The Tea Party Is The Best Thing To Happen To Democrats Since George W. Bush

Take Sharron Angle. She said rape victims should make “what was really a lemon situation into lemonade.”() The Republican Senate candidate in Nevada has been endorsed by no other than Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney.

Then there’s Christine O’Donnell. O’Donnell sent shockwaves across the Republican party when she upset a 9-term representative for the Delaware Senate nomination. She has also a) called Darwin’s theory of evolution a “myth”, b) blasted women at service academies because they “cripple the readiness of our defense”, and c) said gays have an “identity disorder”. She has also dabbled in witchcraft: “One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar.”

She will need an especially potent witch’s brew in November, however. A September 21 Fox News poll reported O’Donnell trailing by 15%. But, in O’Donnell’s defense, the sorcerer constituency’s votes were not yet believed to be counted.

Angle and O’Donnell are two of the leading candidates of the amorphous Tea Party insurgency. The Tea Party burst into prominence earlier this year with Scott Brown’s shirtless photos and populist rage. The problem is the Tea Party doesn’t have a discernible unifying ideology except a) they’re angry and b) the deficit is too big. This is ironic because the Tea Party candidates were strangely silent as President George W. Bush turned the nation’s largest surplus into the nation’s largest deficit. The problem is they have a fatal flaw: talking.

Not surprisingly, Obama wants to hear some of their other ideas. In a Monday town hall meeting, Obama called out the Tea Party, asking: “Specifically, what would you do? It’s not enough just to say get control of spending.”

It’s sad, really. It’s sad that as China pioneers green energy and quietly buys up vast swathes of Africa and the Middle East, Angle and O’Donnell are our rising political stars. It’s sad that in 2010 these fringe voices are finding cachet in the world’s lone Superpower.

Love him or hate him, Obama tried again and again to extend his hand to the other side of the aisle. But every time he did he was met with a clenched first. Not a single Republican voted for the Stimulus package. It’s very difficult to have a meaningful national debate when one side has a bag of words and the other is handicapped by … reality. You can’t reason with a crazy. And when that crazy is just less than half of Congress, the American Empire has cracks and fissures on a late-Ancient Rome scale.

In the mean time, however, Obama and Democrats hope the Tea Partiers will just keep talking till Election Day.

It’s Déjà vu All Over Again (But It Ain’t 1994).

A young Democrat President sweeps into office after years of Bush wars and economic malaise. He bankrupts his political capital on healthcare reform campaign. He goes on to watch his party lose control of the House to a reenergized Republican party two years into office. Hint: The Republicans’ newly-minted “Pledge To America” was forged with Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” manifesto in mind.

Political pundits love to draw the 1994-2010 comparison. There’s just one problem. They’re 12 years too late. And the White House knows it. “This one feels more like 1982 than 1994,” White House communications director Daniel Pfeiffer mused. President Obama’s perilous midterm standing doesn’t smack of Bill Clinton’s first midterm. It’s more like Ronald Reagan’s.

Obama and Reagans Ratings Compared Chart

Don’t tell the Tea Party, but President Obama’s approval ratings in his first two years tanked in lockstep with those of Ronald Reagan. Like Reagan, President Obama is an outside-the-Beltway, eloquent President who inherited the office in a time of dire economic conditions and war. Like Reagan, President Obama is liked more for his personality than his actual policies.

Spoiler Alert I: Reagan’s popularity plummeted to a low of 42 percent in 1982. The President cautioned voters against a return to his predecessor’s tax-and-spend economic policies. Republicans lost 26 seats in the House of Representatives, but they held onto the House. Spoiler Alert II: The economy recovered. President Reagan went on to slaughter the opposing ticket in his 1984 re-election bid and became one of the most popular presidents in recent memory.


The End Of Rambo

Rahm Emmanuel was just too fierce.

He once mailed a gutted fish to a pollster simply because he made him angry. The night after Bill Clinton was reelected Emmanuel brandished a knife, stabbed the table, and shrieked “Dead! … Dead! … Dead!” to the name of each of the President’s foes. When Tony Blair was about to back Clinton during his impeachment trial, Rahm took the leader of Great Britain aside and shouted: “Don’t fuck this up!” This February he called Democrats “f——- retarded” for wanting to run healthcare reform commercials.

This all makes sense when you consider Rahmbo is the brother of the real life Ari Gold. What doesn’t make sense is why the man dubbed the most powerful chief of staff, maybe ever, is stepping down. Rahmbo could have been the next Speaker of the House. He was arguably the second most powerful man in the world. Instead, he’s changing his cell phone area code back to 312, packing his bags, and running for mayor of Chicago.

It didn’t have to be this way. Rahmbo and Obama used to be boys. Back in 2009, Rahmbo had the President’s ear on everything. But sometime that summer Obama stopped listening. Rahmbo was just too polarizing. Obama, too idealistic.

They say you can chart a Presidency in chapters by the chief of staff. Chapter 1 of the Obama Presidency, then, was a brusque, no-holds-barred, very productive 20 months. Chapter 2 will be much tamer. Rahmbo will be replaced by Pete Rouse. Rouse is… nice. He’s a soft-spoken guy who keeps a low profile. But that’s not what Obama needs. Emmanuel lectured the Professor-In-Chief in the class of hard-knocks politics every day. Rahm’s 7:45 AM White House screaming sessions were the stuff of legend. You can even track Obama’s 2009 healthcare reform second-half drift to when he stopped listening to Rahmbo.

Rahmbo was teary-eyed when he wished White House staffers goodbye last Friday. He admitted he pushed the team “very hard”, but it was the White House that had the last laugh with a thoughtful gift. “This is a dead fish!” Rahmbo shouted when he unwrapped it. Sort of. “To most people, it looks like a dead fish,” Budget Chief Austan Goolsbee teased. “But to a future mayor of Chicago, it looks like a dead Asian Carp. And you’ll be happy to know that it wasn’t easy to find one of these.”

Comedy Central Will Win Big

Colbert Stewart Terrorist Fist Bump

When you’re the front man on Comedy Central you have the unassailable advantage of not being not accountable but all-too relevant. Call Stewart out on his sometime preachiness or quick out-of-context TV clips and he’ll point out his show runs after South Park and Chappelle Show reruns. It’s working, too. He’s hosted the Oscars. Twice.

But it has been arguably a better run for his disciple. He roasted President George W. Bush to his face and lived to tell about it. He’s a best-selling author and a former Presidential candidate. He has umpteen Emmys, a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor named after him, and a paralyzing fear of bears. He is Stephen Colbert (silent T). And he has spoofed the personality-driven punditry of FOX News to a T.

Comedy Central’s twin stars will host dueling rallies on October 30. Glenn Beck is worried it might dwarf his own Martin Luther King impression. Even Democrats are afraid it might overshadow their own rally. Funny because time was people said Jon Stewart and his protege were a George W. Bush Presidency phenomenon. They would inevitably peter out with Dubya. So much for that. Only Comedy Central’s dynamic duo have made sense of sissy Democrats and obstructionist Republicans.

Sarah Palin Update: The former half-term governor of Alaska and 2012 Republican President candidate front runner irked many in a Hong Kong speech when she blamed the Great Recession on too MUCH government regulation. More recently, she was booed on “Dancing With The Stars” and dissed by Arnold Schwarzenegger on Twitter:

Arnold Mocks Sarah Palin

Sign #435 You Were A Lousy President: In 2008, President George W. Bush wasn’t wanted at his own party’s national convention. In 2010, Bush has to push back his pending memoir till after midterms because Republican leadership didn’t want the association.

And finally, The Worst Political Speech Of All Time:

Winner: Phil Davison, a GOP candidate for the treasurer’s office in Stark County, Ohio.

Update: He didn’t get the nomination.


This is the second of a two-part series. For the first part, see: The Hardest Job In Politics: Being Michelle Obama.

[tags]barack obama, rahm emmanuel, midterm elections, 2010, democrats, republicans, american politics, the tea party, sarah palin, bill clinton, ronald reagan, american economy[/tags]


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  1. TheReviewer says:

    Conversely, Glenn Beck makes Christie O’Donnell look like George Washington.

  2. === === popular today…

    yeah! this story has entered the popular today section on…

  3. Wayne says:

    “Yes, his vote against the Iraq War was gutsy, right, and distinguished him from Hillary.”

    Barack never voted on the Iraq War. He wasn’t elected Senator until 2004, a full year after the war started. The rest of your post is nonsense as well, filled with oversimplications and fallacious rhetoric common in conservative talk radio. Writing about politics isn’t something you should just wake up one day and decide to do.

  4. Eric says:

    If nominated, what you are seeing tonight is what everyone else outside those doors will be seeing for the next eight weeks.”

    How did he not get the nomination with a promise like that?

  5. Mark says:

    Obama is not Reagan. Reagans ideas of smaller govt and patriotism appealed to people then. Obamas big govt ideas don’t. And theres no evidence that he will change (like Clinton did).

    The economy may not rebound like it did for Reagan. In fact, Obamas own economic teams says it wont.

    Obama may not have a pathetic opponent like Walter Mondale like Reagan had.

    Obama’s only chance is to do what Clinton did and work with a Republican congress to pass moderate policies. Then he has to hope Republicans nominate a weak pres candidate.

    • Marco says:

      That’s just it, there really isn’t a strong conservative candidate that could challenge Obama in 2012. All the conservative stars are way too far to the right to win a general election and for many seem a bit wacky. Also, the economy is bound to have fully bounced back by 2012. Whomever the sitting president is, always get’s the credit or blame for the state of the economy and will get huge benefits from that. All in all, as with most incumbent presidents, he should be very hard to beat in 2012.

  6. Dolly says:

    Interesante, no va a continuar con este art?culo?


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