Three months ago, I predicted that Barack Obama would be defeated in his bid for re-election. In making that call, I wasn’t exactly going out on a limb. No president since World War II has secured a second term with an economy as bad as the one the country is dealing with now.
Most assuredly, Obama’s predecessor bears much of the blame for the current mess, but Obama has had his share of missteps in trying to right the ship. His initial stimulus package was too small and too diffuse. His battle to get a health care reform bill enacted into law was too protracted and has been poorly explained. He hasn’t prevailed in his fights with the Republican-dominated Congress that resulted from his inept control of the “message-war” during the first two years of his presidency.
And, most importantly, he didn’t prepare the country for the extended economic misery it is suffering through, very possibly because neither he nor his economic team thought it would be this bad.
Put it all together and you have a failed presidency by any reasonable measure of that term.
I don’t discount the positives on the Obama scorecard. He did save the economy from complete ruin; he did “get” Osama bin Laden and otherwise keep the country free from terrorist attack; and he did get the financial and health care reforms enacted into law, albeit the odds are now no better than 50-50 that the latter will survive Supreme Court review next spring.
And I’m not denying the outrageous obstructionism of the “loyal opposition,” which is probably unmatched in U.S. history in terms of its unwillingness to compromise on any of its “principles” and in terms of its single-minded goal of denying this president a second term.
But when push comes to shove, “It’s the economy, stupid.” And just as Obama was elected because of a disastrous economy, so could he be defeated for re-election because of a struggling one. Simple stated, no sitting president should expect to get re-elected with nine percent unemployment, especially when he came into office proclaiming that it wouldn’t get higher than eight.
Unless, of course, the opposing party has the dearth of qualified candidates the Republicans have. And it is that fact that is making Obama’s prospects look considerably better than they otherwise would.
To be blunt, the Republican field is the political version of Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Only one of the eight candidates would be clearly electable in a general election; the other seven are truly political dwarfs for one reason or another.
Let’s consider them one by one.
Mitt Romney has to be Doc. He’s the leader of the pack, even if no one wants to admit it. Romney would be presidential material if he could just show the slightest bit of integrity. He’d never be a guy the base of his party could accept, because he’d then actually reveal himself to be a bona fide old-fashioned Eisenhower Republican, but he’d be qualified to be the nation’s leader if he had a track record that showed any degree of philosophical consistency and political courage. But Romney has shown time and again that he will say whatever suits his immediate goals, and that is why he has been unable to get his poll numbers above 25% with the Republican rank and file.
Newt Gingrich is Grumpy. Newt is still fighting the ideological wars of the 1990s. He still hates everything that sounds like big government and would still repeal Social Security and Medicare if he could. About the only thing new about Newt are his constant harangues against the media, which gets him cheers from the Republican faithful, but hardly makes him a serious presidential candidate.
Michelle Bachmann is Happy. She loves her God-fearing Christian country. While she attended the Christian school (Oral Roberts University) where she got her law degree, she worked as a research assistant for the author of “Christianity and the Constitution,” which argues that the country was founded as a Christian theocracy and should again become one. Bachmann has done nothing in her candidacy to suggest that she disagrees with that proposition.
Ron Paul is Bashful. It isn’t so much that Paul is shy. He’ll speak his mind when asked. But he just doesn’t get much attention, almost as if no one really cares to acknowledge his presence. Paul does engender some excitement when he talks about America’s excessively militaristic foreign policy, but he is just as likely to put people to sleep with his rants about the Federal Reserve and the need to return to the gold standard. He is a lone voice in the wilderness, and a quiet one at that.
Herman Cain is Sneezy. He’d be loveable if he weren’t always saying things that make people cringe: things like, “Black folks are brainwashed,” “If you don’t have a job and you aren’t rich, blame yourself,” and “I will not appoint a Muslim to my administration or the courts.” Cain is just a bundle of laughs, except when he gets serious, and then he’s just a joke.
Rick Santorum is Sleepy. I still haven’t figured out if Santorum really is running for president. The only evidence of that fact is that he keeps showing up on the debate stages, where, in the space of 90 minutes he might get five minutes of airtime. The rest of his campaign seems to be non-existent. He must be doing something, but the real Sleepy would probably get about the same amount of interest as he’s getting.
And, of course, Rick Perry is Dopey. What else can you say about this guy? He’s adorable, for sure, but presidential? “Oops.”
Oh, and the Snow White in the field? That would be Jon Huntsman, who actually would be a legitimate threat to Obama if he could only secure his party’s nomination. But, since he’s a true moderate, his chances are absolutely nil, which may be the Republicans’ odds if they continue their weekly auditions for Saturday Night Live.