What's costing the president are three things: a laissez faire style of leadership that appears weak and removed to everyday Americans, a failure to articulate and defend any coherent ideological position on virtually anything, and a widespread perception that he cares more about special interests like bank, credit card, oil and coal, and health and pharmaceutical companies than he does about the people they are shafting.
Consider the president's leadership style, which has now become clear: deliver a moving speech, move on, and when push comes to shove, leave it to others to decide what to do if there's a conflict, because if there's a conflict, he doesn't want to be anywhere near it.
Health care is a paradigm case. When the president went to speak to the Democrats last week on Capitol Hill, he exhorted them to pass the bill. According to reports, though, he didn't mention the two issues in the way of doing that, the efforts of Senators like Ben Nelson to use this as an opportunity to turn back the clock on abortion by 25 years, and the efforts of conservative and industry-owned Democrats to eliminate any competition for the insurance companies that pay their campaign bills. He simply ignored both controversies and exhorted.
In the vacuum left by the president's inaction, troglodytes like Nelson and Joe Lieberman and Olympia Snowe and Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln took turns rushing in to fill it.
Leadership means heading into the eye of the storm and bringing the vessel of state home safely, not going as far inland as you can because it's uncomfortable on the high seas. This president has a particular aversion to battling back gusting winds from his starboard side (the right, for the nautically challenged) and tends to give in to them. He just can't tolerate conflict, and the result is that he refuses to lead.
The man is just weak. Period.
We have seen the same pattern of pretty speeches followed by empty exhortations on issue after issue. The president has, on more than one occasion, gone to Wall Street or called in its titans (who have often just ignored him and failed to show up) to exhort them to be nice to the people they're foreclosing at record rates, yet he has done virtually nothing for those people. His key program for preventing foreclosures is helping 4 percent of those "lucky" enough to get into it, not the 75 percent he promised, and many of the others are having their homes auctioned out from right under them because of some provisions in the fine print. One in four homeowners is under water and one in six is in danger of foreclosure. Why we're giving money to banks instead of two-year loans -- using the model of student loans -- to homeowners to pay their mortgages (on which they don't have to pay interest or principal for two years, while requiring their banks to renegotiate their interest rates in return for saving the banks from "toxic assets") is something the average person doesn't understand. And frankly, I don't understand it, either. I thought I voted Democratic in the last election.Same with the credit card companies. Great speech about the fine print. Then the rates tripled.
Obama has trashed himself -- and by extension, the campaigns of other Democrats down the ballot in 2010 -- with the base of Democratic activists who do the heavy lifting: the ones who bank the phones, walk the blocks, knock on the doors.
Using the healthcare reform bill as the lodestone, we have a) weak-tea legislation that the insurance companies are hailing; b) that doesn't accomplish real reform for most Americans -- even though it does for many of the most impoverished; c) resulting in the Republicans' caterwauling to kill the bill intermingled with the Left's identical cries ... for obviously different reasons. But the telling moment was once the Democrats announced they had finally secured 60 votes, the healthcare stocks hit a 52-week high.
But-but-but he won the Nobel peace prize...
What's the mood of other key Democratic constituencies? Gay people -- after their concerns about same-sex marriage and DADT got dissed -- got off the Obama bus long ago. Women? Let's see: we're moving fifty years into the past on reproductive freedom, the insurance companies together with the physicians are sending conflicting messages on health issues like mammograms...
Issues? The same thing that happened/is concluding in the Senate and the Congress happened in Copenhagen last week: a bunch of important people quarreled back and forth about a critical matter and ultimately decided to do ... barely something. Cap-and-trade legislation is on the docket first thing after the New Year. How do you think that's going to go? How about alternative energy? Financial re-regulation?
If the trend continues Obama will give a stirring speech and then leave the particulars to someone else, whose job will be to mash the sausage into something tasteless and slightly disgusting but which we all get to eat a spoonful of.
Not the recipe for re-election of anyone who share his views -- whatever they actually happen to be.
Merry Christmas, every one.
Update: McBlogMan feels the same as me.