The Obama Fade and the Elections of 2014
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Another disappointing jobs report —The Wall Street Journal described it as “the weakest job creation since June 2012”— underscores the malaise that is quickly engulfing President Obama’s second term. Even if you accept John Podhoretz’s thesis that the president is a brilliant politician –not extremely lucky, or extremely well-funded and ruthless or supported by brilliant political tacticians or all of those things– no one is going to nominate him for the Nobel Prize in Economics. The president really does not seem to grasp that unleashing EPA to raise the price of gas every and by between a nickel and a dime per gallon –forever– is going to hurt the economy, and right away. The president also doesn’t seem to get that the slow collapse of his giant dream of Obamacare with all its whirling, moving parts is creating havoc in another vast sector of the economy.
The president certainly doesn’t seem to have made progress with North Korea, Syria or Iran.
But there he was this week, in Colorado, trying to rescue his faltering gun control push by campaigning in a state which passed sweeping gun control laws and wherein a backlash is growing against the electeds who did so.
Democrats up for election in 2014 –the dreaded 6th year of a two term president’s tenure– are fleeing office completely (Senators Rockefeller, Harkin, Levin, Johnson) or running from the president as fast as they can (the hapless Mark Pryor of Arkansas who is reducing to praying that Congressman Tom Cotton, a decorated Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and very likable conservative— doesn’t run against him.)
People get bored with lame duck president’s quickly, except the people who really get mad at them. The president’s choice words this week are not likely to rally an increasingly disinterested base already obsessing on Hillary, but they are sure to motivate his opponents:
“You hear some of these quotes: ‘I need a gun to protect myself from the government.’ ‘We can’t do background checks because the government is going to come take my guns away,’ Obama said. “Well, the government is us. These officials are elected by you. They are elected by you. I am elected by you. I am constrained, as they are constrained, by a system that our Founders put in place. It’s a government of and by and for the people.”
This modesty as to the reach of his powers alarms opponents of the president because they heard it once before —voiced by the president with regard to the immigration laws:
“I just have to continue to say this notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true. We are doing everything we can administratively. But the fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce. And I think there’s been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It’s just not true.”
The president, of course, went on to unilaterally change the laws on immigration for young people when it became politically expedient to do so. This is the sort of precedent that worries gun rights advocates even as the president’s inability to get anything through Congress disappoints his base.
A lousy economy, a world engulfed in crisis, a president unable to get anything done after raising expectations sky-high: Sounds like a replay of George W. Bush’s 2005, without the Katrina, of course, but the year is still young.
Democrats considering retiring on their own terms and getting a good job early as opposed to when the line forms cannot be encouraged by the president’s Q1. Like the economy he superintends, he is fading, fast.
The first test of his electoral appeal down ticket will come in New Jersey and Virginia in the fall where two governorships are on the line. President Obama probably won’t even dare campaign against Governor Christie whose approval ratings are enormous, and the GOP and especially conservatives are already rallying to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in his race against Hillary-surrogate Terry McAuliffe.
The real test is 2014, and if it is anything like President Bush’s 6th year –2006– even this Congress which he loathes will seem to have been the good old days by mid-2015.