Sep 8, 2009

The president’s political missteps

by Mattison Brooks

Logic would show that any person who tries to be all things to all people will eventually begin to step on toes doing it. And while that person stumbles around trying to apologize for stepping on those toes, he or she will step on more.

Take President Barack Obama for example. For several months now, he has been pushing the stimulus bills, the bailouts and all forms of spending to reach a stable point of economic recovery. In doing this, he alienated a lot of his voting base and independents who had switched over to the Democratic side because of Obama’s message of “change.”

Change of course, was identified as a break from what was “business as usual” in Washington and on Capitol Hill up until that point: too much government and too much spending. But apparently $2.6 trillion in a mere eight months is not “too much spending.”

Unfortunately for the president, quite a few people disagreed.
So when the record did not match the rhetoric, sour grapes ensued. That was most clearly shown by the intense anger on display at several major town hall meetings and made all the more obvious by nighttime cable news. Among the dissidents were moderate Democrats, Republicans and Independents — a hodgepodge of the political spectrum. This just goes to show that we can all get along, so long as our populist rage is focused on someone or something else and not on each other.

And once that rage picked up steam, word spread about the public health care debate and something extraordinary happened. Talk from the Democratic side that the president might drop the “public option:” government run health care coverage that is paid for with tax dollars.

That was foot number two Obama stepped on.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has since stated that no bill will clear the House without a public option. The president has not only alienated moderates and the right wing, but now the left wing has reason to doubt if its golden boy “go-getter” is going to get anything done. To be fair, the president forgot to remind his base that changes can be made at a moment’s notice, much like the changes he made to his “change” platform less than 100 days into office.

As it stands, it really should not surprise anyone that Obama’s popularity is slipping. The president’s approval rating has been in steady decline since January, and only just slipped below 50 percent, according to Congress will be back in session after Labor Day and will have to face an unpopular president calling the shots to an abysmally unpopular Congress — only 29 percent of Americans polled are confident Congress knows what it is doing with the economy, according to On top of all this, on Sept. 2, Obama announced a major speech will be given to both Houses of Congress on the health care issue on Sept. 9.

So what exactly does all this mean? It means that Obama now has to repair the damage that he has done to his health care plan, his politics and his future in office. In this speech on Sept. 9. Obama must convince the moderates and conservatives that he will not raise taxes to pay for the reform and will not force certain ideologies and practices down the throats of unwilling doctors. On the flip side, Obama must also convince the liberals and the left wing that he will push hard for the public option and get it done at whatever cost, which is exactly what he promised back in January.

The real question is how on Earth will he pull it off? Since I don’t believe in magic and I don’t think he has found Lincoln’s gold to pay for all this, I sincerely doubt he can.

Because Obama cannot be all things to all people, toes will be stepped on. And as it stands right now there are a lot of angry Americans on both sides of the political spectrum who have sore feet. It will be interesting to see what happens this week.

Contact Mattison Brooks at

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