CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA—At the same time that Democrats are celebrating the achievements of the last three-and-a-half years and preparing to renominate the president, Republicans are refocusing on the message of their convention—"Obama isn’t working." In particular, the GOP has resurrected the question of 1980 and 1992, which happen to be the two most recent times an incumbent president has lost reelection: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
Well before President Obama arrived for his Wednesday rally in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, local Tea Partiers had gathered to protest his event and promise an end to his tyrannical administration. Assembled in the nearest open space—a park set adjacent to downtown—and with a massive equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee as their backdrop, they denounced Obama’s record with fighting words. “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive,” said Republican state Delegate Rob Bell, quoting Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to Abigail Adams. “It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.”
Of all the things Republicans have called President Obama in the last four years—socialist, radical, un-American, anti-American, elitist—perhaps the strangest is "divisive." It seems so odd to the rest of us when we look at Obama, whose entire history, even from childhood, has been about carefully navigating through opposing ideas, resolving contradictions, and diffusing tensions, who has so often infuriated his supporters with compromises and attempts at conciliation. Yet conservatives look at him and see someone completely different. They see Obama plotting to set Americans at war with one another so he can profit from the destruction, perhaps cackling a sinister laugh as thunder rattles the windows on the West Wing and America's demise is set in motion.
In politics and journalism, myth often passes as biography. For evidence, look no further than The New York Times and Washington Post's profiles of newly minted vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who by virtue of a few well-deployed anecdotes—told by his brother and by fellow congressman and confidant Jeff Flake—has been transformed into the apotheosis of the self-made man. The linchpin of this pull-yourself-up-by-you-bootstraps story is the death of his father when Ryan was 16. "It is remarkable that he chose a path of individual responsibility and maturity rather than letting grief take a different course," the candidate's brother tells the Times, which elaborates with an encomium worthy of an Anglo-Saxon epic:
Is President Obama a descendent of the first American slave? According to a team of geneologists, working with Ancestory.com, Obama is an 11th generation descendent of John Punch, an African indentured servant sentenced to slavery. Moreover, these roots come by way of his mother, a white Kansan whose roots contain at least one African forebearer. The New York Timesexplains:
I mentioned in the previous post that GDP growth was anemic; the economy increased by 1.5 percent in the second quarter, down from 2 percent in the first. Altogether, the economy has grown by 1.75 percent this year, which is nowhere close to where we need to be if we want a serious recovery from the Great Recession.
The presidential race appears to be tightening in New Mexico, where Obama's former lead of 15 points has dwindled to 5 points. Polls have shown that if Romney picks Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM) as his running mate, he has a decent shot at winning the state, not to mention gaining more votes among women and Latinos. Martinez has said she doesn't want the job because she has to care for her elderly father and ill sister, but couldn't Romney could offer to hire a team of registered nurses to take care of them full time?
Today's big news is that the Obama administration is, through executive action, enacting a kind of mini-DREAM Act to help undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children. We'll get to the details in a moment, but one thing we know for sure is that Republicans are going to be very, very mad, or at least they'll sound very, very mad. They'll make three separate arguments: First, they'll have a substantive argument about why it's a bad idea to allow any undocumented immigrant to work here legally. Second, they'll have a process argument about why it's an appalling power-grab for Obama to do this without congressional approval. Of course, they're quite happy with all sorts of executive orders and similar actions when a Republican is in the White House, but that hypocrisy doesn't necessarily make them wrong on that point. Finally, they'll say this is blatant "election-year politics" meant only to secure Latino votes in the fall election.
Which it may well be, at least in part. So my question is, what's wrong with that?
Pity poor Jay Carney, getting beaten up soundly yesterday for having to explain the inexplicable: President Obama's position on same-sex marriage. Okay, it's explicable—the White House is obviously calculating that now is not the right time to draw fire on gay and lesbian rights—but that's not the kind of thing you have your press secretary say, now, is it?
Although tax reform has been in the national spotlight lately—between the Obama team's April Buffett Rule push and the Republican primary candidates' proposals (remember 9-9-9?)—don't expect corporate tax reform to be a legislative priority in the near future. “From the beginning, we acknowledged that this would be a heavy lift and take time,” an official from the Treasury Department said.
Brad DeLong looks at the degree to which Wall Street has bounced back from the collapse under Obama, and wonders why bankers have turned completely against the president:
Why? It is not as though Wall Street has done badly under Obama. Stock prices are up and interest rates are down, so leveraged financial institutions long assets–as Wall Street inevitably is–have done very, very well indeed. The standard bargain that the Democrats offer Wall Street has held. It is:
As it’s become clear that economic fairness will be a central theme of the Obama campaign, the forces of Democratic “centrism” are sounding their usual alarms. Last week, the group Third Way released a poll of “Swing Independents” (a group so coveted it must be capitalized) in 12 battleground states that showedObama leading Romney among them, 44-38. Good news for Dems, yes? Not so fast!
Andrew Sullivan is baffled by the Right’s refusal to take President Obama seriously as a politician or a leader:
Why not fear of Obama’s charm? Or suspicion of his cunning? Why not coopt this oh-so-willing-to-be-coopted figure to move his policies to the right (as if the individual mandate, extension of Bush tax cuts, and escalation of the war in Afghanistan could get further right)?
There’s nothing like a double-barreled Holy Week/Passover to send media flacks leaping for “hooks” of relevance. Here’s my nominee for Most Dubious Holy Week Tie-in—an article from the august Council on Foreign Relations which documents, the email release promises me, how:
[W]hile Obama is by all accounts religious, that faith has not resulted in real foreign policy gains. "Rhetoric is important, but direct action grounds real diplomacy. And on that front, the White House has not kept up with the issue," Preston writes.
Easter is a minor gift-giving holiday in the American calendar, and for the last year—and counting—President Obama’s Easter gift has come in the form of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Last year, Ryan penned the “Roadmap,” a budget document for House Republicans that laid out their priorities for the long-term: deep cuts to existing social programs, deep cuts to Medicare, and big tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans. With the Tea Party at the height of its power, Republican lawmakers were eager to sign on to Ryan’s “right-wing social engineering” (to borrow a phrase), even if it was anathema to public opinion.