Barack Obama has never seemed to be interested in or good at governing - sometimes to the detriment of the nation, and sometimes to our benefit. The paramount question four months into his second term is who will guide the ship of state through 2016. A few points in evidence:
- Exhibit number one is the failed effort to do something - anything - after the Newtown Connecticut school shootings. First he outsourced the effort to Joe Biden; then the NRA (perhaps the most vilified lobbying group in Washington) called for no compromise and armed guards in schools; then Senator Feinstein took the lead in the Senate; then the options peeled off one by one - no registry; no assault weapons ban; no size limit on ammunition clips; and finally, no background checks for gun show or Internet sales. Obama's contribution - a campaign-style tour with parents of kids who were killed. His result - even four Democrats voted against him on the key vote in the Senate, fearing Wayne LaPierre of the NRA more than the president.
- Exhibit number two is the immigration reform initiative. Republicans are poised to accept the inevitable, hoping to make the path to citizenship longer than the political careers of the legislators. Leadership rests with a bipartisan group of eight Senators. Having defaulted on his commitments to Latino leaders in Term One, he gives an occasional speech about how important it is to solve the problem of 11 million "undocumented immigrants" (the new politically correct term) but few know or care what he thinks about the details - or what anybody in his cabinet thinks. As a result, the Republicans will get more secure borders, a more "what's in it for business and farmers" criteria for visas, and the ability to take this political pox off of the table.
- Exhibit number three is the implementation of Obamacare. Having loudly declared that "nobody will have to give up their insurance plan or their doctor", we now see that he missed by a few million folks as employers drop their insurance plans, reduce work hours, or limit the number of employees to avoid the federally-required gold-plated plans. And lamenting the refusal of many Republican governors to set up "insurance exchanges" where companies and individuals can buy insurance, the feds will now need to manage half of the states and HHS Secretary Sebelius is requesting $1 billion for an education campaign and has delayed to 2015 the availability of options for small companies due to "operational difficulties." There was no mention of Obamacare in the president's budget speech.
- Exhibit number four is the ongoing budget / debt limit / sequestration theater. Most agree that Obama overplayed his hand with his impending doom description of the impact of 2% budget cuts, and misjudged the Republicans' willingness to accept the defense component. So he now has a budget proposal which accepts some entitlement reductions, but asks for another large tax increase. Too little, too late; nobody expects this to be the structure of an agreement. When the next debt limit discussion comes around this summer, look to John Boehner to set the agenda.
In domestic terms, this is probably as good as Republicans could have hoped for, having lost the presidency and the Senate. In foreign policy terms the abandonment of Benghazi and the disaster in Syria show the downside of not having a president who can lead. But that is a subject for another day.
This week's video is Barney Frank's use of the Boston bombing to call for greater government spending and blame the sequester. The Democrats' answer to Todd "legitimate rape" Akin.
bill bowen - 4/19/2013