In the summer before his election, Obama had a secret meeting with that dark master of realpolitik, Rupert Murdoch, who had become uncharacteristically smitten with the popular candidate. Murdoch had sought the meeting to impart a piece of advice: Knowing every President since Kennedy, what Murdoch had come to understand about American politics, he said, was how little time there was to get anything accomplished. In effect, said Murdoch to Obama, whatever a president does in his first 18 months in office is his legislative legacy.
There is an air about Obama that suggests that, almost in some martyred fashion, he took Murdoch’s advice quite seriously: If he only had 18 months then he would do what he judged to be of greatest importance, and let the chips fall where they may. Obama’s choices were a healthcare bill, a massive economic bailout (TARP), and financial reform.
Politicians always say they have the guts to do the unpopular thing, but it’s incredibly weird to actually see a politician do what’s unpopular.
The healthcare bill took too long to pass, creating a sense of stasis and leaderlessness (obscuring what may have been its actual political acumen). TARP passed too quickly, leaving an aftertaste of the big fix. Now, financial reform will cut the Democratic party from one of its key power bases: Wall Street donors. Together, you have three pieces of complex, bureaucracy-oriented legislation that will take years to show any benefit to voters. Even TARP, which has arguably kept us from the abyss, won’t get you any points if you haven’t gotten people their jobs back.
I suppose he thought he could, with grim determination, rally people behind this thick, opaque, and long-term stuff. He imagined himself to be Roosevelt—not understanding that FDR’s ambition was packaged in the greatest charm.
This president doesn’t make anybody feel good. He’s made America more anxious, weary, and depressed.
Not only is he obviously not having any fun, he rather looks like someone who has chosen to suffer.
We may actually have gotten our soulful liberal legislation, but we’ve lost the world.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
Eighteen months in, the Obama presidency is in as dreadful shape as one can imagine. He’ll almost certainly lose the House in the fall elections; and now it’s looking like he could lose the theoretically impregnable Democratic majority in the Senate. What’s more, he has, to an astonishing degree, been unable to communicate even the remotest sense of who he is to the nation: a middle-of-the-roader, by any estimation, and yet a majority of the country thinks he’s a “socialist.”