In 2008, the message was him. The promise was him. And that’s why 2010 is a referendum on him.That is a neat way to summarize the dynamics of this election. Which is also why it is bloody dangerous to have personality-driven politics and leaders. Bill Clinton's re-election was not about Clinton the person at all--not with all that baggage he carried around. But, during the campaign season, the stock that Obama sold was himself, and now as President he has a tougher problem making a repeat sale.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Kristof, who seems to have taken time off from the gruesome stories that otherwise he forces us to recognize, wants us to give Obama a break:
go ahead and hold Mr. Obama’s feet to the fire. He deserves to be held accountable. But let’s not allow economic malaise to cloud our judgment and magnify America’s problems in ways that become self-fulfilling.I am not so sure about this argument.
The problem is that the alternative, in terms of Republican leadership, is an even more pathetic joke. If the GOP takes over the house, Kevin McCarthy will become number 3? I remember him from my days in Bakersfield, and a few days ago I watched him on C-Span and the guy is as lacking as ever. At least Bill Thomas, whose retirement paved the way for McCarthy, was a really sharp guy and, unfortunately, even more ruthless!
So, to some extent, I am with Paul Krugman who is worried about a Republican Congress:
This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.However, I wish, for the nth time, that Krugman would be less shrill and less hyperbolic, and engaged more like the economist he is; did he really have to write "Be afraid. Be very afraid" ...?
David Brooks lays out what Obama's problem is going to be if (when?) Republicans take over the House (and Senate?):
[If] Obama is to rebound, he is going to have to suppress his natural competitive instincts. If he gets caught up in the Beltway fight club, the Republicans will emerge as the party of limited government and he’ll emerge as the spokesman for big government — surely a losing proposition.Thomas "master manipulator of metaphors" Friedman, too, has something sensible, for a change, when he writes on why this election matters, as he looks at it from India while talking with some of his favorites (does Friedman talk to the 400 million poor there, I wonder!):
It looks, said Srivastava, as if “what is happening in America is a loss of self-confidence. We don’t want America to lose self-confidence. Who else is there to take over America’s moral leadership? American’s leadership was never because you had more arms. It was because of ideas, imagination, and meritocracy.” If America turns away from its core values, he added, “there is nobody else to take that leadership. Do we want China as the world’s moral leader? No. We desperately want America to succeed.”Well, we--in the US and in the entire world--will find out real soon.
This isn’t just so American values triumph. With a rising China on one side and a crumbling Pakistan on the other, India’s newfound friendship with America has taken on strategic importance. “It is very worrying to live in a world that no longer has the balance of power we’ve had for 60 years,” said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express newspaper. “That is why everyone is concerned about America.”
My long term bets are always on the good ol' US of A. As Winston Churchill said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.” And with a Republican victory in the midterms, we would have exhausted everything, and we will start doing the right thing.