Obama’s Teddy Roosevelt strategy

President Obama gave a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, in which he wrapped himself in the mantle of Roosevelt.  Teddy Roosevelt, that is.  And, according to liberal columnist E. J. Dionne, laid out the strategy that will bring him re-election.

President Obama has decided that he is more likely to win if the election is about big things rather than small ones. He hopes to turn the 2012 campaign from a plebiscite about the current state of the economy into a referendum about the broader progressive tradition that made us a middle-class nation. For the second time, he intends to stake his fate on a battle for the future.

This choice has obvious political benefits to an incumbent presiding over a still-ailing economy, and it confirms Obama’s shift from a defensive approach earlier this year to an aggressive philosophical attack on a Republican Party that has veered sharply rightward. It’s also the boldest move the president has made since he decided to go all-out for health insurance reform even after the Democrats lost their 60-vote majority in the Senate in early 2010.

The president’s speech on Tuesday in Osawatomie, Kan., the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s legendary “New Nationalism” speech 101 years ago, was the Inaugural address Obama never gave. It was, at once, a clear philosophical rationale for his presidency, a straightforward narrative explaining the causes of the nation’s travails, and a coherent plan of battle against a radicalized conservatism that now defines the Republican Party and has set the tone for its presidential nominating contest.

In drawing upon TR, Obama tied himself unapologetically to a defense of America’s long progressive and liberal tradition. The Republican Roosevelt, after all, drew his inspiration from the writer Herbert Croly, whose book “The Promise of American Life” can fairly be seen as the original manifesto for modern liberalism. Thus has the tea party’s radicalism encouraged a very shrewd politician to take on a task that Democrats have been reluctant to engage since Ronald Reagan’s ascendancy.

Obama was remarkably direct in declaring that the core ideas of the progressivism advanced by Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt were right, and that the commitments of Reagan-era supply-side economics are flatly wrong. He praised TR for knowing “that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you can from whomever you can” and for understanding that “the free market only works when there are rules of the road that ensure competition is fair and open and honest.”

A White House that just a few months ago was obsessed with the political center is now not at all wary, as a senior adviser put it, of extolling “a vision that has worked for this country.” But this adviser also noted that Obama implicitly contrasted the flexibility of the Rooseveltian progressivism with the rigidity of the current brand of conservatism. The official pointed to Obama’s strong commitment to education reform, including his critique in Osawatomie of “just throwing money at education.”

“You can embrace it [the progressive tradition] if you can make the point that philosophies and political theories can evolve as facts on the ground change,” the adviser said. The liberalism Obama advocated thus contains a core of moderation that the ideology of the tea party does not. Finally, Obama has realized that the path to the doors of moderate voters passes through a wholesale critique of the immoderation of the right.

via Obama’s New Square Deal – The Washington Post.

First of all, I keep hearing Teddy Roosevelt, who was indeed a Republican,  being praised by conservatives.  But wasn’t he the leader of the ‘Progressive” movement?  Or did he represent a kind of conservatism that preserved free markets by reining in monopolies and trusts that destroy free markets?  Or what?

Second, do you see anything to prevent such a strategy of running against conservatism from working?

From hope & change to fear & loathing

Ruth Marcus (classified as a “left-leaning” columnist on the Washington Post opinion page) looks at the Democratic strategy for re-electing President Obama:

Forget hope and change. President Obama’s reelection campaign is going to be based on fear and loathing: fear of what a Republican takeover would mean, and loathing of whomever the Republican nominee turns out to be.

Of course the Obama campaign will attempt to present the affirmative case for his reelection, citing legislative achievements, foreign policy successes and the current flurry of executive actions. But his strategists have clearly concluded that selling the president will not be enough, and the contours of the ugly months ahead are becoming increasingly apparent. . . .

David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager and now a senior White House adviser, made the reelection campaign’s two-step, fear-and-loathing approach clear in an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

First, fear: “This country cannot afford to go back to the same policies,” Plouffe said, “that Mitt Romney and Rick Perry and all of these presidential candidates are offering: Let Wall Street write its own rules, make it easier for polluters to foul our air and water, and give millionaires and billionaires more tax cuts paid for by asking the middle class and seniors to do more.”

No matter who wins the Republican nomination, Plouffe said, “they’re offering the same economic policies that led to the Great Recession, that led to destruction of middle-class security in incomes.” Obama advisers plan to paint the eventual GOP nominee as a dangerous rubber stamp for a Congress controlled all, or in part, by Republicans.

Next, loathing. Obama advisers believe that Romney is the most likely nominee, and they have prepared a two-pronged attack on the former Massachusetts governor — as unprincipled and uncaring.

“He has no core,” Plouffe said in an unusually sharp attack for a White House official. “You get the sense with Mitt Romney that, you know, if he thought . . . it was good to say the sky was green and the grass is blue to win an election, he’d say it.”

Next, although Plouffe didn’t get around to it Sunday, is the planned depiction of Romney as the fat cat from Bain Capital, the heartless management consultant who bought companies, stripped their assets and sent their jobs to China.

via Campaign 2012: Welcome to the slugfest – The Washington Post.

Bailing out student loans

President Obama plans another kind of bailout:

In keeping with his new campaign theme of “we can’t wait,” President Obama today will roll out a plan to put more money in the pockets of some of the nation’s 36 million student loan recipients.

Obama has broad latitude in this area – certainly broader than the first two parts of his western campaign trip, underwater mortgages and subsidies for hiring veterans – because one of his early legislative initiatives was to have the federal government take over the student lending business in America.

Obama argued for the measure in 2009 as a cost-savings initiative, saying that the old system of privately issued, government secured loans reduced the amount of available money for needy students and also prevented the feds from making the system more efficient.

But Obama is now seeking to use that new power to obtain a taxpayer-financed stimulus that Congress won’t approve. The idea is to cap student loan repayment rates at 10 percent of a debtor’s income that goes above the poverty line, and then limiting the life of a loan to 20 years.

Take this example: If Suzy Creamcheese gets into George Washington University and borrows from the government the requisite $212,000 to obtain an undergraduate degree, her repayment schedule will be based on what she earns. If Suzy opts to heed the president’s call for public service, and takes a job as a city social worker earning $25,000, her payments would be limited to $1,411 a year after the $10,890 of poverty-level income is subtracted from her total exposure.

Twenty years at that rate would have taxpayers recoup only $28,220 of their $212,000 loan to Suzy.

The president will also allow student debtors to refinance and consolidate loans on more favorable terms, further decreasing the payoff for taxpayers.

via Obama Taps Taxpayers For Student Stimulus | Fox News.

Declaring victory and going home

We’ll be out of Iraq by Christmas.  So says the president.  The earlier plan was to withdraw nearly all of the troops but to leave behind a contingent to help keep the peace.  But the Iraqi government did not agree to that.  So the only American troops to remain in Iraq will be  couple hundred Marines to guard the embassy and some trainers, something lots of countries have.  It sounds like, after nine years, the war will really be over.

From the Washington Post:

President Obama will withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year, ending a long war that deeply divided the country over its origins and the American lives it consumed.

In a Friday morning video conference, Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to a complete U.S. military departure that will fulfill a promise important to Obama’s reelection effort. The decision drew sharp criticism from his Republican rivals, as well as expressions of relieved support from those who believe it is time for the United States to conclude a war Obama once called “dumb.”

Speaking from the White House, President Obama says, “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

Speaking from the White House, President Obama says, “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

For months, U.S. and Iraqi officials had been negotiating the terms of an accord that would have kept several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq for special operations and training beyond the year-end deadline set by the George W. Bush administration.

But Obama and Maliki, who have never developed much personal chemistry, failed to reach agreement on the legal status of U.S. troops who would stay in Iraq beyond Dec. 31. As a result, only a contingent of fewer than 200 Marines assigned to help protect the large U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad will remain, along with a small number of other personnel to provide training related to new military sales and other tasks.

“The rest of our troops in Iraq will come home,” Obama said Friday at the White House, adding that they will “be home for the holidays.”

via All U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 – The Washington Post.

Will we have a big ticker-tape celebration to welcome our troops home and celebrate our victory?  Or is this another Vietnam moment?  Will this boost President Obama’s popularity?  What do you think will happen in Iraq once we’re gone?

And now, the war in Uganda?

Our good-hearted but usually doomed attempt to right the world’s wrongs by sending in American troops to battle bad guys continues, as we send in the American military to central Africa:

President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment of up to 100 combat-equipped U.S. troops to central Africa to help hunt down the leaders of a rebel force known as the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army during a meeting with a delegation of officials and lawmakers from northern Uganda in 2006.

A senior administration official said 12 troops have been deployed so far under what he called a training mission aimed at helping African forces find and kill Joseph Kony, the fugitive head of the rebels.

The U.S. forces will deploy to Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense,” Mr. Obama said in a letter to Congress released Friday.

The U.S. deployment will include special operations forces, defense officials said. Pentagon officials noted that U.S. forces are routinely deployed to Africa for training missions.

The Lord’s Resistance Army is believed to have killed, kidnapped and mutilated tens of thousands of civilians since the 1990s. Military officials said they believed Mr. Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, and other top LRA leaders are currently hiding the Central African Republic.

via U.S. Deploys Troops in Pursuit of African Rebels – WSJ.com.

Is this liberal foreign policy?  Isn’t this neo-conservative?  Like what President Bush did?  Maybe Republicans should just vote for Obama as the most Bush-like of all alternatives.

Certainly, one can make a case for neo-conservative military interventions to support America’s moral principles.   Do you think this new military engagement is a good idea?  Or are 100 soldiers too few to constitute a military initiative?

Should Obama run for re-election?

Steven Chapman, editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune, calls upon President Obama not to run for re-election, to make way instead for a candidate associated with toughness and prosperity, namely, iHillary Clinton:

The vultures are starting to circle. Former White House spokesman Bill Burton said that unless Obama can rally the Democratic base, which is disillusioned with him, “it’s going to be impossible for the president to win.” Democratic consultant James Carville had one word of advice for Obama: “Panic.”

But there is good news for the president. I checked the Constitution, and he is under no compulsion to run for re-election. He can scrap the campaign, bag the fundraising calls and never watch another Republican debate as long as he’s willing to vacate the premises by Jan. 20, 2013.

That might be the sensible thing to do. It’s hard for a president to win a second term when unemployment is painfully high. If the economy were in full rebound mode, Obama might win anyway. But it isn’t, and it may fall into a second recession — in which case voters will decide his middle name is Hoover, not Hussein. Why not leave of his own volition instead of waiting to get the ax? . . . .

In the event he wins, Obama could find himself with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. Then he will long for the good old days of 2011. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner will bound out of bed each day eager to make his life miserable.

Besides avoiding this indignity, Obama might do his party a big favor. In hard times, voters have a powerful urge to punish incumbents. He could slake this thirst by stepping aside and taking the blame. Then someone less reviled could replace him at the top of the ticket.

The ideal candidate would be a figure of stature and ability who can’t be blamed for the economy. That person should not be a member of Congress, since it has an even lower approval rating than the president’s.

It would also help to be conspicuously associated with prosperity. Given Obama’s reputation for being too quick to compromise, a reputation for toughness would be an asset.

As it happens, there is someone at hand who fits this description: Hillary Clinton. Her husband presided over a boom, she’s been busy deposing dictators instead of destroying jobs, and she’s never been accused of being a pushover.

via Steve Chapman: Why Obama should withdraw – chicagotribune.com.

Democrats, would you just as soon President Obama didn’t run?  Republicans, would you rather he didn’t run?  Independents?

And isn’t it true that despite his low popularity ratings and the tanking economy that polls have him  STILL beating Perry, Romney, and any other of the Republican candidates?  How do you account for that?