Great victories don’t always equal great electoral success

Screen cap from Real Clear PoliticsWords, I’ve found, are completely inadequate to describe some things. That includes my feelings when I found out, May 1, that Osama bin Laden is dead. It wasn’t really joy – I’ve yet to feel that over the death of anyone – but it wasn’t sadness, either. It was somewhere in between melancholy, peace and pride. I was sad for all of those who have suffered because of bin Laden’s evil, at peace knowing he could hurt no one else, and proud of my country and my military for making sure that was the case.

The past few days have been maddening, watching those on the left and right spin this for their own benefit, using it to validate their point of view and invalidate the other. Those angles have all been covered, I’m sure, by people who are much more interested in that kind of thing than I am. But there is one thing I don’t believe I’ve seen addressed.

The question was posed – in several places – Does this ensure Obama’s re-election in 2012. I think the answer is “Not necessarily.” Recent history bears that out.

In early 1991, after the liberation of Kuwait, George H.W. Bush’s job approval ratings skyrocketed up to nearly 90%. It didn’t last long. Soon thereafter, as they economy soured, so did the public’s opinion of him. By ’92 unemployment hit 7.8% and his approval was down to 40%. In 1993 he was out of a job, replaced by Bill Clinton.

It was the same for his son, George W. Bush. The United States invaded Afghanistan after 9/11 and Bush’s approval ratings skyrocketed to about 85%.  But a slow, steady declined followed and by the time the U.S. entered Iraq it was down to 60% and Bush just eked out re-election against John Kerry. By the time hurricanes Katrina and Rita had ravaged the country, his job approval was in the 40s.

All of that hardly makes Barack Obama’s current 51.3% approval rating seem unbeatable. His undoing as president could be the same as it was for H.W. Bush. In the words of James Carville – during the Clinton campaign – “The economy, stupid.”

–QCFM

Debt fight! A game of honor and dimplomacy!

"...Debt fight! Tensions are high. Debt fight! Eye for eye.

I thought I might make a list of things I’m looking forward to over the next few weeks than I am the fight over the federal budget and our national debt. But that was taking too long, so I decided to make a list of things I’m dreading more than the budget/debt fight. But, I couldn’t come up with anything.

President Obama gave his speech outlining his deficit-reduction plan today, after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) gave the GOP version. Commence finger pointing and name calling. Each side is accusing the other of not being serious about debt reduction. “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” said Obama. “The American people will not stand for (raising the debt limit) unless it is accompanied by serious action to reduce our deficit,” countered Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).

Both the Republican Democrat plans estimate they can shave about $4 billion off the debt over the next 10-12 years, but – of course – they have very different ideas about how to get there. Both of those plans – also of course – cling to traditional party ideologies. Boehner was very revealing on Sean Hannity’s radio show this afternoon, claiming he did the best he could for his “team” during the negotiations to keep the government from shutting down last week and he’ll keep fighting for his team. It’d be nice if he was fighting for Americans, but whatever.

The Tanned One told Hannity that they won’t budge of tax cuts, a stance for which he was praised. Hannity frequently claims he wants an “all hands on deck” strategy when it comes to energy policy, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and green energies in working toward energy independence. He clearly doesn’t believe in the same approach when it comes to the deficit. None of the Republicans do, apparently. At a time when both sides agree it’s time to get “serious” about fixing our debt problem, it’s a shame Republicans are willing to take options off the table.

Raising taxes doesn’t have to be “soaking the rich,” as the Republicans call it. A small increase to the upper-level income earners can be a key piece of balancing our budget, and we don’t have to look any farther back than the Clinton administration. The top tax rate then – when we last had a balanced budget – was 39.6%. Under Obama it’s currently about 35%. Pushing it back up4.6% is hardly a soaking, especially when you consider it was 43.5% under Bush and went from 69.13% to 50% between 1981 and 1986 under Ronald Reagan. From there it went to 38.5% – close to the Clinton-era number – before falling to 28% over Reagan’s final 13 months.

But that alone isn’t going to fix things. Spending cuts are needed across the board, and it’s hard to imagine there should be any sacred cows right now. Democrats need to give some ground on Social Security, unemployment/welfare benefits, Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans need to allow meaningful cuts to our defense budget. World military expenditures reached an estimated $1.531 trillion in 2009. The U.S. was responsible for 46.5%. The next highest country was China, at 6.6%. In fact, you can add the expenditures of China, France, the U.K. and Russia and only come up with 18.1% Heck, add the next 10 countries to that total and you won’t equal what the U.S. spends on defense.

Defense, Social Security, unemployment/welfare, Medicare and Medicaid. That’s approximately 75.48% of the budget. None of them have to suffer too much if all of them suffer a little.

But there’s one big problem: 2012. There’s a big election coming and this fight over the deficit is going to be a prelude to what should be a particularly nasty election season. This will be all about team, not country. Don’t doubt that.

–QCFM

P.S. — If you don’t know where the title of this blog post came from, watch this: “Bat Fight,” on Funny or Die.

Lecturing…or as some call it, pleading

I make no secrets that, in my political soul searching during the George W. Bush administration, I have found myself to be a bit left-of-center. But I also strive to be an independent, non-partisan thinker, weighing each issue, each candidate, each vote I cast, on its individual merits. Think it’s easy?

No. It’s not. In an attempt to stay well-informed on both sides of the issues, I make it a point to consume both liberal and conservative media. The problem with that? Sometimes I get whiplash from having my head jerked from left to right so fast. Last night was a prime example.

President Obama literally walked across the street to extend an olive branch to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Feb. 7. The president and the chamber don’t see eye to eye, you see. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent more than $30 million in the last election, 93% of it – according to the New York Times – supported Republicans or criticized their opponents. This was a lion’s den of sorts for Obama.

Rachel Maddow blog screenshot

So how’d it go? Depends on who you ask. First, I watched The Rachel Maddow Show, where she told me that Obama, “true to his style, did not say that anybody was wrong. …The president is on the other side of the Chamber in this, but he is not calling them his opponent, let alone, his enemy.  Can the president win a fight that he‘s refusing to pick?”

Screenshot from The Blaze. Same story, different take. Like, really different.

Wow. So the big guy took it easy on the Chamber, huh? That’s what I thought, until I got online to look at Glenn Beck’s news Web site The Blaze. That’s where I found this headline waiting for me: “‘Get in the game’: Obama lectures Chamber of Commerce on ‘mutual responsibility.'” The article tells me that

“…the president’s remarks seemed to demonstrate a continuing divide between the president and the business community. Throughout the course of his speech, the President stressed that businesses owe certain responsibilities to the nation.”

The Blaze’s commenters were more direct. Calling Obama’s speech a veiled threat, without the veil.

There you have it. President Obama lectured and threatened the U.S. Chamber of Commerce while, at the same time, pleading with them and refusing to pick a fight.

Whiplash, y’all. Who got it right? Neither of them, I’m sure. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle…and I’d find it if my neck wasn’t so sore.

–QCFM