Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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The real reason Obama is "weak"

The real reason Obama is "weak"

I've seen a lot of Internet chatter recently that Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report is no longer at the top of his game (whatever that game was.) Maybe that's true. For years Drudge managed to present a version of reality that many found compelling even as that reality had, in contrast to the famous Stephen Colbert-ism, a pronounced right-wing bias. So when I saw the headline today that "Obama is chosing to be weak" and that the source was the staid Financial Times, I instinctively glanced over my right shoulder.

I should have looked to the left.

On energy, columnist Clive Crook writes:

The cap-and-trade bill is a travesty. Its net effect on short- to medium-term carbon emissions will be small to none. This is by design: a law that really made a difference would make energy dearer, hurt consumers and force an economic restructuring that would be painful for many industries and their workers. Congress cannot contemplate those effects. So the Waxman-Markey bill, while going through the complex motions of creating a carbon abatement regime, takes care to neutralise itself.

On healthcare:

The crux of the US healthcare problem is the incentives that encourage over-production and over-consumption of services. Addressing that would alter the way healthcare is paid for and delivered to all Americans. At that scary prospect, Congress looks away. Debate thus revolves around how much of an increase in coverage you can buy for $1,000bn over 10 years in subsidies and other outlays. That is a good question. But legislators aim to duck the bigger challenge: controlling long-term growth in costs per patient.

I don't know about Matt Drudge, but I happen to agree that Obama's weakness isn't taking America too far to the left, but that he's not nearly bold enough. Over the last year, watching Obama win election and take office at the same time I was writing and then promoting a book about Ronald Reagan, I've pondered the similarities and differences between the two men. Their politics are quite different, and I believe that much of Reaganism was and remains wrong-headed -- ironically, Reagan's lack of energy realism and his support for right-wing dictators in Central America continue to inform today's headlines.

But I will say this about Reagan -- he was bold when people expected him to seek the kind of soft compromises that Obama seems prone to embracing on some issues. That was most true with the Gipper's 1981 tax cut, which no one expected to pass a Democratic Congress intact but in the end pretty much did. Reagan achieved some of that by reaching out directly to the American people; I see Obama now planning this approach on healthcare but I wonder if it's too little, too late. What's more, I'm not so sure that Matt Drudge and his biggest fans really wants Obama to be that "strong."

The punchline to all of this is that tonight, Drudge has taken down the link to the Financial Times story while he plays out that Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Castro government are joining the American president in denouncing the Honduran coup, and with this headline: "Nanny State: White House announces new lighting standards." I guess he realized his mistake.

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Will Bunch
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