The recent terror attack in Boston is tragic on many fronts -- for the victims, for the now-anxious city, and for those who celebrate our open and tolerant society.
Politically, too, the bombings take a toll. For President Obama, a renewed focus on terrorism further distracts the country from the bold liberal agenda proposed in his State of the Union Address earlier this year.
As he struggles to lead the country through this most recent assault, the president must be wondering how he can regain his post-election momentum. It won’t be easy.
The White House has been drained by numerous defections and legislative defeats, sapping the momentum of Mr. Obama’s second term.
Whispers suggest the unthinkable: President Obama is already on the shelf.
Barely two months into his second term, President Obama’s approval ratings have tumbled into negative territory, with 48% of the country disapproving of his performance compared to 47% who give him a thumbs-up. While it is not uncommon for an incumbent to see his polls nosedive after reelection, Mr. Obama’s downturn is worse than that suffered by George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, who was famously embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Events beyond Mr. Obama’s control have sidetracked him from his to-do list, and from the issues that matter most to voters.
The terrible slaughter at Newtown thrust him into fiercely advocating gun control, which appealed to many voters but proved politically toxic.
The bipartisan defeat of proposed gun safety legislation in the Senate incensed the president, who delivered a withering critique of the failed vote. Not only did the legislation go down in flames; Mr. Obama’s leadership credentials surely suffered as well.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court hearings vaulted same-sex marriage onto the front page, and Mr. Obama has “evolved,” but few will credit the tardy president with having led the equality chorus.
Immigration reform looms larger in the country’s psyche – some 70% of the country favors resolution of this national embarrassment -- but the president has been sidelined as Congress has led the crucial debate. Like the senior without a prom date, Mr. Obama awaits the call.
Meanwhile, in coming months voters will begin to realize the ill effects of ObamaCare, now rumbling menacingly forward.
The popular aspects of the bill (like being able to keep children on your policy) are in place, but have largely failed to impress voters. A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 42% of those surveyed oppose the bill, compared to only 36% that supports it. Even Democrats have soured on the measure; last November 72% embraced the legislation; today only 57% have a favorable view.
This is not unexpected.
The Obama White House did an excellent job of keeping bad news about ObamaCare off the front page in the run-up to the election. These days, the soaring costs of private insurance (in California Blue Cross is proposing a premium hike of 26% and elsewhere companies are being warned that costs could double in coming years), the imposition of hefty new taxes to cover the cost of expanding our health care safety net, the likelihood that your policy will have to be rewritten to comply with top-down rules, the rising cost of insurance exchanges, worsening news on the bill’s overall expense – in short, the inevitable consequences of trying to corral one sixth of the economy are coming home to roost.
As Americans discover the mess their president has visited upon them, they will come to view ObamaCare as the ultimate act of hubris. Even one of the bill’s architects, Senator Jay Rockefeller, recently described the healthcare law as “beyond comprehension.”
Only an academic with no real world experience could imagine that bureaucrats could successfully manage such a giant part of our economy; only an academic who never studied the rise and fall of the Soviet Union.
Republicans will be quick to remind voters as we approach the midterm elections that President Obama spent his political capital pushing this legacy-building law, instead of adopting measures that might have rebooted our economy. Even today, he is focused on anything and everything but the issue which still matters most – jobs.
Instead, he continues to push an agenda primarily focused on wealth redistribution, which is the unifying theme behind his recently unveiled budget.
The president calls for higher taxes – again – completely indifferent to the notion that tax hikes penalize growth. Unfortunately (and unexpectedly) for the president, the back and forth about the Sequester seriously undermined his credibility on federal budgets.
Thanks to the efforts of Senator Tom Coburn, among others, Americans were introduced to the inexhaustible lunacies supported by our bloated federal spending.
The president’s argument that outlays could not be reeled in without starving our young and closing down our airports was exposed for the drivel it is.
Meanwhile, President Obama has adopted a novel approach – talking to the opposition. After four years of “I won” hauteur, the president has actually dined with Republicans. In a follow-up gesture, he even incorporated into his budget a modest change in Social Security benefits that was widely endorsed by anyone with a calculator and a hope of keeping our entitlement programs from sinking the nation.
That minor gesture towards fiscal sanity has set the left howling. A recent article in the New York Times envisions a liberal challenger emerging in time for the 2016 race. Republicans would rejoice to see harmonious Democrats revert to their fractious mean, but it won’t do Obama’s standing any good.
Had Mr. Obama followed President Clinton by tacking right earlier – after his bruising midterm “comeuppance” -- and had he adopted proposals designed to beef up demand, the economy might be pulling free and putting millions back to work. With that wind at his back, the president would have enjoyed smoother sailing in his second term.
He had a shot. Instead, he may soon be tagged as lame duck. If it quacks like a lame duck…