Obama Faces Temptations in France; Cain Raises Stakes
Obama’s Re-Election Strategy Threatened by Euro Bailout
“Someone said to me the other day, ‘You know his slogan should be GM is alive and Bin Laden is dead.’”
-- Obama senior political adviser David Axelrod talking to the Washington Times about the president’s accomplishments.
President Obama has reversed his late-summer slide by getting Democrats back together with a relentless repetition of attacks on House Republicans and the use of the word “jobs.”
When Democrats argue that turning a Civil War fort into a historic monument and a proposal to give free diapers to poor mothers are jobs actions, the message is getting through. It may be over the top, but it’s been a big part of getting Obama back to treading water instead of sinking.
Today’s new Quinnipiac University poll tells the tale – Obama is back to 47 percent job approval and 49 percent disapproval. That’s up 6 points from last month and about where he was before he started his late-summer swoon and fairly typical of his performance since the great hope bubble burst in the spring of 2009.
Obama is a 47 percent president because America is about a 47 percent Democratic or Democrat-leaning country and they’re sticking with their guy. The electorate is about 40 percent Republican or Republican-minded, but the GOP often wins national elections because the folks who really are in the middle can often be persuaded to go with the Red Team.
The economy stinks, Obama’s only major accomplishment of his term, a national health law, remains direly unpopular and voters have no confidence in the federal government to make things better. Given those circumstances, Obama’s best hope is to keep the Blue Team lined up on his side of the field and hope that his campaign juggernaut can disqualify whomever the Republicans nominate, depress turnout among independents and claw his way to victory in a dispiriting campaign.
Given the current condition of the GOP frontrunners, it’s not a crazy strategy. And given Obama’s missteps in his first three years, uniting the left by attacking the right (and the rich) may be the only one available to him. He did another round of interviews with swing state TV stations on Tuesday and relied on talking points in a way that would have made George W. Bush blush. To save his skin, the president once celebrated by his supporters for his intellect and nuance has opted to become a human sound bite loop.
But today, Obama is off to France, where he will face tremendous temptation.
Europe’s economic union and currency are failing. The current crisis is because the Greek prime minister has decided to have a referendum on the most recent bailout package designed by the rest of the continent to minimize the consequences of an inevitable Greek default. France and Germany want to do with Greece what Obama did with General Motors.
If the Greeks refuse the plan which trades a 50 percent forgiveness of debt for surrendering fiscal autonomy to their wealthier neighbors to the north, it would mean having Greece leave the common currency in order to revive and then immediately devalue the drachma to pay off dear money with cheap cash.
That would be a blow to the already anemic European financial sector, which improvidently lent the Greeks lots of money despite an obviously unsustainable fiscal path. That blow would be felt in U.S. credit markets and further constrain lending already hampered by economic and regulatory uncertainty.
It also might mean the end of the euro as the other fiscal basket cases in the EU, like Italy and Spain, would be tempted to follow suit and print their way out of debt rather than accept Teutonic fiscal governance.
So Greek failure is a big deal for America’s most important trading partner, which is a big deal for us. But when a country of 10 million people with a GDP about the size of Maryland’s can cause such international anxiety, one gets a sense of how close to the edge of the financial abyss the world is.
Obama is going to France for a meeting of the leaders of the 20 largest economies in the world. It’s unhappy timing to have the meeting not only in the midst of the European meltdown but right there in Cannes, on the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, the symbolic ocean of red ink from southern Europe’s entitlement culture.
Since the original European plan was predicated on an international rescue fund organized by the IMF, the chance of an uncontrolled default only increases the urgency of the Eurocrats to secure international aid.
China is volunteering to back a loan package in a bid to enhance their status in the International Monetary Fund (where the U.S. is currently the only nation with veto power) and to get favorable terms from desperate debtors. But the U.S. will have to go along if there is to be a deal.
The Federal Reserve has already been bailing a bit by providing currency swaps in which we take scrofulous euros in exchange for healthier dollars. It’s a loser for the Fed, but helps shore up the Europeans. However, much more will be needed.
Funding a bailout for Europeans and European banks that made demonstrably foolish decisions is not exactly a political winner. If you thought American voters hated bailing out Citibank, wait until they hear about bailing out BNP Paribas and Societe Generale. Mon Dieu!
But Obama fears that a EU crackup will kick off the second recessionary wave that everyone has been dreading, so the temptation to kick the can on debt will be powerful. Plus, Obama loves these kinds of world meetings in which he, first among equals, can swashbuckle through international crises. It doesn’t always work out (remember the disaster at the global warming summit in Copenhagen), but it’s the kind of thing the president likes to do.
But if there’s any way to break up the rediscovered Democratic unity, it will be for Obama to get off his talking points and start explaining why a deeply indebted America should take on more debt and then give the money away to prop up Europe.
Race Based Defense Tricky For Cain
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Do you think that race, being a strong black conservative, has anything to do with the fact you've been so charged? And if so, do you have any evidence to support that?"
HERMAN CAIN: "I believe the answer is yes, but we do not have any evidence to support it. But because I am an unconventional candidate running an unconventional campaign and achieving some unexpected unconventional results in terms of my -- the poll. We believe that yes, there are some people who are Democrats, liberals who do not want to see me win the nomination.
We may soon be hearing from at least one of Herman Cain’s accusers from his days as the head of the National Restaurant Association lobbying group. She’s trying to get out of her non-disclosure deal so she can tell her side of the story now that Cain has told his.
With Cain having laid down the gantlet to the Washington press corps and declared himself innocent of any wrongdoing, the credibility of his accusers is very much at issue. Were they sincere in their concerns or just trolling for severance cash? Did they have chips on their shoulders or were they understandably shocked? Cain has depicted a circumstance in which a miscommunication about a hand gesture led to one of the claims. What does she say happened?
The New York Times reports that she was paid a year’s severance pay -- $35,000 – for the incident. That’s not a ton of money for dispatching such a claim in corporate America – even a baseless one -- but maybe a bit more than rock-bottom pricing.
Cain’s campaign will rise or fall on whether there was any truth to the allegations against him. He’s laid it on the line, and now an army of reporters is working to prove him wrong.
But Cain has also opted to invoke his race as the reason for the media feeding frenzy, asking supporters in a fundraising email to help stop a “lynching” and telling the panel on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that liberal loathing for conservative blacks is behind his current troubles.
Sexual harassment charges having ever been leveled at any Republican candidate would be a big story, but Cain says that it’s been worse because he is black. Many Republicans agree, believing that there is special disdain among Democrats and the liberal media for the few African Americans who leave the party’s ranks.
But playing the race card is always dangerous territory, even if it is rightfully cast. While it is one thing to do as Rep. Allen West and other black conservatives have done and call for the end of black voters’ time on the “Democratic plantation” it is something else to say that you are suffering because of the color of your skin. It’s powerful stuff in American politics, but it can be explosive.
Barack Obama succeeded on the Democratic side by making his race indirectly an issue, and always as a positive. But when Bill Clinton tried to write of Obama’s 2008 success in South Carolina as a racial thing, it prompted a massive backlash against America’s “first black president.” Bubba was using his wife’s whiteness as an excuse for her poor showing in South Carolina, but it was still using the race card in self-defense and it was a disaster.
While it helps Cain that so many conservatives make the racial argument for him, invoking Clarence Thomas’ ordeal and the paternalistic racism that has often marred the left, he is taking a chance when he makes the argument himself.