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Is Obama a Political Genius?
(Or Was he Just in the Right Place, at the Right Time in ’08?)

During the fall campaign and into the first months of Barack Obama’s Administration we heard much about this Democrat’s “political genius.”  And while I credit him with a powerful presence and a way with words (especially when speaking those appearing on a teleprompter), after watching his first eight months in office, I don’t see much evidence of that genius.

In the campaign, he had precisely the right slogan for the time, “change.”  During the financial crisis, he demonstrated the right demeanor for the job at hand, calmness (especially in contrast to the erratic behavior of his rival for the White House).

But, as President, few of his moves seem particularly skillful.  He had outsourced the drafting of his Administration’s policy initiatives to Congress.  And when they present their packages to them, he often just puts his stamp of approval on them, even if he had little say in their drafting.  He may increasingly come to be seen as a creature of Congress.  And those folks aren’t particularly popular.

I just wonder why he, like his predecessor, constantly caves into the legislative branch, not asserting his executive authority, particularly when he was polling (in his first few weeks in office) in the stratosphere.  Can you imagine how he would have flummoxed Republicans, if when Democrats presented him with the $787 billion “stimulus,” he had said that he understood Republican concerns about the cost and thought they should send him a new bill, including only expenditures for the current fiscal year and promised to revisit the other provisions of the bill should they become necessary.  (And if they sent back the same bill or one with only slight modifications, well, he’d veto it.)

He might not have secured all the handouts to favored interest groups, but he would have defined himself as a powerful force in Washington and appeared to be the man he claimed to be in his campaign.  And might even have a few Republicans praising him for standing up to a spendthrift Congress, while winning media accolades for listening to Republicans.

And showing strength by offering to veto a big spending bill.

Does Any Other Freshman Senator Have Ratings This Low?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 8:58 pm - September 21, 2009.
Filed under: Congress (111th),Mean-spirited leftists

41% of Minnesota Voters Give Franken Positive Ratings

H/t RealClearPolitics blog where Kyle Trygstad offers, “After just three months in office, nearly one-third of voters say Franken is performing poorly.”  Independent voters are evenly divided, with 34% giving Franken positive ratings and the same number saying he is doing a poor job.  Wonder if the former funny man is doing so poorly because of his nasty nature or maybe it’s not him, it’s just a general discontent with Congress.

Wait, that can’t be it.  “Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters give” the state’s senior Senator Amy Klobuchar “good or excellent ratings.

Maybe it’s just that living voters just aren’t comfortable backing a man who owes his victory to dead voters, er, pardon my political incorrectness, the formerly living.

Americans not warming to big government

Since President Obama took office in January, every poll (I’ve seen) measuring popular support on the relative levels of federal spending shows a substantial majority or considerable plurality preferring reducing the size of the government to increasing expenditures.  The latest Gallup poll confirms what we’ve been observing these past eight months (and even before):

57% of Americans say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals, and 45% say there is too much government regulation of business. Both reflect the highest such readings in more than a decade.

Frank Newport, who wrote Gallup’s analysis of these statistics notes that the

57% level of public concern about big government in this survey is, among other things, coincident with an extensively increased government involvement in the economy, and the extensive focus on a large-scale government effort to reform healthcare that was underway as this survey was being conducted.

So, it does seem the Tea Parties represent a genuine grassroots movement, representing the real concerns of Americans.

In a second question, a plurality (45%) though there was too much government regulation of business and industry whereas 24% thought there was too little.  Of those, Newport notes that all “of the change [since the September 2008 poll] in the ‘too much regulation’ direction came among Republicans and independents.”  A sign that Republicans and independents are now moving in the same direction.  And a reminder to Republicans to return to those ideas the Gipper championed in his political career (in which he never lost an election to a Democrat). (more…)

In re: NEA Scandal, What Wasn’t Recorded?
(At NEA & other agencies)

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 6:18 pm - September 21, 2009.
Filed under: Blogging,Democratic Scandals,New Media

As we bloggers pore over the tape and transcripts showing Obama Administration officials attempting to use the National Endowment for the Arts to further its political ends, I got to wondering how much of this politicking goes on in the various departments and agencies of the federal government that has not been recorded?

I’m betting there is a lot of this going on in the Obama Administration.   Only this time, someone with access to conservative media was in on the call.

UPDATE:  I expect to blog on this matter later today, but the thought just struck me as I was reading the blogs and the web and preparing my posts for the day.

UP-UPDATE:  Best stuff I’ve read so far is Roger Kimball’s piece on the renaming of the NEA as the National Endowment for Propaganda (via Glenn) and John Hinderaker’s long post (but well worth your time).*  Like me, John wonders why Buffy Wicks (of the Orwellian-sounding Office of Public Engagement) hasn’t been let go or reassigned:

First, if Yosi Sergant was “reassigned” for sending out the email [announcing the call], how about Ms. Wicks? The NEA’s reassignment of Sergant was an acknowledgement that the effort by a government agency to enlist artists in support of a partisan agenda was improper. The NEA’s mild disciplinary action suggests that the call was the action of a relatively low-level employee who got carried away. But it wasn’t. It was sponsored by the White House and was led by the deputy to one of President Obama’s closest friends and advisers. This was no marginal, rogue operation. It was, rather, an element of Barack Obama’s political strategy.

Second, the operation may well have been illegal. Public funds are not supposed to be expended to support partisan projects. Beyond that, it is unconstitutional to grant or deny federal funds on the basis of the recipient’s political actions or opinions.National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley.  The NEA is the single largest funder of the arts, and several participants in the August 10 conference call had recently received NEA checks. It would have been entirely reasonable for those on the phone call to conclude that future NEA funding could be influenced by their willingness to play ball with the Obama administration’s political agenda.

My expectation is that Buffy’s will be soon joining Van Jones in the nonprofit sector.  As Mr. Sergant’s reassignment should be to a job where he is not on the public payroll.  Conservatives should not let up until the White House says bye, bye to Buffy.

UP-UP-UPDATE:  Talented artist Jude (I’ve heard him sing, really quite good) offers:

This whole administration really needs to stop campaigning and start governing within the boundaries set for government within our society. . . .

These people don’t play by the rules because they believe they are right and the rest of us be damned.  Or, they may not even know they’re not supposed to be doing this stuff and just think they’re running the high school now, so there.

Read the whole thing!

*And I’ve only just begun to scan the blogs.

The Contract From America

This was a grassroots-generated concept springing from this year’s Tea Parties across the USA. [Emphasis added by me below.]

We, the citizens of the United States of America, in order to protect our country from those who seek power and authoritarian control under the false guise of compassion and altruism, call upon our elected representatives to sign this Contract and by doing so commit to upholding the principles herein:

Individual Liberty

Our moral, political, and economic liberties are inherent, not gifts from the government. It is essential to the practice of these liberties that we be free from restriction over our peaceful political expression and free from excessive control over our economic choices.

Limited Government

The purpose of our government is to protect our liberties by administering justice and ensuring our safety from threats arising inside or outside our country’s sovereign borders. When our government ventures beyond these functions and attempts to increase its power over the marketplace and the economic decisions of individuals, our liberties are diminished and the probability of corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty increases.

Economic Freedom

The most powerful, proven instrument of material and social progress is the free market. The market economy, driven by the accumulated expressions of individual economic choices, is the only economic system that preserves and enhances individual liberty. Any other economic system, regardless of its intended pragmatic benefits, undermines our fundamental rights as free people.

I’ve signed up.  You should too.  And take it to your Member of Congress to sign.

-Bruce (GayPatriot) White House Uses Taxpayer Funded
Nat’l Endowment for the Arts To Advance Political Agenda

Here’s the news Dan was referring to earlier today.

The NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] and the White House did encourage a handpicked, pro-Obama arts group to address politically controversial issues under contentious national debate. That fact is irrefutable.

This practice has never been the historical role of the NEA. The NEA’s role is to support excellence in the arts, to increase access to the arts, and to be a leader in arts education. Using the arts to address contentiously debated issues is political subversion. And the fact that the White House played a role in encouraging the arts to address contentious issues should also be considered a government overreach.

Three days after the conference call a coalition of arts groups, led by Americans for the Arts, a participant on the conference call per the meeting contact list and recipient of NEA grants, sent out a press release with the heading “Urgent Call to Congress for Healthcare Reform,” which called for the creation of “a health care reform bill that will create a public health insurance option.” Eleven days after the conference call, Rock the Vote, another participant on the call, announced a health care design contest. “We can’t stand by and listen to lies and deceit coming from those who are against reforming a broken system,” they stated in their announcement. “Enough is Enough. We need designs that tell the country YES WE CARE! Young people demand health care.”

These may both be coincidences and I am not suggesting that the NEA or these groups definitively violated the law in these efforts. That’s for others to discuss and investigate. As I’ve stated in various television interviews, the organizers never discussed any specific policies.

Oh.. NOW I UNDERSTAND.  It is Andrew Breitbart and his team that are doing those jobs that the American mainstream media won’t do.

People will go to jail over this corruption. It is just a question of who and how deep within the White House.

UPDATE: BigHollywood’s Nick Gillespie adds:

It’s ironic that official attempts to use artists have come to light only weeks before the 20th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of the German Democratic Republic, a regime that spent an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources creating fake culture to bolster its political agenda. “Official” culture is always unseemly, especially when the connections between officials and the ostensible creators are hidden from the audience.

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

Fasten your seat belts, Breitbart promises MSM a bumpy week

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 2:36 am - September 21, 2009.
Filed under: Blogging,Media Bias

Those who read conservative (and libertarian) blogs know by now, Andrew Breitbart, who through his website released the videos which drew the corruption at ACORN to the attention of the nation, says we should preepare for a “blockbuster” “from left field” next week.

Patterico thinks it will involve the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) where an Obama appointee was caught “seeking to use government funds to promote Obama administration initiatives.”  That the leading post on Big Hollywood (as I write this post) is a “Pregame report” on the “NEA Conference Call” does seem to bear him out.

No wonder Tom Maguire is in Patterico’s camp, speculating that we might “be treated to tapes of undercover reporters posing as artists and proposing over the top Obama-boosting ‘art’ to enthusiastically nodding NEA grant directors.”  Mickey Kaus, while calling ACORN a bad apple, offers that it’s “apparently not another” story about the controversial left-wing organization.

Whatever it is, I share Patterico’s prediction that just “as the media was caught flatfooted by the ACORN scandal, so too will they be rocked back on their heels by the next bombshell.

As Jim Hoft says, “get the popcorn.”  Fasten your seat belts fellows, it’s going to be a bumpy week.  And far bumpier for the MSM than it will be for bloggers.  So, let’s let Bette help get us ready:

Obama’s Cowboy Foreign Policy

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 2:35 am - September 21, 2009.
Filed under: Bush-hatred,Politics abroad

Recall how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took an inaccurately-translated reset button to her first meeting with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Obama Administration’s foreign policy was going to be different from that the previous Administration. Unlike Bush, Obama wasn’t going to go it alone, but instead engage in “smart diplomacy” and cooperate more closely with other world leaders.

Of course, that notion was premised, in large part, on the falsehood that the former President did not have good working relationships with world leaders.

And now, it sometimes seems his entire foreign policy is based on the premise that everything his predecessor did was wrong and must be undone.  Even when our predecessor had been worked closely with our allies on certain issues.

Scrap a missile-defense agreement with eastern European allies that Bush had signed, as if he wouldn’t offend those allies who also signed it.  The negotiations carried out between our government and theirs don’t really matter because, well, you see, the team of a bad man with a go-it-alone foreign policy, worked out the details of those agreements.  And since the American people elected Obama, well, past agreements don’t matter much any more.  Even those made with some of our most steadfast allies.

Obama seems to have developed a foreign policy whose twin premises are (1) whatever my predecessor did was wrong and (2) it’s better to appease our enemies than our allies.

And despite the President’s charismatic presence and fawning press abroad, his strategy doesn’t seem to have yielded much in the way of results: (more…)

Why President Should Focus on Economy

Nearly two weeks ago, I suggested the President let go of his fixation on overhauling of the nation’s health care system and focus in the economy.  If he did so, I argued, he’d reverse his slide in the polls and leave Republicans clueless.

Now, a recent helps to confirm my hypothesis.  In the FoxNews poll I referenced on Friday, 76% of voters thought “fixing the economy and creating jobs” should be a “higher priority for the federal government” than reforming health care.  Only 12% thought health care should be the priority.  (H/t to Jennifer Rubin for highlighting this statistic.)

Rubin also seems to think voters may want the President to focus on job creation:

Obama wants to talk health care, but voters in 42 states may wonder why he isn’t talking about jobs: “Forty-two states and the District of Columbia lost jobs last month, confirming that the nation’s labor market continues to deteriorate even as more ‘green shoots’ are sighted in other areas of the economy. Fourteen states and the District suffered double-digit jobless rates in August as the unemployment rate increased in 27 states and the nation’s capital, the Labor Department reported Friday. As a result, states whose budgets have been battered by soaring unemployment, rising social spending and collapsing tax revenues took another big hit in August even as the nation appeared to be climbing out of recession.”

Here on the West Coast, nearly 1 out of every 8 Californians are out of work.  I wonder if our junior Senator, who is up for re-election next year, has any plans is currently pushing any policies designed to increase employment in her jurisdiction.  On her home-page, she links a video promoting Hate Crimes Prevention, but has nothing on jobs.   (more…)