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Ed Driscoll

Meet the New Tone, Same as the Old Tone

February 21st, 2011 - 8:53 am

“Why Obama and the Dems Blundered in Wisconsin,” as explored by Richard Pollock on the Pajamas homepage:

It will take time to unearth exactly who designed and sold the Wisconsin strategy to the president. But what is emerging is that the White House may have developed two strategies for 2011, not one. The first track, clear to us all, was for the president to tack to the right on the national stage, seek the statesmanlike high road, and negotiate deals with national Republicans.

The second strategy, now emerging, was to pick a target outside the beltway that could serve as a broad political narrative, attack it, nationalize it, and use it to rally his demoralized political base. It was a bold strategy. They choose Madison, Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-tightening initiative, and his effort to rein in public employee unions. They further decided to let loose angry union members to serve as shock troops. Wisconsin would be the first test case, which would be replicated in other Midwest states, including Ohio, Indiana, and Idaho.

The plan seems to have been born both within the war room of the Democratic National Committee and within the Oval Office. The overall coordination for the operation was the remnants of the president’s 2008 political campaign organization, Organizing for America (OFA). The strategy would be launched by the DNC and by the president, who, during the height of the Egyptian crisis, incongruously granted an exclusive interview to a Milwaukee TV reporter over union policy. While Cairo burned, he took time to decry a Wisconsin governor’s effort to rein in the budget and limit union benefits. Shaping the narrative for the attack, he said that Gov. Scott Walker’s effort “seems like more of an assault on unions.”

The Wisconsin political blitzkrieg on Gov. Walker was not a spontaneous eruption. It is now clear that it was a highly organized operation planned in Washington, D.C., to unleash a national counterattack on the gains made by Republicans and Tea Party activists. Getting OFA and the president to act in close coordination was itself no small feat. The plan included busing in thousands of government employees, arranging for Democratic lawmakers to flee to an adjoining state, flying speakers and political organizers into Madison, organizing thousands to leave their jobs in public safety and in classrooms, and staging rallies inside and outside the statehouse. They even enticed sympathetic doctors to draft  bogus doctor excuses for government workers.

It all worked like a charm. Except that it struck all the wrong notes and portrayed all the wrong images. There is nothing more unseemly that to see a president serve as healer in Tucson and a political hack in Madison.

“Something weird happens when presidencies go wrong,” John Podhoretz wrote in September:

Presidents become incompetent at doing the things they were always able to do in their sleep, and their aides follow suit. I noted this when I wrote my first book, Hell of a Ride, about the decline and fall of the first President Bush, back in 1993. When Bush spoke, it rained, and his advancemen weren’t quick-thinking enough to move his events indoors. When he went to Japan on a state visit, he vomited.

Obama is heading in that direction right now.

I’d say the president’s train wreck has arrived on schedule, when this latest miscalculation has caused even stalwart leftists such as Joe Klein to notice, along with political cartoonist Phil Hands, who writes:

This debate over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill has been difficult for me. I have progressive values. I believe in gay marriage, I believe in mass transit, I believe in global climate change, I believe in abortion rights, I believe in urban planning and I believe in a single payer health care system. But on the issue of public employee compensation and the role that their unions play in our government, I find myself siding with conservatives.

And similarly, Newsweek veteran Evan Thomas has gone from manic to depressive over the president — Obama was “sort of God” as late as June 2009 and a year and half later is reduced to being a fiscal “Profile in Cowardice,” as Noel Sheppard writes at Newsbusters.

Of course, on another level, none of this should truly be a surprise — because “That’s What Community Organizers Do,” Victor Davis Hanson reminds us.

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