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Works and Days

A Ten-Step Reset Regimen for the President

July 14th, 2010 - 4:33 pm

6) Either stop living up the good life or stop demonizing others who do. OK — if you believe Vegas is bad, doctors are greedy limb-loppers, insurance people are con artists, and the tea partiers unwholesome “tea-baggers,” then please no more jetting around on your private jumbo jet in times of economic crisis. Don’t serve aristocratic meals and bring in celebs for private shows. In short, the president is figuratively trying his best to talk of two nations and still live in John Edwards’s house, to lecture down in the fashion of Al Gore from his nice energy-guzzling nest, and to be a John Kerry man of the people from 11 estates. The high life and blue-collar rhetoric don’t mix. In these tough times, if Obama wants to sound like Harry Truman, then now and then live like Harry Truman rather than some zillionaire Silicon Valley geek. If he wants to sermonize like Jimmy Carter, then at least get the props right of the cardigan sweater and dialed down thermostat.

7) Please, no more “Bush did it.” Stop the daily two-minutes of hate against our new Emmanuel Goldstein. Bush is 19 months gone; no one forced President Obama to borrow $3 trillion, to nationalize health care, or to scare business with the neo-socialist talk of income-, FICA-, and health-tax increases, and government takeovers that helped send unemployment from 7% to 10%. Bush reacted to 9/11 by going into Afghanistan and passing the Patriot Act without daily blaming Clinton for his appeasing of radical Islam. Nothing so diminishes a president as the trait of scapegoating a predecessor; nothing so erodes his stature as the teenage habit of blaming someone else for one’s self-inflicted problems. Enough already. We’ve gotten to the point now that the audience cringes when Obama cites what he has done, as it mutters to itself: “Here comes the ‘Bush did it.’” And, of course, it always comes just as we feared.

8 ) No need either for more of the Muslim thing. We learned on day 1, 19 months ago, that the president would reference his Muslim heritage (e.g., “I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.”) to al Arabiya in a way that was taboo during the campaign. And after the Cairo mythmaking, the rantings of John Brennan, the new euphemisms, the “America is the problem” (e.g., “All too often the United States starts by dictating — in the past on some of these issues — and we don’t always know all the factors that are involved.” ), and the NASA lunacy, we understood that the problem is our purported not being nice to Islam rather than radical Islamists trying to kill us out of existential hatred. I would cut the Muslim therapeutics out; there is simply no need to cite your middle name as the real reason Israelis are not fond of you. None at all.

9) Don’t mention deficits, debt, spending — anything to do with money. Three trillion dollars in new debt cannot be explained or blamed away. Better simply not to mention it, and talk of cutting $10 million here and there. Every time the president speaks of the debt, he does so in the context that Bush’s $500 billion last deficit forced him to borrow $1.7 trillion, or that “stimulus” is somehow not borrowing, or that deficits seem to be good since they will gorge the beast and force higher taxes, an intrinsic redistributive good in its own right.

10) Take a breather on the green agenda. Al Gore imploded, both from revelations about his personal life and the labyrinth of his financial machinations. Climategate discredited academic finger-pointing. Promises about “skyrocketing” power bills don’t go well with a recession. The old “millions of new green jobs” wonkery is a bad joke from a college bull session. Nuclear, natural gas, clean coal, and drilling in ANWR have more resonance than subsidized wind and solar jobs at a million or so in federal subsidies each.

Will Obama adopt any of my  suggestions? No, of course not. Why? Because he is pushing an agenda that 55-70% of the American people do not want, and so it is necessary to evoke the kitchen sink to get it across: Bush did it, the oil cadre did it, racialist America, Islamophobia, “them,” a cool hip president, raise the bar — all that is a desperate (albeit doomed) way of venting, threatening, pleading, and pushing a blueprint that on its merits goes nowhere.

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