Troubles For Both Obama And GOP

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - November 02, 2011

A year before the 2012 presidential election, a generic Republican presidential candidate defeats Hawaii-born Barack Obama in his bid for a second term.

According to, that generic Republican wins by 1.2 percent of the vote.

How can that margin be so thin?

The country’s unemployment rate froze at 9.1 percent more than a year ago and hasn’t budged since.

Obama’s job-approval rating stands at 43.8 percent, a number that usually spells defeat for an incumbent president.

The problem for the Grand Old Party is twofold.

First, no one named “Generic” will be running against Obama in 2012. The Republican name on the presidential line will be Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich or Michele Bachmann.

Only Romney gets close; very close, he’s 1.2 percent behind Obama.

Second, Obama finds victory in the congressional approval rating in the same polls: a miserable 12.7 percent. And for the past three years Congress, in voters’ minds, has most often meant those 40 senators intent on filibustering anything championed by Obama since his swearing-in healthcare reform, stimulus funding, regulation of the banks, you name it, and Republican senators have threatened to talk it to death in order to ensure that Obama is a one-term president.

Since the 2010 elections, Congress also has meant the ascendancy of Tea Party in Republican ranks, a group of newly elected members who this past summer turned a routine hike in the debt ceiling into an attempt to dismantle the federal government.

That said, Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike should read Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President (hardcover, $29.99).

It will prove a most uncomfortable read for partisans of Barack Obama, and a “we-told-you-so” 482 pages for Republicans.

Independents will undoubtedly shake their heads in disgust.

Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former national affairs writer for the The Wall Street Journal, writes of a charismatic young president with no administrative experience faced with the America’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

In Suskind’s telling, Obama didn’t handle it well. He relied on an economic team led by National Economic Council chairman Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, both captives of the belief that the Wall Street banking houses, however profligate and irresponsible, however culpable in bringing down the nation’s economy, were “too big to fail” or, in any meaningful way, even to regulate.

Confidence in the banks had to be maintained. None could be allowed, as former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker counseled, to fail for fear that depositors and investors would lose confidence in them.

Nor could they be nationalized, as Sweden had done in a similar banking crisis. Confidence, again, was the issue.

So Main Street suffered, the ranks of the unemployed grew, Wall Street received its bailout, investment bankers received their obscene compensation packages and the country recovered at least by someone’s cockeyed definition of recovery.

Where was Obama during it all? According to Suskind, he made the occasional inspiring speech, watched as Summers dazzled him in weekly staff meetings on the economy, and allowed himself to be ignored by Summers, Geithner and White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel.

In his final, least-convincing chapter, Suskind describes a chastened Obama recognizing the weakness of his administration on the eve of the 2010 elections and ordering its reorganization. Summers departed, so too Emmanuel.

Geithner, however, will be at the president’s side in Honolulu for this month’s APEC meetings.

Confidence, meanwhile, remains as shaky as the recovery.

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