SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Obama Postmortem

An Autopsy of a Political Suicide

It’s the day after the Republican sweep we all knew was coming. If Obama had any dignity, if he was honest with himself and with us, he would resign. It’s abundantly clear that he isn’t up to the job.

But you don’t become president by being honest or dignified. So now it’s wound-licking time. The President and his cronies are comforting each other. “It’s not your fault the economy sucks,” a Yes Man reassures Obama, sinking his heels into the new Oval Office carpet. “It was like that when we got here.”

Do they scratch him behind his ears? They should. It feels nice.

“It was the poor economy—not the wisdom of the Republicans’ ideas or the brilliance of their tactics—that assured they would retake control of the House,” coos MarketWatch’s Rex Nutting. Which is true. And doesn’t matter.

Democrats are taking solace in history. It’s the midterms! The party that holds the White House always loses seats in Congress. Look at Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. They suffered midterm defeats, then roared back to landslide reelection wins two years later. Not to worry! The voters will vote against the other party next time! Which is also true. And also doesn’t matter.

In the broken-down shambles of the excuse for a political system we have in the United States, there’s only one stage of grief: denial.

Barack Obama may well be reelected in 2012. Considering that the current GOP frontrunners are Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, the odds favor him. But the Obama experiment is effectively dead. There will be no change, and so there is no hope.

Remember what happened to Clinton after the “Republican Revolution” sweep of 1994? He spent 1995 locked in a bizarre “co-presidency” with House Speaker Newt Gingrich before figuring out that his “partner” was more interested in obstructionist sabotage than bipartisanship.

Obama is heading down the same bloody path with John Boehner.

But Clinton did get that second term. During which he accomplished many things, such as…um…well, he did get impeached. Does that count?

I don’t understand why presidents want to get reelected. No president since FDR has gotten much done after his first term. Must be an ego thing. Either that, or it’s cool to have your own chef.

If Obama was going to shine, it was going to be during 2009. Elected by a sizable margin with an undeniable, media-backed mandate for change during a severe economic crisis he could exploit to push through his agenda, Obama also enjoyed the rare luxury of a Democratic House of Representatives and a nearly filibuster-proof Democratic Senate.

So what does he have to show for that marvelous gift? Three major items:

One: a healthcare overhaul that increases premiums and insurance company profits, and doesn’t include the public option he and everyone else said was absolutely essential. The good news is, the Republicans will probably repeal or defund this monster before it takes effect.

Two: a financial reform package no one knows about. Which is just as well, since it doesn’t crack down on the banksters.

Three: more dead Afghans.

They’re not much, but I hope Obama is proud of them. That’s as good as he’s going to get from now on.

What killed the Obama presidency? Political suicide. There were several death blows:

First and foremost, the economy. 60 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans told exit pollsters that the lack of jobs was their number-one issue. Obama never proposed a jobs program. He gave trillions of taxdollars to thieving banksters who ought to have been arrested instead, then tried to pass off this outrageous giveaway as economic stimulus. To make things worse, he stuck with an impossibly absurd argument: more people would have lost their jobs without it.

Even if the phony stimulus stopped things from getting worse—and it didn’t—people don’t care. They want the 20 percent of Americans who already lost their jobs—their friends, spouses, children and parents—to find new ones. Obama never addressed that.

He didn’t even try.

Second, he alienated his base. He didn’t even know who his base was.

Obama’s campaign was a potent mix of vague pabulum (“hope,” “change”) and, when he deigned to specify, center-right specifics (stop torture but expand the war against Afghanistan, bipartisan cooperation with the Republicans, no gay marriage, etc.). The problem was that the vagueness that helped him cobble together a winning coalition of leftist and independent voters made it impossible for him govern. Leftists got turned off when he doubled down in Afghanistan and refused to close Guantánamo; independents are notoriously fickle anyway.

If Obama’s advisors had been smart, they would have recognized two truths, one old and one new. The old truth is that the safest time to deliver to your base is the first year of a presidency; the passage of time allows the anger of the moderates to cool in time for the next election. The new truth for Obama was that his base comprised liberals who actually disagreed with much of what he stood for but had paid more attention to the “hope” and “change” posters than to his platform. He didn’t understand that.

Moreover, the world changed between September and November of 2008. Global capitalism collapsed. Millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes during the next year. Wall Street, bankers, big business, the golden boys of the previous century, were discredited—but unpunished for their countless sins. By mid-2009 America had become a left-wing country, not in the media but among the citizenry, telling polls that their preferred economic system was socialism.

Team Obama didn’t understand that. They still don’t.

The inarticulate rage of the inchoate Tea Party caught the president by surprise. Neither Obama nor the political clones that form his center-right cabinet can see that in a binary political culture anger gravitates to the opposite pole. If Obama were Republican, the Tea Party would be identified with the left.

The takeaway is anger, not ideology. People are pissed. They hate the bailouts, but the bailouts aren’t the main point. More than anything else, the American people are angry that their government doesn’t even pretend to give a damn about them.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is



  • NineInchNachos
    November 3, 2010 1:53 PM

    all I see is obama in the back seat with HITLER!

  • Tea Partiers are not just angry. They are angry with a government that has well exeeded it’s bounds as defined in the Constitution. They are pissed at the arrogance of politicians that do not believe they are limited by the Constitution. The final straw was politicians signing 2,000 and 3,000 page bills without even reading them.

  • 1. Clinton was extremely popular with women and African-Americans. Bush, Sr. found the economy in a bit of a muddle, convinced Saddam that the US wanted him to invade Kuwait, defeated Saddam in 100 hours, and was tossed out of office in the ’92 election, just like Churchill in ’45. In ’94, the economy was no better, and the voters put in a massive number of Republicans. Many of those represented ageing Southern DINOs replaced with younger, bona fide Southern Republicans. And then Clinton out-Republicaned the Republicans. Before, there was AFDC for single mothers. Clinton abolished AFDC: the woman must name a man, and he must support her, and she usually gets much less than she got from AFDC, even though it’s more than 100% of the man’s paycheck. Clinton passed tax cuts for the rich, and total deregulation of the financial industry. In spite of the big ’94 Republican victory, Clinton won re-election by a landslide, as did the Republicans in Congress. The Republicans tried a government shut-down, but that had little impact on the favourable voter perceptions of the Republicans and of Clinton, so they pressed onward. But then the Republicans impeached Clinton, and were severely punished by the voters, who would gladly have made Clinton the next Roosevelt (i.e., President for Life) were it not Constitutionally impossible. Clinton’s impeachment absolutely infuriated the voters. But Clinton’s time was up, thanks to that pesky Constitution.

    2. The NYT says Obama did some great things, but got no credit. Unemployment is ‘only’ about 10%, using the technical definition, or 20% using the broad definition. Without the Obama stimulus, it would be at least 20% – 25% using the technical definition, and at least 50% using the broad definition, but no one gives Obama the credit he deserves for keeping 80% of Americans employed. Obama has never employed torture, prosecuting the war on terror while maintaining the highest US ideals. Of course, Bush, Jr., and the Congress and the Supreme Court have all agreed that, under US law, and under International Law as interpreted by the US, there is absolutely NO ‘enhanced interrogation’ technique that can legally be called torture when employed by the US: not the rack, not thumbscrews, not electrodes to the genitals, not the Chinese Water Interrogation, none of these–or anything else the US does–can ever legally be called torture, so don’t you dare try, under penalty of law. So Obama never once allowed torture. And anyway, Obama, like Bush, Jr., in ’03, ended the war on terror with a complete victory. Combat is over. Now we only have support, meaning we’re not bombing Iraq and Afghanistan as combat, we’re bombing Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, AND the Yemen as support operations, the war having been won by Obama. Plus Obama’s financial package guarantees that there can never be another Bush, Jr. bubble. Plus every American now has affordable healthcare, better than what Congress had before Obamacare passed. Every condition must be covered, nothing can be excluded, and the price is guaranteed by law to be well within the reach of the poorest Americans.

    And if you don’t believe all that, it’s because you lack the wisdom and vision of the New York Times writers and editors.

    3. So, will Obama pull a Clinton, or will he be a one-term president? I don’t think Obama has what Clinton had, but in ’94, no one thought Clinton had what Clinton had, so it’s hard to tell at this point. And will Obama, like Clinton, out-Republican the Republicans so our government will run smoothly?

    We’ll begin to see in January. Possibly sooner.

  • when are the admins going to ban “US 395”? the guy does nothing but lie, lie, lie. there is no place for someone like him in a rational conversation.

  • OK jeoto, where was the lie in my post?

  • @joeto: there is nothing wrong with US 395. While there is actually more of a diversity of opinion on the Rall blog then on most politically relevant blogs (only relative to the small number of people who post here, however), US 395 still greatly expands the breath of the views expressed here and is therefore a valuable contributor to the discussion.

    US 395’s post above seems perfectly sound to me, and people on all ends of the political spectrum should be angry about bills too long to read that get signed off on quickly. It is a very bad thing, for example it is how the Patriot act got signed off on, among many other unfortunate bills.

    Furthermore I honestly don’t think US 395 lies. A lie implies a conscious effort to distort truth. I think he is just often very ill informed being fed on the lies of others as truth. But either way, banning him would be a very unethical thing to do. Besides he keeps discussion flowing and passions high. I think he is a vital ingredient around here. Even if blocking him weren’t fundamentally unethical it would be like taking the spice out of Mexican food. Things would get a little bland.

  • Route, were you equally upset when they voted for the Patriot Act without reading it?

  • You know, Obama can redeem himself with one act: banning the Republican Party. Sure there are some bad corporate/conservative Democrats, but there are 0 good Republicans left and the bad Democrats will be dealt with individually.

    I remembered this from four years ago and it is true today as it was then. Just one executive order from Obama and our problems are solved.

  • “If Obama were Republican, the Tea Party would be identified with the left.”


    The Tea Party started out as a far right fringe that attracted various nut-jobs–some, but not all, racist. Fueled by the media, it grew into a real force and was successfully co-oped by the Republican Party.

    If Obama was Republican, there would have been no Tea Party because the media narrative would have been different, and the Democratic Party would have never been able to absorb such idiotically expressed viewpoints.

    I do agree with the late Howard Zinn that the left should have jumped in to organize the Tea Party rage. But remember, in the US, THERE IS NO LEFT.

    (Damn it. What am I doing back here?)

  • Route, were you equally upset when they voted for the Patriot Act without reading it?
    I am opposed to what I know of the Patriot Act, read or unread.

  • Spoken like a good statist. If you ca’t beat the GOP at the ballot box, just ban them.

  • The Nazi Party is banned in some places. I wouldn’t shed a tear if the Republican Party was also banned.

  • I wish we could for once have the same conversation. US395 and Bucephalus offer an arguement akin to anti-gun activists who think guns kill people. Read closely:

    guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

    The government is but a slave. Want to take a guess who the master is? Take a look at corporate profits over the past 50 years, and report back.

  • Well Al, you do know the Nazi Party killed 6 million Jews. You know, the National Socialist Party. So if you want to ban a party, why don’t you ban the party of segregation, slavery and eugenics; the Democrat Party.

  • No, you are full of shit, the Democratic Party doesn’t support any of that. If anything, it’s the Republican Party that supports that. Knock off the projection.

    Bush killed and tortured a lot of Iraqis. It’s not 6 million, but it’s still genocide.

  • To add to it, even if you can make the point that somehow Democrats were the party of segregation, you have to remember it was really the more conservative southern Dixiecrats who were to blame for it and that was like 45 years ago. It is irrelevant to any discussion today. The modern Republicans have picked up the racist vote and they are filled with racist ideas like this:

    “But there is no equality. You cannot guarantee that any two people will end up the same. And you can’t legislate it, and you can’t make it happen. You can try, under the guise of fairness and so forth, but some people are self-starters, and some people are born lazy. Some people are born victims. Some people are just born to be slaves. Some people are born to put up with somebody else making every decision for them.”-Rush Limbaugh

    New rule, from now on, any reference to any past Democratic racism should be ignored in future debates as irrelevant.

  • I think Alan Grayson is posting here.

  • OK Al, let me try to educate you since you probably didn’t have this covered in the first 5 years of youra ssociate degree. For the 40th time, Democrats were the party of slavery, segregation, eugenics and the KKK. You can call them whatever you like; they were Democrats. Your party filibustered the Civil Rights Act. There, see, that didn’t take 5 years.

  • For all I care, you’d do well to ban both wings of the Republicrat Party. I just have to laugh at one of the reasons Rall quotes (from on John Cutaia) to support banning just one of them:

    “Republicans nominated a man unfit for the presidency, a man who lacks the intellectual curiosity, the disposition, and the decency to be president of the United States”

    I don’t know what that rhetorical “decency” is supposed to mean, but if it’s understood as the ability to order mass murder without batting an eye, Bush Il Jon is as “decent” as Obama. Or Clinton. Or Reagan. Or FDR. Or Truman. Or Lincoln. Oh, pretty much everybody since George Washington.

    Albert, if Limbaugh would have stopped his fat mouth at “you cannot guarantee people will end up the same”, I’d agree with him. Noone is born a victim, or a slave, though. That’s just the ridiculous American mentality of dividing people between “losers” and “winners”.

    Angelo, you mistake my position. The system you live in has an overbearing, all-powerful government where people with money have leverage over it. You seem to prefer a system where there’s still an overbearing, all-powerful state, but no one has leverage over it, only the people in power. I prefer a system where government is not overbearing and all-powerful. Hope that clears it.

  • If Mr. Route is going to continue to bring up my college education, can we please block him from coming back? The dude is obviously not being useful here.

  • Albert,

    Ted Rall only steps in to defend trolls. He didn’t even make a comment when I one of his trolls was stalking me and making references to my wife and the appearance of my house. So don’t look for any decency from Rall, or hell, even for him to be an impartial and dignified moderator. This blog only exists to service Rall’s ego, and people like US395 do that by somehow proving with their behavior something in Ted’s mind that gratifies him.

    I know…that begs the question, why come back here and waste my time on it as well? Answer: I must be one sick puppy!

  • Well, that might be unfair to Ted, but I think he should still do something about US 395.

  • Maybe if you didn’t start your replies with “fuck you” or “you’re full of shit” you’d get the respect you think you deserve. Care to wipe the slate clean and start over?

  • Maybe if you didn’t give me a reason to say that.

    But yes, wipe the slate clean.

  • I blogged about this the other day, but one of the unintended consequences of the election is that the Democratic Party shedded most of their conservative members from the party including most of the Blue Dogs. When the Democrats retake the majority, the more veteran Democrats will mostly be progressive and hold higher party chairs.

  • No Al, it’s not my fault you respond that way. It’s your lack of self control. Grow up for God’s sake.

  • What happened to clean slate?

  • Al, nobody wants a clean slate when they’re feeling self righteous.

  • Let it go – South Park always said elections was decided between a giant douche and a turd sandwich.