Eventually the Campaign Has to Look Like Leadership

Michael Barone offers his “Three Rules of Obama:

First, Obama likes to execute long-range strategies but suffers from cognitive dissonance when new facts render them inappropriate. … On domestic policy, he has been executing his long-range strategy of vastly expanding government, but may be encountering problems as voters show unease at huge increases on spending. …
Second, he does not seem to care much about the details of policy. … The result is incoherent public policy: indefensible pork barrel projects, a carbon emissions bill that doesn’t limit carbon emissions from politically connected industries, and a health care program priced by the Congressional Budget Office at a fiscally unfeasible $1,600,000,000,000. …
Third, he does business Chicago-style. His first political ambition was to be mayor of Chicago, the boss of all he surveyed; he has had to settle for the broader but less complete hegemony of the presidency. From Chicago he brings the assumption that there will always be a bounteous private sector that can be plundered endlessly on behalf of political favorites.

The presidency is not a Senate seat, which one can fill from a distance — as a matter of location as well as responsibility. Even when it is unfair to do so, Americans tend to feel that the buck stops with the President. The endless campaign, in other words, will ultimately hinge on occupational results in a way that President Obama may never have encountered before.
Here’s an interesting (and loaded!) question: At what point will the President begin secretly hoping that Congress changes hands in the next election? If the country continues to tumble down the cliff face, he’d have a crew of bogeymen to blame; if the Republicans somehow manage (by bolstering their principles) to turn the U.S. around, Americans would be able to return to their preferred mindset of adoring their cool, black, rock-star President.

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