Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Big Picture and the Strike: Budget "Cuts"

The Strike: I’m very annoyed at the administration’s rollout of the budget. First, they came up with $17 billion worth of cuts and have come up with McCain-esque one-liners on how “stupid” they are. For example, they cut some “cultural attaché” to France program. They’re making the same “look” points about how only the “Washington media” wouldn’t think that $17 billion is a lot of cuts. First, you are actually increasing spending by a ton, so it’s pretty dishonest to talk about $17 billion worth of cuts. Second of all, and more importantly this is NOT what you should be emphasizing about the budget. I was reading through the HHS section, and it’s the INCREASES of great things that they should be highlighting, it provides for health reform, education reform, climate change legislation, huge investments in small but important things like (in my area) a new program to eradicate disparities in healthcare quality among racial/socioeconomic groups. It’s so stupid to be highlighting something that’s certainly not your strength, when you DO have a significant strength. It would be like going to a party where someone else has been playing guitar very poorly for awhile (Barcelona style), and you are an expert guitarist. But, instead you try and start a game of basketball, taunting about how great you are by shooting a 2 foot layup.

That’s the best metaphor I could come up with.

The Big Picture: I think you're right on the merits, but I am still very hesitant to question Obama's salesmanship strategies. You know he's going to use this to rebut any criticism that he hasn't "gone line by line" and is just increasing government for its own sake. He's gotten away with doing that kind of thing in so many situations where less gifted communicators and less appealing people would not. Think Dick Lugar, think "reforming welfare", think "I told the teachers' union some things they didn't want to hear", and so many other examples. He is just an absolute master at undercutting opponents' objections this way, making himself appear reasonable and balanced and the other side unreasonable, ideological. He's doing this to McConnell and the GOP on the limiting medical malpractice suits, saying, "Hey, I'm willing to give in to you on some things, I'm bipartisan". It's an annoying strategy to people like us who generally don't use it, but frankly it is very very effective and it's been an extraordinarily effective technique for Obama throughout his rise, allowing him to always claim the center, claim the high ground.

The Strike: Yeah, that’s very very true. Hopefully you will be proven right. Speaking of NOT being proven right, I had to clean out my old college email account the other day because they’re shutting it down, and I found this gem of yours. At least you qualified it with “I hope he will prove me wrong.”

This is great! I totally agree with the rest of your family. Hopefullythis will be the beginning of the marginalizing of the "Of the Left."On a somewhat related note, hopeful article in the NYTimes about Obamacooling his rhetoric to come down to earth with working-class whites. BobCasey seems to be a guy who can really speak to them. Considering theDemocrats have only had real success in the past 40 years when theircandidates are white men who resonate with the white working class(Carter, Clinton especially, and then of course the 2006 elections), I'm starting to think that, for all of Obama's brilliance, they should havegone with Edwards (of course the media would play up the haircut, butthat's a lot better than race-baiting with Rev. Wright). But hopefullyObama will prove me wrong. This retail politics campaign with Casey inPennsylvania will hopefully be a transformative moment for his candidacy.

The Big Picture: Uggggggggggh. A pathetic moment in my career. This was really reflective of the dog days of March. VERY interesting to read that in retrospect, as a classic example of a great theme my dad has always stressed to me and I will stress to my students - history always looks inevitable in retrospect but as it's lived people didn't know what was going to happen.

But yet another reason to NEVER underestimate Barack Obama.

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