Obama’s Political Capital
He may run out of gas on these nominations
President Obama blows through his own political capital just as fast as he blows through America’s financial capital. Neither case of over-spending is sustainable, and we will just have to wait to see which spending spree is forced to end first.
But this further confirms my suspicion that President Obama’s brains are the most over-rated to occupy the Oval Office in generations. Take his recent nominations, which are a mess.
Last week’s Senate hearings on Senator Hagel’s confirmation as defense secretary were a disaster. Senator McCain pressed Senator Hagel to confirm or deny Hagel’s earlier statement that the Surge in Iraq was “the greatest foreign policy blunder since the Vietnam War.” Senator Ted Cruz pointed out that Senator Hegal, during an interview with the Al Jazeera English network in 2009 had agreed with a questioner who said that the United States appeared and acted like the world’s bully. As Paul Mirengoff at the Powerline Blog wrote, “if he were a Broadway play, Hagel would close after one performance.”
There were also a number of past anti-Semitic, or at least anti-Israel statements about which Senator Hagel was questioned. About the only thing about the hearing that was reassuring to those who take national defense seriously was that Hagel bumbled so much he sounded like he may have dementia. Let’s face it, a demented defense secretary may not be as bad as an anti-American defense secretary who is purposefully soft on defense and unconcerned about looming problems with Iran’s nuclear program.
Senator Lindsey Graham has threatened a hold on the Hagel nomination, and he should. Not only is a defense secretary an important policy position, but as has been pointed out by Republican critics that in any given foreign crisis, the defense secretary will be one of the few advisors in the room, advising the president.
Next up: a nomination battle for a Treasury secretary nominee, Jacob Lew, who has never worked in a bank except as an attorney for Citibank, and has held many different government jobs, most recently President Obama’s chief of staff. Definitely a financial industry lightweight. Lew has also been accused of misleading the public on deficits. About the only thing that stands out about Jacob Lew as Treasury secretary is the fact that his signature — which will appear on all of our currency – looks like a bunch of circles. Oddly enough, it doesn’t appear as if Lew has had any medical training.
After that, brace yourself for President Obama’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Todd Jones. Jones is the current acting director of ATF and has been criticized by a local Democratic FBI office director as being politically well-connected but incompetent and soft on gun and violent crime prosecutions.
Past presidents have had difficult times in their second terms, but the difficulty is usually with big proposals. President George W. Bush unsuccessfully tried to pass privatization of Social Security and immigration reform in his second term. President Reagan spent his second term solidifying his victory in the Cold War and simplified the tax code, lowering the top marginal tax rate to 28%. Meanwhile, President Obama is trying to get Charles Hagel approved as defense secretary, Jacob Lew at Treasury secretary, and Todd Jones as ATF director, not grand plans by any means.
President Obama may get these nominees approved by a majority of senators. But the question is: why is he fighting these particular battles? He could have easily found better qualified nominees for these positions and fought bigger battles on some substantive legislative proposals. Why spend what remaining political capital he has on these problematic appointments? I have a theory, and here goes.
As liberal as he is, President Obama prefers to settle scores with his political adversaries even more than getting big liberal proposals passed. There were some clues dropped in the recent campaign. In one speech President Obama told his audience, who booed after Gov. Romney was mentioned, “don’t boo … voting is the best revenge.” This follows a slip he made a couple years earlier when he encouraged Latinos to punish their “enemies,” and when he warned African Americans that a Republican take-over of Congress would mean “hand-to-hand combat up here on Capitol Hill.”
These Freudian slips and others show the resentment that President Obama feels towards anyone who opposes him. Opposing ideas are not to be argued against; their proponents are to be personally defeated and the victory noted. Somewhere in his brain the president is keeping score, and he relishes announcing to his opponents, as he did in his first term, “I won.”
It is a pettiness that may work out well for the conservative cause. After all, the best way to block any future liberal proposals is to not have them proposed in the first place. The Hagel, Lew and Jones nominations, and the spending of President Obama’s political capital needed to advance these nominations, may be just the ticket to stall any future liberal proposals.