Coffee House

Obama campaigns for Clinton’s third term

17 October 2012

11:32 AM

17 October 2012

11:32 AM

This debate was never going to be easy for Mitt Romney. After his evisceration of Barack Obama in the first presidential debate, encapsulated by the New Yorker cover of Romney talking to an empty chair, it was certain that Obama would be rigorously schooled before the second debate.

Obama’s performance 13 days ago was so anaemic that some even speculated whether, subconsciously at least, he still wanted to be President. But there was renewed vigour in this performance – a refusal to display passivity of the sort that ruined the Democrats’ night in Denver. The Town Hall debate format helped too: the need to engage with the audience’s questions made it harder for Obama to revert to his remote, professorial style.

Where Romney’s attacks in the first debate were too often left unanswered, here Obama displayed a relish for confrontation, notably on Romney’s policy flip-flops. Obama learned from Joe Biden’s relative success in the vice-presidential debate without over-reaching to appear rude.

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Clearly, Obama was the great variable from the first debate. Romney stumbled at times; but that he looked relatively worse than in Denver was less a reflection of his own performance than the measured aggression of Obama. Once again, Romney’s lack of specifics in his tax plan – Ronald Reagan had far more specifics when he ran in 1980 – proved an easy target, and he failed to capitalise on a question about Libya, leading to moderator Candy Crowler controversially ‘fact-checking’ in Obama’s favour. Nevertheless, especially considering that the questions asked by the audience would have pleased Democrats more than Republicans, Obama’s edge here was nowhere near Romney’s in the first debate. Romney made some effective attacks on Obama’s first term and the case that America should not trust Obama to do what he has failed to in four years.

But the effect of his Obama critique was somewhat diluted when a question concerning George W Bush came up. With Romney struggling to disassociate himself from Bush’s thinking on economic policies, Obama audaciously painted Bush as a comparative moderate. Avoiding expediently saying that Bush and Romney were essentially the same, Obama praised Bush while arguing that Romney ‘has gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy’, notably on Medicare, abortion and immigration. Regardless of who wins this election, Obama’s attack highlighted, as Jeb Bush has recently drawn attention to, that Republicans’ emphasis on social issues may not be suited to the demographic shifts taking place in the country.

There was one man neither candidate dared criticise. As this campaign has progressed it has become increasingly clear that Bill Clinton’s presidency has been widely reinvented as a period of nirvana for the United States. Rather than his lurid private life or failures to prepare America either for the rise of China or Al-Qaeda, the Clinton years have now become a byword for steady economic growth, low unemployment and general contentment.

The 1990s are really the new 1950s. Just as the ‘50s were, the 1990s have now become equated with peace and prosperity; everyone wants them back. The spectre of the Clinton presidency was crucial in both parties’ conventions – while Clinton’s speech was the highlight of the Democratic Convention, his presidency was used as a counterpoint to Obama’s failings at the Republican Convention. Americans long for a return to the 1990s because, frankly, life seemed easier – economists had rendered depressions obsolete and, in a unipolar world, the country was hegemonic.

Though Romney did not evoke Clinton by name, his key pitches – economic competence and a track record of bipartisanship – were exactly those Clinton’s presidency is remembered for. Obama was more specific, with his line that ‘we can go back to the tax rates we had when Bill Clinton was president’ suggesting that therein lay the key to matching his feat of creating 23 million new jobs. The simplicity behind such an argument is obvious – but both candidates are far more effective attacking their opponents than making a positive case for their own policies. In such an environment, the manner in which the Democrats and Republicans collude to prevent other parties from being represented in presidential debates, as the arrest of the Green Party presidential nominee for trying to enter the debate drew attention to, is utterly depressing.

America’s economic state and the increasingly paralysing partisanship in American politics means that whoever wins next month will have to confront the very real spectre of decline. That the title of the US version of Edward Luce’s new book replaced the word with ‘descent’ because the mere mention of ‘decline’ was deemed so unpalatable to Americans shows how difficult this will be. Both Obama and Romney will argue otherwise – they have to to have a chance of getting elected – but Americans will not be treated to a Clinton third term.

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Show comments
  • Augustus

    At the end of the day Barack Obama and the Democrats will heavily tilt the scales in order to win, be it fighting Voter ID laws to soliciting funds from foreigners. Thankfully, Barack Obama is in the process of destroying his own campaign and will likely take his party down with him. As we have seen from the recent obfuscation, manipulation and outright lying on everything from Benghazi to last month’s unemployment figures, the Obama administration thinks laws and the truth are for other people. Given their indifference to the concept of honesty in governing, it’s no surprise that their approach to elections is no different.

  • bloughmee

    America’s economic state and the increasingly paralysing partisanship in
    American politics means that whoever wins next month will have to
    confront the very real spectre of decline. That the title of the US
    version of Edward Luce’s new book…”

    .

    Well. It’s rare that such a sloppy, thoughtless collection of sentences gets slammed together in an allegedly edited publication. On second thought, it’s not so rare these days. In any event, let’s unpackage some of this rot, shall we?

    What’s “paralysing partisanship”? Be specific. What is it, and what exactly is it doing, or not doing? Describe the mechanisms. Assuming it does exist, what about it is a negative? If it is a negative, how is it to be resolved?

    What’s “the very real spectre of decline”? Be specific. What is it, and what is it causing specifically? Assuming it does exist, how is it to be resolved?

    Who the devil is “Edward Luce”, and why is it anybody, anywhere, should be concerned about him?

    • Tim Wigmore

      Thanks for your comment.
      ‘Paralysing partisanship’ = Congress being oppositional for the sake of opposing (and I’m talking about the 07-09 Dems as well as the Republicans since). Meaning the aim is more to stop the President doing things than to work with him (see under Eisenhower’s presidency, or even Reagan’s and Clinton’s).
      ‘The very real spectre of decline’ = long-term stagnation, even fall, in median wages over 20+ years. And thats before you even address the debt.
      Edward Luce is an excellent journalist – Ft’s Washington Bureau Chief for a number of years. His new book is much more specific about the ‘decline’ I allude to.

      • bloughmee

        ‘Paralysing partisanship’ = Congress being oppositional for the sake of
        opposing

        .

        I asked for clarity, and you provide additional confusion? Give it another go, my friend, because the purpose of an opposition is to oppose. One would have assumed that knowledge to be a given and well understood, but in your case, one would have assumed wrong. I’m troubled that you wrote such a sentence, even as a throwaway in a comments section. It is truly troubling that you actually think in this manner, and don’t recognize the absurdity of your statement.

        The People decide what is acceptable, and what is not. Likely past time you figured this one out, as it’ll keep you from getting jumped in comments sections by the likes of me.

        .

        .

        Meaning the aim is more to stop the President doing
        things than to work with him (see under Eisenhower’s presidency, or even
        Reagan’s and Clinton’s).

        If you paid attention to the results of the historic November 2010 electoral shellacking, you’d understand that the aim of the US electorate was to stop the President from doing things, not to “work with him”. That’s assuming you actually follow politics and understand how they work, particularly US politics. You have a bit of rosy hue to your analysis. Yes, I get it that you don’t like what the US electorate has said and is currently saying about your preferred outcomes, but that doesn’t mean you can invent some faux analysis about “paralysis”. You should ask those many dozens and dozens of congressional members sent home in November 2010 what they think of your supposed “paralysis”. And in 20 days or so, you’ll perhaps have a certain Obama to ask, as well.

        FYI, the people decide what is acceptable, and in 2010, the US electorate decided that what was going on was unacceptable, much as they are in 2012. Not much “paralysis” in that electorate, I’d say, much to your sadness, apparently.

        .

        .

        ‘The very real spectre of decline’ =
        long-term stagnation, even fall, in median wages over 20+ years. And
        thats before you even address the debt.

        .

        As the US electorate well understands, judging from the real issues based polling data, and not your “paralysis” creations. The debt and deficit and size of government are prime considerations, as they know that impacts their own lives and livelihood.

        Luce is a “journalist” in Washington? No wonder everybody ignores him. You likely should, as well. It appears you’ve got much to learn about what’s going on in Washington, and it doesn’t appear like your current sources of information are giving you much insight.

        • Curnonsky

          Luce is yet another breathless Obama devotee, interchangeable with pretty much any of them.

        • Tim Wigmore

          To address your points again –
          Congress is elected to represent each district – the aim is to govern and work with the executive rather than, as the Republicans have (and, as I said, partly the Democrats after 06) said their aim is simply a destructive agenda. There are many, many examples in history of a President losing midterms but Congress still being willing to shape legislation constructively with the President – take 1958, when the Democrats won 283 seats (41 more than the 2010 Republicans) but didn’t adopt the wholly destructive attitude of the current Congress. Also, I think Americans who give Congress a c 15% approval rating would take issue with your assertion that Congress was doing what it was elected to do.

          • TomTom

            Congress is not there to work with the President. It was never conceived that the President would have so much power as today. Congress was to be the powerful arm of Government representing THE PEOPLE against Executive Power. The US System is predicated on Conflict between Branches of Government to avoid the subservience of the British House of Commons to the Executive and the absolute control over Judiciary and Parliament that the British Constitution gave anyone who controlled a majority in Parliament

        • http://twitter.com/timwig Tim Wigmore

          To address your points again –
          Congress is elected to represent each district – the aim is to govern and work with the executive rather than, as the Republicans have (and, as I said, partly the Democrats after 06) said their aim is simply a destructive agenda. There are many, many examples in history of a President losing midterms but Congress still being willing to shape legislation constructively with the President – take 1958, when the Democrats won 283 seats (41 more than the 2010 Republicans) but didn’t adopt the wholly destructive attitude of the current Congress. Also, I think Americans who give Congress a c 15% approval rating would take issue with your assertion that Congress was doing what it was elected to do.

          • Curnonsky

            I’m afraid TomTom is entirely correct – there are three co-equal branches to the US system of government, each of which checks the powers of the other two. If you’ll recall, the United States was founded in opposition to rule by a king. Congress is there to ensure a president cannot simply impose his will on the nation without limit – even if he represents a majority. And this is what Obama has done – he and his cronies in Congress rammed Obamacare, the stimulus and a host of other misguided and ill-crafted measures down the nation’s throat with no consideration for any views but their own. Now he is reaping the harvest of his divisive partisanship.

            And by the way, the Clinton era was also deeply partisan – remember the confrontation with Gingrich, the shutdown, Hillarycare, Whitewater and Monica? Probably not since like the rest of the Spectator’s intellectually lazy writers you get your US news pre-digested via the usual MSM websites.

          • bloughmee

            To address your points again –

            Well, to be fair, you didn’t address my points the first time, let alone a second. You still haven’t given a satisfactory explanation of what is this “political paralysis” you’re bleating about, what is its source and alleged illegitimacy, what is negative about it, if it indeed exists, and all the other questions asked of you. You simply repeated your assertions, and as I say, that is just a sloppy and thoughtless collection of sentences.

            .

            .

            Congress is elected to represent each
            district – the aim is to govern and work with the executive rather than,
            as the Republicans have (and, as I said, partly the Democrats after 06)
            said their aim is simply a destructive agenda.

            As others have educated you above, your statement is completely false. I’d suggest you read the Constitution (for the first time?). It’s quite short, which should suit your apparent attention span for learning.

            .

            .

            “There are many, many
            examples in history of a President losing midterms but Congress still
            being willing to shape legislation constructively with the President

            No, there haven’t been anything like you’re describing, ever in history, simply because there haven’t been many shellackings like the 2010 election in US History. It was the worst beating in 3/4 century, and all as a backhand slap at what that Congress and the President were doing. And you somehow believe that beatdown indicates that the newly elected Congress, elected in direct opposition to what was being done, should go along with it still? Strange thinking, to say the least. Sloppy and thoughtless, some might say.

            Your foolish reference to 15% approval ratings to the contrary, most of the dozens and dozens of congress members newly elected to Congress in 2010 will be reelected in 2012, which would put the lie to what you’re asserting here. The people seem pleased with what this Congress is doing, or at least those members they sent to office, whose behavior seems to be giving you the vapors. Which is as it should be. The People decide, afterall, not you of the chattering class, who don’t even understand US politics apparently.

            Let’s query Obama in about 20 days, and see what he thinks of all this horrible “paralysis”.

            • http://twitter.com/timwig Tim Wigmore

              I think I have pretty
              clearly explained ‘paralysis’ (and my understanding is a very commonly shared
              one), and shown how the attitude of Congress is markedly different to Congress
              in the past (such as under Eisenhower). This is unconducive to the US
              addressing long-term issues that require bipartisanship.

              Re your history comment (“there haven’t been anything like
              you’re describing, ever in history) see 1958 mid-term elections, for example
              (almost a 50-seat swing in the House against the President, which was
              interpreted by Congress in a very different way to the current Congress). Even
              the 1994 mid-terms ultimately led to the welfare reforms of 1996, for all the
              fierce political battles between Gingrich and Clinton.

              The polling date for Congressional job approval is here, by
              the way – http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/congressional_job_approval-903.html
              It currently stands at 13.8% approval, with 79.6% disapproving, which rather
              shows it is not true that “the people are pleased”.

              • bloughmee

                “I think I have pretty clearly explained ‘paralysis’ (and my
                understanding is a very commonly shared one)…”

                Um, no, you haven’t explained anything. You’ve made an unsupported assertion, that this president should be fully supported by a Congress that was recently elected in backlash to the actions of that same president and the previous Congress.

                Your unsupported assertion is not “very commonly shared” by the electorate that sent those freshman members of Congress into office, and will reelect +95% of them in 19 days time, even as the overall electorate is even odds to reject that president in that same election. And your unsupported assertion doesn’t comport with US political and electoral history. Sorry.

                .

                .

                This is unconducive to the US addressing long-term
                issues that require bipartisanship.

                Well, it’s unconducive to the continuation of the policies that the 2010 electorate rejected, when they shellacked the Congress that brought on those policies, and slapped the president in the face. You likely disagree with the electorate, so perhaps you should run for Congress and see if you can succeed where those others failed. Otherwise, it’s best to accept what the People have chosen. That’s what’s happened in every other such shellacking.

                .

                .

                Re your history comment (“there haven’t been anything like you’re
                describing, ever in history) see 1958 mid-term elections, for example (a
                49-seat swing in the House against the President, which was interpreted
                by Congress in a very different way to the current Congress). Even the
                1994 mid-terms ultimately led to the welfare reforms of 1996, for all
                the fierce political battles between Gingrich and Clinton

                Um, no, the 2010 shellacking was a far larger swing than the 1958 election, approaching 50% larger, and was the largest beating in 3/4 century, a direct rejection of what had been going on. Sorry.

                And yes, the 86th Congress did not challenge Eisenhower, but only because unlike Obama, he was much more popular than them, as you’d know if you understood US political history:

                http://www.gallup.com/poll/124922/Presidential-Approval-Center.aspx

                That was a mostly uneventful Congress, as again, you’d know if you understood US political history. Little major legislation. Pretty much caretaking, as lame duck presidencies generally are. However, Eisenhower would have won reelection in a walk in 1960, if the Constitution had permitted such. And still that newly elected Congress blocked major initiatives of any sort, but that was all they could get away with because of Ike’s popularity.

                You’re not making your point here, you’re making mine. Eisenhower could advance little legislation or policy, because the Congress blocked such. Neither could the Congress advance much of interest. It was a caretaking 2 years, then. Your false assertion not proven, still.

                The 1994 election forced Clinton to sign welfare reform, which he’d vetoed twice but finally had to sign or risk getting beaten in the 1996 reelection. He didn’t want to sign it, he was forced to do so, by an opposition Congress. That wasn’t “working together”. It was a gun to his head, bill rammed up his ass, whatever you want to call it. Again, you’re making my point here, not yours. And that’s not even speaking to the budget battles, which actually resulted in a government shutdown, unlike these days .

                .

                .

                The polling date for Congressional job approval is here, by the way – http://www.realclearpolitics.c
                It currently stands at 13.8% approval, with 79.6% disapproving, which rather shows it is not true that “the people are pleased”.

                Of course they’re pleased, otherwise they wouldn’t be sending back those congressmen you’re decrying here with this “paralysis” assertion. That approval rating doesn’t mean what you think it means. But then, you don’t know much about politics in general, or US politics in particular.

                Never in US political history has this fantasy situation you’re describing occurred, of a newly elected Congress turning their back on the electorate that just elected them. Never. It defies common sense that an opposition would fail to oppose. You have failed to support your point with any facts or historical data. Sorry. It’s just a sloppy and thoughtless collections of sentences you’ve provided, and no sense wasting time being overly polite. You’re posting drivel.

                Let’s see in 19 days what we find out. I suspect you’re going to get another rude surprise, much as you likely did in November 2010. If you understood US politics and history, you wouldn’t be surprised, mind you.

  • TomTom

    Romney (Harvard Business School) takes on Obama (Harvard Law School) in a contest where Goldman Sachs was main fundraiser for Obama 2008 and is main fundraiser for Romney 2012. It is a Virtual Reality Show in an Oligarchy that American Media pretends is a functioning democracy

  • Anthony Makara

    Good points from Romney on China in last nights debate. However one wonders whether the promise of sactions and tariffs against China will be possible once a President Romney starts to get flak from Wall St about the inevitable retaliation from Beijing and the effect on the free flow of Capital? Still, I hope Romney does adhere to principle and calls time in Chinese currency manipulation. He should also impose a wage-equalization tariff to ensure that US jobs are not lost to sweatshop wages. Obama promised to rein in China but has failed to do so. So now its time for the Intelligent Protectionism that Romney proposes.

    • Frank P

      Good comment, but the West’s MSM is still in the tank for Obama and his internationalist drive; the Lefties have won the war sadly and though we won’t know for sure until the votes are in, I’m not sure that the GOP have done nearly enough to wrest the levers from Marxist control. Romney is a stiff suit with about as much charisma as an IRS apparatchik. Gird your loins for four more years of the Manchurian Candidate. The Long March has not been diverted. If the Libyan Embassy debacle hasn’t convinced the American electorate that they have a traitor in the White House, then nothing will.

      • John

        Obama is over, he’s done. Romney will be the next POTUS. You have done exactly what the MSM wants you to do; believe that Romney can’t win. That’s all they exist to do. You’ve allowed yourself to be suckered, and turned into a Tokyo Rose. The MSM lives in a fantasy world, not the real world. In the real world, Romney will win. This election could be devastating for them, to the extent they don’t get near the Presidency again until 2028 at the very earliest, probably 2032. What is happening on the ground is very different to the story in the press, on TV, and the bullsh*t polls.

    • telemachus

      China has a big problem in letting the value of its
      currency increase. What it fears is an explosion of social and political unrest
      as workers in exporting firms lose their jobs. Last year there were strikes in factories
      not only for wages, but demanding independent trade unions. Clearly there are
      splits within the Chinese elite, with some sections calling for political
      reform as a way of staving off potential unrest and growing disparities in
      wealth.

      But even if China did agree to revalue the yuan,
      this is not a magic wand for the economy of the US and a solution to
      joblessness. Two recent reports from the Brookings Institution paint a grim
      picture of rising poverty in the US. Over the past decade the number of poor
      people in the suburbs has jumped by 37 percent to 13.7 million, compared with
      12.1 million people living below the poverty line in the cities.

      Best plan is stick with Obama

      • John

        It’s not going to happen. You’ll be crying your eyes it on November 7th.

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