Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Slide Show

David Brooks gets all freaky because President Obama’s approval rating has hit 50%.

The public has soured on Obama’s policy proposals. Voters often have only a fuzzy sense of what each individual proposal actually does, but more and more have a growing conviction that if the president is proposing it, it must involve big spending, big government and a fundamental departure from the traditional American approach.

Driven by this general anxiety, and by specific concerns, public opposition to health care reform is now steady and stable. Independents once solidly supported reform. Now they have swung against it. As the veteran pollster Bill McInturff has pointed out, public attitudes toward Obamacare exactly match public attitudes toward Clintoncare when that reform effort collapsed in 1994.

Interestingly, he doesn’t cite any polls that prove his point; I suspect he picked up that bit of news by hanging around the green room of various talk shows in Washington, D.C. Either that, or he’s just pulling it out of his ass. You make the call.

But he’s not above giving the president and the Democrats a little cautionary advice.

Amazingly, some liberals are now lashing out at Obama because the entire country doesn’t agree with The Huffington Post. Some now argue that the administration should just ignore the ignorant masses and ram health care through using reconciliation, the legislative maneuver that would reduce the need for moderate votes.

This would be suicidal. You can’t pass the most important domestic reform in a generation when the majority of voters think you are on the wrong path. To do so would be a sign of unmitigated arrogance. If Obama agrees to use reconciliation, he will permanently affix himself to the liberal wing of his party and permanently alienate independents. He will be president of 35 percent of the country — and good luck getting anything done after that.

That would be worth listening to if it wasn’t so ironic; President Bush rammed his tax cuts through using reconciliation, and I don’t remember the sage pundits like Mr. Brooks accusing him of “unmitigated arrogance.” In fact, I remember a rather strong chorus of “Hey, a real leader doesn’t care about the polls: they do what’s right.”

He concludes with a statement that just reeks of irony:

This is a country that has always been suspicious of centralized government. This is a country that has just lived through an economic trauma caused by excessive spending and debt. Most Americans still admire Obama and want him to succeed. But if he doesn’t proceed in a manner consistent with the spirit of the nation and the times, voters will find a way to stop him.

The president’s challenge now is to halt the slide. That doesn’t mean giving up his goals. It means he has to align his proposals to the values of the political center: fiscal responsibility, individual choice and decentralized authority.

After eight years of Bush and Cheney it’s really hard to hear any Republican tout the virtues of “fiscal responsibility, individual choice and decentralized authority” without laughing long and derisively.