Jonathan Chait has made his choice for 2012, and it is Obama. Chait decided to tell us exactly why he chose Obama in a recent column for New York Magazine, and his reasons make his endorsement one of the great howlers of the year. Chait tells us that Obama is one of the greatest presidents of all time. "Yes, Great," he reiterates.
To start with, Chait distances himself from the hopey-changie set, saying that even though he was one of Obama's earliest supporters, he was never one of those mind-numbed Obamabots that thought Obama was a messiah that would "change everything."
Nevertheless, Chait goes on to make it appear that he did, indeed, fall for all the rhetoric, because in reviewing the last four years, Mr. Chait sees nothing but great success from President Obama.
"Obama’s résumé of accomplishments is broad and deep, running the gamut from economic to social to foreign policy," Chait assures us before launching into a dubious assessment of all those "accomplishments."
Chait's column is quite long, so I won't go into every claim he makes, but there are a few that are just over the top.
For one, Chait feels that Obama's banking "reforms" were somehow middle-of-the-road efforts, neither left nor right. He praised Obama for taking ideas off "think-tank shelves" and in a "frenetic burst of activity" he "made many of them happen all at once." Of course, Chait doesn't mention that all the "think-tank shelves" Obama plumbed for his "moderate" policy ideas were liberal think-tanks.
Another example of Obama's greatness was Obamacare, and he goes on to ascribe its success to the President himself. Obama was brave not to abandon it even as some of his advisors urged him to, Chait says triumphantly. But, the truth is, Obama simply jawed about Obamacare. In point of fact, he never did anything to craft the bill, he did not work with the Democrat leadership to push it, and he did not engage the GOP in any compromise to assure it. Obama simply didn't do any of the heavy lifting for the bill.
If anyone deserves credit for Obamacare becoming law, it's Nancy "we have to pass it to find out what's in it" Pelosi. She was the ramrod for Obamacare, while all Obama did was talk about it. He did no actual work.
Still, as leader, he did continue to push the bill at all costs. But Chait's praise is based on what he claims was Obama's real, hard work as President, not just lofty rhetoric.
Later, Chait goes on to "explain" why Obama failed to affect that very hope and change sort of post-partisan Washington upon which he built his airy 2008 campaign. Why did Obama fail at this? Chait tells us that it's all those darn Republican's fault.
The second indictment of Obama is that he failed to redeem the broader vision of trans-partisan governance he campaigned on. The reason this happened is that the Republicans' leadership in Congress grasped early on that its path to returning to power required Obama to fail, and that they could help bring this about by denying his initiatives any support.
As proof, Chait goes after the oft repeated lie that GOP Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell set out, at the beginning of Obama's term, to obstruct everything.
McConnell, in keeping with his Bond-villain habit of boasting openly about his nefarious intentions, actually announced in a prepared speech that his top political priority was to make Obama a one-term president.
First of all, McConnell didn't exactly do what Chait claims he did. For one, Chait is referring to the time the left claimed McConnell said that the GOP would make Obama a one-term president by refusing to work with him. But even lefty reporter Bob Woodward debunked this claim.
Secondly, Chait refers to a speech McConnell made in 2010 at the Heritage Foundation. But even in this speech McConnell didn't say what Chait claims. In Chiat's out of context excerpt, McConnell says, "Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term."
What is out of context is that the whole of McConnell's referenced speech was centered on the success of the 2010 Republican tidal wave that proved that the majority of Americans had turned against Obama's extremely left-wing policies. In that speech, McConnell also said that, "for the past two years Democratic lawmakers chose to ignore the American people, so on Tuesday the American chose new lawmakers."
In other words, McConnell wasn't just saying the Republicans would obstruct for obstruction's sake, but that Obama spent his first two years in office refusing to compromise and work in the bipartisan manner the people wanted. So, the people gave the President's party a solid defeat. Because of this, McConnell said, he was going to make darn sure that Obama listened to the people, and if Obama refused, then he deserved to be a one-term president.
"We can hope the president will start listening to the electorate after Tuesday’s election. But we can’t plan on it," McConnell said that day. He also admitted that the voters "didn't fall in love with Republicans" in 2010, but fell out of love with the Democrats. This was mostly Obama's fault for not reaching across the aisle.
So, Chait whitewashes history by not noting the truth that Obama rarely meets with Republican leaders. During his first year in office, for instance, he went most of the year without meeting much with Republicans. Even as late as 2011, a USA Today article chided Obama for refusing to meet with Republicans.
And who can forget one of Obama's most famous quotes on this subject? In 2009, he kindly informed the GOP that he didn't have to listen to any of their concerns about his massive stimulus proposals. "I won," he famously told them. His party, a party that controlled both houses of Congress at the time, followed his lead.
This attitude is exactly why the voters tossed out so many Democrats in 2010.
Later, when Obama finally tried to reach out to Republicans during the budget negotiations with GOP House Speaker Boehner, the President's tin-ear forced the Speaker to drop the "grand bargain" that the two had almost agreed upon in 2011. Bob Woodward called this Obama's "explosive mix of dysfunction, miscommunication, and misunderstandings" that led to the collapse of the talks.
None of these monumental failures appear in Chait's hagiography.
Chait tows the left-wing journalist's line of thinking that Obama's failures to be the post-partisan President is all the obstructionist Republicans' fault. Sadly, this line of thinking totally ignores Obama's own culpability for mostly refusing to work with the GOP, so much so that he handed his own party a major rebuke in the massive GOP victory of 2010.
Clinton had a similar problem in the middle of his presidency -- he also lost control of Congress and saw many of his fellow Democrats thrown out of office. But Clinton was smart enough to pivot to the center and ended his two-term presidency on a rather successful note, despite the impeachment attempt made against him. Thus far, Obama has shown no sign at all that he is agile enough as a leader to make such a move.
Obama is a left-wing ideologue. He has no interest in being a real post-partisan President. Chait, though, pretends otherwise. It seems to me Chait's fallen for the hopie-changie line of bunk after all.