Jul 6, 2009

Summer Breeze or Hurricane Awaits Obama

Update: See TNR's Inexcusable, When will Obama get real on gay civil rights?

Summer is typically a comparatively down time for politics.

Not this summer and not for President Obama.

E.J. Dionne posits that this summer—the 6th through 9th month of Obama's presidency—is a critical period.

But Dionne, generally a fine analyst, gets it wrong by suggesting that Obama's problem is maintaining "support from both the left and the center as he faces potentially divisive choices in the context of a stricken economy."

Dionne says of the left: "For progressives, the president's long-term political well-being depends upon delivering tangible benefits to middle-class voters in areas such as health care, education and financial security, even at the risk of temporarily higher budget deficits."

What does Dionne mean? That whom he regards as centrist voters don't care about health care, education and financial security, and that the solutions progressive see are not popular?

That's crazy. The American public is with Obama on progressive solutions to these issues, and not just the "left."

But absent decisive stimulative action, Obama does face more than a few possible paths to a worse recession.

And those values voters so concerned about transparency, civil liberties, human rights and the Constitution are ignored and repudiated at Obama's political peril.

Not because the American public cares about a transparent, open and democratic government. Let's face it; most Americans don't care about the tenets of democratic government and certainly not about equal protection and civil rights. But Obama's base does care. Does Obama?

Writes Jeff Ronci in the New York Times letter to the editor:

Since his election, President Obama has had unprecedented opportunities to lead and educate on civil rights for gay Americans. His response has been alternately silent, glib, clumsy, indifferent, condescending and cavalier. In his administration’s brief supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, the tone was antagonistic.
One thing for certain is that Obama vis a vis George W. Bush won't be taking long vacations in August and blowing off aides who tell him that terrorists are threatening the United States with attack.

But it's the mounting uncertainties about the direction that Obama wishes to take this country that will make or break this administration this Summer.

See the Democratic Strategist and Ruy Teixeira for more information on public attitudes.

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