While we’ve spent so much time comparing Obama to Carter, maybe we’ve left out the other one-term president of recent memory: George H.W. Bush. Bush, let’s recall, had soaring popularity ratings and then plummeted because of a recession that had technically ended long before reelection. And one of his biggest problems is that he was perceived as being too politically passive, unwilling to fight for his core beliefs, to the extent he had them. When he went populist, it seemed phony and calculated. He was undone in large part by his flip-flop on taxes and a primary challenge to his right.
Obama betrayed a principle and promise as profoundly as Bush 41 did when he agreed to extend the Bush 43 tax cuts. Unfortunately for the RNC, there’s no video as powerful as Bush 41′s “read my lips” convention pledge, but I’m sure there are plenty of soundbites that will suffice.
I should add, I think he did the right thing. But his grudging, bitter, defensive announcement last night made him seem weak. Indeed, that was one of Bush’s biggest problem after he signed the budget deal. His administration got bogged down defending itself from criticism from his friends for the rest of his presidency.