For a Stronger Obama

by Jonah Goldberg

From NBC’s First Read:


*** Obama’s rough news day: If Tuesday was “Pile on Rick Perry Day,” today is “Pile on Barack Obama Day.” Consider: Democrats last night lost special elections in New York and Nevada, and Obama’s approval rating didn’t help; a new poll shows that 51% if Americans don’t believe his jobs plan will help lower the unemployment rate; and a congressional hearing today is looking into the administration’s half-billion-loan via the first stimulus to a solar-panel manufacturer, Solyndra, that later went belly up. All of these stories can be explained away via individual context. But taken together, they signal how Obama’s brand has taken a big hit. A stronger Obama could have helped the Democratic candidates, especially the one in New York; a stronger Obama would be getting a bigger reception for his jobs plan; and a stronger Obama would be able to dismiss the Solyndra as just a minor irritant.

As a general proposition, this sounds entirely reasonable. But on second thought, history isn’t a general proposition, it’s a collection of  facts — i.e. things that actually happened. And if I recall correctly, when Obama was stronger he still had a very hard time helping Democrats get elected. He couldn’t stop a Republican from getting Teddy Kennedy’s seat. He couldn’t help that Deeds character in Virginia and he couldn’t prevent the “shellacking” in 2010 (remember how he’d reportedly said the difference between 1994 and 2010 is “me”?). And he tried, very, very hard. It seems to me that even when Obama was riding much higher in the polls, he was never very effective at shaping public debates or persuading voters on pretty much anything. Despite his massive effort to sell ObamaCare, he never managed to make the thing popular.

In retrospect, what’s more remarkable is not that he’s weak now, but that he was so weak when he was “strong.”

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