My New York Post column today raises the question of whether President Obama has outsmarted himself with his insistent “pass this bill now” mantra. With the economy approaching free fall, his chin is hanging out, and yet his fellow Democrats seem strangely loath to back him up. Maybe that’s because they’ve finally figured out that he’s setting them up to be the fall guys;
So, aside from small bits that might pass as bipartisan gestures, the bill has zero chance of becoming law anytime soon, no matter how often the president demands immediate action. Lefty Robert Reich says it plainly wasn’t meant to pass; centrist Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) calls it “terrible,” and even radicals like Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva have raised objections.
In fact — and here’s the really cynical bit — for all his finger-wagging, and peremptory tone, Obama doesn’t care about passing it… it’s the much-publicized “Truman” strategy — a bid to set up Congress as his real opponent in next year’s election, much as Harry Truman did back in 1948. His only hope is to pretend that it’s Congress that’s keeping the chickens out of every pot, Congress that wants veterans to starve, Congress that’s protecting its rich buddies while he selflessly defends the little guy.
Is he really that Machiavellian? Or is he just a typical Chicago pol, willing to double-cross anybody and everybody if it serves his best interest — which in this case is reelection?
How obvious can the White House be? Obama declared in his speech last week that he’s taking his message “to every corner of this country” — but he’s actually taking it to swing states like Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina, which he has to win in November 2012 to keep his job.
Team Obama is calculating that if they make the right noises about helping wounded veterans and saving teachers, the details don’t matter. As long as they continue whipping up class resentment — yeah, it’s those rich doctors making a couple hundred grand a year by working 60-hour weeks saving lives that are forcing poor kids into substandard classrooms — they hope to eke out a narrow victory in what will be a fiercely competitive election.
They Hope, but somehow I think we’re more likely to see Change in 2012.