Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 27, 2011 / 22 Shevat, 5771

No-bend Obama

By Michael Gerson



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | We've now had several tests of President Obama's ideological flexibility, proving him as supple and pliant as a hard pretzel. Following the elections of Republican Govs. Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell in 2009, the president was dismissive. Following the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat in 2010, Obama was defiant. Following the largest pickups for Republicans in the House since 1938, Obama has remained in character.

The 2011 State of the Union address was tonally accommodating and ideologically unbending.

There were, in fairness, some concessions to reality. Obama, by conspicuous omission, recognized that there will be no cap-and-trade system to regulate carbon emissions and no quick closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison (where the administration now seems resigned to resuming military tribunals). But other elements of his outreach - promoting teacher quality or reviewing federal regulations - were both minor and predictable.

And when it came to his governing philosophy, Obama shifted arguments without retreating an ideological inch.

Many Republicans interpret their November victory as the public recognition of a fiscal emergency, requiring a fundamental change in the size and role of government. The alternative, they argue, at least eventually, is a sovereign debt crisis, an inflated currency, a sick and stagnant economy, and accelerated national decline.

On the evidence of his speech, Obama believes no such thing. While he de-emphasized the role of stimulus spending in creating public-sector jobs, he defined an active role for government in catalyzing the private sector - including new spending on infrastructure, scientific research and education. This agenda is hardly new; it has been a mainstay of presidential economic speeches for decades.

This economic approach counts advantages. It allows a president to be positive and future-oriented, as Obama was on Tuesday night. And because such long-term "investments" succeed or fail on a 10- or 20-year timeline, the political benefits for making these proposals arrive long before the measurement of their effectiveness. In his 2006 State of the Union address, which I helped write, President George W. Bush proposed a 22 percent increase in clean-energy research at the Energy Department, a doubling of basic research in the physical sciences and the training of 70,000 high school teachers to instruct Advanced Placement courses in math and science. I have no idea if these "investments" passed or made much difference. I doubt anyone knows.

In his address, Obama spent much of his time rallying America to compete with China; he did much less to indicate how America will avoid the fate of Greece. There were no unexpected or breakthrough deficit-reduction ideas. His five-year spending freeze proposal rehashed last year's three-year spending freeze proposal. His millionaire tax hike has been a standby since the 2008 Democratic primary season. He distanced himself from the recommendations of his own deficit-reduction commission. His mentions of Medicare and Social Security were purposely vague - essentially daring Republicans to make the first move.

This timidity on deficits is actually a measure of the president's political confidence. He is calculating that American anger about deficits and debt has mellowed since November, and he is probably right. If Obama had given a speech the week after the November election setting the goal of giving "80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail," he would have been greeted with laughter and seen as disconnected from political reality. This week, the proposal was received with nods or yawns.

Without doubt, it is easier to communicate Obama's agenda than it is to make the Republican case. Obama's campaign speeches write themselves. Just imagine: "If we can send a man to the moon, why can't we bring Twitter within reach of every disadvantaged child? If the Wright brothers could touch the sky, why can't we have more iPads per capita than the South Koreans? The naysayers will say 'nay.' But this is America. . . ." Any focus group facilitator will tell you that the dials go up with words such as "investment" and "competitiveness" - or "daffodils" and "lollipops" - and down with words such as "debt," "crisis" and "bankruptcy." Who is going to object, as the president promised, to improved cellphone coverage? Who is going to cheer the dour, downbeat call for entitlement reform?

But the main issue here does not concern political advantage. Ultimately, it only matters who is right. If the threat of debt is exaggerated - if it is merely fear-mongering - then Obama's State of the Union strategy makes sense. If the threat is real, Obama, like many politicians before him, is being irresponsible.


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on Michael Gerson's column by clicking here.



Previously:



01/21/11 Two good arguments for civility -- and passion -- in politics
01/11/11 Obama's staff changes give him a second chance
01/11/11 Is Arizona shooting an empty search for meaning?
01/07/11 WikiLeaks gives dangerous ammunition to a tyrant
01/04/11 Michael Vick: Symbol of the second chance
12/28/10 Social Security reform is the answer to Obama's problems --- and the nation's
12/21/10 When foreign policy realism isn't realistic
12/17/10 When it comes to politics, Obama's ego keeps getting in the way
11/26/10 Libs resort to conspiracy theories to explain Obama's problems
11/19/10 With Holder at the helm, detainee policy is a disaster
11/12/10 Blue-state budget crises spell even more trouble for Dems
10/19/10 Obama the snob
10/12/10 Seeds of victory in Afghanistan
10/05/10 Believers' remorse
10/04/10 Pound-foolish on national security
09/28/10 Babylon on the Potomac
09/27/10 Our reluctant commander in chief
09/21/10 Blue strongholds are becoming Democratic graveyards
09/17/10 For the GOP, a bittersweet brew from the Tea Party
09/15/10: Insanity's great enablers
09/13/10: The lost communicator
09/08/10: Will 2010 midterms be 1994 all over again?
09/01/10: Obama's economic wandering
08/27/10: Miracles from abroad
08/25/10: Address these issues in order to strengthen the Tea Party
08/20/10: The lost promise of Barack Obama
07/23/10: Obama's greatest nightmare
02/04/09: The Reality of Innocence
01/07/09: The Risks in Obama's Ambitions
12/31/08: Support Obama Will Need
06/13/08: Prince Charles, Organic Conservatism Icon
06/11/08: No longer a bankrupt political joke but still overshadowed
04/23/08: McCain's anger management
04/10/08: A Country for Old Men
03/06/08: Does the America Need a Hug?
03/06/08: Obama's First 100 Days
02/29/08: Words Aren't Cheap
02/22/08: He Said, They Said
02/20/08: Dying silently in Zimbabwe
02/15/08: Hillary's Unappealing Path
02/13/08: NATO's Afghan Stumbles
02/08/08: Why McCain Endures
02/06/08: One surge that led to another
02/01/08: In North Korea, Process Over Progress
01/30/08: Compassionate to the end


© 2008, WPWG

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles