Two Clunkers by Obama Defeat From the Jaws of Victory?
As George Washington Plunkett, denizen of Tammany Hall, famously said, “Politics ain’t beanbag.” Indeed it ain’t.
An election year that was beginning to look like a long, tedious march toward the re-election of Barack Obama has at least become more interesting, if not substantially changed. In just the past few days, the president has made a couple of remarkable blunders with no assistance at all from his opponents.
First, he rejected the Keystone pipeline as a sop to his environmentalist constituency. This was incomprehensibly tone-deaf. First, the pipeline would have created somewhere between 20,000 and 100,000 jobs, depending on whose numbers you believe.
Perhaps more important, the decision is counterproductive to the environmentalist cause. Canada is going to produce the oil by fracking, whether we like it or not; then, instead of shipping it through a nice, clean pipeline to our relatively clean refineries, it will be shipped to dirty Chinese refineries in oil-burning tankers, many of which will have single hulls — the kind that spill oil everywhere if damaged.
This decision has aggravated unions, conservatives and anyone unhappy with our dependence on Mideastern oil, all at once.
Then there’s the enormous recent flap over the directive that Catholic institutions include access to means of contraception in their health care plans. This has riled not only Catholics, who believe it violates a basic tenet of their faith and the constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state, but also conservatives and anyone else concerned about the intrusiveness of the federal government.
It is also viewed by many as a first step toward eventually including abortion in health care services. Many people with no qualms about contraception or abortion are resentful of this action.
This debate has taken off in a way that was clearly unanticipated, and the administration is struggling to calm the waters with doubletalk about compromise.
Even with the election nine months away, these decisions will remain as issues.
Then there are the Republicans. Suddenly, pretty much out of nowhere, Rick Santorum won primary events in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. The anyone-but-Romney forces arose once again, and only time will tell if Santorum will go the way of Bachmann, Cain, Perry and possibly Gingrich, or whether he can reinvigorate his campaign and fundraising efforts. Santorum, by the way, is a Catholic.
All of this has taken over the news in a week following a good employment report, a week the administration would have liked to spend trumpeting improving economic news. That opportunity is essentially gone; by the time the news cycle calms down, the employment report will be ancient history.
In our interminable — or perhaps I should say permanent — election process, every event becomes political; there is no relief. That is why, with nine months to go, anything could still happen. In addition to the issues of the past few weeks, we still have overhanging us the payroll tax debate, the budget, the deficit and, on the international front, the European financial crisis, Afghanistan, Iran and more.
All these things are clearly in view, and for the most part, cannot be sidestepped. The president, as well as his eventual opponent, will have to do or say something about them. No matter how much they may wish to obfuscate the issues, they will not go away; and somehow, in light of all of this, next November we have to choose a president, and a lot of other people, to manage the government.
The course of the election may or may not be altered by any of these events, but they at least demonstrate that as someone, probably Yogi, said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by email at fwolferman@
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