I think he was nuts to go balls to the wall for health care when the wind was clearly blowing against it. The wise move would have been to cover the rugrats first. Win the PR battle on that one and take your incremental steps as a blessing. ("In this country, it's a shame that any child must go without health care," etc. This shit writes itself.) Now he's got to stand up to the GOP as they screm for repeal for two years. Also, he can't do any reform on Medicare or Social Security, other than trim around the edges, because he needs the geezer vote.
Point is, he needs to get himself a victory. In two years, the economy will be in better shape, and if Obama looks minimally competent, enough people will stay home on election day to win it for him. He said he wanted to be a "consequential" president. From there to rooting for low turnout in '12 is a helluva long way to fall. Now, if he wants a second term, he's going to have to settle for micro-policy. To do that, he has to clear out the kool-aid drinkers to start with. Too many people around him tell him he's brilliant. He needs someone to tell him he's full of shit. That done, here are four ways he can take back the center.
- Tax reform: Streamline the tax code. Make it a moral issue, something to get people fired up. Show examples of the craziness of the tax code, how arcane and byzantine it is. Make it easy for Joe Citizen to file, keep his deductions, and not sweat April 15th next year.
- Winding down affirmative action: He hinted at this during the '08 campaign -- that racial set-asides are a policy for a problem that doesn't exist anymore, at least not in the same form. This is a chance to bring white independents back into your fold. Not to be glib, but what are the blacks going to do, vote for Romney? Buff up those post-racial bonafides and suggest something new, based on different ideas. Less focus on discrimination, more focus on getting opportunity to those who need it. And change the name, for god's sake.
- Grow a pair: Obama's foreign policy has been abysmal -- a generous description, in fact. A lot of the wild criticisms of Obama are off the mark: he's not a socialist, he's not out to destroy capitalism, he's not trying to nationalize the auto industry. But one accurate criticism is that he is a naif on the world stage. The Russians rolled him, his Afghanistan policy took too damn long and then he changed his mind, he's pushing Israel away with both hands, the Norks (see today's headlines) are returning to their old trick of banging the high chair until America sends them a billion barrels of oil, and he deploys the military with an air of distaste, like a yuppie scraping a roadkill out of his cul-de-sac. He's looking like Jimmy Carter, and that's bad. He needs to push back, and hard. Message to the world needs to be: I may be a liberal, but it's still true that you f*ck with America at your own peril.
- Press flesh with the rubes: Why is Obama out of the country so damn much? You'd think he didn't like it here or something. This will be the hardest for him, but he's going to have to go retail. Show people he is an American, because they're starting to forget. This has nothing to do with birthers or the "secret Muslim" conspiracy crowd. Obama doesn't behave like an actual American. Honestly, when did we last have a cosmopolitan as president? (Probably Woodrow Wilson -- and see what that wrought.) Look, he doesn't have to eat bbq or pitch horseshoes like Clinton, but he does have to stop acting like he's allergic to people who do. I've seen him do retail, and he does it well. But when he hides behing the teleprompter, dropping Gs to sound folksy (listen to how he says words like workin', movin', gettin', for example), people see through him.