Why a Republican House will make Obama a better president

November 11, 2010

CLINTON/

If you are a Barack Obama supporter — as I am — you should be glad the House of Representatives is changing to Republican. For this is likely to make Obama a better president.

Bill Clinton was ineffective in the first two years of his presidency, with Capitol Hill debacles on health care and the forgotten BTU tax. Then Clinton’s party lost the House in 1994: and his performance as president began to improve.

Sure, there was some kind of fuss between the White House and the House regarding somebody named Monica. But all of Clinton’s signature achievements — welfare reform, the Good Friday Agreement, conversion of federal deficits into surpluses, the Camp David summit — came after the Democrats lost the House.

Once the Democrats no longer had full control of Congress, Clinton no longer could spend his time mediating disputes among the party’s interest groups – disputes regarding the various handouts and special deals various factions were demanding. Clinton needed to broaden his appeal and leadership style, plus acquire genuine concern for his opponents’ positions. He went from being president of the Democrats to president of the nation.

Losing the House was essential to the maturation of Clinton’s presidency. The same can happen for Barack Obama.

So far, President Obama has devoted most of his time and energy to trying to be leader of the always-complaining, always-hands-outstretched internal factions of the Democratic Party. For Democrats to hold the White House, Senate and House, plus have two fresh appointments to the Supreme Court, arguably has made Obama less effective than he otherwise might have been.

Open squabbling over giveaways — the $800 billion stimulus bill might have been called Interest Groups Spoils of Victory Act of 2009 — has made the Democrats look foolish. Possessing near-total control of Washington, Obama’s party nonetheless has made wacky claims of conspiracies against it. Nancy Pelosi’s assertion that “secret money” beholden to mysterious foreign powers is really running the U.S. government is the daffiest thing anyone’s said in years, but hardly the only contention along these lines. Losing the House of Representatives should cause the White House, and at least some Democrats, to get their feet back on the ground.

Obama needs to become the leader of all Americans. As happened with Clinton, this will require broadening his leadership style and finding genuine concern for his opponents’ views and positions.

In a democracy, steamrolling the opposition may work once in a while, but cannot be a basis of governing. Consensus must be sought. Losing the lower chamber of Congress means the White House can’t steamroll any more – and this will be good for the Obama presidency.

Millions of Americans agree with and like President Obama — but millions also don’t. Obama needs to come to terms with that, and show that he cares just as much about his opponents as about his party’s interest groups.

Barack Obama is the most gifted natural leader since Ronald Reagan — who also stumbled and struggled in his first two years as president, and who also took a shellacking, in terms of losing House seats, in his first national election while president, which in Reagan’s case was in 1982.

Clinton in 1994, and Reagan in 1982, woke up and realized they needed to become president of everyone. Both grew in empathy, and improved as leaders, as a result. The same can happen for Obama.

Election postscript 1:
There was obvious voter anger about the cost and bureaucratic-nightmare aspects of ObamaCare. Since most of the reform has not yet taken effect, consensus-seeking amendments to the legislation could improve health care reform — as long as Republicans are sincere in saying they want to improve the reform, rather than just use the issue as a political battering ram.

But bear in mind –– hardly any of the benefits of ObamaCare have been felt. Voters are very aware of the costs and red tape — they haven’t yet experienced the benefits. Once they do, even most Republicans may conclude that Obama mainly was right about health care. Fixing the “preexisting conditions” fault of health insurance, for instance, is a tremendous reform that will spread benefits across all social and income classes.

Election postscript 2:
Have Republican leaders even read the health care reform bill they denounce? The party’s pre-election Pledge to America says of the Republican agenda,  “We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick.” All these points are already covered by Obama’s legislation!

Election postscript 3:
The big question about incoming Tea Party types is, what exactly will they cut? It is hard to imagine tackling the deficit without cuts in Social Security and Pentagon spending. So far no Tea Party senator- or representative-elect has offered anything even remotely specific about how the deficit might be pared. It’s a lot easier to denounce than to govern.

Republican Jim DeMint, a Tea Party favorite just re-elected to his second term in the Senate, said on Meet the Press on Sunday that reductions in Social Security and Pentagon spending won’t be required because “we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level” by eliminating “administrative waste.”  If DeMint knows of “hundreds of billions of dollars a year” — this is about the same as Medicare spending — in “administrative waste,” how come he never moved to do anything about it during his first six years in the Senate?

Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

10 comments

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I think your argument that Clinton became a better president after he took a beating is horribly flawed. Clinton was a good manager, but he failed in all of his legislative goals. And under his watch a lot of bad legislation was passed. Like investment deregulation, and NAFTA.

First Barrack Obama succeeded in an exceptionally large part of his legislative goals. Passing health care and financial reform.

The stimulus package was 40% tax breaks and is credited with keeping unemployment 2% lower than it would have been without it and getting the country out of recession in the summer of 2009. The Economy is not something the president or congress control. Other than providing infrastructure and enforcing rules. I agree the execution of this bill could have been better.

Barrack will no longer succeed in any legislative achievements outside of tax reform. Which I doubt he will mark as an achievement. No progress will be made to save the planet from global warming. I doubt any progress on immigration reform will take place.

The only positive of this election, is that now republicans share more responsibility for the terrible economic conditions their deregulation and lack of education investment and infrastructure has led too.

What happened on Nov. 2nd, was not a rejection of Obama, it was the apathy of the young. They will not be apathetic come 2012.

Posted by Fishes | Report as abusive

There contnues to be Obama supporters that just do not get it.

America is going broke. The young voted because they were ill informed and voted againest the establishment as I did when I voted againest Nixon, and when America elected the other great American Presidential failure Jimmy Carter.

In 2008 Conservatives were apathetic. Barack was a young sexy candidate that had a barrel full of cool slogans.

When he had to govern he could not. Healthcare reform is neceessary to make betetr the worlds best health system better. The delivery needs improvement not the vehicle itself. Most Americans do not like being told they have to buy something that they do not want or believe is better than what they already have. The Stimulus went predominately to local and municipal governments to save those political jobs. Did you happen to see how municipal and local government jobs fell in recent employment reports? How did this help create any real jobs, any real wealth? Wealth cannot be created by the government by taking money away from me to give to you. Wealth and jobs are created by producing sustainable demand for a product or service? Who wants more government? The election of 2010 showed that the American people do not. And that is the lesson that the newly elected and those that survived better understand. We can replace these just like we replaced the last bunch.

Americans have no appetite for more of the same. I do not believe President Obama learned anything based on his public comments. He beleives his party lost ground because the American people did not understand his accomplishments. I believe it is because all too many understood perfectly.

Posted by ineffable | Report as abusive

This gentleman reminds me of a famous quote by President Warren G. Harding, after finding out key members of his administration were guilty of criminal offenses:

“It’s not my enemies, it’s my g*ddam friends that keep me walking the floor at night.”

So called “supporters” of Obama like this gentleman are merely stalking horses for the Republican Party. So it is with Mr. Easterbrook, with his shots at a credible health care plan and other real achievements, whether you agree with them or not.

Beware of wolves in sheeps clothing, like this guy.

Posted by gregmedia | Report as abusive

Fishes commented, “The stimulus package was 40% tax breaks and is credited with keeping unemployment 2% lower than it would have been without it…”

Ah, how quickly Obama apologists forget. Obama’s administration estimated a peak unemployment figure of 9% without the stimulus and a peak of 8% with stimulus. Per Christina Romer’s assessment, with stimulus unemployment should be around 7.2% today. We are still at 10.5%. You can read her flawed analysis which was used as the foundation for this terrible waste of taxpayer money here:

http://www.politico.com/pdf/PPM116_obama doc.pdf

Thank you Easterbrook for disclosing your political leanings on Obama while being objective enough to call the stimulus what it is – “Interest Groups Spoils of Victory Act of 2009.”

Posted by AnonMe | Report as abusive

Sorry guys, I meant this one.

So this guy is saying they the Republican’s make Democrat President’s better when they (the Republican’s) rule the House. Well, how about making a good Republican President of their own with all that knowledge…I mean the last two (George Snr.,George Jnr.,Bush’s) were funny, but not good. & Reagan’s (though a nice man & of Irish descent) in his economics as President, was to some degree the reason…why America is in the mess it is today.

If you don’t know how to build your own “Great” Republican president, by now, then I suggest you get the help of Lego or Meccano.

Posted by IrishGiggle | Report as abusive

Since it is always “business as usual” in Washington with elected officials enacting corporate giveaways for campaign contributions, of course it’s better to have divided government. At least then, there is less business that gets done.
I don’t know that this’ll make Obama a better leader, but we will probably have slightly better (i.e., less) government.

Posted by nadie | Report as abusive

On the whole a balanced article. But I can’t help this one: Obama was elected to be a unifier and lead for all Americans, yada yada yada. Two years later he needs a whooping, shellacking, thumpin’ whatever to start practicing what he preaches? OK, the man’s not a miracle worker, but the disconnect between Obama the candidate and Obama the President is revealing, at least for me, a non-supporter.
But as a friend and economist said last year: “They (the supporters) didn’t get what they were expecting… it’s what we were expecting…”

Posted by mheld45 | Report as abusive

Well done pursuasive essay. Good references. I didn’t know about the GOP Pledge to America. Page 27 of Pledge has several pledges that I thought were the items that GOP was challenging Dems on. I wish these guys be made accountable for what they communicate to the American people.

Posted by richmitch | Report as abusive

Goldman to pull money from Falcone – Reuters…

We have added a Trackback to your article on the Bank Informer….

Greenspan: High deficits could spark bond crisis (Reuters)…

I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

It is not enough that your Legislature should be numerous; it should also be divided.”
–Ben Franklin

“Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”
–James Madison

“Divided we ever have been, and ever must be.”
–John Adams

“Divided we stand, united we fall.”
–Thomas Jefferson

Posted by GLK | Report as abusive

“Barack Obama is the most gifted natural leader since Ronald Reagan…”

With statements like that one, prefacing your blog with, “If you are a Barack Obama supporter — as I am…” was patently unnecessary. Lay off the Flavor Aid Gregg.

Barry is neither gifted nor is he any kind of natural leader. He’s an arrogant, finger-pointing empty suit.

Posted by murzak | Report as abusive