On his radio show today, conservative media giant Rush Limbaugh gave President Obama backhanded credit for spunk, saying that he has “shot his wad,” and that the only way the President’s address before a joint session of Congress next week could live up to expectations would be if he resigned. Disturbing porn imagery and possible Mediaite copycatting aside, the already-high expectations for the President’s speech have been ratcheted up by the scheduling machinations, and they will be nearly impossible to meet.
Limbaugh quotes the “television review guy” from The Baltimore Sun, David Zurawik, whose skin-deep analysis of the President’s TVQ nevertheless contains a kernel of the truth about the expectations game. President Obama’s oratorial gifts have become a handicap with shallow-thinking folks on both sides of the political spectrum, and especially with the dim middle. While he has been intermittently impassioned in his fight with Republicans, when it comes to talking about solving the problems we face, the President’s language has been overly clinical.
But these woes are only a symptom of the political and policy box the President finds himself in. From the left, people are wondering why, after eight years of trying it their way, the President still insists on…trying it their way. Even when he had unbreakable majorities in both Houses, the President agreed to a stimulus that was too small and was composed of 40% tax cuts, he passed a health care reform bill that was basically a Republican idea from the 90s, and he escalated the war in Afghanistan. Since losing the House, he has started every negotiation to the right of his best offer, and been shoved right from there. The result of all of this compromise, from the Republican point of view, is summed up by Limbaugh’s conclusion that the only way the President can match the hype is by resigning.
I don’t often find myself in even partial agreement with Rush Limbaugh (although, since we know Rush reads Mediaite, perhaps he’s the one agreeing with me), but on the narrow ground of the expectations surrounding the President’s speech next week, we agree. From the conservative viewpoint, President Obama could scribble his name at the top of the Paul Ryan budget, read that before Congress, and the GOP would hiss. The only thing that would satisfy them would be for him to just go away.
On the other hand, the rest of the country wants to hear a bold plan, one that will really offer hope that things can turn around. Almost by definition, such a plan would have to be something that cannot pass the GOP-controlled House, or the filibuster-enabled Senate. The plan would have to be meteor-strike powerful, and yet somehow would have to be consistent enough with Republican lip service to almost trap them into supporting it. I’m not saying it can’t be done, and President Obama is a very smart guy who can pull off big moves, but it doesn’t look good.
Chances are, this will not be a turning point, but rather, another in a series of steps the President has taken to look like the “adult in the room,” and he’ll propose things that he thinks will pass, or that Republicans can be shamed into passing (a losing bet every time), but that will have all the impact of the DC Earthquake. President Obama has always been a practitioner of the long game, and right now, he’s still trying to bunt the bases full.
Here’s the clip, from Rush Limbaugh:
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