For all the talk about the movement that elected Mr. Obama, the more notable movement of Obama supporters has been away from politics. It appears that few of the young people who voted for him, and even fewer Obama campaign and administration operatives, have decided to run for office. Far more have joined the high-paid consultant ranks.
Unlike John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, who inspired virtual legislatures of politicians and became generational touchstones, Mr. Obama has so far had little such influence. That is all the more remarkable considering he came to office tapping into spirit of volunteerism and community service that pollsters say is widespread and intense among young people. Mr. Obama has come to represent that spirit, but he has failed, pollsters say, to transform it into meaningful engagement in the political process.
“If you were to call it an Obama generation, there was a window,” said John Della Volpe, the director of polling at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. “That opportunity has been lost.” He said the youth who came of voting age around the time of the 2008 election have since lost interest in electoral politics, and pointed to a survey he conducted last year among 18- to 29-year-olds. Although 70 percent said they considered community service an honorable endeavor, only 35 percent said the same about running for office.
George H.W. Bush is rarely credited for his domestic agenda, but there were some pretty significant pieces of legislation passed under his watch: a landmark Clean Air Act that actually did what it was supposed to do and continues to do so today; the Americans With Disabilities Act that changed the way our cities and buildings look and opened a world of opportunity to those who had been shut out before; a Civil Rights Act he had the guts to veto in order to get it right before signing it into law.
His accomplishments are significant and deserve recognition, but there does seem to be a renewed appreciation and even longing for who he was and how he conducted himself. As Dana Carvey is quoted above, that whole “kinder gentler” thing sure does sound kind of nice these days. And I think this is true regardless of your politics. That’s what “hope and change” was all about, after all: a longing for a different tone, a better way of doing things in our public life. And that desire remains, whether the politicians and public figures have gotten the message or not.
Parts of the public, not necessarily on the right, have caught on to Obama’s double game, in which his administration has been rhetorically egalitarian and operationally elitist. The economic winners of the Obama years have been,in Joel Kotkin’s terms, the “oligarchs of Wall Street and Silicon Valley.” The losers have come not only from the private-sector middle class, but also from heavily Democratic minority groups.
Internal Revenue Service employees urged callers to vote for President Obama, disparaged Republicans in conversations with taxpayers and wore pro-Obama swag at work during the 2012 election cycle, according to a federal ethics watchdog.
The Office of Special Counsel, which reviews whistleblower allegations, highlighted the three cases in an announcement on Wednesday. Federal law, specifically the Hatch Act, prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan campaign activities.
President Obama was right when he “entered office promising to limit the practice” of naming campaign donors to plum ambassadorial posts “and instead appoint more Foreign Service professionals to ambassadorial positions.” Sure, he’s completely forgotten than promise, and now more than half our ambassadors are political appointees instead of career Foreign Service. But you know what? It’s embarrassing to have wealthy nincompoops who know nothing about their host country representing this country overseas. The next Republican nominee ought to call out this disgrace, promise to end it, and keep that promise.
Sure, Obama’s loud and oft-repeated pledge to not hire lobbyists in policymaking positions is undermined by more than 100 waivers. But Americans have reason to be wary about cabinet appointees overseeing their old clients and employers.
If the next Republican president pledges to disclose meetings between executive-branch staff and lobbyists, let’s not see the new administration working around the rule by meeting with them at a coffee shop across the street.
Back in 2008, candidate Obama lamented bills rushing through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them. Obama said he “will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.” And then he broke that promise, again and again. But that’s not such a terrible policy. Even if the public comment has no impact on the president’s decision to sign a bill into law or veto it, it’s an important symbolic step to emphasize accountability to the public’s views. Point out the broken promise, pledge it again, and keep it this time.
In After Hope and Change, we contrast the hopes of 2008 with the reality of politics and government under President Obama. As Sean Sullivan reports at The Washington Post, A new database reveals that the most-aired ad of the past decade was an Obama spot that attacked McCain’s health plan. It would tax health benefits for the first time, the ad said, leading to higher costs and possible loss of benefits.
It’s bad enough that Obama thinks of the U.S. response to Russia in Ukraine almost exclusively in terms of diplomatic isolation of the bad guy, plus economic sanctions such as they are or might be, and a touch of military aid. But the real worry is that this has become his pattern worldwide.
If potential aggressors come to think that their power grabs will be met solely by diplomatic harassment and some economic squeezing, they will be tempted increasingly to snatch whatever they want first and worry later. Greedy lawbreakers have been emboldened by Obama’s unenforced “red lines” in Syria. Same goes for North Korean rockets landing on South Korean lands without serious penalty. And the same holds for China’s new pattern of muscle flexing to establish its interests in the East and South China Seas. Ukraine only reinforces the pattern.
Economic sanctions are a good tool, but not a substitute for a credible military option. Even potent economic sanctions over decades have not brought Cuba, Iran, and North Korea to their knees. Russia will be even more difficult to break with economic sanctions because it is the eighth largest economy in the world.
Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has sworn off running again for elected office, but Americans have certainly heard that one before.
Speculation that Romney might run again has largely been stoked by the reunion he planned to host last month in Park City, Utah, for members of his 2012 campaign and debate teams and a string of recent public appearances.
He has appeared on TV news shows 12 times in the past six months. That’s essentially on pace with Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, who led all national politicians last year with 26 appearances over 12 months.
Romney has repeatedly said he won’t run again, saying infamously in the Netflix movie “Mitt” about a nominee who loses a White House bid: “They become a loser. It’s over.”
And a few weeks ago, he gave CBS “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer a flat out “no.”
Still, no potential 2016 presidential candidate has yet to say whether he or she will run, including presumptive Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who up until last year also said she was done with public office.
In After Hope and Change, we discuss the relatively low profile of foreign policy in 2012. Now after Russia’s successful seizure of Crimea, even comedians are noticing.
President Barack Obama said the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday is a “stinkburger.”
Obama made the comments while speaking in Ann Arbor, Michigan, shortly after eating at the well-known deli Zingerman’s. Obama likened Ryan’s plan to a sandwich — but not a very good one — that might be sold at the deli.
"If they tried to sell this sandwich at Zingerman’s, they’d have to call it the ‘Stinkburger’ or the ‘Meanwich,’" Obama said.