Saturday, September 20, 2008

What Might an Obama President Look Like?

In his Politico column Wednesday, American Enterprise Institute scholar John Fortier asked what an Obama Presidency might look like. Given the current trend back toward Obama in most of the polls, this is a question many may be pondering between election day and January 20th, 2009.

Specifically, Fortier considers what is likely to be the political dynamic in 2009 (a strongly Democratic, fairly unified Congress) in conjunction with Obama's political record to date.
Obama’s legislative career has been spent mostly in the minority (ed: thus making it harder to accomplish goals)...He has modest but bipartisan accomplishments (italics added)...[as a state Senator] he championed a measure to expand health care, state legislative ethics reform and an anti-racial profiling bill that won unanimous support. In the U.S. Senate he worked on anti-nuclear proliferation efforts with Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and on government accountability measures with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a conservative stalwart.
In this regard, he is similar to Senator McCain. Whereas McCain is quick to rub his bi-partisanship in his party's eye, though, Obama does so in a lower key manner that doesn't ruffle his party's feathers, says Fortier.

Another key "tell" for Fortier is that the Obama campaign has been very professional. It's been cohesive, lacking the leaks and backbiting that mark many presdiential campaigns. This bodes well for a smooth executive branch under President Obama.

As a President with liberal majorities in both Houses of Congress, Obama won't need to work very hard to reach out to Republicans. In fact, his biggest critics may be some in his own party who feel he doesn't go far enough:
But Obama would face some difficulties. He has bipartisan instincts, but political circumstances point neither to him courting GOP lawmakers nor at Republicans reciprocating. His chief difficulty is raised expectations. An Obama win, combined with strong congressional gains in 2006 and 2008, would embolden Democratic activists to push for an ambitious agenda. But the cost and complexity of health care reform, continuing costs of keeping troops in Afghanistan and even Iraq, and the reality that only a few agenda items can be tackled in the first year may frustrate the base or perhaps cause Obama to push for too much, only to disappoint. Managed correctly, a plan that gets 75 percent of what Obama wants on health care or energy would be a major victory, even if some see it as unambitious.
This is something I have thought for a while. There's so much excitement around the Obama campaign, and so much expectation, that if he is seen as failing to deliver quickly on key promises such as bringing US troops home from Iraq, he may find his strongest supporters becoming his biggest critics.

Tomorrow, we'll look at Fortier's take on a McCain presidency.

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