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Obama: If he's reelected, how would you advise him?

August 9, 2011 |  2:50 pm


The debt ceiling debate soured many Americans on Republicans and the "tea party" movement, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, which also found increased support for Democrats. But according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday, confidence in the Obama administration has dropped three points.  

While pundits debate which numbers will better indicate Obama’s reelection possibilities -- approval ratings vs. unemployment -- others are asking what kind of leader this country needs. To that end, some are saying Obama should become less of a moderate conservative. Others would like to see him embrace the 'tea party' movement's ideas.

For the Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart, who recently wrote about the president’s era of decline, Obama would be better off approaching his presidency as though he were living the pessimistic '70s and not the optimistic '60s.

For liberals, the Obama years were supposed to mark a return to progressive government activism, a latter-day Great Society. But the Great Society, it’s crucial to remember, was launched in the mid-1960s, at the high noon of American optimism about our position in the world. What destroyed it, among other things, was the painful realization, by the early 1970s, that American resources were more finite, and America’s international position more fragile, than Johnson and his whiz-kid advisers had understood. Similarly, it is now clear that today’s political environment is less like the early and mid-1960s, that era of liberal optimism -- or even the 1980s, which were dominated by Reagan’s conservative optimism -- than by the deeply pessimistic 1970s. President Obama, like presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter, will be defined by how he manages the politics of decline.

Drew Westen, author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation,” also suggests a different approach for Obama. In a New York Times Op-Ed, he urges Obama to become a better storyteller. Tell the people what they want to hear -- and then do it.

[In] contrast, when faced with the greatest economic crisis, the greatest levels of economic inequality, and the greatest levels of corporate influence on politics since the Depression, Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze. Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, he put them in charge of it. He never explained that decision to the public — a failure in storytelling as extraordinary as the failure in judgment behind it. Had the president chosen to bend the arc of history, he would have told the public the story of the destruction wrought by the dismantling of the New Deal regulations that had protected them for more than half a century. He would have offered them a counternarrative of how to fix the problem other than the politics of appeasement, one that emphasized creating economic demand and consumer confidence by putting consumers back to work. He would have had to stare down those who had wrecked the economy, and he would have had to tolerate their hatred if not welcome it. But the arc of his temperament just didn’t bend that far.

If Obama is reelected, how would you advise him?


Disgusted by Washington

A lot at stake for small-town America

'Tea party' influence: Good, bad or overblown?

Deficit reduction: Who matters now in Washington?

Rick Perry: Would Obama stand a chance against the Texas governor?

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: President Obama speaks from the White House on July 31. Credit: Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press

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