- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It’s no secret that election season 2010 has already begun. The first off-year election for the party of a sitting president has historically been messy. This year promises to be no different. President Obama’s approval numbers are buoyed only by the cellarlike approval ratings of congressional Democrats.

In many respects, the congressional campaigns started the day Mr. Obama was elected. He knew the odds were stacked against him: A Depression-era economy, two unpopular wars and a foreign perspective of the United States as a modern-day Evil Empire. The White House’s tactical response was as easily wrought as it was to state in a sound bite — it was all President George W. Bush’s fault.

Yet the pages of 2008 and even 2009 have turned. This is Mr. Obama’s economy now. This is Mr. Obama’s Afghanistan policy. This is Mr. Obama’s Iraq. The courses he has taken have helped to define his presidency more than any speech or doctrine he personally espouses. And the fact that his party’s rank-and-file members are flat tired of getting their butts handed to them every time they head home to meet with constituents.

It’s time for a change all right — Democratic Party style. So what is this new master plan the top dogs at the White House are concocting? While we’re just now seeing the beginning stages of its rollout, it’s all based on the very complex theory of … dumb luck.

From health care to financial reform to even a new policy with Israel, issue by issue, the Obama administration seems more content in hoping for good things to happen than actually trying to implement good policies.

Has anyone seen the president or Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at a health care clinic lately touting the new benefits that went into effect this month? July marked the beginning of several “goodies” of the new reform law before all the tax hike pain comes later, and yet, very little, if any, national attention was created by Mr. Obama’s bully pulpit.

The latest financial overhaul is another example. Even Wall Street lobbyists can’t seem to make heads or tails of the new measure, opting instead to pull their campaign donations and save them for perhaps a new Republican majority come November.

Remember the stimulus? That’s so unpopular House Democrats are privately polling back home to see whether the billions in giveaways are a net positive to tout on the campaign trail.

To add insult to injury, the White House has seized on every minor gaffe of its Republican opponents in attempts to make November less a referendum on the Democratic agenda and more a choice on who’s better fit to govern.

That’s it? The once-heralded Obama machine is now resorting to schoolyard name-calling and finger-wagging to make a point of national significance? If Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele is the Democratic gift that keeps on giving, then what did these guys want for Christmas?

What electoral small potatoes for such a bold party that, less than 18 months ago, was thought to usher in a new era not seen since the days of Kennedy or Roosevelt. Who would vote for these clowns with national campaign slogans such as, “We’re not as bad as those guys” and “Just you wait … happy days are ahead”?

To read how Washington’s Politiconewspaper describes the strategy, one wonders whether it’s a strategy at all. “[T]he overreliance on Republican missteps and the foibles of various GOP candidates,” reporter Jonathan Martin wrote last month, “underscore how much [Democrats’] prospects depend not on their own agenda but, rather, on the hope that the opposition will continue to step in it.”

The Obama administration is basing the future of its now-tenuous grip on power on pure chance. The White House forecasters can’t tell you when the economy will rebound, but when it does, they’re ready to take the credit. On health care, it’s difficult to say whether a major new entitlement will slow the rate of inflation and actually cover millions of uninsured, but don’t fret. They have a good feeling about this one. Why? Well, it’s the only option lawmakers haven’t tried. On financial regulatory reform, it’s not clear whether the new law will work because Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner still isn’t sure whether Treasury properly diagnosed the 2008 crash.

If you stop and think about it, Mr. Obama’s “hope and prayer” blueprint is the only option Democrats have left. House and Senate leaders are almost afraid that if they try to pass anything else on the president’s agenda, they’ll lose even more seats.

Take “cap and trade,” for example. In a key battleground state such as Ohio, Senate Republican hopeful Rob Portman recently ran a series of ads and campaign broadsides against his opponent citing as many as 100,000 Ohio jobs would be lost if a carbon tax were imposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a bill only Sen. Barbara Boxer of California could love, and some think even she’s in trouble.

The sad commentary is it didn’t have to be this way. Democrats could have neutralized a lot of the venom in this campaign cycle if they had simply garnered even token bipartisan support on major initiatives.

On each and every issue, the Obama administration seemed more bent on getting it done than getting it right. The Founders never intended monumental shifts in law to be made with such lopsided partisanship.

If 2008 will forever be remembered as the campaign for hope and change, 2010 will just as easily be remembered as Mr. Obama’s campaign on hope and a prayer. Unless a lot of his gambles start paying off, prayer is the only certainty Mr. Obama and Democrats will have left.

“The Armstrong Williams Show” is broadcast on Sirius/XM Power 169, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., weekdays.

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