- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Struggling left-leaning magazine Newsweek grabbed some rare attention this week with its cover story asking why President Obama’s critics are “so dumb.” In a lengthy essay. avowed Obama junkie Andrew Sullivan posits that Mr. Obama is not the pathetic loser many of his critics say he is. In fact, his “long game” will outsmart naysayers on the right, left and center - provided he gets re-elected.

Much of the essay isn’t controversial; Mr. Sullivan recycles White House talking points about how the economy inherited from the George W. Bush administration was actually worse than reported, that the administration has done as well as could be expected, and that Mr. Obama just needs more time before the full impact of his economic program comes to bear. Most critiques of Mr. Obama’s record are, according to Mr. Sullivan, “simply - empirically - wrong.”

Liberal propaganda aside, three years into the Obama term, the “blame Bush” mantra no longer works. Let’s begin with facts that are simply empirically right. In the first quarter of 2010, the economy was growing at a rate of 3.9 percent and the administration was taking credit for staving off a depression. The White House dubbed the third quarter of that year “recovery summer” and looked forward to a robust launch into midterm election season. But by then, growth had dropped to 2.5 percent and bottomed out in the first quarter of 2011 at 0.4 percent. Growth for all of 2011 will be somewhere under 2 percent and shows no signs of improving. Mr. Obama owns this double dip near-recession, not Mr. Bush.

Was it part of the Obama long-term master plan to suffer historic midterm election losses, sacrificing control of the House and losing his supermajority in the Senate? Did he try to have the lowest public-opinion ratings of any president at this point in his term? Mr. Sullivan avoids these prickly questions.

Obama’s foreign policy,” Mr. Sullivan writes, “eschews short-term political hits for long-term strategic advantage.” He then dwells at length on the short-term hit on Osama bin Laden, which is the White House’s only positive story. Polling in Muslim countries, where Mr. Obama invested ample political capital in outreach efforts, shows America is less popular than when he took office. The Arab Spring is bringing a new generation of Islamic extremists to power, Russia and China are extending their geopolitical influence, Iran is on the verge of having a nuclear weapon, and America is facing a brisk strategic retreat. Apparently Americans are too dumb to understand how any of this is an advantage.

In focusing on the alleged “long game,” Mr. Sullivan seeks to make Mr. Obama’s failures into virtues. Even if we accept this pro-Obama spin, we are left with a long-term thinker in a world that demands short-term results. That makes a bad fit for president but could be well-suited for a think tank or punditry, where someone can wax about long-term strategies free of the day-to-day demands of an office for which he is intellectually and professionally unfit. Time is running short for Mr. Obama’s “long game” - any dummy can see that.

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