Obama worried that Carter label will stick

Sunday Times:

LESS than two weeks into his administration, President Barack Obama is being portrayed by opponents as a new Jimmy Carter - weak at home and naive abroad - in an attempt to dim his post-election glow and ensure that he serves only one term.

The charge has stung because it was made privately by Hillary Clinton supporters during a hard-fought primary campaign and plays to fears about Obama’s inexperience.

He is engaged in early trials of strength with Republicans in Washington and critics of the United States around the world – not least Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president. Obama faces battles to talk Wall Street into giving up its addiction to large bonuses and US banks to start lending again.

“Barack Obama thinks he can charm his adversaries into changing their ways but his personality can’t change the dynamics,” said Tom Edmonds, a Republican consultant.

“Carter [president from 1977 to 1981] had the same belief in naive symbolism. Their styles are very different but the political similarities are there.”

The Republicans are in fighting mood after Obama failed to secure a single vote on their side for his $819 billion financial stimulus package in the House of Representatives, despite intensive wooing.

The bill came laden with spending on Democratic pet projects, including $50m for the arts and $400m for global warming research that critics said had little to do with boosting the economy. It also contains “buy American” protectionist provisions that have alarmed trading partners, including Britain.


If Gregg is appointed and Al Franken wins a disputed Senate recount battle in Minnesota, as seems likely, the Democrats will attain a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate, allowing them to push through policies without obstruction.

“This is about as strong a power play as you can make in politics,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic consultant. “It would give Barack Obama the political dominance that Karl Rove talked about the Republicans achieving.”


However, Republicans believe he could be ejected in four years if they can portray him as the creature of spendthrift Democrats, with an ineffectual plan for dragging the US economy out of recession.

“This is the Republicans’ way back. They have to return to their core values of cutting spending and taxes,” said Edmonds. “If the stimulus package doesn’t work, it is Obama’s failure. It’s got his name on it.”


There is more.

Obviously, not every writer is in the tank for Obama and the Democrats. Realistic analysis is rare these days and both Republicans and Democrats could benefit from it. It is too bad both are unlikely to see a report from a UK paper.

I was one of the first to make the Jimmy Carter analogy early in the campaign, when I noticed how many Carter alumni dominated his team. Others picked up the thread. It is good to see that foreign reporters are noticing too.


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