Who Wants Weak Leadership?
A week ago, when I heard what was happening in Massachusetts in the Senate race to replace long serving Senator Ed “Ted” Kennedy, I really had to shake my head in disgust. State Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democrat, was running against conservative State Senator Scott Brown. It was in the bag for Ms. Coakley. I think I heard an estimate that said she was leading in the polls by more than twenty points early in the campaign. The odds of a Senate seat long hold by Democrats falling into Republican hands seemed about as likely as a snowball surviving hell. So what did Ms. Coakley do? She counted her chickens before they roosted. She went on vacation while Mr. Brown continued to work and chipped away at her lead and managed to surpass. The chances of anybody finding a more appropriate political example of the tortoise and the hare are about as likely as that proverbial snowball.
Ms. Coakley’s campaign tried to recover. They tried to talk sports. It was pretty obvious Ms. Coakley had no idea what she was talking about when she accused high profile Brown supporter Kurt Schilling of being a Yankee’s fan. They tried to refocus people’s attention away from issues that highlighted Mr. Brown’s strong suit. But too late they realized Ms. Coakley really was a poor candidate without much in the way of her own strong suits. And then, out of a sense of desperation, they reached for the hotline and called on their big gun with seconds before midnight. Mr. Obama flew into town with his charming smile blazing and pulling out all the stops, trying to inspire the Democratic base. It was all too little too late. The political landscape has changed in Massachusetts. Mr. Brown goes to Washington. Ms. Coakley can go back on vacation.
The Wednesday morning quarterbacks are working hard this morning. The election is being pitched as an early glimpse of the American people’s disapproval of the Obama administration. People are upset that terror suspects are being prosecuted in our judicial courts instead of being railroaded in a military court. People are upset that a weak healthcare bill is being foisted on the American people. People are upset that the Obama family chose a Portuguese water dog instead of a mutt from the Washington, D.C. humane society. Mr. Obama’s approval rating is running just short of fifty percent instead of the nearly seventy percent he had right after the election. We can second guess this until the cows come home.
If this is a referendum about the President and the way things are going then I’d like to add my two cents to this mix. If Ms. Coakley had stayed on the ball, kept her eyes on the prize, had not taken her ascension into the Senator’s club for granted, everyone would be singing a different tune. It is unfortunate that the impact of Ms. Coakley’s incompetence has such national repercussions. At the moment, Ms. Coakley appears to be little more than the Democrat’s version of Sarah Palin. She may not have quit her job in order to not look like a quitter, but she quit campaigning long enough to let Mr. Brown get his foot in the door. But one could hardly say that Ms. Coakley is awful and so therefore the President’s agenda is awful.
If this translates to a wakeup call for the Democratic Party, so be it. If this election is the defibrillator that restarts certain politician’s hearts, so be it. From the time Mr. Obama got into office he does his best to be cerebral and appear above the fray instead of mixing it up with people who are throwing political mud. We didn’t elect the President to be a consensus builder. We elected the President to do the job of governing this country. The President wants lead the Democrats and embrace people like Joe Liebermann who have publicly demonstrated their contempt for the Democratic Party. The President will turn the other cheek when someone boldly calls him a liar and would be more likely to have a low key beer summit than openly address issues that keeps us divided. The President is willing to compromise away the very issues he campaigned on instead of holding fast to his platform.
The conservatives are pulling out all the stops to stop the President and the Democratic Party. These are the kind of people who’ll celebrate the fact that the Mr. Obama was unable to convince the Olympic committee to have their games in Chicago. Too many people are operating as a collective to do anything to make Mr. Obama look bad. The filibuster, traditionally a tool used as a last resort, has become the mainstay of the opposition arsenal, and Mr. Obama wants to act like it is business as usual and govern like people he’s working with reasonable people. If people want to use the filibuster as a means procedural obstruction, then it’s time to put that often talked about reconciliation maneuver on the table. If people want to act a nut, then it’s time to get nutty. If this is a wakeup call, then hopefully people will wakeup.
One thing I do have to say about President George Bush was that he didn’t spend a lot of time appealing to people who didn’t care for him. If somebody called Mr. Bush a liar during his administration, I seriously doubt if that person would ever be heard from again. Conservatives know how to deal with dissension in their ranks. When former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Mr. Obama, the conservative political machine switched into turbo mode and put the word out that Mr. Powell was no card carrying Republican. Imagine what they would have done if Mr. Powell appeared on stage with Mr. Obama or even considered being his running mate. That wouldn’t go over very big at all.
One thing I must say is that the conservatives don’t hesitate to get the job done. Consensus is nice. But in no way is it important. What’s important are results and principles, two things that liberals seem willing to compromise on these days. The fact that this administration’s agenda can be unhinged so easily by the minority in the legislature proves how weakly we are being governed. With a majority in both houses of the Congress and the White House healthcare reform should not be in jeopardy. That’s just weakness. And who wants to be governed by a weak governor?