Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
President Obama talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the House Democrats Conference in Williamsburg, Va., on Feb. 5.
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
It's pretty safe to say that it's nearly impossible to make the transition from some other political slot to the presidency without hitting some speed bumps. Recollection of the gaffes, the flameouts, the regrettable nominations, could make for a Georgetown drinking game. Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood. Linda Chavez. The delayed stock divestitures of Paul O'Neill. Karl Rove meeting with Intel lobbyists. Don't ask, don't tell. Bad decisions don't own any party affiliation.
And yet ...
The Democrats have done an absolutely monumental job of screwing things up for President Obama.
Lately, some of the president's nominees have been falling like dominoes that have been finger-flicked by a playful IRS agent. Others have just teetered.
Having to step aside because of tax problems and ongoing influence-peddling scandals makes the Democrats look at best ignorant, at worst crooked. Their moral blind spots are so sizable they make the corporate CEOs who fly private jets to get their bailout money seem principled by comparison. If John McCain's woeful vetting of Sarah Palin wasn't still fresh in the public's memory, the SS Obama might well be sunk.
More troubling is the Democrats' pitiful mishandling of every single aspect of the stimulus bill. House Democrats have filled it with untimely spending. And they have allowed its legend to grow to ill and mythical proportions: lies about funding for ACORN, which is nowhere mentioned in the bill. Gross and unanswered misrepresentations by McCain about the "honey bee insurance" provision.
But the Republicans, on page and unwavering as always, have managed to take control of the public debate -- though the media's fascination with Rush Limbaugh's take on the bill is mind-boggling. At the same time, the Republicans have surreptitiously slipped in their own pork, such as the $6.5 billion they're allocating for Sen. Arlen Specter's much-beloved National Institutes of Health (and this creates jobs ... how?).
The Democrats have stood idle as Republicans initiated a false-flag campaign, pitting the unpopular Nancy Pelosi against the disliked Rahm Emanuel, while every step of the way artfully praising Obama and openly lamenting: if only more Democrats could be like him.
Never mind who's trying to throw whom under the bus. The fact that the president had to step to Pelosi and ask her to discard additional spending for family planning after she'd been allowed to babble on about its job-creating benefits on national TV speaks to a lack of coordination and a gross misreading of the public's mood.
Giving the new president the benefit of the doubt, clearly he thought the Democrats would make responsible use of their advantage in Congress.
If the liberal wing knew what responsibility was, perhaps. He will be better served by the Democratic moderates and Blue Dogs who take to heart his message of bipartisanship and understand the need for fiscal austerity.
But Obama unfortunately runs the risk of ending up like Jimmy Carter should he alienate the far left. When Carter tried to cut social programs in an attempt to lift America out of an economic crisis, he was abandoned by the far-left elements of the Kennedy Democrats and allowed to twist in the wind friendlessly.
Trouble with liberal Democrats? Why am I not surprised?