Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Debate on Obama's Leadership

Charlie Rose aired a fascinating debate on Obama's leadership. Drew Westen sharply criticizes Obama, and Jonathan Chait and Fareer Zakaria defend Obama. Will and I have been taking the Drew Westen side, with me being slightly softer.

What I think is missing from this debate is the most interesting thing about it. Obama, by not using the "bully pulpit" to educate the public on economic issues, and the devastatingly bad impact of RepubliCON policies, has ceded the field to the Right Wing crazies. Their narrative is not contradicted.

Yes, it is contradicted by Krugman, Ezra Klein, Dean Baker and others we've been quoting here. But not in the national mainstream TV news: the CBS NBC ABC CNN. Only Obama making the case for government investment and against austerity will get the public on his side. He's just relying on them seeing him as responsible. But that didn't work in 2010. Yes, there's a failure of leadership.

Jonathan Chait argues that the "bully pulpit" is way overrated and hardly has any impact. I really doubt that, not because it's not the President alone. Once the President takes the field philosophically against small government cut taxes on the rich people, the whole public debate will change. The latest example of this is when Ross Perot took out his charts about the deficit, it changed the narrative, and the Clinton tax increases resulted, which helped.

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