It is tempting, in view of Barack Obama’s re-election, to look back on his first term as a rousing success, but it was not. Obama got his initial stimulus and his healthcare bill, but he made political errors in the first two years that helped Republicans retake the House and a majority of governorships in a crucial redistricting year. And in 2011, he made back-room concessions on the budget that seriously imperiled the economic recovery. So I still don’t share Jon Chait’s halcyon view of the Obama presidency. But Obama learned from the difficulties of his first term.
Let’s not kid ourselves: Mitt Romney’s 47% riff is damning whether or not he actually believes what he said. Still, it’s worth pausing briefly to reflect on the chances that a would-be president really thinks half his fellow citizens are moochers. Jon Chait, arguing for the prosecution, is convinced the remarks reflect Romney’s actual worldview: Romney explained to reporters tonight that his remarks were not “elegantly stated,” but did not repudiate them as his true beliefs. In fact, it was quite eloquently stated.
Over here on stage left, we have been debating whether Obama’s pursuit of health care reform prevented him from getting a second stimulus in late 2009 or early 2010, the kind that would have prevented or at least mitigated the economic backslide took place afterwards. The main proponent of this claim is my colleague Noam Scheiber. To get a detailed version, you’ll have to read his book,The Escape Artists (which, by the way, you should do anyway). To get a more abbreviated version, you can read his latest entry at TNR.COM.
Last week Mitt Romney inadvertently kicked up a debate in the blogosphere over whether health care reform had hurt the recovery. Since he did it by citing my recent book, I felt compelled to explain how he hacked up my argument: My point was that the time and resources spent on health care reform made it harder to get more stimulus, not, as Romney suggested, that the health care bill directly hurt the economy.
Mitt Romney weighed in yesterday with another riff on my book that bears a bit of scrutiny. Here’s what he said: A book that was written in a way that’s apparently pro-President Obama, was written by a guy named Noam Scheiber and in this book he says that there was a discussion about the fact that Obamacare would slow down the economic recovery in this country and they knew that before they passed it. But they concluded that we would all forget how long the recovery took once it had happened, so they decided to go ahead.
I’m on record claiming that Team Obama is playing a tougher form of bean bag this time around than in 2008. But, even so, I agree with Jon Chait that this election won’t really be that nasty. I just think so for different reasons. Chait argues that it’s all about elites. As he puts it: The socially liberal, economically conservative sensibilities of the party elites are working in tandem to hold back Republicans from attacking Obama on cultural grounds, and to at least complicate Obama’s populist attacks on Romney’s business career. I’m not sure I agree, at least on the right.
If you were trying to get a handle on what the Senate will look like over the next decade or so, you could have done worse than watch Richard Mourdock and Joe Donnelly make the rounds on television Wednesday morning. Mourdock is, of course, the man who just ousted Indiana’s longtime eminence, Dick Lugar, from the Senate. Donnelly is the Democratic congressman he’ll be facing in November. Mourdock fulminated against everything Lugar stood for—namely bipartisanship and civility in politics, but also the auto bailouts that saved tens of thousands of Indiana jobs.
Jon Chait read the following in yesterday's New York Times and concluded that Rove Inc. is worried: Mr. Law [the director of the super PAC Rove created] said, Crossroads research suggests that Mr. Obama’s campaign has started to gain traction among critical swing voters by arguing that Republicans, including Mr.