Welcome to today’s example in pointless speculation and why spineless Democrats make for worst enemies than unreasonable Republicans.
The set-up is going to be a bit longish, but bear with me.
Two Democratic pollsters you’ve never heard of, Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen suggest the best way President Obama to signal he wants to help the country and save his presidency is for him to announce he will not run for reelection in 2012.
In a Washington Post essay, the two lifelong Democrats lay out their case why the smart move for the president is to not seek a second term:
This is a critical moment for the country. From the faltering economy to the burdensome deficit to our foreign policy struggles, America is suffering a widespread sense of crisis and anxiety about the future. Under these circumstances, Obama has the opportunity to seize the high ground and the imagination of the nation once again, and to galvanize the public for the hard decisions that must be made. The only way he can do so, though, is by putting national interests ahead of personal or political ones.
To that end, we believe Obama should announce immediately that he will not be a candidate for reelection in 2012.
If the president goes down the reelection road, we are guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it. But by explicitly saying he will be a one-term president, Obama can deliver on his central campaign promise of 2008, draining the poison from our culture of polarization and ending the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity and common purpose.
We do not come to this conclusion lightly. But it is clear, we believe, that the president has largely lost the consent of the governed. The midterm elections were effectively a referendum on the Obama presidency. And even if it was not an endorsement of a Republican vision for America, the drubbing the Democrats took was certainly a vote of no confidence in Obama and his party. The president has almost no credibility left with Republicans and little with independents.
The best way for him to address both our national challenges and the serious threats to his credibility and stature is to make clear that, for the next two years, he will focus exclusively on the problems we face as Americans, rather than the politics of the moment – or of the 2012 campaign.
Quite simply, given our political divisions and economic problems, governing and campaigning have become incompatible. Obama can and should dispense with the pollsters, the advisers, the consultants and the strategists who dissect all decisions and judgments in terms of their impact on the president’s political prospects.
Obama himself once said to Diane Sawyer: “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.” He now has the chance to deliver on that idea.
The reaction to Caddell and Schoen’s column was swift and not entirely polite.
SLATE: On Friday, the Washington Post published the worst column of the year. It’s been a long year, and a stupid year, so this is no light accusation. And pollster-pundits Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell write a lot of bad columns—they are good ways to spend the slow hours between Fox and Friends and Hannity, more productive than knitting or Sudoku. Still, the hackwork in their call for President Obama to retire after one term was something special.
SALON: Even if the president himself isn’t gearing up for another campaign, just about everyone else in Washington is. If anything, announcing that he won’t run in ’12 would cripple Obama. It would be an admission of weakness and defeat.
Chances are that, on some level, Caddell and Schoen understand this. In the past few years, they’ve essentially established themselves as professional self-loathing Democrats — supposed experts with important-sounding credentials who will sound off (often in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal or on Fox News) about their dismay that the Democratic Party and its leaders are committing political suicide. Never mind that the party has won the popular vote in four of the past five presidential elections and never mind the Democrats’ success in 2006 and 2008: In Caddell/Schoen World, the Democratic Party is perpetually wheezing out its final breaths, a victim of its refusal to take seriously the criticisms of Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.
It’s a clever game they’re playing. The media never tires of pundits who take shots at their own party — and there’s always room at Fox News for a self-loathing Democrat. And for Caddell, one-time Joe Biden confidante who wore out his welcome in professional Democratic circles about two decades ago, writing Op-Eds like Sunday’s gives him a measure of relevance — at least in the media’s eyes — that he’d never otherwise enjoy.
The Washington Examiner: You might think that by announcing he will not run, Obama would be telling the world that he is too weak even to try for re-election. Not so, say Caddell and Schoen. “Forgoing another term would not render Obama a lame duck,” they write. “Paradoxically, it would grant him much greater leverage with Republicans and would make it harder for opponents such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who has flatly asserted that his highest priority is to make Obama a one-term president — to be uncooperative.”
Do you believe that? I don’t. If Obama were to announce he is not running in ’12, Republicans would react precisely the way Democrats would react were the parties reversed. They would take it as a sign of fatal weakness and would attempt to run over Obama on matters big and small. And if they couldn’t run over Obama on a given issue, they would wait him out, knowing that there will soon be a new president. Obama’s would be a dead-in-the-water presidency. (Of course, it might be already, but it would definitely be if he passed up the 2012 race.) What political strength Obama has now stems from the possibility — to Republicans, the threat — that he can come back and win re-election. Give that up and he has nothing except the institutional powers — executive orders, commander-in-chief, etc. — of the presidency.
Surely Caddell and Schoen, two veterans with a deep understanding of politics, know that. Assuming they do, and in light of recent election results, it seems more likely that what they are really saying to Obama is: Please leave before you destroy the Democratic party. It’s a reasonable request, but they’re not going to get what they want.
That’s what others are saying about Caddell and Schoen’s dopey column. Here’s what I have to say.
Barring a major scandal, a terrorist attack worse than 9/11 and clearly due to a lack of preparation or carelessness by the Obama Administration, I don’t foresee any scenario where the president doesn’t run for a second term.
Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen are nobodies. They are self-hating Democrats in Name Only who show up on Fox News and sound as if they have never cast a vote for a Democrat in their life, but if they did they’re really sorry about it.
Caddell’s Wikipedia entry is pretty skimpy, but so are his accomplishments. He worked in the presidential campaigns of George McGovern in 1972, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980, Gary Hart in 1984, Joe Biden in 1988, and Jerry Brown in 1992. What’s the connecting thread here? Being associated with not just FAIL, but an EPIC FAIL in the case of McGovern. Even Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis knew better to ask a tool like Caddell for anything more than directions to the restroom.
So why the Washington Post felt these two idiots had anything relevant, important or meaningful to contribute is a mystery to me. I’m guessing because maybe someone heard them on Fox and thought, “Gee, they must be smart if they’re on the number one cable news network.”
The suggestion Obama should “pull a Palin” and quit while he’s behind is mistaking the president’s current weakness for a terminal condition. Two years ago when Obama rode a wave of popular support into the White House and brought the Democrats along with him, it was the Republicans whom looked to be out of business. As we have learned events and circumstances confound the conventional wisdom with regularity. Momentum changes many times in American politics and who’s to say what will be the factors in 2012 that could sweep Obama out or hand him four more years?
I don’t know and it’s a damn sure thing these two clowns, Caddell and Schoen, don’t either. The odds may seem to be immense against Obama in 2012, but they were in 2008 too and somehow he came back from 20+ points behind Hillary Clinton in Iowa to win that critical primary and eventually the whole darn shooting match.
Barack Obama has proven time and again he’s a winner and should get a good chuckle from the advice coming from a pair of longtime losers.