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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The President Veers



President Barack Obama -- and I love saying that -- veered noticeably this week towards his Independent flank. And considering the performance of the Democrat Party in polling in New Jersey and Virginia -- both of whom are having gubernatorial elections this year -- it was not a moment too soon. While not an abject defeat, the Obama administration's soft peddling on the subject of the public option (and then hitting the accelerator as the liberal backlash approached), was a notable setback. It suggested that the raucous growl from the bowels of the hard right at the Town Halls had the upper hand.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention presented the president with an opportunity to transition, elegantly, from out of the thick of the public option fight. There President Obama could be the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America, the planet's only global superpower. There the President could remind us that his grandfather fought in WWII, in the Normandy invasion. He could speak about the situation in Afghanistan. The President presented his plan to streamline the military -- but with constant vigilance with regards to troop safety -- as well as bringing transparency to veterans medical records. He could -- and did -- bear gifts regarding their medical treatment (Obama presented the largest increase in the VA's funding budget in more than 30 years).

-- Who among us is going to argue about spending on the health care benefits of veterans of foreign wars? Health Care Reform -- when done in the arena of veterans' affairs -- is unassailable. Politically brilliant. And military issues are independent issues, especially in places like southwestern Virginia.

Now to the political realities that led to that speech: among independent Virginians, however, Obama's poll support slid below 50%. And in a hypothetical match up against Sarah Palin, Gallup notes that the President gets 49% of independent voters. Part of this has to do with the cards President Obama was dealt. The Great Recession forced him into the remedies of Keynes (spending ones way out of recession), thus alienating him from fiscal conservatism, the white-hot center of independent voters. It was, we cannot fail to note, the excesses of the Republicans -- and the scandals -- that led independents to veer towards the Democrat party in 2006.

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