Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Obama Needs a Foil

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I have a column posted online at The Weekly Standard’s website.

Subject One: the Justice Department’s interest in the college Bowl Championship Series, and why ultimately it might not be good politics for President Obama (the main reason: Florida and Ohio universities have benefitted the most under the BCS system — oh by the way, those are two states Obama cannot afford to lose in 2012).

That, and the idea of a Democratic President obsessed with college football amidst double-digit unemployment and a two-front war smacks of Jimmy Carter micro-managing the White House tennis court. Plus, it’s not as if the Justice Department is scoring points for its handling of suspected terrorists.

Subject Two: how the BCS meddling underscores the President’s need to cultivate a foil . . . an antagonist.

Think about recent two-term presidents: they had all had convenient foils. For Ronald Reagan, the Soviet Union. Bill  Clinton: Newt Gingrich and Ken Starr. George W. Bush: bin Laden.

And Obama? After embracing the “team of rivals” concept and bringing Hillary Clinton inside the tent, he’s yet to team up with a rival. He’s tried Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, fat-cat bankers, callous health insurers. Now it’s back to the top of the lineup and blaming the nation’s woes on the previous administration and those obstructionist Republicans in Congress (so much for that State of the Union sweet talk).

One of Obama’s problems is he can’t find a foil of suitable stature — no superpower with nuclear weapons, no ascendant Republican who graces the cover of Time. There’s no one close to that in Congress; to date, no one person has emerged as the odds-on-favorite to face Obama in November 2012.

Perhaps a GOP takeover of the House solves this shortcoming (though it’s hard to see Minority Leader John Boehner as the same force-of-nature as Newt Gingrich).

Or maybe, in meeting with Senate Democrats this morning, Obama discovered the real problem. To quote Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”


Written by Bill Whalen

February 3, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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