1) His biggest problem right now is his stimulus package. It's a mess and it doesn't look as though it will get fixed. If it passes anywhere north of $750 billion, it will pass with widespread public disapproval. It will also pass largely only with Democratic support. That means he will own the stimulus. As such, if and when it fails, he and the Democrats will be the ones blamed. The stimulus can pass in a bi partisan manner, but that won't happen if 1) he and his Democratic colleagues continue with their partisan rhetoric and 2) he holds firm to his deadline of next Friday. Yet, here is how the Democrats characterize the continued negotiations.
Frustrated Senate Democratic leaders dispensed with calls for bipartisanship on the stimulus package Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying that he won't let anyone "hold the president of the United States hostage."
President Barack Obama had once hoped to have the package pass with substantial Republican support.
But Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that's now a “distant memory." "So far," he said, bipartisanship "isn't working. . . . It takes two to tango, but the Republicans aren’t dancing.”
So, it appears that the Democrats will largely write this bill themselves. If that's the case, it won't see much change from its current form. If this winds up being so, then the Democrats will pass a bill on their own. It will be a bill that most of the public will reject. As such, President Obama will have very little rope before the public holds him accountable for the economy.
2) The appointments
We have had three with tax problems. One appointment was involved in a scandal. Now, we learn that even Leon Panetta has issues. Today, we learned that Hilda Solis' husband is behind on his taxes. That is an awful lot of nominees with an awful lot of serious issues. President Obama is dangerously close to having his nomination process becoming caricatured. In fact, legendary journalist Bob Woodward has already begun mocking President Obama.
Attracting the largest audience to date at the Clinton School of PublicService in Little Rock, Ark., Woodward touched on the new president when he asked the audience of 1,400 how many voted for Obama. Most raised their hands, reports our Suzi Parker, prompting him to say: “Now, some of those votes, those hands are suspect. Everybody likes to be with a winner.” Then Woodward told a story of seeing a man, after Obama’s election, put an Obama sticker on his car. “Maybe he’ll get a cabinet appointment—if he paid his taxes,” said Woodward, who later added that the president’s next cabinet appointment will be “someone who fills out the short form.”
If that happens, he loses credibility, capital, and polling. Combined with ramming through a partisan stimulus package that the public doesn't like and you have an explosive political situation.
3) Card Check.
The Democrats in the legislature are determined to push this bill through.
Asked on Wednesday when he plans to introduce his Employee Free Choice Act, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) said, “Soon.” Miller added the so-called card check bill would be unveiled in a matter of days or weeks.
Miller said he could not say how many co-sponsors he has on the bill, but claimed, “It is going very well.”
The powerful chairman is trying to get as many lawmakers as possible to sign on as original co-sponsors. On Jan. 22, Miller urged his colleagues to co-sponsor the bill in a “Dear Colleague” letter. The deadline for being listed as an initial co-sponsor was Tuesday night.
The legislation is expected to sail through the House in 2009, but proponents want to trigger as much political momentum as possible before an anticipated cliffhanger vote in the Senate. President Obama pledged to sign the bill into law during his campaign for the White House though he has not mentioned the measure since the election.
Card Check is an obscene bill. It would force an open ballot for unionization. In other words, union reps can approach workers and ask them to sign up to join a union. In such a case, anyone that rejects would have to reject right in front of the union. As such, the union would know which workers went against them. Now, unionization is voted on by secret ballot.
Not only is this bill wildly unpopular with the public at large, but passing it is a naked attempt to appease a constituency. Such a brash act would be seen for its naked partisanship. The Republicans could and should filibuster this bill and it's likely they would succeed. As such, not only would the Democrats' stunt be seen for what it is, but it would fail regardless.
If President Obama allows it to go on, it would run counter to the idea of post partisan ship that he has claimed. If this happens right after another bill passes largely on partisan lines, it would be toxic.
President Obama can't do much about the previous trouble he has had with his nominees. Yet, he can and must do something about both card check and the stimulus. Card check gives him an opportunity for his own Sister Soulijah moment. He should take it and pronounce that he would veto card check if it came to his desk. If he does nothing, he would signal that he will sit by passively while his own legislature attempts to ram unpopular and highly partisan legislation.
Furthermore, he has an opportunity to turn water into wine and craft a bill that is stripped of nonsensical spending. He should take this opportunity to demand a cleaner bill only with stimulating spending that follows three basic rules 1) it's timely 2) it's targeted and 3) it's temporary. If he does this, he can create a largely bi partisan stimulus that the public would get behind. If he sits by passively while his Democratic colleagues continue to control the direction of the legislation, he will be signing a highly unpopular and largely partisan bill.
If he is unable to reign in both card check and the stimulus, then this combined with his embarrassment of nominees, will turn his Presidency from Messianic to hackery in about a month. Once he is considered a hack, he becomes a caricature. The public will turn on him, and soon enough, so will the press. Once that happens, he won't be able to recover his Presidency.