Ben Smith writes an interesting piece that looks at the Obama re-election campaign:
With its email and video and cast of well-known characters, the campaign to reelect President Barack Obama that was launched Monday displayed more than a passing resemblance to the path-breaking effort of 2008 that put Obama in the White House.
But the familiar faces and familiar style confront an utterly new situation: They’ll be divided between Washington and Chicago, between the responsibilities of government and politics, selling not change but incumbency. And there will be just enough changes in the campaign’s leadership to raise questions about how it will all work.
That is no doubt the case. But the more important issue, I would submit, is who is running the White House. A reelection campaign is a referendum on the incumbent. Voters will decide whether to rehire Obama. And they are going to make that decision based on the president’s record. Has he cut the debt, brought unemployment down from historic highs, and made America more secure? Do they like the health-care plan he staked his presidency on?
But what if the White House isn’t seriously dealing with policy issues? I find it hard to believe that men like Jack Lew and Gene Sperling haven’t suggested more serious budget plans than the one the president released. I mean, competent former Clintonites would be acting out of character if they didn’t have some pretty appealing ways (from the Democratic perspective) of addressing the fiscal mess. But there is no sign of their fingerprints. Nothing in the Obama budget is serious, nor is much of anything else Obama is doing these days.
Finalizing free trade deals? A no brainer. But that isn’t happening. Reforming the tax code as Obama promised in his State of the Union? That’d be an impressive effort. Not happening. The only conclusion is that the pols are running the show. They’ve decided that not being responsible is politically more advantageous than being responsible.
Ultimately, these decisions rest with the president. In the end, he will be held accountable by the voters for failure to address our most pressing problems. It’s actually a big political risk to do nothing when the country is facing serious problems. In the Clinton administration, when unemployment was low, the deficit was not an issue and the Republican speaker of the House was a gadfly, the president had the luxury of sitting back. Can Obama do the same when unemployment is high, the deficit is front and center, and the Republicans have an attractive and adept budget leader? Sounds like a long shot to me.