Tag Archives: barack obama

The Cinch Review

Windmills: A Post-Mortem post

The analysis has all been done and everyone has assumed his or her corner, but something has made me wait till the hubbub died down a little to put my thoughts in writing (briefly) on the outcome of the recent election in the United States. My prediction in the matter proved to be wrong. Actually, it’s about as wrong as I’ve managed to be about anything, ever, at least in writing. (I even had to issue a correction on a related post about Bob Dylan! Unprecedented!)


I have to suppose that the big-time pundits, like Michael Barone, Dick Morris, et al, can just roll over the next morning and dive right back in, but not so for everyone. Personally, I found myself deeply disillusioned in the wake of November 6th. I could blame it on the faulty analysis from people like those previously mentioned, but that wouldn’t be honest. Sure: I bought into the idea that Democrats were being oversampled in the polls, and that the turnout models being used were flawed by being based overly-much on 2008. Yet, my reasons for expecting Barack Obama’s defeat in 2012 went much deeper than any Gallup poll or punditry. Last year, during the GOP primaries, I fully expected that any Republican nominee ought to be able to beat President Obama (barring a credible third-party candidacy). I misjudged the center of gravity of the American electorate. And that’s a serious thing indeed and not one that this writer—insignificant though he may be—can just shrug off. Why should I have any credibility in the future?

With hindsight, there are reasons for all of it, but they are of limited comfort. I don’t blame Mitt Romney personally for losing; subsequent to getting the nomination, he ran what was probably the best campaign someone named Mitt Romney could have run, reasonably speaking. Even though he wasn’t my guy in the primaries, I came around to respecting him and liking him to a significant extent, despite my admission in the week before the election that he still seemed somewhat “soulless” and “a cipher.” Election choices are relative, none more so than the U.S. presidential election when you have two candidates and the choice between the two will determine so many decisions for the nation over the next four years. However, I was mistaken (as were others, including Romney himself) in presuming that the entire Republican base had done the same internal calculus and simply “gotten over” their dissatisfaction with Mitt. In the end, what was wrong with Romney was what was wrong with him in the beginning: he didn’t bring the whole base with him, and they didn’t all come out to vote for him on November 6th. That Democratic turnout would be lower than 2008 was something we all assumed, and it was true (if not to quite the extent anticipated). That Republican turnout would be lower was mind-boggling.

Still, I can’t say that that explains the loss. Where was the center? What is the center? How could the results of the Obama presidency be embraced by the country to the extent of asking for four more years of the same thing? (And he promised nothing new.) That is what shook me. I think it’s fair to say that it has shaken a lot of people. Continue reading Windmills: A Post-Mortem post

The Cinch Review

The primary problem for President Barack Obama

It is evidence that a serious primary challenge from a major Democratic party figure in this election cycle would have had an excellent chance of succeeding: Obama lost 40% of the vote in two Democratic primaries yesterday (Kentucky and Arkansas), without a serious challenger.

In Kentucky, where there was no challenger at all, 42% of voters chose “uncommitted” in preference to Obama. Continue reading The primary problem for President Barack Obama

The Cinch Review

Obama, Osama and Afghanistan: The Positive Campaign Ends Here

We ought to keep in mind that we’re seeing something new—something that no one has ever seen before. Barack Obama has a record to run on. In every election campaign he has ever waged to this date, he essentially was running on his personality, on his perceived identity, and on whatever voters might project upon the canvas he provided. Whatever ideological signals his record as a legislator might have offered in past elections, he went out of his way to blur them with soaringly dull speeches and inspiringly vague rhetoric. Sure: there were those savvy voters out there who knew where he was really coming from and what it meant for how he would govern, but he won election—in particular he won election as president—by winning over those who either lack the time or motivation to comprehend serious ideological agendas. (We sometimes call them “independents.”) They look for pragmatism, and Obama projected it in his soaringly dull manner. In the absence of an easily-quantifiable record of doing anything at all, and in the special circumstances of 2008, it was just enough to win. But now it’s different.

So watch closely, because this is how Barack Obama runs when he actually has a record. His problem is a thorny one. On economic issues—where voters expected pragmatic and sensible progress—his record is one of ever-expanding disaster, as a result of his single-minded pursuit of a pronounced ideological agenda. His central achievement, and the focus of by far his greatest energy, was a “reform” of the entire U.S. health-care system which was opposed by a plurality of U.S. voters before it was enacted and is opposed by an even greater number today. In terms of the general economic health of the nation: Although we are told the U.S. is not technically in recession, most Americans feel that it has been ever since 2008 (for very good reason) and with this crisis as an excuse the Obama administration has added five trillion dollars to the national debt with nothing to show for it save an extraordinarily flourishing subset of the population situated around Washington D.C. You don’t have to be a knuckle-dragging right-wing ideologue any longer to see that this kind of thing might be slightly problematic (and not really so pragmatic, after all).

So, we’ve seen, over the course of the last few days, how Barack Obama has sought to fluff up the one achievement under his watch that seems inarguably a good one: the elimination of Osama bin Laden one year ago. For those who would criticize the president for “spiking the football” and for excessive and unseemly stagecraft in his trip to Afghanistan for a ten-minute speech to the American people, I say: Cut him a break. What else do you expect the poor guy to do? This is the only positive achievement he has on which to run. So, he went to Kabul at great expense and great security-hoopla to sign an agreement that changes nothing from the day before it was signed, merely agreeing to make the real decisions later. It happened to be the day before the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. And he has been publicly crowing about the success of that mission to kill bin Laden, including in a campaign ad. Further, he’s been publicly questioning whether his GOP opponent, Mitt Romney, would have made the same call to get OBL. Many are outraged over this pattern of behavior—over this naked politicizing of an issue of national security and of an achievement that, in the end, is thanks to the diligence and bravery of members of the U.S. military and of the intelligence services.


I say: Save the outrage. As far as the Barack Obama re-election campaign goes, this is as good as it gets. This is the height of high-principle and magnanimity. This is the only thing with which he has been involved as president which he can hold up for general approval.

And when it comes to the negative shot at Mitt Romney for allegedly and hypothetically being unwilling to make the same call that Barack Obama made vis-a-vis Osama bin Laden: you ain’t seen nothing yet. Barack Obama is the weakest incumbent president in living memory, and his campaign will be one of unrelenting negativity against his opponent, because the only thing that could possibly get this president re-elected is some kind of crazy blind terror regarding the alternative. He knows it. This whole celebration of the killing of Osama bin Laden has been the nice part of the campaign.

From here on out, it’s murder.

The Cinch Review

Bob Dylan, election night 2008, etc.

Thanks to John W. who forwards me a recent interview with Greil Marcus in a Minnesota paper. He thought this part in particular would interest me:

One of the major events in my parallel life with Bob Dylan, which any fan has if you follow his work and his ups and downs … was election night in 2008 when he played the University of Minnesota for the first time. I just thought that was a fabulous event. I loved the way he timed the show so that it would end five minutes before the election would be called, so that everybody would be out in the lobby when the TV screen went on. I just felt like that was so appropriate, so not accidental. And ending the concert with that weird comment—“I was born in the year of Pearl Harbor, and it’s been an age of darkness ever since. But now I think things are about to change.” And that’s him just saying, “I know this is a special night, and none of us knows what, if any, changes in our own lives this is going to mean, but we all hope it will mean some change.” And I think when someone as in his own world as Bob Dylan can join his audience … I can’t imagine that would have happened in Poughkeepsie, or Birmingham or Seattle.

When Dylan’s remarks on election night of 2008 were first reported in the press, it was presented as Bob basically hailing Barack Obama’s great victory, with a triumphant “Things are gonna change now!” Greil Marcus’s tone is different to that here, but still slanted in a certain way. Back in November of 2008, I wrote on Bob Dylan’s election night remarks at my old website. I wasn’t relying on any paraphrase in the press or half-heard snippets. I quoted his full remarks, and provided the audio as well. Then I reflected on what Dylan seemed to be getting at, given the full context, versus how it was being reported, and even versus how it was heard by those present, many of whom were (naturally enough) pregnant with expectations related to the election. With hindsight, I was probably too long-winded, but I certainly stand by the substance of what I wrote. Briefly put, I think that there was a deep (and intentional) irony in Dylan’s words, notwithstanding the fact that he likely knew it would be missed by most in the audience that night. I ended my reflection with a biblical quote from Psalm 118: “It is better to put trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” I thought then and continue to think that that says more about where Dylan is coming from than anything I could say. It surprises me, still, that there are people who listen to Dylan’s music for years and for decades who don’t seem to get this. Continue reading Bob Dylan, election night 2008, etc.