Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

News (lack of) Hard Choices by President Obama

  1. Jul 30, 2011 #1
    Here is an interesting opinion piece from the WSJ that talks about President Obama's lack of heart when it comes to governance. While I obviously have no love for the man's policies and mindset, I think it brings up a greater question: Do you elect an official to respond to the public's every whim, or do you expect them to do what's best always? (presuming that popular and best aren't the same thing)

    I know the answer is likely going to be somewhere in the middle for most people, but I'm interested to hear thoughts on the question and on the article.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2011 #2

    MATLABdude

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    If the answer were always no (or, conversely, always yes) you'd just write a three-line computer program and save the taxpayers some money. Or, given the voting along fairly partisan lines in Congress and the Senate, maybe it's just the political equivalent of an AOLer "me too!" (I figured that if I ever ran for office, and had some absolutist who spoke in terms of 'always' and 'never' running against me, I'd at least try to get the geek vote by writing a few lines of code and saying the voters ought to just put that in office, rather than my opponent).

    George W. Bush didn't feel he needed to listen to anybody, including his advisors (the Decider in Chief). Barack Obama seems to be at the opposite end of the spectrum--it feels like he doesn't stand his ground nearly enough, in the name of compromise. Now, maybe it's easy for an armchair politician like me to say, given that I don't have to work with the people in question, but it feels like he and the Democrats in general could use a little more resolve.

    I think that leadership is about doing the right thing--and let the consequences (usually personal) be as they may. That's a nice talking point, but unfortunately, I think that you have to survive long enough to let your actions come to fruition, and really unfortunately, you've got to have made the 'right' decision (or at least not a completely wrong one). And the 'right thing' short term isn't always the 'right thing' long term, and is often in the mind of the beholder.

    You can continually focus group and opinion poll (the Clinton administration did this a lot--but they usually also came out on the right side of the equation), do what you feel like (Bush the younger), or do what you feel like and yet bring the public along to your side of things by force of conviction / charisma (Tony Blair comes to mind). Maybe I'm projecting onto President Obama, but I find analysis and back-of-envelope calculations comparatively simple. Knowing when to cut off the analysis and make a decision, based on what you've gathered--that's hard. Just flip a coin and make a decision, and to hell with the analysis--that's reckless.

    As for what constitutes a hard decision, that's probably quite subjective. There's a disputed story that British leadership in World War II knew of an impending German raid on Coventry via intercepts and decoding of German communications. But acting would tip off the Germans to the fact that their communications were being listened in to. So they did nothing, and let people perish and factories get destroyed.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coventry_Blitz#Coventry_and_Ultra

    Disputed though the account is, that's a hard decision to make. Probably even harder to step back from the brink and not just start thinking of everybody as acceptable casualty. In any case, long story short, yeah, somewhere in the middle--you're elected to make decisions for the good of the voters. But, at the end of the day, you're accountable to them too (and they have an unfortunately short attention span).
     
  4. Jul 30, 2011 #3

    SixNein

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think most republicans hate Obama because he is a democrat, and the rest hate him because he's black. On the other hand, many liberals distrust Obama because he's been governing from the right when they were wanting someone who would govern from the left.

    http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2011/07/22/Barack-Obama-The-Democrats-Richard-Nixon.aspx
     
  5. Jul 30, 2011 #4

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Oh Lord. As is typical, Noonan is so full of herself. I think Obama is great and for the very reason the naive author tries to fault him. The right hates him because he's a moderate [anything but far right]. The far left hates him because they've finally realized he's a moderate. And I supported him because he's a moderate. I elected him for his pragmatic approach to problem solving, not because I expected him to sell out for his base or appease people like Peggy Noonan.

    What is the obvious point Noonan missed? Even though his popularity has dipped to 40% [I guess 60% constitutes everyone in Noonan math] Obama is still more popular than the Republicans in Congress.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2011
  6. Jul 30, 2011 #5

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Just because he's failing at being left-wing doesn't make him a moderate, it makes him an ineffective left-wing leader.

    In any case, you didn't answer the question. I agree with MATLABdude - the US is a representative democracy, not a direct democracy.
     
  7. Jul 30, 2011 #6

    BobG

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    The litmus test of a person's ability to succeed at politics is me. I may not always like what Obama does, but I do like his style.

    I'm an INTJ and an engineer. If I like the way he does things, then that's pretty much the kiss of death as far as being an effective politician.

    Wow! I have the same problem! How could I not like the guy?!


    I love this ad! This is a great hiring notice! I'd respond to this hiring notice in a heartbeat!

    I liked the style of Jimmy Carter and Bush 41. I despised Clinton and Bush 43 and considered both of them to be shallow people. I have to admit that I did like Ronald Reagan, though.
     
  8. Jul 30, 2011 #7
    More popular != more correct. That's what I was hoping to get out of this. Using polls to justify policy decisions seems like flawed.

    I still don't see President Obama as being moderate. He still uses class war rhetoric at every turn - and that's a huge turn off for me. In his case, polls and popularity are keeping him in check from going off the deep-left end IMO. As an example, he extended the 2003 Tax Cuts because cutting them would be unpopular (but he'll still threaten to only extend them for <250k because it appeals to his friends). Maybe the polls tell him to say one thing but do another? Yet another poison on our society IMO - at least President Bush-43 was predictable and fairly consistent. President Obama doesn't have a clear path besides his rhetoric, the man may be trying to think of a solution - but it's not showing any effectiveness.
     
  9. Jul 31, 2011 #8

    SixNein

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    In my mind, both parties use class warfare to get elected.
     
  10. Jul 31, 2011 #9
    How so?
     
  11. Jul 31, 2011 #10

    SixNein

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

  12. Jul 31, 2011 #11

    mheslep

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    That article doesn't argue that the Republicans use class warfare to get elected, but cites numerous examples of the Republicans raising the issue, i.e. accusing the Democrats of using class warfare.
     
  13. Jul 31, 2011 #12

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Agreed - calling-out democrats for using class warfare is not class warfare itself, it is a defense against democrats' use of class warfare.

    Obvously, it is logically impossible for Republicans to use class warfare, as Republican policies perceived (by democrats) to favor one class over another don't provide a class warfare selling point for them. Ie, if Republicans really favored the rich over the poor, they'd never say it because there are more poor than ricth [edit: order fixed], so they'd never get elected!

    The irony of democratic class warfare is that if the democrats ever succeeded in eliminating poverty and race issues, they'd lose their biggest selling point! So while it is useful for them to sell class warfare, it would be counterproductive for them to actually fix the problems! That's the issue behind "race baiting" and one of the things I most despise about the party.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2011
  14. Jul 31, 2011 #13

    SixNein

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    If by class warfare you are referring to rhetoric, republicans love using it as a tool as the article shows.
    Republicans say closing tax loop holes is a matter of class warfare, but attacking unions, entitlements, or programs designed for the poor is a matter of budget.

    I think Warren Buffet had a interesting perspective on class warfare:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/business/yourmoney/26every.html

    At any rate, I tend to think of the rhetoric of class warfare to be a dressed up ad hominem or red herring depending upon how its used.
     
  15. Jul 31, 2011 #14

    mheslep

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Since there are millions of republicans for which it is impossible for you to know their minds or about who they might 'hate' or why, consider this definition:
    prejudiced: an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.​
     
  16. Jul 31, 2011 #15

    mheslep

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    By class warfare I mean ... class warfare.
     
  17. Jul 31, 2011 #16

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I do not think you understand the concept of class warfare. Class warfare is promoting a division between the classes for the purpose of gaining support from one of them. Ie:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class_conflict#Regarding_capitalist_societies

    Democrats promote the identities of and conflict between "the rich" vs "the poor" or "everyone else".

    Again, railing against class warfare is not class warfare.
    Agreed! What bothers me more, though, is the lies.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2011
  18. Jul 31, 2011 #17

    SixNein

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm not so sure I would accuse either side of lying. For the most part, many questions and proposed solutions before America have a great deal of risk and uncertainties. But almost all people seem to fill these uncertainties up with ideology. I'm not sure that this method is for the best, but it's the reality of the time we live in. The only thing that bothers me about our current political environment is how everyone panders such 'obvious' solutions to very complex problems. Where is the discussion of pros and cons, and how can so many people make decisions without investigating them?

    I don't claim to know the answers to many of the questions before America. But I do know the beginning of the answesr should start with an understanding of the problems.
     
  19. Jul 31, 2011 #18
  20. Jul 31, 2011 #19

    SixNein

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Which part do you disagree with? Or do you have a 3rd reason?
     
  21. Jul 31, 2011 #20
    Watch this interview with Barney Frank. Barney explains to Cavuto that he and fellow Democrats took steps in the recent financial overhaul legislation in apparent anticipation of a credit downgrade of the US to prevent a mandatory sell-off of Treasuries. Did the President ever explain this part of his legislative strategy? Did the President ever tell us he anticipated a downgrade a year age - Geithner told us 3 months ago there was no chance of a downgrade - didn't he?

    Why (during the current debate) hasn't the President explained how the healthcare reform legislation is a jobs bill and will lower deficits. Also, do we still have projections of 4% growth?

    IMO - the President made a lot of promises as a candidate that he either didn't know he couldn't keep - or had no intention of keeping. Again IMO - he has a credibility problem.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook