By Dick Morris - 02/16/10 10:19 PM EST
One of my favorite quotes about politics comes from Henry Kissinger in
his book Years of Upheaval, his memoir of the Ford presidency: “A statesman’s duty is to bridge the gap between his vision and his nation’s experience. If his vision gets too far out ahead of his nation’s experience, he will lose his mandate. But if he hews too close to the conventional, he will lose control over events.”
Now, at once, we see both happening to President Barack Obama.
But now, as he faces threats from Iran, domestic terrorism, continually high unemployment and the swollen deficit, he is also violating the second half of the Kissinger warning — his politics are too passive and too conventional and, as a result, he is losing control over events.
In the phase of presidential dithering in the aftermath of the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts, there is no clear presidential message, no coherent strategy — not even an identifiable program. His budget cuts are far too tepid. His tax program is nothing new. Obama’s Stimulus 2 package seems like the same-old, same-old.
His short-lived bounce from the State of the Union speech is indicative of how limited a vision he has these days. It lasted a week and was never more than three points at its apogee.
And, as Kissinger would have predicted, he is losing control over events. Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-Ind.) retirement, with its implied blast at Obama’s policies; the increasing recklessness of Iran; and the seemingly intractable unemployment all provide evidence that President Obama is no longer dictating the national agenda.
As a result, the negatives he incurred by moving too far out ahead of the nation’s experience are combining with those he is getting for being too conventional. He is experiencing both ends of the Kissinger prediction. Republicans and independents are still in shock from his headlong rush into socialism, while Democrats are increasingly restive and disillusioned by his failure to lead. The entire country is worried at his passivity in the face of domestic terror threats and the rapidly growing Iranian momentum toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
While his job rating has remained relatively steady in recent months, hovering just below 50 percent of likely voters, his ratings in specific areas — like holding down spending, cutting the deficit, creating jobs and managing the economy — are all eroding, presaging further drops in his overall ratings.
All this might be what happens when you elect a state Senator whose U.S. Senate career was consumed with his presidential campaign as president.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of Outrage and Fleeced. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by e-mail or to order a signed copy of their new best-selling book, Catastrophe, go to dickmorris.com. In August, Morris became a strategist for the League of American Voters, which is running ads opposing the president’s healthcare reforms.