Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Obama at the crossroads

by Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/13/10

If President Obama wants to win in 2012, and the race has already begun, he desperately needs some new friends. I would like to suggest four who like him and who have supported him: The senators from Virginia, Mark Warner and Jim Webb and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders who advised them, and Toby Keith. When Hillary quits in six months to run against him he should replace her as Secretary of State with China secretary Jon Huntsman Jr. And ditch the white guy from central casting standing in at VP, Joe Biden. Replace him in the 2012 campaign with Warner. But as he wanders alone this vacation in the pleroma of the Maine woods like the eight-legged Oracle of Oberhausen, he must with quiet confidence make one seismic shift: Replace Paul Krugman as his economic front man with Harvard economist Niall Ferguson. It is a better fit for him and a better fit for the times. His close ally, The New York Times, can help in this. They can join the century and replace Krugman with Ferguson.

There have been four essential presidents in the post-war period: Conservatives Eisenhower and Reagan and liberals Kennedy and Obama. The age could not have occurred and found fulfillment without them. But that age is ending. Obama is the closer. We face a new age of politics and economy and it is Obama’s task to segway into it. When Presidents fail to do this it happens anyway, but with anger. And the anger has already awakened.

Obama is the best of the liberal presidents in the post-war period. His failures are not his own, but are organic to a shift in the changing times. Obama’s burden is that he today carries the hopes and wishes of people and generations which need now to be passed by in politics as time has already passed them by. The first I ever heard of Obama was from the north woods few remaining Cheech and Chong liberals; he should encounter one or two around Portland, and Cheech and Chong have even made a comeback in his tenure. Most people know him better than that by now but it is one of several losing chains he carries. But the longest and heaviest chain he carries today is Krugman, front man all over the TV and the press for Keynes and the Roosevelt years. Nostalgia is the poison of politics. It was in the South for 80 years, and it still is today north of Boston. But even Boston, with Scott Brown, appears ready to be moving on.

With Krugman and co. Obama does not make his presidency his own. He becomes a footnote to Roosevelt, to Lincoln, to Kennedy. He fulfilled that duty in his first day in office. But it will not be enough in 2012.

Niall Ferguson is a better fit. Smart, full of new ideas, and young like Obama and likewise unburdened by the past. This reflects the better Obama. And Ferguson likes the aspect of America that is still awakening.

Last week, surprisingly, Obama publically warned about debt accrued by the dangers of the Krugman/Keynes position, as Ferguson has been warning all this past year. Obama appeared to be hovering like the Oracle of Oberhausen over the two positions: Krugman or Ferguson? Choose Ferguson.