The English comedy troupe, Monty Python, isn’t exactly high brow humor. It probably wasn’t in vogue in Chicago’s Hyde Park when President Obama was cutting his political teeth. But, as the President ponders the anniversary of his first year in office—a year that is not ending well at all—maybe he should go to YouTube and watch the Black Knight skit.
When King Arthur wants to cross a foot bridge, the Black Knight blocks his path and engages him in a clumsy sword battle. Arthur slashes off the Black Knight’s arm and tells him to desist. The knight states that it is just a scratch. He insists it is only a flesh wound when Arthur chops off first his other arm and then his two legs. Left in the dust with no arms and legs, the Black Knight yells out: “Come back here and take what’s coming to you. I’ll bite your legs off!” as Arthur crosses the bridge.
President Obama hasn’t been doing well in political skirmishes. He strongly supported the defeated Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia but shrugged that off. He was also rebuffed when the Republican candidate for governor in heavily Democratic New Jersey beat the incumbent Obama campaigned for on several occasions. Merely a flesh wound.
But then came the shot heard around the world: Scott Brown’s comfortable win against the Democrat Martha Coakley, who was the heir apparent to the seat held by the late Ted Kennedy since 1962. A Republican winning that seat in the bluest of the blue states? That is quadriplegia, not a flesh wound.
Yes, the health care issue was a driving force in Scott Brown’s Bay State victory—but it wasn’t the solitary component. Brown—who one liberal Boston Globe pundit criticized as not spending a lot of time in Mensa meetings—was smart enough to know that voters were concerned about jobs and the economy, soaring deficits, and high taxes as well as flawed health care legislation. He was tuned in to ordinary people enough to know that they were angry over the President and his congressional supporters focusing on cap-and-trade and health care instead of jobs, deficits, and excessive government spending. He must have chuckled when Obama chastised his campaigning in a pick-up truck by saying that, “Anybody can buy a truck!” Maybe that is true in Hyde Park, Mr. President, but not in many places in America these days.
The President still lives in his campaign world where blaming the previous administration for all of the economic ills led to cheers, even when he offered few concrete solutions to those problems. Thus far, his solutions seem to be more spending, more debt, higher energy costs for consumers and businesses, and favoritism for unions. That is not a recipe for economic recovery.
If Barack Obama wants to continue fighting to advance an agenda rejected around the country—even in heavily Democratic states—he does so at his own peril and the peril of the Democratic majorities in Congress. His attempt to advance an unpopular agenda and his lack of focus on real solutions to the problems facing the economy have caused consternation and uncertainty—two arch enemies of recovery.
President Obama can listen to his inner circle and continue to act against the wishes of the voters, but if he does, like the Black Knight in the Monty Python skit, he will be groveling in the dust watching the opposition cross the bridge.