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The mid term U.S. elections are
not that important for Obama



Jonathan Power
TFF Associate since 1991

Comments directly to

26 October, 2010

First, a guess about the mid-term elections in America. Second, historical facts.

The guess: if the Democrats lose their majorities in the House of Representatives and even the Senate it will serve President Barack Obama well in the general election in two years’ time. Obama can use the Republican majority to his advantage: showing up with sharp clarity what the Republicans want to do to substitute for the Obama achievements- the best list of passed legislation and executive decisions made by any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

This will give the Republicans an almighty headache as they have no policies they agree on, apart from dismantling the health care bill. An attack on that will fall short as the benefits of it become much more tangible over the next two years. Not least, the Republicans could more easily than hitherto be shown up for the mess they made along with President George W. Bush with policies that helped precipitate the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The House holds the purse strings. Every time the Republicans try to punish Obama he can both attack them and refuse to sign their bills, unless they release money he needs to implement his health bill. As for the rest, Republican Jack wants this and Republican Jill wants that, and they are far apart.

Now some historical facts: Ex President Bill Clinton, the winner of two terms in office, is extraordinarily popular today. The polls say if he could run for president again he would win handsomely.  Have we forgotten that he was all but written off at the time of his first mid-term election? He started his first term by pushing for gays to be able to serve in the military. The military rose up as if one and everyone in uniform from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff downwards castigated him.

The suggestion that Clinton was a closet liberal was reinforced by his appointment of a politically correct cabinet. Hillary Clinton led the search for a female Attorney General and after setbacks caused by Republicans in the Senate she picked out of nowhere Janet Reno, who once in office made one mistake after another including the murderous attack in Waco on a religious sect.

Senator Bob Dole- Clinton’s opponent in the next general election- was able to organize a filibuster of Clinton’s vital economic stimulus plan. At the same time Newt Gingrich, speaker of the House, organized a masterful attack on Clinton, quadrupling the party’s direct-mail operation and raising tons of anti-Clinton money to fight the election. He also managed to bring the Federal Government to a halt, no mean political achievement.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page hammered Clinton until it hurt, dropping big hints about the president’s sex life and his wife’s land deal in Arkansas. After an editorial attacking White House counsel, Vincent Foster, implicating him in political skulduggery, he committed suicide.

By 1994 Clinton no longer could get his bills through Congress. His and his wife Hillary’s health care reforms failed despite its promise to solve the problem of 40 million people having no health coverage.

By the time of the mid-term elections Clinton had been defeated every time he tried to pass his liberal reforms. Conservatives had their tail up and in the elections duly knocked Clinton on the head.

But it wasn’t only Clinton who got hammered in the midterms. President Ronald Reagan was too. But like Clinton he lived to fight another day, regained his initial huge popularity (which survived until he died), got his legislation through a supposedly hostile Congress, and easily won a second term.

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Obama is out in the sticks campaigning as he did when he fought for the presidency. Bill Clinton has been drawing on his own popularity to give him a helping hand. It could well be there is a last minute turning of the tide as disenchanted liberals return to supporting Obama.

Liberals have seemed to be deserting Obama. They have been disappointed because Guantanamo has not been closed, a promise he made when he became president. Those who used torture with suspected Al Qaeda suspects appear to have been let off the hook. He has bowed before Israeli right wing pressure. He has upped the war in Afghanistan. He has not tried to pass the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which the US needs to do to impress Third World countries (including those who may build a nuclear bomb) if the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty is to be observed.

Obama, no doubt, recalls the adage of Harold Wilson, the former prime minister of Britain, who said that “a week is a long time in politics”. During the campaign for the presidency it looked as if he would lose in many primaries. Each time, by brilliant campaigning, he bounced back within a week or two and won. His cerebral attitude didn’t seem to harm him.

Why should it now? And if he does lose expect him to bounce back in the general election in two years’ time.


Copyright © 2010 Jonathan Power


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Jonathan Power can be reached by phone +44 7785 351172
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Jonathan Power 2007 Book
Conundrums of Humanity
The Quest for Global Justice

“Conundrums of Humanity” poses eleven questions for our future progress, ranging from “Can we diminish War?” to “How far and fast can we push forward the frontiers of Human Rights?” to “Will China dominate the century?”
The answers to these questions, the author believes, growing out of his long experience as a foreign correspondent and columnist for the International Herald Tribune, are largely positive ones, despite the hurdles yet to be overcome. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, London, 2007.

William Pfaff, September 17, 2007
Jonathan Power's book "Conundrums" - A Review
"His is a powerful and comprehensive statement of ways to make the world better.
Is that worth the Nobel Prize?
I say, why not?"


Jonathan Power's 2001 book

Like Water on Stone
The Story of Amnesty International

Follow this link to read about - and order - Jonathan Power's book written for the 40th Anniversary of Amnesty International



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