Some angry Democrats are wondering whether they shouldn’t have tapped Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama to be president so the country would have the bold, take-charge kind of leader it desperately needs.
|Hillary Clinton campaigned for Barack Obama in Michigan in 2008 after he wrested the presidential nomination from her. But now, Democrats are "yearning for a Bill Clinton-type approach and Hillary would reflect that," a party strategist says. (Getty Images Photo)
The dissatisfaction has seeped out beyond the cadre of liberal activists long disappointed with what they see as President Obama’s tepid response to tea party challenges in the House and now has reached the rank and file.
Party stalwarts are calling for Obama to drop the Mr. Cool, adult-in-the room persona and push for aggressive programs to generate jobs even if they have no chance of getting through Congress.
“The market has called us out, and you have to rethink under these circumstances,” Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union and a close White House ally, told The Washington Post
White House initiatives of patent reform, trade, unemployment insurance, and tax cuts don’t “generate the jobs we need,” Stern said.
Obama has been challenged by a number of crises in recent weeks, including Standard & Poor’s credit downgrade, the gyrating stock market, and fears of a double-dip recession, all while coming off the debt ceiling debate.
Although polls show that House Republicans are shouldering a lot of the blame in the debt ceiling debacle, Obama also is being hammered with low job approval ratings and poor marks for his handling of the economy.
“The president has shown himself unwilling to just dig in on a position,” Dee Dee Myers, Bill Clinton’s White House press secretary, told the Post. “He’s for jobs. I’ve heard him say that. He’s for being the grown-up in the room. But beyond that, I’m not actually sure what his bottom line is.”
Neera Tanden, a former Obama and Clinton administration official who now is with the liberal Center for American Progress, advocates turning the tables on the House GOP.
“He can take his ideas to the Republicans and use the House Republicans’ intransigence on his ideas as a foil. And by having a fight on jobs, he will communicate to the American people that he understands their challenges and he’s on their side,” Tanden told the Post.
Democratic strategist Peter Fenn put it bluntly, telling the Post that Obama has “got to be a lot less keep-it-cool Calvin Coolidge and a lot more give-’em-hell Harry Truman. There has got to be a willingness to get tough with the Republicans, especially the tea party wing’”
However, some believe that Harry Truman just isn’t in the president’s DNA, and they look back wistfully at 2008 and what might have been.
"He is a do-gooder at heart," Morris Reid, a Washington consultant and former Clinton official told The Telegraph in London
. "He thinks everyone has the same agenda to do the right thing, but other people don't have the same agenda. Their agenda is to score points and get their party re-elected.
"This is the downside of him not being terribly political like Bill Clinton was. Bill Clinton woke up every day relishing this kind of fight, and Hillary is just a tougher person. The Clintons are much more combative, they are always ready to go to Defcon 1” (war is imminent status).
Reid, while noting Obama should not be underestimated in his re-election bid because of his considerable skills as a campaigner and fund-raiser, said some Democrats are feeling buyer's remorse for choosing him over Hillary Clinton.
"The notion everyone is talking about is 'Is he Jimmy Carter or will he be a one-term president'," he told The Telegraph.
North Carolina Democratic strategist Gary Pearce told the Telegraph, "Democrats are worried. He looks weak, he doesn't say anything that grabs you, and people are looking for some kind of magic."
Some activists wonder whether the party needed someone tougher to take on the tea party.
"You see a yearning for a Bill Clinton-type approach and Hillary would reflect that. Obama is just a different political animal, he is a low-key guy," he told The Telegraph.
Some see the concern as par for the political course.
"You hear this in private all the time," said the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato. "Of course, that is typical of partisans on both sides when the current officeholder is in trouble, and Obama is clearly in trouble. Hillary wasn’t picked because the Democrats didn’t want a repeat of the Clinton administration. Now they wish they had political gut-fighters like the Clintons in the White House. It reflects Obama’s current weakness."
It will "amount to nothing or next to nothing in Obama’s re-nomination effort," Sabato, director of the school's Center for Politics, told Newsmax.
"It might show up in November 2012, although odds are that Democrats will turn out in large numbers in opposition to the GOP nominee even if they weren’t terribly excited about Obama," he said.
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