Obama’s Strategic Mistakes

November 28th, 2009

By Harvey Grund

Fred Barnes, a conservative political commentator for Fox News and the editor of the Weekly Standard magazine, wrote a straight factual piece in the Wall Street Journal that details Why Obama Isn’t Changing Washington.

To start with, Barnes reviews the President’s statements when campaigning for office: 

“Change must come to Washington,” Mr. Obama said in a June 2008 speech. “I have consistently said when it comes to solving problems,” he told Jake Tapper of ABC News that same month, “I don’t approach this from a partisan or ideological perspective.”

Mr. Obama also decried the prominent role played by lobbyists. “Lobbyists aren’t just a part of the system in Washington, they’re part of the problem,” Mr. Obama said in a May 2008 campaign speech.

What happened? Obama and his Democratic majority have gone so far as to change the locks on doors so that Republicans couldn’t get into sessions when the health care legislation was being drafted. Hardly partisan politics.

As for lobbyists, Barnes points out: 

The bigger the role of government, the more lobbyists flock to town. By pushing for his policies, the president effectively put up a welcome sign to lobbyists. Despite promising to keep them out of his administration, he has even hired a few.

To answer his own question, “Why Obama Isn’t Changing Washington,” Barnes says that: 

… the president made three strategic mistakes (or, really, misreadings of the political landscape) and they’ve come back to haunt him and his party.

First, Mr. Obama misread the meaning of the 2008 election. It wasn’t a mandate for a liberal revolution. His victory was a personal one, not an ideological triumph of liberalism. …

Second, Mr. Obama misread his own ability to sway the public. … The president spent much of the summer and early fall touting his health-care initiative. He spoke at town halls, appeared on five Sunday talk shows the same day (Sept. 20), turned up on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and on “60 Minutes.” All the while, support for ObamaCare fell. His address to Congress on health care on Sept. 9 is now remembered only for Republican Rep. Joe Wilson’s shouted accusation, “You lie!”

Third, Mr. Obama misread Republicans. They felt weak and vulnerable after losing two straight congressional elections and watching John McCain’s presidential bid fall flat. They were afraid to criticize the newly elected president. If he had offered them minimal concessions, many of them would have jumped aboard his policies. If that had happened, the president could have boasted of achieving bipartisan compromise on the stimulus and other policies. He let the chance slip away.

I would add that Obama’s worst mistake was his assumption that Americans are willing to give up the America they know and love for an America with a government that overwhelms their lives with taxes and with rules and regulations that take away their ability to make their own decisions.

(This article was also posted at My View from the Center.)


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3 Responses to “Obama’s Strategic Mistakes”



  1. Tom |

    Harvey, I agree with you on all points. And I always agree with Fred Barnes. Perhaps the most insightful point is that Obama’s victory in 2008 wasn’t a mandate for a revolution, it was a personal victory for the man himself and what people thought he was. I still have hopes that he can find his bearings and bring all his impressive intelligence into play, and I want him to be a successful president, for the benefit of the country.


  2. Lisa |

    People keep talking about how intelligent “his impressive intelligence” Obama is. Okay, he has a degree from Harvard. Does anyone know his GPA from that school? We know that while he was editor of Harvard Law Review, he did not write anything and was only a figure head in that position. Thus far, the only thing I’ve noticed that Barack Obama can do better than George Bush is read a teleprompter. An intelligent person is someone who can process complex information. A strong leader is someone who is intelligent and has a vision, exercises good judgment, is decisive and is consistent among other things. So what do we have here, and what will tomorrow bring?


  3. Tom |

    Lisa, by all indications he is very intelligent. But the additional characteristics you listed as part of being a good leader…well, that’s something else. I think the jury’s still out on all that, but we may get a pretty good indication on Tuesday when he announces his Afghanistan decision.


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