Friday, August 5, 2011

Would President Hillary Be Doing A Better Job Than Obama?!?

[Editor's Note: The thoughts below are mine and mine only. To those outside blogs who like to sometimes like to link to my stories, please note that this does not reflect the opinion of "liberals", "blacks", or "black liberals". This is just one black man's opinion. As always.]

My biggest qualm with President Obama has been the same from the start: his style of leadership (or lack thereof) leaves much to be desired. He's sought compromise when it wasn't necessary. He leads from behind. He delegates waaay too much to Pelosi & Reid. He seems to shift positions when politically expedient. He still doesn't know how to clap back. His ability to control "the narrative" is nonexistent. I'll still vote for him in 2012 for the obvious reasons[1], but to say I'm uninspired by his first term would be a massive understatement.

That said, with the 2012 campaign rolling into high gear, what better time to pointlessly revisit the past? I chose Obama over opponent Hillary Clinton in 08' because both candidates had essentially identical views, but Obama's overall temperament seemed better suited for the White House. Hillary repeatedly revealed herself to be untrustworthy, petty, reactionary, and brazen. By comparison, the cool, levelheadedness displayed by Obama seemed like the right mix of traits for a country in economic freefall.

Three years later, I'm wondering if this was somewhat shortsighted. Given the level of partisan bickering, childishness, and blatant fallacies (ie: death panels) that seem to define Washington today, would Hillary actually be better equipped to handle the Presidency than the decidedly milquetoast Obama? A recent story explored this hypothetical question in depth.
As liberals rail against the debt limit deal and Barack Obama’s choices leading up to what they see as an epic capitulation, it seems fair to wonder if a different president -- someone with, say, a reputation for toughness and savvy and with a history of combating Republican obstructionists -- could have produced a better outcome. Someone like, oh, I don't know ... Hillary Clinton?

That, after all, was the premise of Clinton's Democratic primary campaign in 2008 -- that Obama might be able to inspire the masses, but that only she had the experience and know-how to get results. And now here's Obama seemingly validating it -- and hardly for the first time in his presidency. Can we now safely say that Democrats made the wrong choice three years ago?

Presidents are also constrained, at least to some extent, by commitments they made during the campaign. Those commitments may be substantive, or they might be symbolic.

And presidents are constrained, of course, by events. Obama surely would not have started his presidency by pushing for a large economic stimulus bill if the economy had been thriving; indeed, responding to the economic crisis (including possible stimulus, TARP management, the auto industry crisis) would have moved to the top of the agenda of any president.

Of all of these constraints, the only one that would have been even somewhat different for a President Hillary Clinton than it has been for President Barack Obama has to do with their symbolic commitments during the campaign. I’ll take that up in a bit, but I’d first emphasize how little scope there is for those differences to matter; in many ways, Clinton and Obama would be identical presidents.

Now, for the differences. Sometimes, it really does matter who the president is. The president’s personal policy preferences might matter. His or her skills at handling the presidency can make a difference. And, yes, personality can affect outcomes.

Unfortunately, at this point everything gets very speculative. How good a poker player is Obama? How good would Clinton be? There’s no way of knowing. Similarly, while it would be a real mistake to say that personality can’t matter, that’s a long way from being able to say that personality does matter…in this particular way, in this particular instance. Nor do we have access to what Obama (or Clinton for that matter) “really” thinks about issues. We can only infer – guess – from hints we get when presidential actions or statements don’t seem to square with the incentives and constraints that we can observe.
I'll lay off my own opinion here (for the moment) and simply allow you guys to chime in on the question below.

Question: Would President Hillary be doing a better job of handling the situation in Washington than President Obama? How differently would things be under McCain? Theoretically speaking, which 2012 GOP candidate would be best equipped to handle the past 3 years?

[1] Go ahead, Daedalus. Tell em' what "the obvious reasons" means.

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