James Carville has looked at the results of the Nevada and New York congressional elections and has a word of advice for the White House:
Beyond that, Carville suggests that the President fire his economic advisers and maybe his Attorney General, force the Justice Department to indict a bunch of bankers, launch a rhetorical campaign attacking austerity and pick a simple economic story and stick to it. You can read it all here.
Carville seems to have taken his own advice to heart; he is clearly panicked about the President’s re-election chances. As he writes:
As I watch the Republican debates, I realize that we are on the brink of a crazy person running our nation. I sit in front of the television and shudder at the thought of one of these creationism-loving, global-warming-denying, immigration-bashing, Social-Security-cutting, clean-air-hating, mortality-fascinated, Wall-Street-protecting Republicans running my country.
The course we are on is not working. The hour is late, and the need is great. Fire. Indict. Fight.
If Carville wanted to destroy the Democratic Party he couldn’t have come up with a better plan. Four reasons why the Carville approach is the kiss of doom for President Obama and the party he leads:
Number one, while left-liberal Democrats keep thinking it MUST work, left populism doesn’t even help Democratic candidates win Democratic nominations, much less general elections. The siren song of left populism has wrecked the hopes of every Democratic presidential candidate who listened to it for the last twenty years. Remember Dick Gephardt’s inspiring campaign for the Democratic nomination? And who can forget those halcyon years of the John Edwards administration?
Problem Number Two: Carville’s advice is contradictory. President Obama can’t be both populist and consistent at this point in his presidency. Larry Summers and Secretary Geithner didn’t sneak into the White House and hijack his economic policy while President Obama was off making friends in the Islamic world and solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem. President Obama has made his key economic policy decisions out of conviction and calculation. He has billed himself as a reflective and cool decision maker who reviews the evidence before carefully making a decision. To make the 180 degree turn Carville wants, the President would have to have a Moses on the mountaintop, road to Damascus conversion experience. And to pull that off, he wouldn’t just have to reinvent his economic policy; he’d have to reinvent himself and reintroduce himself to the American people as a different kind of person and a different kind of leader. That would be hard to pull off at this point in his presidency; I can’t see it working.
Third, this President doesn’t do ‘tough’ very well. I am not saying he can’t be tough and decisive as a person; he can be. He has made decisions — on Afghanistan, on drone attacks in Pakistan and on the raid to get bin Laden — that were gutsy and hard, whether you agree or disagree with the choices he made. But he isn’t convincing as a Chuck Norris impersonator. Often when he tries to sound tough he comes out tinny. Also, teleprompters don’t work when the goal is to project spontaneous, righteous and passionate rage.
Finally, Carville totally overlooks the dramatic and swift economic consequences if President Obama took his advice and fired his economic team, launched prosecutions against prominent bankers and Wall Streeters while barnstorming the country doing Huey Long impressions when world financial markets are already on edge.
The result would show Carville what real panic looks like as stock markets collapsed worldwide, business confidence crashed, and the global economy went into a recession that dwarfed what we saw in 2008. That recession wouldn’t be President Bush’s fault; it would be seen by voters as an avoidable economic catastrophe brought on by a President who went off the rails.
GOP operatives have to be hoping and praying that James Carville will stampede the President into committing political suicide. I don’t think he will; President Obama may have his shortcomings, but panic doesn’t seem to be part of his repertoire.