AWARD FOR THE MOST AWKWARD CARTOON-BASED REFERENCE SINCE I DECIDED TO CALL CLINTON STEAMBOAT WILLIE!4:46 pm - 08/11/2009
President Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat. One of the best-loved cartoon characters of the 1920s, Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky. And that pretty much sums up the 44th president of the US as he takes a well-earned summer break after just over six months in the world’s biggest and toughest job.
His stimulus bill has clearly made a significant contribution to stabilising the US economy since its passage in February. His cap-and-trade bill to reduce carbon dioxide emissions passed the House of Representatives in June. He has set in motion significant overhauls of financial regulation and healthcare. Considering the magnitude of the economic crisis he inherited, his popularity is holding up well. His current 56 per cent approval rating is significantly better than Bill Clinton’s (44 per cent) at the same stage in his first term and about the same as George W. Bush’s.
Credit where it’s due: although the gold medal for staving off depression goes to Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, and the silver medal to China’s leaders for their even more impressive stimulus, the president deserves at least bronze. According to Moody’s, the ratings agency, the stimulus package has saved more than 500,000 jobs. Without the jump in government spending, GDP would still be in a nosedive.
Felix the Prez is lucky in domestic politics, too. After months of wrangling, Al Franken was finally confirmed as senator for Minnesota, giving the Democrats a potentially crucial margin of advantage in the upper house of Congress. To prove the point, the Senate last week voted by 68 to 31 to confirm the president’s pick, Sonia Sotomayor, as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court. In the House of Representatives, Mr Obama’s party has a majority of 256 to 178. Best of all, the Republican party has traded in Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract with America for a suicide pact with itself. Between Sarah Palin’s baffling decision to quit as governor of Alaska and Mark Sanford’s Argentine affair, the Republicans look not just leaderless but clueless.
Yet this might just be where the president’s luck runs out. For precisely the power of his own party in Congress could prove to be a source of weakness rather than strength. On my most recent visit to Washington, I could not help being struck by the shift that has occurred from the imperial presidency of the Bush era to something like parliamentary government under Mr Obama. This president proposes; Congress disposes. It was Congress that wrote the stimulus bill and made sure it was stuffed full of political pork. It is Congress that will ensure the healthcare bill falls well short of being self-financing. Mr Obama recently snapped at an unnamed “Blue Dog” (conservative-leaning) House Democrat: “You’re going to destroy my presidency.” He could be right.
Six months in, Mr Obama still has the look of a lucky, two-term president. But that could change if voters become even more disenchanted with the legislative branch and start blaming the president for the looming fiscal train-wreck. The scariest possibility for Mr Obama is that the runaway deficit could leave him with the worst of both worlds: exploding debt and flat-lining growth.
Even Felix the Cat’s luck ran out during the Depression. His creator Pat Sullivan drank himself to death in 1933, baffled that audiences now preferred mice like Mickey and Jerry. President Obama should take note.
Next up, why Obama's Cash for Clunkers program and car company bailouts make him like Panthro. Good lord.
edit: good lord whichever mod keeps deleting loomis' comments needs to calm the fuck down. that shit is so petty holy crap.