Presidential race draws lackluster pair

June 16, 2012


— Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama is not exactly Jefferson-Adams or Lincoln-Douglas. No Harry Truman or Bill Clinton here, let alone FDR or Reagan. Indeed, it’s arguable that neither party is fielding its strongest candidate. Hillary Clinton would run far better than Obama. True, her secretaryship of state may not remotely qualify as Kissingerian or Achesonian, but she’s not Obama. She carries none of his economic baggage. She’s unsullied by the last three and a half years.

Similarly, the Republican bench had several candidates stronger than Romney, but they chose not to run. Indeed, one measure of the weakness of the two finalists is this: The more each disappears from view, the better he fares. Obama prospered when he was below radar during the Republican primaries. Now that they’re over and he’s back out front, his fortunes have receded.

He is constantly on the campaign trail. His frantic fundraising — 160 events to date — alternates with swing-state rallies where the long-gone charisma of 2008 has been replaced by systematic special-interest pandering, from cut-rate loans for indentured students to free contraceptives for women (the denial of which constitutes a “war” on same).

Then came the rush of bad news: terrible May unemployment numbers, a crushing Democratic defeat in Wisconsin, and that curious revolt of the surrogates, as Bill Clinton, Deval Patrick and Cory Booker — all dispatched to promote Obama — ended up contradicting, undermining or deploring Obama’s anti-business attacks on Romney.

Obama’s instinctive response? Get back out on the air. Call an impromptu Friday news conference. And proceed to commit the gaffe of the year: “The private sector is doing fine.”

This didn’t just expose Obama to precisely the out-of-touchness charge he is trying to hang on Romney. It betrayed his core political philosophy. Obama was trying to attribute high unemployment to a paucity of government workers and to suggest that the solution was to pad the public rolls. In doing so, though, he fatally undid his many previous protestations of being a fiscally prudent government cutter.

He thus positioned himself as, once again, the big-government liberal of 2009, convinced that what the ailing economy needs is yet another bout of government expansion. A serious political misstep, considering the fate of the last stimulus: the weakest recovery since the Great Depression with private sector growth a minuscule 1.2 percent.

But that’s not the end of the tribulations that provoked a front-page Washington Post story beginning: “Is it time for Democrats to panic”? The sleeper issue is the cascade of White House leaks that have exposed significant details of the cyberattacks on Iran, the drone war against al-Qaida, the double-agent in Yemen and the Osama bin Laden raid and its aftermath.

This is not leak-business as usual. “I have never seen it worse,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 11 years on the Intelligence Committee. These revelations, clearly meant to make Obama look the heroic warrior, could prove highly toxic if current investigations bear out Sen. John McCain’s charges of leaks tolerated, if not encouraged, by a campaigning president placing his own image above the nation’s security.

Quite an indictment. Where it goes, no one knows. Much will hinge on whether Eric Holder’s Justice Department will stifle the investigation he has now handed over to two in-house prosecutors. And whether Republicans and principled Democrats will insist on a genuinely independent inquiry.

Nonetheless, there is nothing inexorable about the current Obama slide. The race remains 50-50. Republican demoralization after a primary campaign that blew the political equivalent of a seven-run lead has now given way to Democratic demoralization at the squandering of their subsequent post-primary advantage.

What remains is a solid, stolid, gaffe-prone challenger for whom conservatism is a second language versus an incumbent with a record he cannot run on and signature policies — Obamacare, the stimulus, cap-and-trade — he dare hardly mention.

A quite dispiriting spectacle. And more than a bit confusing. Why, just this week the estimable Jeb Bush averred that the Republican Party had become so rigidly right-wing that today it couldn’t even nominate Ronald Reagan.

Huh? It just nominated Mitt Romney who lives a good 14 nautical miles to the left of Ronald Reagan.

Goodness. Four more months of this campaign and we will all be unhinged.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group.


woodscolt 5 years, 9 months ago

Charles Krauthammer translated: lackluster.

Liberty275 5 years, 9 months ago

They say Hilary is probably too old now to ever be president and that's a shame. I mostly don't agree with her on the issues, but she has shown herself to be a hard working Sec/State dedicated to serving her country. She would have made a much better president than obama, and it's likely I would have voted for her and probable I would have voted for her if she was as economically conservative as her husband.

Neither of the slick frauds currently nominated deserve to be president. If I wasn't already writing myself in, I would write in Hilary. She's the only person in a major political position that is putting America above herself.

Liberty275 5 years, 9 months ago

I'm listening to The Pixies. I don't want to watch a movie.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 9 months ago

This from a friend who is an expat American, married to an Icelander and living in London. She is currently in Reykjavik, visiting in-laws on summer vacation.

"If Bill O'Reilly is right and Obama is making America into Iceland, you should vote Obama because:

Unemployment Iceland 7.4% vs USA 9% Obesity Rate 12.4% Iceland vs 33.9% USA Maternal deaths 5 vs 24 per 100,000 Iceland v. USA Infant Mortality 3.18 vs 5.98 per 1000, Iceland v. USA Life Expectancy 81yrs Iceland, 78.49 yrs USA 3.9 vs 2.67 physicians per 1000 people, Iceland v. USA.

And did I mention a far superior selection of Pick A Mix?"

The GOP has made it abundantly clear they could not care less about jobs. As for maternal and health, they are far more concerned about regulating the uteri of women than they are their maternal mortality and morbidity. And if anybody over 55 wants a real "death panel", than by all means, vote for Mitt. He'll rubber stamp anything coming out of Congress that does away with Medicare and Social Security.

Scott Drummond 5 years, 9 months ago

So our problems are race and religion? What is our solution? Do tell!

jhawkinsf 5 years, 9 months ago

It's should be noted that life expectancy, infant mortality and maternal deaths (during childbirth) are all related to that other figure of one third of Americans being obese (and another one third being overweight). And of course, because Iceland doesn't have so much excess weight to carry around, they don't have the need for so many doctors. Many of our health problems would be solved if we all ate less, ate healthy and exercised more. Many of our health problems are of our own making. For some reason though, we expect government to solve that problem for us by providing health care. The solution is staring at you in the mirror.

labmonkey 5 years, 9 months ago

How dare you!!! How dare you bring up personal responsibility!!!

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 9 months ago

So you think the differences between Iceland and the US are solely the result of "personal responsibility"? Yeah. Right. And I guess when Iceland literally threw banks out of their country for screwing up their economy and overthrew their own government it was "personal responsibility" too. Mmmmhmm.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 9 months ago

Sorry, Cait, but all I did was connect the dots that you threw out there. The fact is that the differences in infant mortality rates, maternal death rates and life expectancy can be explained quite easily by the difference in obesity rates. And of course, that leads to less need for doctors.

Now were you trying to make some point about Icelandic banks and how they operate vs. American banks and how they operate? I'll state right now, I'm not well versed in the Icelandic banking problems, so I really can't engage in that part of a conversation. But the part I mentioned earlier, about obesity and the need to solve that problem by looking in the mirror, I'll stand by that comment. Yes, obesity puts your life at greater risk. Yes, an obese expectant mother puts both her health and that of her child at increased risk. And together, they put a strain on the health care system.

Scott Drummond 5 years, 9 months ago

Doesn't the original comment cite that there are MORE physicians in Iceland?

Scott Drummond 5 years, 9 months ago

Chuck has been unhinged, of course, for quite some time.

I did enjoy the complaint about fundraising by the President. I thought campaign donations were free speech. Why does he complain about it?

Steve Jacob 5 years, 9 months ago

I usually never read Krauthammer, but he has a point, theses candidates stink. It's like when either one opens there mouth, the other gains in the poll. Now that Romney will hide this summer until the convention, he will gain. But come September, both have an equal chance to blow it.

Put it this way, I would be shocked if we match the national 63% turnout rate for this election that we did in 2008.

jaywalker 5 years, 9 months ago

Exceptionally weak column. The premise was correct, what followed was one-sided and therefore lacking in credibility. Do better, Chuck.

Richard Payton 5 years, 9 months ago

The gaffe by Romney was that he said, he didn't care about the poor. Obama's gaffe, the private sector is doing fine. Both have screwed up and both have admitted that. I do believe both believe what they said before they retracted their statements.

Jimo 5 years, 9 months ago

Translation: We've nominated a putz so the best defense is offense - make you think the other guy is a putz too.

pizzapete 5 years, 9 months ago

You know, when Jesus came back to life after being crucified and decided to live in America with the Native Americans? One of our candidates actually believes in that, among other things. Plus, it's a dang good song.

Liberty275 5 years, 9 months ago

"Jesus came back to life after being crucified"

Both candidates believe that part. That Jesus came to America to live with the aboriginals is just a tad sillier. And really, when you think about it, if the Romans had just killed you and you magically came back to life, you'd get out of town real quick - and America is about as nice a place to live as any.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

"Presidential race draws lackluster pair"

Yep, the pro-choice Massachusetts moderate gay rights supporting author of Rombama care Romney, and the severe conservative anti-choice anti-gay anti-Rombama care Romney.

What a lackluster pair indeed.

JackMcKee 5 years, 9 months ago

solid analysis and contribution. I'd like to introduce you to FalseHope. You two should get along famously.

Liberty275 5 years, 9 months ago

Write in "Liberty275" as governor and president and when I win I'll veto every bill the legislature sends until the one that legalizes recreational drugs - even as I make them virtually legal by executive fiat. As a bonus for your vote, every adult citizen in my jurisdiction will receive a free eighth ounce of the best pot our farmers can grow. You'll have to wait for that for it to be harvested though. It's going to take a while to grow and package that much dope.

Liberty 275 - putting our farmers and chemists to work for you!

Thank you for your vote.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

There once was man who ran Bain-us As a presidential candidate he had more faces than Janus. First a Massachusetts moderate now a severe conservative is where he's at His flip-flopping has become notoriously heinous

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

Things Romney was for before he was against them: reproductive choice equal rights for gays Rombama care immigration reform taxes

Hoo haaa, what a candidate!

Tea, anyone?

Scott Drummond 5 years, 9 months ago

But he's always been white!

And that alone is sufficient for too many these days.

JackMcKee 5 years, 9 months ago

and in the guess the author contest, I win again. Chuck just makes this too easy.

Hey Chuck, from now in just write "Obama sucks." It will save some time.

beatrice 5 years, 9 months ago

If Obama is so lackluster, then why do so many people behave as if he is the anti-Christ?

Just because Romney is lackluster, that does not rub off on Obama.

Armstrong 5 years, 9 months ago

Yes Romney may be lackluster but he is not a proven failure like our soon to be ex divider in chief

Getaroom 5 years, 9 months ago

Divider-in-chief? How about the entire GOP as the Collective Obstructionists-In-Chief with a manifest to buy Government. Talk about Dictators! The Krauthammer has proven once again that he has outlived his uselessness.

cato_the_elder 5 years, 9 months ago

Americans have a clear choice in November. The choice is between one who advocates fiscal responsibility and the biggest government spender in world history:


Steve Stucky 5 years, 9 months ago

This column is as boring as Kraut Hammer is on TV.

beatrice 5 years, 9 months ago

A rebuttal: 1. Are you saying all wealthy people are greedy, or that one cannot be part of a group in order to criticize that group?

  1. So unemployment among Black Americans isn't higher than it is for Whites?

  2. Yep. No doubt that Washington has a double standard, which ever party is in power.

  3. The KKK claim to be Christian. Do we think all Christians uphold the ideals of the KKK? The key word is "terrorists."

  4. Probably not "only in America," but honestly, nobody in any real position of power is saying "anyone who sneaks into the country illegally" can "just become [an] American citizen." Your statement is disengenious, at least.

  5. If the balancing of the budget wrecks the country in the process, then yes, that is extreme. Sticking to the Constitution is questionable, hence our needing a court system to determine what is and what is not constitutional.

  6. You do not have a Constitutional right to buy alcohol, cash a check or board an airplane. See #6 and get back to us about this so-called "sticking to the Constitution." Now, show me your papers!

  7. Return on equity has nothing to do with whether or not oil companies have gouged the public. Oil companies receive money from us taxpayers. Why do you believe they shouldn't be reponsible to answer questions about what they do with those tax dollars?

  8. I agree. It is shocking. One of our biggest expenses is our defense. Why exactly do we need to spend more on the military than the next 15 highest spending companies combined, especially when we are on relatively friendly terms with all 15 of those nations? Only in America would people who scream about government spending think it okay to continue to spend so extravagantly on the military.

  9. Only in America could a billionaire have a lower tax rate than his secretary.

(not from a source. I am original enough to write my own comments without relying on my e-mail inbox)

Liberty275 5 years, 9 months ago

"You do not have a Constitutional right to buy alcohol"

or vote.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

Obama continued the Bush policy of TARP and stimulus and saved the economy.

Obama escalated drone strikes on Al Queada and focused on our real enemies in Afghanistan.

Obama killed Osama Bib Laden.

Obama ended the war in Iraq.

Obama got Obama care passed.

Obama saved the american auto industry.

Obama has consistently negotiated with the GOP and compromised, almost always unilaterally, leading to many of the GOP right wing's policies regarding spending and federal employes to be enacted.

One might not agree with Obama's policies, but he has actually accomplished a lot given entrenched GOP obstructionism.

Except for TARP, stimulus, and the auto bailout, where he has not been able to effectively implement his policies is on the general economy, as the economy is still running pretty much of GWB policies at this time.

Armstrong 5 years, 9 months ago

Ya really want to go down that road ??? Bad idea

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

Yes. I stand by every achievement of Obama's I listed.

Do you really want to go down the road of disputing them?

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

Yes. I stand by every achievement of Obama's I listed.

Do you really want to go down the road of disputing them?

beatrice 5 years, 9 months ago

BAA, still can't come up with your own material? Sad.

Armstrong 5 years, 9 months ago

Poor blue dots, reality is going to hit hard in Novemeber. Your failed experiment will be over and out of office in January

beatrice 5 years, 9 months ago

In the mind of the Republican, corporations are people and people are nothing more than dots. Um ... okay.

Obama kept this nation from falling into a Depression. His administration is far from a failed experiment (just ask many working in the auto industry today). However, you may be right about his being out of office in January. Casino money can buy a lot of votes and may actually be able to convince conservatives that they like Romney after all.

But if Obama doesn't lose, oh my, how miserable will you be? Will you pull a Ted Nugent on us?

I look forward to revisiting this conversation after the election.

Now, bring on the debates!

Carol Bowen 5 years, 9 months ago

"Opinion Presidential race draws lackluster pair" What lackluster pair? This column was another excuse for Charles to go on a tirade about Obama. It would have been a good read if he had used equal space to rip up Romney.

As for "lackluster", the word choice implies that we need a Sesame Street approach. Some teaching, some elementary entertainment. Or maybe, Charles wants The Electric Company, with little content and lots of word play.

Appeal is not as important as substance. When will the news media start writing about what's important? The media influences what we think and gives us very little information. Very manipulative.

oldbaldguy 5 years, 9 months ago

we are so screwed. the next four to eight years is going to be interesting. i was hoping to really retire in the next six.

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