A British take on the mid-term elections:
An ambulance stops by the roadside to help a man suffering from a heart attack. After desperate measures, the patient survives. Brought into hospital, he then makes a protracted and partial recovery. Then, two years later, far from feeling grateful, he sues the paramedics and doctors. If it were not for their interference, he insists, he would be as good as new. As for the heart attack, it was a minor event. He would have been far better off if he had been left alone ...
Wolf rightly calls this a "propaganda coup," and it is indeed primarily Roger Ailes' achievement. But Wolf also criticizes Obama's policy on the same line as Krugman, but with less of a sledgehammer. Money quote:
The truth is not that policy was foolhardy and failed, but that it was too timid and so could not succeed. A big mistake was the failure to address the labour market directly, perhaps by temporarily slashing payroll taxation. There were other mistakes, too: the effort to reduce the overhang of household debt should have been stronger.
Yet even the hated Tarp looks remarkably effective in hindsight. As Mr Summers noted, its cost to the taxpayer looks likely to be ? per cent of GDP. This is far less than the cost of the bail-out of the savings and loans institutions in the 1980s. It is also far less than the direct fiscal cost of comparable crises elsewhere.
Given the scale and complexity of the crisis, my own view is that Obama's record is about as good as one can expect from a human being inheriting a catastrophe and acting with limited knowledge in real time. And it no more fits into the kind of left-right paradigm that left-liberals like Nick Lemann (in an otherwise brilliant piece), John Judis and Paul Krugman want, and that Roger Ailes, Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly need (for easy ratings and unthinking dogma).
I continue to believe that Obama is the president many Independents voted for: pragmatic, smart, non-ideological and remarkably successful under the circumstances. But they have been blinded by propaganda, enabled by profound and resilient joblessness that, in a perfect world, Obama might have prevented, but in the real world, did about as much as he possibly could to alleviate, within prudent parameters.
In this polarized environment, I am an outlier. But if we still want to say "Goodbye To All That", we have to keep our eyes fixed on empirical reality, and not be blinded by the easy left-right tropes of the past. It looks as if I under-estimated the capacity of America to move past this - given the unexpected events and economic implosion of the past two years. But that doesn't weaken the case that we still can and should. Otherwise, the hope we had - and can still feel - will turn to Palinite ashes.
(Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty.)