The Green Papers
The Green Papers


A rather bad month for President
Obama has finally come to an end...
or has it?

by Richard E. Berg-Andersson Staff
Tue 1 Jun 2010

What you want to bet that President Obama most thoroughly enjoyed turning the calendar page from May to June this year?

May 2010 hadn't been a very good month for him, had it?

It began with the Obama Administration wrestling with that massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast resulting from an explosion back on 20 April aboard the Deepwater Horizon, an oil-drilling rig completing a well on behalf of British Petroleum...

it ended with, yes, the Obama Administration still wrestling with that same, now even more massive, oil spill!

Meanwhile, the Tea Party movement, that most vociferous of opponents to the Obama Administration and its policies, appeared to have had its most serious political influence on the conservative side of things to date: on 8 May, incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) failed to even get on the ballot for the 22 June Primary in the Beehive State when he failed to secure enough support at the Utah Republican State Convention; then, on 18 May, the Tea Partiers scored their most significant victory so far when Rand Paul, son of Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator from Kentucky over a candidate supported by U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) in that State's Republican Primary: that same day, a United States Senator the Tea Partiers, in particular, pretty much loved to hate, Arlen Specter (longtime R, but now D- Pennsylvania), lost his bid to defend his seat this coming November by being defeated in the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary.

Then, on 22 May, in a Special Congressional Election in Hawaii (held to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Congressman Neil Abercrombie [Democrat] in order to concentrate on his campaign for Governor), a Republican- Charles Kong Djou- was elected from what is otherwise a fairly reliable Democratic Party stronghold (though the two-term Governor of the State- retiring due to Term Limit- Linda Lingle is a Republican).

Much of the foregoing, to be sure, is at least somewhat overblown:

BP is primarily responsible for the aftermath of that oil rig explosion and the subsequent failure to stop the oil that seems poised to continue to contaminate more and more of the fishing grounds on which much of the economy of the American Gulf Coast depends, not to also mention significant portions of the beaches and resort areas along that same coast (at the time of the explosion, I happened to have been enroute to a week's worth of vacation along the Gulf Coast of the Florida panhandle-- when I left Apalachicola, the beautiful beaches on that part of the Gulf Coast were still unaffected but note that this was back towards the end of April), unless and until the resultant leak is finally stopped. Indeed, the urgency to so stop the leaking now ratchets up quite a bit because 1 June is the start of Atlantic Hurricane Season!

Yet there is little the Federal Government can really do here: the US Coast Guard can (as it has done) aid in containing the oil, for instance, but neither the Coast Guard nor the United States Navy has, in their respective principal mission statements, dealing with the economic and environmental ramifications of offshore oil disasters. And it is altogether disingenuous for Republicans to be so much on the Obama Administration's back over all of this in any event: I still so well recall at least one Major Party National Convention in 2008 during which the chant "Drill, baby, drill!" was so often, where not also so regularly, chanted-- hint: it was not the Democratic National Convention which had nominated Barack Obama for the Presidency!

At the same time, it has to be fairly observed that the Tea Party "victories" thus far cited in this piece took place in States (again, Utah and Kentucky-- both bastions of conservative populism) where one would more likely expect just such a thing (and, in addition, Bennett's being toppled in Utah was the direct result of a caucus/convention process, one which tends to be more easily subject to the direct influence of political factions within a Party than is a Primary Election); meanwhile, the toppling of Senator Specter can be seen as being more anti-Tea Party within the Democratic Party (keep in mind that, while many voters across the country are certainly angry this election year, not all of them are either conservative or Republican [and the percentage difference, in the most reliable polls, between angry conservative Republicans and angry liberal Democrats has generally been in the single digits]).

Meanwhile, in Hawaii, two of three Democrats just about evenly split nearly 59% of the vote in the Special Election between them; now- Congressman Djou won with but 39% of the vote. Come November's Midterm Elections, however, Djou will not be facing a divided Democratic ballot; in any event, winning a Special Election in Hawaii does not necessarily mean sure victory in the General (just ask former Congressman Abercrombie: he was first elected to the U.S. House in a Special Election back in 1986 only to lose that seat in November of that same year).

But even where the Obama Presidency seems to have actually benefited politically, regardless of what one might think of what I have written in the previous four paragraphs, the situation is fraught with problems!

Take Pennsylvania:

Once he had switched Parties last year, Arlen Specter was already in political limbo. Republicans had long viewed Specter as a so-called 'RINO' ("Republican In Name Only") [which, or so I suppose, is someone who would be in political opposition to a 'ROLE' ("Republican Often Losing [the] East") ;-)] and, when he returned to the Democratic Party of his younger days as a prosecutor in Philadelphia, the attitude amongst much of the GOP (long remembering his having almost single-handedly undermined President Reagan's nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court back in 1987) was pretty much "don't let the door hit you too hard on the way out, Arlen!"; however, he wasn't then exactly welcomed by rank-and-file Democrats (regardless of the attitude of the Democratic Party leadership [who clearly felt they owed Specter one for his willingness to so switch]): thus, the Primary allowed ordinary Democrats to, finally, punish Specter for such things as his role in the Anita Hill portion of the hearings on President George H.W. Bush's nomination of Clarence Thomas to that same High Court in 1991.

Besides, why would the Democrats so willingly nominate someone who so raises the ire of the Tea Party movement (theoretically, more galvanizing these Tea Partiers to go to the polls this November), the very people so many of these same Democrats so vehemently oppose? Whatever the Tea Partiers' attitude towards the Democrats' victorious Senate nominee, Congressman Joe Sestak, he is certainly not the "lightning rod" Senator Specter would have been come the General Election!

Thus, it might well be argued that Sestak's nomination would actually have been a major victory for President Obama, his Administration and his supporters in what was otherwise, if only on the surface, a rather tough month of May for the President and his Party...

key phrase: "would actually have been"...

but for the recent revelations that former President Bill Clinton (the husband of Obama's Secretary of State, just in case that might have slipped anyone's mind!) apparently acted as an intermediary trying to get Sestak to abandon his bid for Specter's U.S. Senate seat before the 18 May Primary.

This would be bad enough (although political pressure to get candidates for a nomination opposing someone more desirable to the White House- despite a President's professed intraParty "neutrality"- is nothing at all new and has been practiced by Presidents of both Parties, even though it well flies in the face of the very purpose of the Direct Primary [what we now call a Primary Election, as opposed to an "indirect primary" which is the caucus/convention process] which is supposed to allow the ordinary Party supporter [at least in theory] to choose that Party's nominee outside of too much influence by Party "bosses" [maybe ;-)]) but then we learn the fact that Sestak was offered some kind of appointment by the President were he to so drop out (potentially illegal, but certainly unethical!)...

this one is going to play itself out into, and through, June and beyond... stay tuned!

Modified .