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Posted by on Apr 9, 2009 in At TMV | 11 comments

Obama’s Ambitious Agenda

The President will attack immigration reform in a big way starting next month.

The last Democratic president to have so many ambitious priorities was Jimmy Carter. Through most of his term, Carter was largely thwarted by a Democratic Congress anxious to assert itself after Richard Nixon’s imperial presidency. (He was finally undone by the Iran hostage crisis and a sluggish economy, of course.) Carter was much better at eliciting the support of conservative Republicans than he was of liberal Democrats in Congress.

Like Obama, Carter began his term with the utmost confidence. But he overextended both himself and his presidency, ultimately unable to forge coalitions owing in part to the bad blood created by the sheer weight and depth of his reach for reforms.

But it wasn’t just Carter’s penchant for spreading himself and his administration thin that eroded his support among Democrats, leading to Senator Ted Kennedy’s petulant run against Carter for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination. Among congressional Democrats then there existed a sense of entitlement to power and a belief that Carter should defer to them. He, they felt, was a naive and overly intrusive upstart who needed to know who was boss.

Exacerbating Carter’s problems in dealing with Congress and the country was his own prickly personality. In intellect, temperament, and the need to be in control, Carter most resembled Woodrow Wilson, whose insistence on taking personal charge of negotiations at Versailles after World War 1 took him away from Washington for many months just as Carter’s personal involvement in the Camp David Accords, while producing one of the notable achievements of his presidency, also took him out of the loop on other pressing matters. Carter, like Wilson, could be intransigent to the point of undermining his own agenda.

President Obama seems temperamentally suited to pursuing his ambitious agenda. The mere appearance of being willing to listen will strengthen his position with players in Washington and with the public. This stands in contrast to Carter and of more importance, in public perception, also in contrast to his immediate predecessor.

In 1977, when Jimmy Carter became president, Americans were fed up with politics as usual. A similar sentiment, along with deep concern about a big recession, have afforded Mr. Obama enormous opportunities. If Americans are as committed to change as their election of the president suggests, then his agenda, ambitious or not, may suit the times.

But it will require every ounce of the considerable skills that the president and his staff have displayed over the past four-plus years for him to be a successful president. (And to avoid getting spread too thin, he needs to fill his administration as quickly as possible.)

If Jimmy Carter’s experience is any indication, Mr. Obama’s biggest challenge in pursuing his agenda will come in dealing with congressional members of his own party. So far, the president has done well in dealing with their jealousy for power and position over their “areas of expertise.” But the broader his agenda becomes and especially when Congress moves to deal with health care and the budget, where powerful members of the Congress are already asserting their power to offer Democratic alternatives to the proposals of the President, the more difficult it will be to keep his fellow Democrats in line. It will require Mr. Obama to bend and to dig in at just the right times.

Obama, I believe, is up to the challenge. But his administration will continue to be fascinating to watch.

[My personal blog is here.]

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  • Silhouette

    I think the immigration problem could be solved like this: make it easy for immigrants to work in agriculture only and only in the most labor-intensive jobs such as hand-harvesting, planting, packing, weeding and such. Also, dissuade the immigration of their adjunct/dependant family members. Make it a thing like the Conservation Corp where there is an age where they can legally do this, say between 18 and 25. And while they’re working, Uncle Sam covers basic health care and such.

    Then, in all other areas where illegals are employed, make the penalties for doing so, very extreme, so very harrowing that no one would even dare think of hiring anyone without a fullproof display of proven citizenship or work visa.

    Without the cheap immigrant labor in our agricultural industries, food prices would be astronomical. And food is a basic human right to have be affordable enough to sustain adequate nutrition for even our poorest members. Beyond that we really need to crack down and return jobs to american citizens.

    The bottom line is, if those tempted to cross the border into our nation find little or no incentive to do so beyond some very hard farm labor and only for those (unmarried) between the ages of 18 and 25, and penalties are so severe for the hiring in any other capacity that no other jobs are availible to them, then the border fence doesn’t even need to go up. The fence of anti-incentives will be like 100-feet high and woven with concertina wire.

  • Braindead

    It goes back to definition of immigration problems. The proponents of immigration reform claim that its broken.

    That is a lie. Immigration is not broken. We simply do not fund the INS and we do not enforce the laws. Hence the Democrats offer us a solution to a lie (That immigration is broken)and offer to be moderate in tone.

    How laughable. Simply enforce the laws on the books and the problem will be resolved. Fund the INS. End of problem. But we all know that there are two fundamental problems with that. For some stupid and laughable reason the GOP seems to want cheap labor and they turn a blind eye. Democrats simply want more votes. Well over the last 20-30 years they have watched millions and millions of new democrats flood into the country and now what is the result?

    A gop that is essentially bankrupt and meaningless. Why is Obama even floating this. He has the votes…..just do whatever the hell he wants. Thats what hes going to do in the end anyway.

  • Silhouette

    Well you’re right Braindead, there is a “blind eye” policy that has been around for many decades regarding cheap immigrant labor. But it’s gotten out of hand and as usual when the poop hits the fan, drastic measures are necessary. In agriculture it is a necessary evil, but the solution I offered seems a good one, in my humble…

    Yes, raid businesses and make tough laws even tougher about hiring illegals outside the ag industry. We need food cheap but everything else we should be made to realize the value of in prices that reflect american labor.

    What’s hilarious is listening to Rush Limbaugh go on about how horrible illegal immigration is while he probably has tea and crumpets with his republican buddies who are getting quite fat off of cheap illegal workers. Business owners are to blame when they turn a blind eye. And they’ll keep doing it until we make it hurt real bad for daring to do so..

  • daveinboca

    It goes back to definition of immigration problems. The proponents of immigration reform claim that its broken. That is a lie. Immigration is not broken. We simply do not fund the INS and we do not enforce the laws. Hence the Democrats offer us a solution to a lie (That immigration is broken)and offer to be moderate in tone.

    Stole my thunder…. The fact that all the push-polling and self-serving “surveys” and “studies” by Democrat pollsters have obscured the fact that around 70+% of Americans are ADAMANTLY opposed to lax enforcement of the laws is allowing the continuation of elites’ usurpation of authority, and judicial tyranny in enforcing it, vis-a-vis immigration policy.

    Europe is facing a similar problem except for the fact that they don’t even have immigration laws on the books to confront the demographic menace a tide of illegals presents…

    If Obama wants to take on Israel, an anti-immigration majority, and try to do cap & trade as the Earth cools back down, PUHLEEZ go ahead and turn yourself into GWB in less than two years flat….

    At least Bush finally won his war. BHO is doing what the Japanese tried with Pearl Harbor. Political Russian roulette with a fully-loaded pistol.

  • Someone give me a number. How much would it cost and how long would it take to round up and deport 20 million undocumented aliens? How much to make the borders secure? How much to keep illegals from coming in by ship or plane or containerized truck traffic (think 100% inspection)? How much increase in food prices from paying legal minimum wage for all agricultural jobs, domestic help, etc? What’s the price tag of what you propose?

    America has always run on slave labor, from the time of actual domestic slavery to the present, in which we buy the products of countries with no labor laws, slave labor, child labor etc.

    Taking a wide-angle view, are we determined to have no business that does not compete competitively in a globalized world society? Because *40%* of the world’s 6 billion people live on less than $2 a day (20% less than $1). Is it your proposal that American laborers compete with them? Do YOU want to work for $2 a day? Want anyone in your family or any of your friends to try to make it on that?

  • Dave, Dave, you think Bush won in Iraq? Man do I have a used war or two to sell you. We paid one faction to fight another. We paid the other not to fight. That’s all unraveling now. This was no military victory. But that’s all off topic on this post, so not sure why you brought it up. You’re not usually a red herring kinda guy.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    If Bush didn’t win the war, how can they claim Obama lost it?

  • Braindead

    Someone give me a number. How much would it cost and how long would it take to round up and deport 20 million undocumented aliens?

    Not really long because if we enforce the laws these illegals will not work, will not collect social security and will not be allowed in school. The round em up thing is nothing more then a talking point designed to show the futility of such and hence we should just legalize them……after all it would be cheaper.

    Wrong. We dont round them up. We accept them at the INS office and bus them back to Mexico when they show up at the offices poor, broke and destitute. Give them a number and offer to put them to the head of the class if they can prove they were here xx amount of time.

    Its really simple. Let them police themselves.

  • Silhouette

    Exactly. Bust the dragon at it’s head. Punish those businesses SEVERELY who are caught employing aliens. Period. Once Americans STOP HIRING illegals, they have zero incentive to come here…especially if we make it equally hard for them to infiltrate the healthcare system.

    The only employment we should allow of these workers is ag, to keep food costs down, and then only to those unmarried aliens of young and hardy age to keep the tide of adjunct family members down and to lower the risk of injury in this difficult line of work.

    That way illegals can still come here in a restricted manner to offer some opportunity in the form of wages sent home to famliy while they are young. Beyond that they go back and let another younger family member come forward to work in their place. If the only work they can get is in agriculture, the incentive to move north is lessened quite a bit…quite a bit..

  • So your plan is to make the employer be the police? Have you ever been asked for a birth certificate when applying for a job? Ever heard of counterfeit? I guess every employer, even a farmer who just needs a day laborer has to have an investigator to make sure the documentation is authentic. Without the investigator, you create a black market (well, actually just expand it) for fake papers.

    So we push the cost of all that on employers, no matter how small, and put them out of business. Nah. That is SO not gonna happen. Reactionary faux solutions are not going to cut it here.

  • daveinboca

    Greendreams. There is a functioning democracy, which as W Churchill noted is the “worst form of government in the world, except for all the others.” Win = win =win…. when your allies and yourself carry the fight to the end, unlike Sen. Harry “The War is Lost” Reid and the liberal commentariat.

    No red herring, but I’m just saying……immigration is a loaded revolver used in Russian roulette and McCain won’t be around to do his RINO act with any cred now. And GWB with his half-a-loaf hedging is also [thankfully] gone. Just hoping Obama tries once again to convince us not to enforce the laws on the books and gets the Dems to make it law.

    That might make 2010 a banner Republican year.

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