The “few options” party

“Dems have few options on the economy.” That’s the lead headline on Politico’s home page right now. But the economy isn’t the only area where leading Dems have that hemmed-in feeling. A few stories down, another Politico headline informs us that there are “Few options for Obama on 9/11.” That’s because he visited the Pentagon last year on September 11, his wife and Laura Bush are visiting the site in Pennsylvania where the fourth airplane went down, and Obama doesn’t feel comfortable visiting Ground Zero given his statements about the Ground Zero Mosque.
The two headlines provide both a good lesson in governance, one that President Obama has been too arrogant to understand:
There’s a lot of bad stuff that can happen to a party in power. If the party seeks to implement a controversial agenda, it may well use up its political capital sooner rather than later. But even if the party in power adopts a low risk agenda, the economy may tank (or fail to recover), oil may spill, and so on. And the party in power will be blamed.
That’s why it’s so important to avoid unforced errors. It’s one thing to use up political capital in the name of radically remaking the health care delivery system ,or funneling cash to favored constituencies, or even absorbing undeserved blame. It’s quite another to use it up by gratuitously spouting unpopular opinions about subjects the president has no power to decide.
But a lifetime of receiving praise for his words, and the false sense of intellectual superiority that came with it, seems to have left Obama unable to resist the urge to play the role of opiner-in-chief, and thus unable to avoid self-inflicted wounds.