The Importance of Being Present

The Importance of Being Present

Dr. Israel Bar-Nir
24.06.2011 19:24

whether it is conceivable

whether it is conceivable

The likely outcome of the 2012 Presidential elections *** Is it conceivable that Barack Obama will fail to be elected for a second term?

Although there is still almost a year and a half to the presidential elections, the heat is already on. In fact, each and every decision and/or action are made with November 2012 in mind. This article discusses the likely outcome of the 2012 Presidential elections and whether it is conceivable that Barack Obama will fail to be elected for a second term.


Before proceeding, a word of caution. Guessing the results of elections is an exercise in predicting the unpredictable. While that truism is valid always, there are unique features today that render the 2012 elections different from previous situations to such a degree that conventional predictive analyses have become mere speculations. Borrowing from the reaction of Nixon’s vice President, Spiro Agnew, when he was indicted – “the rules were changed”.


The conventional wisdom is that while an election campaign is essentially a competition as to who is able to deceive the voting public more convincingly, the incumbent’s performance and accomplishments or lack thereof determine the likelihood of his being reelected.


Under any circumstances, the incumbent enjoys a tremendous advantage. First and foremost is the fact that just the occupancy of the White House entails a free nationwide constant exposure in the media. Even when the media is out to get the incumbent, having one’s name almost permanently in the news is still an advantage – President Bush had no difficulty beating Kerry in 2004 despite very hostile media coverage. Other factors that work for the incumbent are that he is spared the ordeal of primaries and that fund raising is almost guaranteed. For the challenger the reelection campaign is an uphill battle where all he has to rely on in order to entice the voters are ideologies, futures and promises. Sometimes, the conceived dissatisfaction of the voters with the incumbent helps, but only rarely it is sufficient by itself to overcome the advantages enjoyed by the incumbent.


As a rule, conventional predictive analysis of elections is based on past trends. This by itself is rather idiotic. No investment counselor in his right mind will guarantee future results of an investment based on past performance. The same applies to elections. Thus, statements like “if the economy doesn’t improve significantly before the 2012 election, Barack Obama will be the easiest incumbent to defeat since Jimmy Carter”, or “no President has been elected to a second term with unemployment rate above 7%”, are at best a bitter joke. They may galvanize those sections of the public who were unhappy with Obama to begin with, but expecting it to really happen may well be mere wishful thinking.


In fact, in terms of performance and accomplishments, the present situation facing the incumbent is far worse than that of any previous President. The 2010 “Recovery Summer” has become a symbol of Obama’s inability to get the economy back on track just like the 2004 “Mission Accomplished” banner had haunted President Bush. Fortunately for Bush, in his case it came too late to affect the 2004 elections.


Since the “stimulus” was signed in 2009 approximately 1.5 million jobs have been lost. Last May, the national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent – far above the 8 percent promised by the White House. The average unemployment throughout Obama’s tenure was roughly 9.5 percent. There are no signs that this is going to change in the foreseeable future. And it is not only the economy. In other issues of importance to the voting public, like immigration and education Obama has little to show. Obama’s handling of crises, domestic and international, by “leading from behind” is already a standing joke. Even his single big achievement, ObamaCare, turns out to be more of a liability than an asset. More than 1,400 (!) employers and organizations (accounting for roughly 3 million insured) have already requested and received exemptions, and the waiting line is still very long. Not to mention the fact that the law has yet to pass a constitutionality test.


Having said that, the question remains – Is it conceivable that Obama will fail to be elected to a second term? While it is almost certain that the Republicans will solidify their hold on both houses of the Congress in 2012, the Presidency is a different matter. This is where conventional wisdom fails, where as stated above, “the rules have been changed”.


To understand what it is that has changed, one has to go back to the 2008 elections. Obama’s winning the nomination defied all logic. I am not talking about the elections – the economic meltdown on the eve of the elections sealed the fate of the Republicans and the Democrats would probably have won no matter who had been their candidate. The crucial moment was the nomination of Obama by the Democrats as their candidate. Selecting a candidate whose only – I repeat only – asset was the color of his skin was a novelty. As was put succinctly by the late Geraldine Ferraro – “a white man with Obama’s qualifications, experience and background would have never be even considered”.


In a manner of speaking Obama’s selection represented affirmative action. While it is probably true that many people voted against Obama because of his race, far more voted for him just BECAUSE of his race. Nevertheless, it was affirmative action at its worst. The White House is the last place where these games should be played. The race factor is still there, and it is very likely to affect the 2012 elections as well. Probably even a Reagan like candidate would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to beat Obama in 2012. So far there is no one among the Republicans to even remotely resemble Reagan.


A President is the de facto CEO of the country. A scheme of grading CEO’s by their performance is the following:


Grade A CEO is one who does little or nothing, or appears so. His mere presence inspires his team into carrying out his policies. Everything works smoothly and in a timely fashion.


Grade B CEO is one who works to the small hours, worries all the time, gets personally involved in all small details and does not delegate. Everything works satisfactorily.


Grade C CEO is one who does little or nothing. Just being there is good enough for him. Nothing works as it should, let alone on time.


Grade D CEO is one who works to the small hours, worries all the time, gets personally involved in all small details and does not delegate. Nothing works as it should, let alone on time.


Lest someone accuses me of plagiarism – I did not invent this rating system. I read about it somewhere – It was the way commanders were rated in the Hagana underground during the British mandate in Israel.


However, that rating system is not complete. There is a fifth grade – the Iatrogenic CEO. It draws from medicine where the patient’s conditions are worsened by the medical treatment – the “Iatrogenic effect”.


The readers can use their own judgment as to which grade Obama merits. When it comes to the Israeli Arab conflict, however, Obama succeeded to alienate all sides and not only generated zero progress, he actually took it backwards in time – to the pre Oslo era. It is hard to imagine a more “Iatrogenic” case.



In his political life Obama’s modus operandi was to avoid making a stand on controversial issues, often also on issues that were not so controversial. Unless the circumstances forced him to act differently, “present” was his usual vote. During his tenure in the Illinois legislature, Obama voted “present” on more than 200 (!) occasions. Obama genuinely believes that he should be rewarded for his mere presence. He barely entered the White House and he was awarded the Nobel Prize. For what? Just for being there. It is only natural that Obama will regard this as the rule rather than the exception. Main stream media editorials explaining what “may appear” to be Obama’s dithering and inability or unwillingness to cope with reality, as resulting from a mind of “integrative complexity”, further enhance Obama’s conviction that his presence is all that is required from him. Hence is this article’s title.


As a consequence, all the ambitious plans and promises made by Obama during his first two years in office, as well as ones that had been made during the election campaign, have been put on hold in the third year of Obama’s Presidency. They’ve been deferred to years five through eight.


Obama says that ultimately he’ll be judged on his performance. This puts the media, which with few exceptions are all united in the effort to get him reelected, in a spot. Just being present is not something to write home about. Something more substantial is required in order to fill the void.


An indication of how the main stream media intends to do it can be found in the recent “Palinomania” canard. In an unprecedented frenzy, hundreds, literally hundreds, of media representatives zeroed in on Sarah Palin’s E-mail (thousands if one adds to the count the number of volunteers mobilized from among the readership) looking for . . . No one knows for what. Ms. Palin is not even a candidate, and at the moment it does not appear likely that she will be one.


It is a repeat performance of the diversionary tactics employed by media to cover up Obama’s lack of record of accomplishments or experience during the 2008 election campaign. Far more time and media energy has been spent on Sarah Palin’s time in Wasilla, Alaska’s city government (approx. two and a half years) than the attention given to Obama’s dozen years in Chicago politics and government plus the 18 months of his candidacy. Palin was only running for vice president.


Thus, Obama does not have to worry about his lack of accomplishments. Once again he can rely on the media to divert attention from it. In lieu of coverage of Obama’s Presidency, during the months left until November 2012, the American public will be exposed to a blitz of “Pailinomania” like stories.

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