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Posted at 4:00 PM ET, 02/18/2011

Friday question

By Jennifer Rubin

It was a rough week for the White House. Its budget proposal went over like a lead balloon. Its effort to compromise on a U.N. resolution regarding Israel's settlements drew bipartisan criticism. And yesterday, the president championed the public employee union over a governor trying to extract modest concessions in order to restore fiscal sanity to his state. (Fortunately for Obama, the governor was not Chris Christie.)

So which misstep will have the longest-lasting impact on the Obama presidency? All answers must be in by 6 p.m. ET.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 18, 2011; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Friday question  
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Dealing away a public option, extending tax cuts for billionaires and having a public temper tantrum about the left - these mistakes define his administration and may cost him a second term. I certainly won't make what Paul Krugman calls an 'embarrassing mistake' again.

Posted by: member8 | February 18, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

The lasting damage done will be to any perception that Obama is serious about our fiscal issues. His budget was a joke, and he showed plainly that he is 100% behind the public sector unions no matter what comes. To me, I was amazed the degree to which he tried to meddle in internal state affairs to help his buddies. It revealed him to be beholden to the unions and not serious about fixing our problems.

Posted by: lehmanbrian | February 18, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

The most lasting damage will be the decision to bring on ridicule. Presidential aura and credibility is hard won and easily spent.

This does not mean the budget per se (it's only an opening salvo), but the laughable assertion of the concept of "primary balance", not counting interest payments. This does not mean the support of the unions in Wisconsin, but the way the support was manifest - by effectively approving of thuggish tactics and uncivil behavior.

It's the memorable hit to credibility that is the biggest damage.

Posted by: ssharabura | February 18, 2011 5:37 PM | Report abuse

The president supped with the devil. He took massive contributions from the unions and now faces a real problem.

The true extent of the shellacking Obama took is only now coming to light. It wasn't just the large class of Republican freshman in the House. It was also a huge turnover at the state level.

The voters in many states decided that Republicans would be more trustworthy when it came to economic issues. So Obama faces the WI issue in state after state. Govenorships and legislatures in the hands of the opposing party means that Obama will be doing damage control for the unions for most of the next two years.

As the sweetheart union deals that the states are trying to re arrange become common knowledge Obama's support for this fiscal insanity will hurt his own election chances.

He has to stand with the unions because they paid for his campaign and in so doing he is giving his opponent in the next election a bonanza of election ad material.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 18, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I believe supporting the Wisconsin protesters will do him the most damage in the end. The budget proposal was embarrassing but i think the people that run Obama have a card up their socialist sleeve. We will see how that plays out. The Isreali situation does not have enough people paying attention to it to matter. The president supporting the protests and the walkout by the state reps.of Wisconsin shows his exposes his cowardly and disgusting way he practices politics. Americans generally are honorable people and have a keen sense of fair play. The actions of the Wisc. state reps have neither. Obama has again gone against the majority of the American people and even his butt kissing press will not be able to provide cover for him on this

Posted by: eddiehaskall | February 18, 2011 6:11 PM | Report abuse

His game of budget 'chicken' will leave the longest hangover. Ever since I was a kid (during the Reagan 80's), someone, usually from the left, was always crying about the deficit. It was always a mechanism from the dem playbook, to weaken a GOP president. I personally never cared about the deficit, because it was possible to grow out of it.

But this Cat in office, empowered by the immaturely-brain-developed, liberal left has ensured that the tools needed for growth will not arise anytime soon. And, people do now see a legitimate threat to freedom. Never has such a group had so much power to punish society. Don't believe Medved; Pres Obamaa does not love this country.

Unless one is blinded by willful (or otherwise) ingnorance, all one needs to do is listen to what he says/said, and what those closest to him have done and said.

Does anyone care that he purposely seeks out the creepiest people in the world to manage the most critical positions? My God, his cabinet and czars would constitute the worst table at a wedding.

And, Jennifer, you owe Beck apologies. He is not the conservative that you (and Kristol) should use as a 'fair & balanced' foil against Olbermann, Maddow, etc. He has done more than ANYONE on the right to pull the veil against the quiet creeps running things. No one would know who Cass Sunstein, Van Jones, et al, if it were not for him.

You've gone somewhat 'soft' since you left Commentary/Contentions - Does Ezra K. have pictures that he's holding over your head. Or, is it the silent hand (not Adams', but W. Buffets - another hypocritical, phoney creep! But, one who owns a lot of the Wash Post Co.).

Anyway, I read your site everyday, still a fan, but no longer a "big fan".

Posted by: fatb0y | February 18, 2011 6:53 PM | Report abuse

All three of these are embarrassments for the Obama administration and will have hangover. The unwise Wisconsin intervention will cause the most lasting damage however. Obama won election in 2008 by entreating the Independent vote. In Nov 2011 Independents overwhelmingly voted for Republicans because they were repulsed by Washington/ObamaCare political machinations. Obama's words this past week about the Wisconsin governor's "assualt on unions" will remind Independents in 2012 and historians for years to come that Obama is a pawn of unions.

Posted by: DrBerkeley | February 18, 2011 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer asks Democrats. How long has it been since you stopped beating your wives? Respondent most willing to prostrate himself or herself gets a prize.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 18, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Obama's comments about the situation in Wisconsin will hurt him the most. Visualize, if you will, the TV commercials now - the Dem legislators running away, the distasteful protester signs, the schools closing due to the sick-out. All of this video with the President's words running above the scenes. The closer: when the going got tough in Wisconsin, was the President on your side or did he side with people who fled their duties, spewed hate, and forced children out of attending school??

Posted by: bremwa | February 18, 2011 10:26 PM | Report abuse

All three events are potential disasters, but if I had to choose one, Wisconsin would be it. The greatest fear the Democrats and Obama have is Chris Christie at top of the '12 ticket.

Nothing underscores the sophomoric Obama approach to his hyper-statism than embracing BIG UNION, at the expense of the children, their parents and grandparents.

His backseat driving directed at newly elected, Gov. Walker, is unbecoming for a President and reinforces his total tone deafness of the electorate, particularly after November 2nd election.

Moreover, the demonizing of Walker reflects well on the aforementioned Christie, who has been statism's most articulate, quotable and prominent foe.

Walker is the latest of the anti-Obama prototype: Governors like MacDonald, Christie, Jindal, Kasich, Pawlenty and Scott, among others, who are executives and who must make tough decisions, balancing budgets (not to mention dealing with natural disasters).

Obama stands in stark contrast with all of them who refuses to alienate any traditional Democrat constituency, while dithering and avoiding decisions to an almost pathological degree.

There is not much call for Chief Executives who hate making difficult choices. Just about all choices are above Obama's pay grade.

Posted by: TheStatistQuo | February 18, 2011 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Chances are the budget will have the biggest impact of these three. But just a comment on the UN/Israel issue.

The level of abuse that has been hurled at what is undoubtedly our only dependable ally in the Middle East by this administration is unprecedented. From the humiliation of Prime Minister Netanyahu to utter obliviousness toward Palestinian rejection-ism; from a critical position towards Israel's nuclear position to the U.S. compelling it to accept an inquiry into the flotilla incident--the strategy by the Obama administration of de-legitimizing and relentlessly attacking Israel ad nauseum to appease the Muslim World makes us look weak and pathetic and is truly despicable. This latest UN fiasco is the latest representative of this 2-year-long history of unnecessary US-Israel hostility.

Posted by: ralterb | February 19, 2011 1:10 AM | Report abuse

@fatb0y: well said, especially the part about Obama's czars being the "worst table at a wedding". Unbelievable that hardly anyone (with the exception of Beck) is trying to put a spotlight on this shadow government.

Posted by: johnhiggins1990 | February 19, 2011 5:14 AM | Report abuse

Obama's intervention in Wisconsin, including the deployment of Organizing for America, will be the most damaging of this trifecta. Are not Cuomo and Bloomberg in New York doing the same things as Walker in Wisconsin?

Ironically, it is Obama's ongoing fiasco on Israel, as summarized by ralterb, that will cost Obama his legacy, and also lose New York, and possibly New Jersey, in 2012.

Nixon had China and LBJ had Medicare to offset their fatal flaws. Obama might actually beat Andrew Johnson as worst president ever.

Posted by: K2K2 | February 19, 2011 9:17 AM | Report abuse

The administration was dishonorable to accept the Lebanese (Hezbollah) critique of the Israeli settlements, while vetoing their one-sided UN resolution on supposedly pragmatic rather than principled grounds. In backing the illegal teachers strike and mob intimidation in Wisconsin, Obama chose the public employee unions, his biggest campaign contributor, over the beleaguered taxpayers who must pay for their exorbitant benefits.

But Obama's dishonest budget will be his legacy. He's chosen political expediency -- pinning the blame for unpopular spending cuts on the Republicans -- over acting to prevent the imminent fiscal disaster his own deficit commission has described. When our credit collapses in a few years and debt service and entitlement spending crowd out everything else, Obama will be remembered for his cynicism and irresponsibility.

Posted by: eoniii | February 19, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Mister Peanut is playing a fiscal game of chicken, and Wisconsin is fast becoming his Waterloo. The massive turnabout started with the unexpected upset of Wisconsin's handsome Democratic Senator Fein-gold, who had no real gold after all. Wisconsin is a battleground state, a harbinger of what may well come in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida,Nevada, Virginia and New Jersey 21 short months from now. As we all can see these pig headed teachers demonstrate day after day, and find no sympathy for their plight because we know real people with no jobs and no benefits, it gets harder and harder for Democrats to utilize their Saul Alinsky playbook, and paint Republicans as the greedy culprits. Demonizing the fiscally responsible new governors will not work.

0bama is spoiling for a fight, a fight he will loose.

Posted by: nana1353 | February 19, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Great substantive comments, but FairlingtonBlade wins the Mark Zuckerberg-Dorothy_from_Kansas consolation prize for pulling back the curtain and letting a lawyer have some! BB let fly a little BB that zinged JB in the (anyone remember 'Ensign Pulver' with Berl Ives, Walter Matthou, and Robert Walker, Jr.?) 'buttocks'. :-) Please excuse the vulgarity, Jennifer, from one of your fans.

Posted by: aardunza | February 19, 2011 8:19 PM | Report abuse

eonii: History will conflate Obama's
"imminent fiscal disaster" with the Bush43 presidency, which deliberately abused the "surplus" (which was actually the FICA surplus that should never have been combined with general revenue) with a combination of irresponsible tax cuts simultaneous with expansion of Federal entitlements and spending for hot wars.

Enabling a (more than one?) genocide in the Middle East is what Obama could have avoided if he was not so stubborn about being the NOT-Bush43. (just read Nasrallah's call to liberate Gallilee and Qaradhawi's call to re-conquer Jerusalem, so I am in a dark place tonight)

Posted by: K2K2 | February 19, 2011 8:56 PM | Report abuse

K2K2, the NYT report on Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Qaradawi's speech to a million Egyptians yesterday didn't even mention his call for the conquest of Jerusalem. The NYT made him sound like a liberal reformer, more in the image of their own editorial board than a zealot who has called for the destruction of Israel and the formation of a new Caliphate.

Posted by: eoniii | February 19, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Fact-checking dept. requires the following changes: Burl Ives, JR, and come to think of it, 'twas Toto that pulled the curtain. But we were in a hurry to see True Grit; okay, but the original's better except for Glen Campbell, who (considering his mug shot) still can't act but might make a nice (singing, of course) Cogburn at a costume party. Now that's entertainment.

Posted by: aardunza | February 19, 2011 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Soon after he took office, Obama dropped the pretense of his Hope ‘n Change campaign, that he’d usher in a new way of governing. After all, he’d won. Few folks saw the operation for what it was, Chicago-style power politics, and realized that he and his would use every means to have their way with what they’d won. Until this week, most remained clueless.

But what works in the closed system of the Windy City and the broader borders of the Land of Lincoln has not brought this administration overwhelming success on the national and international stages. Despite massive injections of cash to favored groups, the economy continues to stink. Events worldwide continue to catch the administration unprepared, if not unaware, despite the cajoling, bullying, and other pressure tactics that proved successful back home.

Mark this week as the awakening. Obama’s deployment of direct and indirect support against an “enemy” domestic, not foreign, will prove his undoing. Those who could not or would not appreciate what kind of “leader” he is, what motivates him, what his objectives are, can now see clearly how base and petty they are. Moreover, his ignorance of what federal employees pay for their retirement and medical benefits compared to Badger State public employees has prompted even pundits on the left to wonder about his judgement.

What’s ironic is that Obama’s moves against Wisconsin’s Walker and Ohio’s Kasich will likely end up spoiling what could have been a victory against the House’s efforts to curtail current fiscal year spending. Both governors have enough support in the legislature and from the public to achieve their objectives, it’s just a matter of time. Their success will serve as a lesson to the rest of us.

Obama lost his reelection this week. It will take him a bit of time and a billion bucks to realize that. We'll have a rough ride until then.

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 20, 2011 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Obama's support for the union position in the Wisconsin dispute has put him 'on the wrong side' of American history. Because of the large deficits that cut across federal and state governments, Americans have decided it is necessary to re-negotiate the size of government and the salaries and benefits that can be extended to public employees. Wisconsin is just one of many examples of how to revise this social contract. Although states led by Democrats, such as Connecticut, are trying a different approach, all must find ways to reduce their budgetary pressures with or without union cooperation. We will know soon enough which approach is more effective. Despite the fact that President Obama's own budget proposal was greeted with scorn, it can be revised and changed to meet the strictures emerging from the Congress. The administration's policies with regard to Israel and the Middle East are massively incompetent, but they probably are not followed as closely by American voters as are domestic issues although they can have a very direct impact on American lives if the instability continues to spread and the Obama administration continues to be either clueless or weak in understanding its consequences for our national interest.

Posted by: drdivine1 | February 20, 2011 6:51 AM | Report abuse

eonii: yes, I know the NYT report on Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Qaradawi's speech failed to mention the "re-conquer Jerusalem" point. The New Republic has allowed Marty Peretz to blog again, after deleting The Spine without notice last month. Very hard to find his current "Letters from Tel Aviv" posts, but one of the regular commenters had posted Qaradawi's speech.

Egypt just approved transit of two Iranian warships through the Suez Canal to the Med for the first time since 1979. The USS Enterprise carrier group completed their transit from the Med to the Red Sea last week. An opportunity for a tragic accident at sea avoided...

I still believe Obama's worst moment was deploying OFA in Wisconsin, and will cost him re-election, but throwing Israel to the jackals will be his longterm legacy.

Posted by: K2K2 | February 20, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

The Community-Organizer-In-Chief is so enamored at having lefties marching around the streets of Madison (community organizers just live for that stuff) that he has completely lost the zeitgeist. He now has Joe Klein, of all people, arguing against his position from the right. For a guy who is supposed to be pirouetting to the center, that can’t be good. As a general rule, when Obama wades into a controversial situation that is really none of the President’s business (ground zero mosque, Cambridge police, etc.), it doesn’t work out well for him.

But it is hard to imagine that this misstep will do any long term damage by itself. Obama will simply reverse course, say the exact opposite next week of what he said this week, and pretend there is no inconsistency. Just like his sudden appreciation for the business community, it all goes into the cesspool of insincerity that occupies the space in Obama’s soul where shame would reside if he had any. The question is how bad does the stink of that cesspool have to become before the voters decide that just holding their noses isn’t enough?

Posted by: Larry3435 | February 20, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

K2K2, AFP reports that the Google exec who organized the first protests was excluded from the Muslim Brotherhood's huge rally Friday. His leadership role didn't last long. The idealistic young liberal reformers have been pushed from the stage, literally:

Google executive Wael Ghonim, who emerged as a leading voice in Egypt’s uprising, was barred from the stage in Tahrir Square on Friday by security guards, an AFP photographer said. Ghonim tried to take the stage in Tahrir, the epicentre of anti-regime protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, but men who appeared to be guarding influential Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi barred him from doing so.

Ghonim, who was angered by the episode, then left the square with his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.

Posted by: eoniii | February 20, 2011 10:52 PM | Report abuse

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