Is he crazy, or crazy like a fox?
If he's crazy like a fox it's because he and his campaign operatives see the danger of a candidate coming out of the left to challenge him. He needs to keep the left-wing base on side until it is too late to challenge him in next winter's primaries. On that view he would pivot to the center in mid-February and everyone would live happily ever after.
But is there a danger of a serious candidate from the left? A candidate that will challenge America's first black president? I can't see a candidate from the left doing any more than embarrass the president. Might he not be more vulnerable on the right in his party? Such as a Clinton candidacy?
The other possibility is that this is "Baldrick's Cunning Plan," a stupid panicky effort of the kind often proposed by Blackadder's rather slow-witted TV sidekick.
The panic notion is supported by the recent tittle-tattle book about life inside the Obama White House, Confidence Men by Ron Suskind. It's the first solid indication of just what kind of a leader we have in the White House. The New York Times reviewer puts it this way.
Mr. Obama emerges in this volume as an oddly passive chief executive whose modus operandi was to sketch out overarching principles, “wait until others had painted in those outlines with hard proposals” and then “step down from his above-the-fray perch to close the deal.”If this is true then it tells us that Obama is not a "commander" personality type. It means that he is likely to get confused and overwhelmed when the going gets rough.
When people get in a tight spot they find it difficult to think clearly and decisively. Some people are just good at keeping their head cool in a crisis. Most of us need training so we can overcome our fear when the bullets are whistling by our ears. That's why the military trains its people to act on instinct. That's why people who have studied airplane emergencies tell us that the crew always reverts to their training when the going gets tough. Small wonder that when airlines put their pilots in the simulator they throw emergencies at them.
Now let us think about what President Obama would do in a tough spot. He doesn't seem to be the decisive type. And he doesn't have a lot of executive experience in dealing with tough situations. He would revert to what he knew, his basic belief system, the tried and true. But for President Obama the "tried and true" is the belief system of his left-wing youth and young adulthood.
We have seen peeks at his basic belief system when the president has been caught short by an unexpected question. When Joe the Plumber asked him about taxing the rich, he talked about "spreading the wealth." When Charles Gibson asked about higher taxes on capital gains, he talked about "fairness."
My guess is that the president is getting really overwhelmed, now that things are going seriously wrong with his presidency. So he is instinctively going back to his training and his many years of experience on the left and in the lefty foundation world.
That stirs hopes in me of a blowout election in 2012. We've had pretty close elections in recent years because the parties have been pretty careful not to scare the moderate horses in the middle. But it looks like a panicked Obama might stampede those nervous moderates.
Could we have a 60-40 election in 2012? Don't count it out.