AN ELECTION HALF EMPTY
BY FRANK BRUNI
NEW YORK TIMES
Both Obama and Romney are held back by budgetary and political dynamics that stand in the way of many sweeping initiatives. And both understand that there are very real limits to America’s agency in its own short-term economic fate, limits that Jeb Bush, liberated from the calculations of a candidacy, described bluntly Monday morning. …Right now there’s a haplessness to the country’s station. Combine the size of our debt with the scope of our problems and it’s hard not to conclude that we’ve turned some corner or hit some inflection point or arrived at some crossroads: choose your phrase. It’s definitely not morning in America. And no one should lie to us about that. We’re in these dusky straits because we ignored hard truths. But a certain measure of optimism isn’t foolish. It sustains and rallies people. It charts the path toward solutions. It’s what a leader must find and persuasively project. And there’s a scary dearth of it in this campaign.
THE FOLLOWER PROBLEM
BY DAVID BROOKS
NEW YORK TIMES
The monuments that get built these days are mostly duds. That’s because they say nothing about just authority... Why can’t today’s memorial designers think straight about just authority? Some of the reasons are well-known. We live in a culture that finds it easier to assign moral status to victims of power than to those who wield power. Most of the stories we tell ourselves are about victims who have endured oppression, racism and cruelty. ...Maybe before we can build great monuments to leaders we have to relearn the art of following. Democratic followership is also built on a series of paradoxes: that we are all created equal but that we also elevate those who are extraordinary; that we choose our leaders but also have to defer to them and trust their discretion; that we’re proud individuals but only really thrive as a group, organized and led by just authority.
OBAMA'S BIG WRECK
BY DANA MILBANK
Job growth has stalled, the Democrats have been humiliated in Wisconsin, the attorney general is facing a contempt-of-Congress citation, talks with Pakistan have broken down, Bill Clinton is contradicting Obama, Mitt Romney is outraising him, Democrats and Republicans alike are complaining about a “cascade” of national-security leaks from his administration, and he is now on record as saying that the “private sector is doing fine.” Could it get any worse? Early Monday morning, Obama learned that it could. His aides delivered the news to him that his commerce secretary had been cited for a felony hit-and-run after allegedly crashing his car three times over the weekend. ...For the White House, it was just the latest entry in the when-it-rains-it-pours ledger. This has been one of the worst stretches of the Obama presidency. In Washington, there is a creeping sense that the bottom has fallen out and that there may be no second term.
OBAMA'S BACKWARD GAFFE
BY MARC THIESSEN
Obama and [Sen. Harry] Reid may think 2.6 percent private-sector GDP growth is “just fine,” but the 23 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or have quit looking for work don’t share their complacency. Unless Obama wants to put them all in government jobs (which he might), the only way to help these Americans find work is to reduce barriers for job creators in the private sector. The election will likely hinge on who Americans better trust to do that. That is why Obama’s gaffe is so damaging to his prospects for reelection. It feeds a growing public perception — which is being actively cultivated by the Romney campaign — that when it comes to the economy, Obama is out of his depth and hostile to private business.
A PRESIDENCY OF EXCUSES
BY BRET STEPHENS
WALL STREET JOURNAL
Americans expect their presidents to be able to assemble coalitions of the politically willing in order to achieve pragmatic and relatively popular results. The Obama administration method, by contrast, has been to shove what it can down the public throat, then act surprised when the public gags, or throws up. ...As president, Mr. Obama has attempted to make scapegoats of bankers, bondholders, private-equity firms, insurance companies, energy companies, ATMs, the Chamber of Commerce, the Catholic Church, opponents of illegal immigration, European politicians, Supreme Court justices and even Japanese tsunamis. Next, perhaps, it will be solar flares. At least tsunamis, solar flares, ATMs and Europeans don't vote. The rest of the list might eventually amount to 270 electoral votes.
VICIOUS CYCLE OF ECONOMIC INEQUALITY
BY JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ
Economic inequality feeds into inequalities of political power, leading to still more economic inequality. The U.S. is headed down the path that so many dysfunctional societies have traveled — divided societies in which the rich and poor live in different worlds. The rich residing in gated communities, with their own parks and schools... There is an alternative. But will our politics allow it? Will those at the top come to realize that a house divided against itself cannot stand — that this level of inequality is not in their enlightened self-interest? Or will the vast majority of Americans finally realize that they have been sold a bill of goods — trickle-down economics has never worked and is especially not working today. In other periods of our history, when inequalities and injustices grew to the breaking point, America changed course. The question is: Will we do so again?