Halperin argues that Obama's problem is that he has "no chief economic spokesperson," that he has failed to "integrate policy, politics, and communication," that he's tied his "Administration's fate too closely to his own party's congressional leadership," and failed to "empower Cabinet members on domestic policy."
As the author of the piece would have you believe, Obama's problems are all related to how he sells his agenda to the American people and the tactics he employs to implement that agenda. He rejects outright the idea that maybe the Obama agenda itself is the problem. It's not that Obama's marketing sucks, it's that his product- fascist central-planning- does.
At the Washington Post, Jason Diehl also makes Halperin's mistake of putting on blinders to ideological and substantive policy issues, preferring instead to get bogged down in the mechanics of implementing Obama's plans for America and the world. While both Diehl and Halperin's criticisms may have merit, we must take off the blinders and dig deeper.
At my CAIVN column, I diagnose the real problem with Obama's Administration (and yes he is making the same mistakes as Bush, not because of failed strategies for implementing change, but because of a failure to make any substantive changes from Bush era policy in the first place):
It was only a year ago that President Obama was inaugurated in what some commentators hailed as a sweeping endorsement of socialism: more European-style central economic planning, federal regulation, and entitlement programs. But it would seem that the pundits misread the Democrats' victories in 2006 and 2008. America didn't want more, it wanted less.
Americans wanted change, and change after eight years of George W. Bush did not mean more government spending or involvement in our lives. It meant less unchecked executive power, less military involvement overseas, less spending, less secrecy, less corruption, less cronyism, and less partisan bickering. To take his victory as a mandate for a more socialist re-ordering of American society may have been a fatal mistake by the fledgling Obama Administration.
Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan slams Halperin's piece (h.t. Political Wire), but not for the reason I do above, not because Sullivan sees that it's a product problem, not a marketing one. Instead he predictably whines that Halperin is being too hard on Obama and that the present administration's marketing is good after all. It's ironic that he calls Halperin "brain-dead" while forgetting to use his own brain.
Jonathan Bernstein on the other hand, has the right idea when he says: "Halperin seems to believe that George W. Bush's economic policies were unpopular, and Bill Clinton's were popular, because Robert Rubin was good on TV and John Snow wasn't. This is, as anyone could figure out with a moment's thought, nonsense." Exactly. Substance, not marketing, is the problem with the Obama Administration.