Wednesday, April 29, 2009

“The Oldest First-Term President in History”

Just one day after U.S. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania abandoned the demoralized Republican Party to become a Democrat, President Barack Obama celebrates his 100th day in office--phenomenally popular and now one step closer to the 60-vote majority he needs to avoid GOP filibusters of his plans for reforming the nation’s economy, health care system, and civil rights laws. (Still waiting for Al Franken to be seated.)

Meanwhile, ex-Salon contributor Walter Shapiro imagines what the first 100 days would have been like for John McCain, had he triumphed over Obama last November. Writing for the new AOL site Politics Daily, Shapiro suggests that
Even if McCain had won the White House with a clear majority--instead of becoming the second successive Republican president to take office after losing the popular vote--he probably would have been hard-pressed to find common ground with congressional Democrats on the economy. The ideological fault lines have been deep, from the size of the economic stimulus package (McCain’s original $420 billion proposal prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to brand him “President McCheap”) to the administration’s laissez-faire attitude toward a looming General Motors bankruptcy and the almost certain dismemberment of Chrysler (the Detroit Free Press headlined, “McCain to City: Drop Dead”).

McCain has often seemed like a third-party president in dealing with Congress. Conservative House Republicans resented the president as a closet moderate even before he gave his explosive “Uncle Sam needs everyone” answer to a question about gays in the military. In the Senate, the anti-McCain sentiment is more personal than ideological, since many of his former GOP colleagues have been the targets of his ire. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was overheard referring to the president as “that stubborn S.O.B. in the White House.” The McCain faction in the Senate, which in the best of times could caucus under the same folding umbrella, was depleted by the appointment of Lindsey Graham as Attorney General and Joe Lieberman as the Secretary of Homeland Security. Congressional Republican mistrust of McCain was compounded by the president’s abortive effort to name former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle as Secretary of Commerce (which oversees the politically sensitive Census Bureau), but the nomination quickly became snarled over Daschle’s tax problems.
I’ve enjoyed Shapiro’s work ever since he wrote the “Our Man in the White House” column for Esquire magazine back in the 1990s. It’s good to see that he has found this new gig.

READ MORE:It Is Summer 2009, and John McCain Is President,” by Michael Lind (Salon); “We Didn’t Have to Lose Arlen Specter,” by Olympia Snowe (The New York Times); “A-,” by John Aravosis (AMERICAblog).

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