"The Messiah of 2008 went missing" in summer 2009, says John Andrews in the August round of Head On TV debates, predicting that Obama "will continue to struggle until he stops overreaching." But Susan Barnes-Gelt predicts the young president "will prevail because people trust him." John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over health care, the recession, Ritter's chances for reelection, and "what I did on my summer vacation." Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. 1. OBAMA LOSING HIS GROOVE?
John: During the financial crisis last fall, Barack Obama was Cool Hand Luke. His masterful style won the presidency. But the Messiah of 2008 went missing amid the Tea Parties and townhalls of 2009. Obama’s poll numbers plummeted, first on issues, then on job approval. Even independent voters are deserting him.
Susan: Obama's cool and methodical style remains in tact and will hold him and us in good stead. The Tea Parties and town meetings are a sideshow. People are understandably fearful because of the economy. Obama's agenda and the country's will prevail because people trust him.
John: The President is amazingly gifted. As a political animal myself, I halfway admire him. But he’ll continue to struggle until he stops overreaching. Socialism may sell in France. Charisma may work in Kenya. But here in America, grandiosity wears out fast. We’ll see if Barack regains his footing.
Susan: Obama is addressing some of the toughest challenges a new president has faced in decades: a terrible economy, failing infrastructure, healthcare crisis and a multi-pronged war. Americans are scared and the change he promised - and the country voted for - is hard. Leadership isn't a popularity contest.
2. HEALTH CARE DEBATE
John: Obama and the Democrats are pushing hard for a government takeover of the medical industry. Americans of all political persuasions are pushing back, based on widespread concern that the cost of health care would increase and quality would decline. The debate is raucous but important. So far the President is losing.
Susan: Health care consumes 16% of our economy and 47 million have no coverage. Costs are surging, eating up our paychecks. Uncompensated emergency room care - Medicaid is eating the federal budget. The nation needs reform. Our economic future depends on it.
John: Susan, listen to yourself. Medicaid and Medicare are both broke, proving that all government giveaways are unsustainable, whether for welfare or clunkers or doctor visits. The Congressional Budget Office warns Obamacare will only make things worse. Most Americans have coverage and most are satisfied. This bill is all wrong.
Susan: Medicaid eats the economy because too many low and moderate income Americans cannot afford insurance and seek care in emergency rooms. Dick Armey may be the only senior in America who eschews Medicare, and he is as credible as a $3 bill. Obama must stand firm.
3. THE ECONOMY & ANXIETY
John: The recession drags on, unemployment worsens, and economic misery is no longer Bush’s fault. This mess now belongs to Obama and his party, with total control of Congress. Their huge, irresponsible stimulus bill failed to stimulate. A socialist-minded White House is obstructing the business recovery. Even Jimmy Carter wasn’t this bad.
Susan: The stimulus bill is working - though it's not big enough. Shovel ready projects are the wrong answer because the money is being spread like peanut butter across the country's roads and highways. Big investment is called for - power grids, high-speed rail, public transit. Boldness is key.
John: Whoa, you’re hallucinating. Lay off the Keynesian Kool-Aid. And the public works peanut butter. What’s made America the economic engine of the world, the place everyone wants to immigrate, is free enterprise. Enterprise gets the flu sometimes. Then it gets well. Provided Dr. Obama Kevorkian stays out of the way.
Susan: Yeah, right. It was largely free and unfettered enterprise, abetted by greed and arrogance, that gave us Wall Street's meltdown, Detroit's tumble, Halliburton, Enron, Joe Nacchio, AIG, Madoff, and $500 toilet seats for Navy ships. Free enterprise has the flu alright - the swine flu!
4. GOVERNOR'S RACE
Susan: An incumbent governor hasn't lost since Steve McNichols in 1962. Voters were piqued he accepted Boettcher mansion as the gov's residence, saving it from demolition. Ritter's first term's been rocky but he's made no major mistakes. McInnis is already self-destructing and Penry will lose in the general.
John: No mistakes? Ritter blundered bigtime on vehicle fees and penalties. The car tax backlash alone could cost him reelection, as it once cost Gov. Bill Clinton in Arkansas. Ritter’s property tax hike was another mistake, his botch of the budget during this recession was another, his favoritism for labor yet another.
Susan: Ritter has made a couple of rookie mistakes. But the looming GOP primary between a very cranky and pugnacious Scott McInnis and a very young and inexperienced Josh Penry will expose their vulnerabilities and the Republican party's statewide and national weaknesses. The R primary helps Ritter.
John: This incumbent is likable but lightweight. What’s he done? Roy Romer energized the economy and built DIA. He beat me easily for reelection. Bill Owens cut taxes, passed school reform, and pulled off T-REX. He cruised to a second term. What will Ritter run on – wind farms? Good luck.
5. SUMMER VACATION
Susan: The summer of ‘09 has been fun - watching the self-righteous self-destruct. Mark Sanford couldn't find his way from Appalachia to Argentina; Blago flamed out, taking Sen. Roland Burris with him. Dick Armey was outed by Rachael Maddow and Pretty Boy John Edwards is a liar and a jerk.
John: Easy there, Susan. Let that hostility just melt away now. I guess my summer was more relaxed than yours. Grooving on Rockies baseball, reliving my childhood at Disneyland, hiking the 14ers, splashing in the pool, reading a funny novel by two guys from Castle Rock. Colorado is just the best.
Susan: It has been a great summer in Colorado - no forest fires, or major floods, gorgeous Front Range weather and a welcome respite from the state capitol crazies. With fall around the corner and Mayor Hick's final budget due soon - we're in for some firecrackers.
John: I’m happy for you. Anyone who can say firecracker and Hickenlooper in the same breath is easily entertained. Although snuggling in with a cup of cocoa to study the mayor’s budget might not be bad, if the alternative is watching the Broncos in a rebuilding year. Happy autumn!