Newsweek magazine was on such a downward spiral that recently it sold - the entire national newsmagazine - for the princely sum of $1. We can argue over what was ultimately the cause of the magazine's decline - the growth of the internet and online publishing, a pathologically leftist bent, or simple intellectual inadequacy by those charged with making the publication worth reading (the writers and editors). Perhaps it was really a combination of all three, although it should be noted that some publications seem to be thriving. Here's a story by Andrew Romano, courtesy of the headlines at Hot Air, that adds weight to the third hypothesis.
"The Professor And The Prosecutor" discusses the steady decline of Barack Obama's popularity and effectiveness and contrasts it with the steady improvement in those same characteristics for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. And the head-scratching starts right away.
...with economic growth in a near stall, unemployment approaching 10 percent, and experts warning of a double-dip recession, Obama is struggling to recover from the worst midterm rout in 65 years—while Christie, 48, is more popular than ever...
There are many reasons Christie is outpacing Obama. In the Garden State, a governor can pass his agenda without a Senate supermajority, and he doesn’t have to endure the same radioactive levels of scrutiny and vitriol as the commander in chief. But Christie’s success isn’t solely circumstantial. As his time in Trenton has proved, and as last week’s event in Hackettstown confirmed, it’s also the product of his distinctive approach to governing.
The Senate supermajority hasn't got a thing to do with it. With 60 Senators during much of the last two years Mr. Obama could pass most anything he wanted - if he could convince Democrats it was worth passing. Fortunately there were just enough thinking Democrats in the Senate to stop at least some of his most egregious excesses, like Cap & Trade. Unfortunately some tricky parliamentary maneuvers got the health care reform bill around those final road blocks. Recall that all of these things that didn't work (like the 'stimulus'), and won't work (like the health care bill), were passed with no Republican votes. Yet they were passed, Democrats own them, and they haven't worked.
The easiest way to understand why Christie has flourished and why Obama has faltered is to look at the jobs they held before entering politics. From January 2002 to December 2008, Christie served as New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor; earlier, Obama spent 12 years as a constitutional-law professor at the University of Chicago. Today, Christie leads like the prosecutor he once was, identifying the crime, fingering the culprit, and methodically building a case designed to convince a jury of his peers.
In other words, Mr. Christie collects and organizes the facts, presents them coherently and as a result wins arguments. And Mr. Obama? It is said that when you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When you have neither, attack the opposition. Mr. Obama has done way too much attacking of his Republican opposition for anyone to now think the facts or the law support his positions.
The first lesson of Christie’s success: keep it simple. Within minutes of lumbering into Hackettstown’s American Legion Blue Ridge Post 164, Christie has managed to sum up his agenda in less than 140 characters. “We’re spending too much, borrowing too much, and taxing too much,” he says. “We need to spend less, borrow less, and tax less.” The capacity crowd applauds. It’s an easy message to grasp. After all, who’s to say Trenton shouldn’t respond to the fiscal crisis the same way families do?
That's not the first lesson, Mr. Romano. The first lesson is that Mr. Christie accurately identified the problems. Mr. Obama has not yet accurately identified the problems. Perhaps he should listen to Mr. Christie's summation above, the simple one.
Of course, the policy reality is more complex; most economists agree, for example, that government should spend more during a recession, not less.
Let me re-write that for Mr. Romano. "I believe that government should spend more, not less, during a recession and I know of some economists who agree with that (cough - Paul Krugman - cough)." However "most" economists don't agree, or rather, no one really knows if most economists agree on this. In fact, here's one who doesn't (again courtesy Hot Air).
Now comes a real howler.
Like any good prosecutor, however, the real engine of Christie’s success has been his calculated pursuit of enemies. While Obama takes pains to acknowledge the validity of his critics’ concerns in an effort to find common ground, Christie’s strategy is to use the power of the bully pulpit to make his opponents look foolish...
With Christie, someone always deserves the blame—a conviction his aggrieved constituents seem, for now, to share...It’s hard to imagine the professorial Obama pursuing or promoting smackdowns with as much gusto as the Garden State governor—especially now, with a GOP House forcing him to moderate his agenda.
Here is where I pause for effect. ... After a bloody campaign season, and just 4 weeks after the election, that something this clueless about the statements of Mr. Obama about the Republican opposition can be written is breathtaking. Here are just a couple of examples. From the former:
On Monday, the president dismissed Republicans as "not serious." At a rally before more than 20,000 people in Madison, Wis., on Tuesday night, Obama accused the GOP of working to "hoodwink a whole bunch of folks all across the country" about his governmental philosophy. And he twice sarcastically dismissed Republicans as not "interested in facts."
And I could cite others. But back to Newsweek.
But in the weeks and months ahead, Republicans will undoubtedly indulge in a little hypocrisy—by calling for tax cuts estimated to add $700 billion to the deficit over 10 years, for example, then refusing to raise the debt ceiling. The president shouldn’t be afraid to isolate, ridicule, and conquer.
I shouldn't have to point this out, but Republicans are not arguing for a tax cut. They are arguing for preventing a scheduled tax increase. Mr. Romano doesn't even couch this in the familiar dodge of referring to "letting the tax cuts expire," synonymous with raising taxes, yet avoids that phrase entirely. Does anyone really think it's a good idea to raise taxes in a stagnant economy?
You might think that's enough, but there's one final bit of nonsense in the article.
But while Christie has framed the debate for maximum maneuverability—like his tough-talking but eminently practical hero, Ronald Reagan, who has been canonized by conservatives even though he raised taxes 12 times as president—Obama has received little credit for even his most impressive accomplishments.
Okay, I'll bite. Accomplishments like what? Health care? A disaster in the making - fiscally, medically, and bureaucratically. The 'stimulus'? Hardly. Foreign policy? He's alienated Britain, our staunchest, longest-serving ally. He's demonstrated ineptitude with China, South Korea, North Korea, Poland, Iran, among others. Israel & the Palestinians? Free trade with Columbia?
This is not going to enlighten and inform public debate. Mr. Romano glosses over the 'accomplishments' of the administration while attributing literally all of Mr. Christie's success to style and style alone. Perhaps, to borrow the author's construct, he should keep it simple. Mr. Christie's successes stem from identifying the problems and proposing clear solutions. Mr. Obama's lesson should be to start at step one, and to correctly identify the problem. Here's a hint: it's not the Republican opposition.