Photo: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Given the deeply flawed state of the Republican presidential field, the 2012 campaign is shaping up to be Barack Obama’s race to lose. But with his approval ratings in the cellar and his economic recovery plans DOA, the President still faces an uphill battle to convince disaffected voters and alienated Democrats to get back on board his campaign.
Clearly, Obama’s current strategy isn’t working. Both the West Wing and the campaign are plagued by internal divisions, driven by longtime staffers who have spent the last three years alienating the party base and knocking Obama off his message.
There is still an opportunity to change course. With 12 months to go until Election Day, the President has some time to shake up his team and reverse his downward spiral. But since Obama has so far been unwilling to make the tough calls, we’ve compiled some suggestions of who should get the boot.
Why He Needs To Go: Holder's tenure as DOJ's top cop has been marred by controversy after controversy -- everyone from Newt Gingrich to James Carville has called on Obama to get rid of the AG. Between his empty pledge to shut down Guantanamo Bay, his overturned decision to try a 9/11 terrorist in New York, his failure to indict anyone in connection to the 2008 financial crisis, and his high-profile fight with the CIA over prosecuting abuse cases, it is a miracle Holder has made it this far. Now he's facing accusations that he lied to Congress about his knowledge of the ill-fated Operation Fast and Furious gun smuggling scandal. In short, it's time for him to go.
Why Obama Won't Cut Him Loose: This is a great mystery of Obama's presidency that can only be explained by his close personal friendship with Holder. So far, Obama has remained impervious to calls for Holder's resignation, and continues to insist that he has 'complete confidence' in the Attorney General.
Why She Needs To Go: Obama's right-hand woman, Jarrett holds unparalleled influence with the President and has her hand in virtually every issue that crosses his desk, making her a divisive figure in the West Wing and on the campaign. As the President's liaison to women/business/minorities/Congress/donors/local governments, she has alienated each and every group with her political inexperience, lack of business acumen, and overall inscrutability. With Jarrett by his side, Obama is going to have a hard time convincing these key constituencies to get back on board for his 2012 campaign.
Why Obama Won't Cut Her Loose: Jarrett is a close friend and personal confidante to both of the Obamas, and they reportedly consider her to be instrumental to their success -- and sanity -- in the White House. Obama trusts Jarrett completely and consults her on every decision he makes, so it would likely take a force of nature to dislodge her from the West Wing.
Why He Should Go: Messina, Obama's former deputy chief of staff, is known as the President's 'fixer;' he's a savvy political operative who, like his former boss Rahm Emanuel, is aggressive and has little patience for dissident liberals. Those hardball tactics served Messina well on Capitol Hill, but the President's approval ratings have cratered and Democrats are in no mood to be railroaded. If Obama has any shot of turning things around in 2012, he needs a Chicago pointman who can unite and reenergize his base, and Messina doesn't fit the bill.
Why Obama Won't Cut Him Loose: The Obama team is gearing up for a vicious, hyper-partisan battle in 2012, and apparently think that the hostile political environment demands a hostile campaign chief. A hallmark of Obama's presidency has been the belief that progressives will fall in line when they see the alternative, but that might not be enough to activate recession-weary voters (and donors). That's not to say Obama and senior political strategist David Axelrod won't eventually replace Messina, but by then it could be too late.
h/t The Nation
Why He Needs To Go: Brought on to refocus Obama's senior staff on economic issues after the endless healthcare debacle, Daley has been largely ineffective as the chief manager of the West Wing. A former JPMorgan executive, he is another example of the administration's failed efforts to chart a 'centrist' course, but his hiring only served to alienate Obama's Democratic allies, while doing nothing to facilitate bipartisan compromise.
Why Obama Won't Cut Him Loose: Insider accounts indicate that the West Wing is riven by internal power struggles, and Obama likely wants to avoid a staff shakeup at all costs. Replacing Daley would also spark speculation about White House mismanagement, which is the last thing the campaign needs. Daley has already said he plans on leaving after the election, so the President will probably hold off on finding a replacement until then.
Why She Needs To Go: Napolitano probably should have gotten the ax long ago -- around the time she said that the passenger-thwarted Christmas Day bombing was evidence that 'the system works' and dismissed the Time Square bomb as a 'one off.' She has become a Republican punching bag for her numerous foot-in-mouth moments, and taken heat from both sides for her failure to articulate the administration's immigration policies. In reality, Obama's counterterrorism and immigration policies have been rare successes for the administration, and he is not doing his campaign any favours by letting Napolitano botch this message.
Why Obama Won't Cut Her Loose: In fairness to Napolitano, DHS Secretary is one of the newest and most difficult Cabinet positions, and no one has ever lasted long in the post. Moreover, the vitriolic attacks against her are highly political and, many argue, gender-based. Obama cannot afford to be seen as bending to these criticisms, and the pool of women who could replace Napolitano is virtually nonexistent.
Why She Needs To Go: Solis, a progressive Democrat and prominent union supporter, was appointed largely as a concession to the party's left wing, and has faced heavy criticism for being too cozy with Big labour. She has been totally sidelined by the Obama administration, but with unemployment still at 9% it makes no sense to have a Secretary of labour who is not a point person for job creation. By firing Solis, Obama would have an opportunity to put a new, forceful face in front of his campaign's jobs message.
Why Obama Won't Cut Her Loose: The wrath of Nancy Pelosi. Solis is closely tied in with House progressives, who are already unhappy with the President. Also, she is the first Hispanic woman to serve in the Cabinet and one of the few women to hold a top position in the Obama administration. Given the growing perception that Obama has a 'woman' problem, he is unlikely to do anything that would fuel that frenzy.
Why He Needs To Go: Duncan, the former Chicago chief of schools, is one of the more visible members of Obama's Cabinet, in large part because he is basketball buddies with the President. He has amassed an unprecedented amount of power as the head of the Department of Education, widely broadening the federal government's role in public schooling. To conservatives, Duncan (and the entire DOE) has become the embodiment of what they see as a dangerous federal overreach; to everyone else, he is just another tired face associated with Obama's lackluster domestic policies. Either way you look at it, there's no point in keeping him around.
Why Obama Won't Cut Him Loose: Duncan is a member of the intimate inner circle the Obamas imported from Chicago; so far, the President seems unwilling to let any these friends go, regardless of whether they are damaging his reelection prospects. And given how diametrically opposed Obama and the Republican presidential candidates are on education policy, it is unclear how much Obama's campaign would benefit by axing Duncan.
Why She Should Go: Although Sebelius was not a primary architect of Obamacare, she had a major role in the administration's total messaging failure and botched rollout of the healthcare reform law. Her convoluted cost analyses and attempts to bully the insurance lobby came across as weak, and made her an easy target for conservative attacks. The healthcare law remains unpopular going into the 2012 election, and the Obama administration would do well to distance itself from the more embarrassing moments of the 2009 debacle.
Why Obama Won't Cut Her Loose: The popular former Kansas Governor is a high-profile and well-liked Democrat. And while the Obamacare disaster wasn't really her fault, her role in the healthcare reform rollout has made her political kryptonite, virtually guaranteeing that she will never be elected again. It would be totally callous for the administration to toss Sebelius out now -- and its not like they could get anyone confirmed to fill her place anyway.
The Vice President may be a loose cannon, but at this point, he's the only adult in the room.
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