Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley Looks Ahead to 2012: Who Would Be a 'Formidable' Opponent for Obama?
Austin, Texas-based presidential historian Douglas Brinkley assured Imus that the University of Texas, which Wyatt Imus hopes to attend one day, is an excellent school. “It couldn’t be better,” he said. “It’s growing in all the right ways, all the time.”
He waxed nostalgic about how Austin is just the right size for a college student, and about the intersection of politics, music and nature that the city provides. Once he completed the advertisement, he discussed whether President Obama could raise the debt ceiling without any agreement from Congress, and let the courts challenge him on it later.
“It the Republicans really aren’t going to deal, the President doesn’t have much of a choice here,” Brinkley said. “He can either let the date in August just pass, and have what he’s perceiving to be a meltdown, or you’ve got to do something almost in a national security sense to save the nation.”
In the end, Brinkley believes a deal will be reached before any of that is necessary. “It’s been a little bit bruising,” he said of the negotiations between Republicans, who want to cut spending, and Democrats, who want to enhance revenue. “But remember, we really have this week and all of next week to get some kind of deal done.”
As for Obama using executive power, as Bill Clinton often did, Brinkley surmised it would not be ideal with an election year around the bend. “It’s something to be avoided,” he said. What’s more, Obama has routinely been “skittish” about using executive authority, preferring instead to be a conciliatory figure.
The debt ceiling has been raised many times in the past, but the difference this time around, in Brinkley’s view, is the influence of the Tea Party. “The Tea Party midterm was a gauntlet,” he said. “It was a threat by the right of the Republican Party that they would bolt, that they could not handle having what they considered a moderate Republican this time around, and they were true fiscal conservatives that wanted to stop the growth of big government.”
This mentality has produced “a kind of hyper-partisanship, not really experienced since the Vietnam War period of hawks and doves,” Brinkley added.
As for why Obama has seemed relatively timid regarding the debt ceiling issue when he was so aggressive in the decision to kill Osama Bin Laden back in May, Brinkley observed that Obama likes to avoid confrontation.
“He wants to kind of be the adult in the theatre of American politics, and sometimes people wonder if he’s more of a peacemaker, a diplomat, someone who’s good at conciliatory gestures,” Brinkley said. “If he’s the right person to do big, bold things at a time when America is wobbly.”
Regardless of which Republican is nominated him in 2012, Brinkley believes Obama will be running for reelection against unemployment. “It’s going to be Barack Obama versus the economy,” he said, and noted one of the reasons he thinks Texas Gov. Rick Perry stands a chance against Obama is because his state’s unemployment numbers are lower than the national average. “If somebody like Perry had a strong Vice President that could appeal to moderates, it could be a formidable opposition for the President.”
Even better, if Perry could score fellow Texan Kay Bailey Hutchison as his running mate, as Imus pointed out, “We’d have two cheerleaders!”