Barack Obama and “Casey at the Bat” by Charles W. Dunn

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Charles W DunnWill Barack Obama strike out like “Mighty Casey” in the 1888 ballad of “Casey at the
Bat”?

Like “Mighty Casey,” Barack Obama confidently stepped to the plate in 2008 with great promise and high hopes. Having won one of America’s most electrifying and history-making elections, some critics opined that he had set a new and perhaps permanentcourse of “hope and change” for American politics, a course free of the rancor in therecent past.

But if history is the best predictor of the future, the President faces the danger of striking out, like “Mighty Casey.”

Compare Barack Obama with Jimmy Carter. After hitting a Grand Slam home run in 2008, Obama looks like Carter, who struck out in 1980 after hitting a home run in 1976.

What dominated Carter’s time and sent him to the showers — an intractable and
protracted Mid-East crisis, a persistently miserable economy, and the loss of supportamong many Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical voters.

The cheers of these groups turned to boos in 1980. Jews gave Carter 75 percent of
their votes in 1976, but only 45 percent in 1980 when Carter fail to recognize Israel
as America’s foremost ally and only democracy in the Mid-East. Likewise, many
Roman Catholics left their natural habitat in the Democratic Party in response to Ronald
Reagan’s pro-life stance on abortion. And Evangelicals, once Carter’s most reliable
constituency, spurned him because he never forthrightly held to such Evangelical litmus-
test issues as pro-life.

In 2008 the stadium rocked with cheers for Barack Obama. He won the overwhelming
majority of Jewish voters in 2008, but the “Jerusalem flap” at the Democratic Convention
and the “Netanyahu Snub” endanger that support. He also received overwhelming
support from Roman Catholics in 2008, but his shifting positions on abortion and same-
sex marriage have alienated a substantial segment of Roman Catholic voters, including
the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And Obama earned a significant share of
the Evangelical vote in 2008 by proclaiming to be a Christian, and by appearing with
prominent Evangelical leaders, but his policy positions on abortion and same-sex
marriage, and the “God Flap” at the Democratic Convention have alienated those voters.

Besides these striking similarities, their batting styles mirror one another. Both have
speaking styles much like that of a college professor, long on detail and explanation and
short on inspiration.

Carter, the engineer, liked to delve into the technical details of problems, while Obama,
the erstwhile professor, pursues lengthy analysis. In both instances, deciding on a
solution and inspirationally presenting it to the public fail them. As with “Mighty Casey,”
Obama either takes too many pitches or waits too long and swings too late.

Ironically Carter and Obama are good speakers, but not good enough to enter the
Cooperstown Hall of Fame, where memorabilia of the truly great reside — Abraham
Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.

In his classic book, Presidential Power, the late Richard E. Neustadt states, “Presidential
Power is the power to persuade.” Carter lost that power, which Obama is now losing,
because key constituencies are losing confidence in his leadership. Like Carter, a one-
time home-run hitter, Obama now hits fly balls and grounders.

And like “Mighty Casey,” Obama over-confidently strides to the plate. Critics thought
that Carter had a messianic complex, which made it difficult for him to compromise.
Much the same for Barack Obama. Critics tagged him as “the anointed one,” because of
his apparent condescending and superior attitude. When America’s most gifted heavy
hitter and hitting coach, Bill Clinton, advised him to change his stance on the crisis of the
debt and deficit, he refused.

Public opinion polls reveal substantial disenchantment with Obama as they did with
Carter. For example, Gallup Poll reports that fewer than 50 percent of Americans approve
of Barack Obama’s job performance, which puts him in the loser’s bracket of Presidents
Ford, Carter, and Bush I, who struck out and went to the showers.

And like Carter, Obama lost the first poll after the first presidential debate. Beginning
with Kennedy versus Nixon until now, the candidate who won the first poll after the first
debate won the election.

So, if history repeats itself, Obama will strike out.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.

Dr. Charles Dunn is the author of The Seven Laws of Presidential
Leadership (Pearson, 2007), Editor, The Presidency in the Twenty-First
Century (UPK, 2011), Chair Emeritus of the United States J. William
Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and a Distinguished Professor of Government, Regent University.

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