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Chris Graham: Not all that enthusiastic about Obama

And it’s not that hard for me to admit, actually. And no, I won’t be voting for Mitt Romney, or a third-party candidate, or sitting out the election altogether.

But still, I wish I could vote for another candidate for president this November. My first choice would be Mark Warner, a close second Hillary Clinton, but the way these contests work, they won’t be running.

My lack of enthusiasm isn’t because I think Barack Obama has done a bad job. it’s that I expected him to do a much better job, which of course was a pipe dream, in retrospect.

I’ll save the chapter and verse on how tough it was destined to be for whoever was going to be selected our 44th President of the United States. Yeah, the economy was in the tank, and we had two wars from which we were seemingly never going to be able to get out from under.

And then there’s how Republicans have proven to be impossible to work with in any respect. Unlike the way Democrats first reacted to the controversial resolution to the 2000 presidential race, which was to work with President Bush on tax cuts for the superwealthy, No Child Left Behind and the walkup to the war in Iraq, Republicans made it their modus operandi to give no quarter or ask none regarding the Obama-Democrat agenda.

That all said, I point back to the 1990s, when Bill Clinton faced, well, no wars, but certainly an economy that was in the tank, Republicans in Congress who made it their M.O. to see him fail, and fail miserably, to a point that they instituted impeachment and removal proceedings against him in his second term.

How did Clinton do against this onslaught? Not bad. He inherited 12 years of record budget deficits from reputed fiscal conservatives Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and had turned them into budget surpluses by the end of his second term. The economy in the tank at the beginning of his term in 1993 was booming by the late 1990s. Not to mention welfare-to-work, education reforms, more police on the streets, and more.

How did all of this happen? It wasn’t Clinton working alone, to be sure. No, the president reached across the aisle and forged compromises with the very legislators seeking to remove him from office.

Obama, meanwhile, for all his rhetorical flourish and skills and talents in organizing, has been utterly unable to get Republicans to work with him on anything of substance. Maybe because there’s less room on the right for Republican electeds to compromise with Democrats. I concede that. Obama, to his credit, scored a legislative victory on health-care reform by taking what had been a Republican idea first introduced in 1993 and then put into practice by Romney during Romney’s term as governor of Massachusetts in the 2000s and making it his own. That he did this without Republican support speaks as much about where Republicans are these days as it speaks about the uphill battle that Democrats face in trying to get any movement from Republicans on anything.

Even so … come on, I mean, there has to be something to the Obama style of leadership at play here. I don’t stalk the corridors of the West Wing or Capitol Hill, so I don’t know firsthand how Obama rates as a leader vis-a-vis Clinton or the Bushes or Reagan. I just have this … I’ll call it an expectation … that however it’s done, it’s done, and Obama hasn’t been getting it done to any appreciable degree.

Getting back to enthusiasm and lack thereof, I’m far from enthusiastic about the prospects of a Romney administration with a Congress controlled in part or in total by Republicans. The Paul Ryan budget that would be enacted in short order under such a scenario would be an unmitigated disaster both economically and socially for decades to come. We can’t afford total Republican control of the machinerty in D.C. until the GOP gets out from under the thumb of Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers and their starve-the-government-into-irrelevance philosophy.

Having gone there, I’ll tell you that I’m voting for Obama for president in the fall with the realization that he will probably be re-elected with another split Congress. My hope, then, is that second-term Obama is better at forging compromise than first-term Obama has been.

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