2009-03-12 / Community
Cal Lutheran professor tells Republican women that President Obama faces major challenges
Mistakes have been made, Gooch says
The first 30 days of President Barack Obama's presidency offer some insight as to what to expect in the future, said Herbert Gooch, California Lutheran University political science department chair.
Gooch spoke on Feb. 20 to about 50 women from the Conejo Valley Republican Women Federated. His remarks were wellreceived by the attendees.
Gooch's analysis of the first months in office began with President John F. Kennedy. Gooch said Obama looked at history and learned lessons from how past presidents handled those beginning days so that he could try to avoid their mistakes.
For instance, former President Bill Clinton stumbled badly and destroyed his momentum when he took his eyes off healthcare, Gooch said.
Former President Ronald Reagan "picked a fight" with air traffic controllers and won, which helped him gain respect, Gooch said.
Obama has learned from former leaders that he should stay focused and build credibility, Gooch said.
So far, though, Obama has had some problems with his appointments. Losing former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, who had trouble with the "$138,000 he forgot to report," was especially costly, Gooch said. Daschle's stature, knowledge, experience and capability would have been great assets to Obama's administration, he said.
Although a landslide victory means winning at least 55 percent of the vote and Obama won by 53 percent, Gooch said, the new president is trying to promote the perception that he won in a landslide.
Since Obama raised $750 million and was better financed, organized and innovative than his opponent, Gooch said, the question is, why didn't he win in a landslide? Added factors in Obama's favor, the professor said, were an unpopular Republican president leaving office, the economic floor falling out, and Republican candidate John McCain's inability to unify the GOP and his choice of a politically unknown running mate.
Obama has challenges to face now that he's president.
"Economic turmoil—nice words for collapse," Gooch said.
The housing bubble has burst; the banking system lacks capital, and people have lost confidence, he said.
"We're in a lot worse trouble than almost anyone expected."
The stock market's hit new lows; General Motors stock is at 1938 levels, and the $875 billion in the stimulus/spending bill is an "unbelievable amount of money" that's "enormously scary," Gooch said.
Details about how it's going to be spent are lacking, and in the long run inflation will return, he said.
"It's spreading around the world."
Gooch was concerned that even if the U.S. gets everything right, the rest of the world could flounder, become more unstable and then more dangerous. He wondered if capitalism is going to lose popularity around the world.
"Will they want to keep copying what we have?" he asked.
Gooch said he's impressed with Obama's selection of people. He likes that Obama has kept Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, who is knowledgeable, knows what he's doing and won't be pushed around. He also said he approved of Gen. James Jones as national security adviser, a position once held by Henry Kissinger during the Nixon administration.
Gooch said Jones was a McCain supporter.
Gooch wondered if Obama's own left-wing supporters would see the president's compromises as a betrayal.
He said that an eye should be kept on Pakistan, a country with nuclear weapons. And he said leaving Iraq for Afghanistan could be "going from the frying pan into the fire." Afghanistan is a graveyard, he said, something that Russia already learned.
In his first 30 days, Obama didn't have much to say about Europe, Gooch said. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first trip was to Asia, and "the Europeans noticed that."
Americans may see Obama as a product of the civil rights movement, but the world sees him as the son of someone from Kenya with brothers and sisters who are Muslims, Gooch said.
Gooch serves as director of the Study Abroad Program and summer school at CLU. He also chairs the Lutheran Colleges Washington Consortium based in Washington, D.C. He's taught at schools in Mexico and France and has worked in political campaign management and business consulting in California, Nevada and France.
He writes about political ideology and American cinema, civil-military relations in Latin America, the NASA space shuttle program, and local and national political affairs.
Republicans who attended Gooch's talk last week paid $20 each to find out how the professor thinks Obama is doing so far. They were provided lunch at Du-Par's restaurant at the Thousand Oaks Inn, 73 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd.
In the interest of balance in assessing the president's job thus far, the Acorn looks forward to covering a presentation at a Democratic club in the near future.