It started with Julius Caesar.
Maybe it didn't start with Caesar. Lots of famous people fall out of favor. Caesar's was one of the more dramatic, with his pals cutting him down in the Roman Forum one very bad day. While it wasn't the Ides of January last week as it was the Ides of March for Caesar, it was close enough for government work to use the image to characterize the worst week in the Obama administration. First, it was repudiation of the Obama health care agenda by the Massachusetts voters. But then again, I don't know it was as much a rejection of Obama as it was a populist reaction to anybody who happened to represent the establishment. I'm sure the President doesn't see himself as "the establishment" but the voters are mad and Martha Coakley and Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, in the most consistently liberal State in the Union, were in the line of fire.
Now the President's legislative agenda is in pieces.
He had delayed this week's State of the Union address so he could highlight the health care program he hoped to have passed. It now looks like it will be difficult to get any health care program out of Congress. Senators are tripping over themselves to adopt a more populist stance to show the voters they understand their concern about 10% unemployment, economic hardship, and bank bailouts. The politics of the day spread to Time Magazine's Man of the Year Ben Bernanke's renomination. From Man of the Year to possible unemployment in a month's time is something. If there is no vote on his nomination by January 31, it is expected Bernanke will step down as Chairman and Don Kohn would be interim chief. Bernanke could stay as a Fed Governor as that post runs till 2020. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, reluctantly endorsed Bernanke late Friday but said it was with trepidation and only after receiving assurances from Ben that he would take additional steps to increase the flow of credit to middle class Americans. Harry -- you are the majority leader and supposed to be the President's man in the Senate. Et tu Harry?
With Ben's job up in the air, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner should be worried.
They were conspicuously sidelined by Paul Volcker when the President announced his new bank plan. Volcker has gravitas, smarts and enormous credibility. It doesn't mean he is right, but he is formidable. One of the weekend papers said the 6'7" Volcker is indeed too big to fail. But I would think Rahm Emanuel should be in the hot seat as well. It was a dramatic mistake to entrust legislation to the Democratic leaders on the Hill. By definition it could never have been the President's plan. Chief of Staff Emanuel failed miserably in trying to shepherd the health plan along. Cap and Trade is dead and financial reform is being pulled several different ways. His combative style blew it and the President should have heads roll to demonstrate he is in charge.
What the President has done is to sharpen his own populist rhetoric and zero in on the banks.