Democrats turn on president in classic symptom warning.
“In my district, the enthusiasm for him has mostly evaporated. There is tremendous discontent with his direction.… I have one heck of a lot of Democrats saying, ‘I voted for him before, don’t know if I can do it again.’” - Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon)
You can call it “Barking Dog Syndrome.” Or “BDS” for short.
And Barack Obama, like 12 of his 43 presidential predecessors, almost a third of all American presidents, has contracted the politically fatal disease.
The disease that is the unmistakable sign of a president on the cusp of losing his re-election to the Land of Oz that is a second term in the White House. A looming loss always signaled by the telltale barking dogs of American politics.
What is Barking Dog Syndrome? What sets the dogs off? For that matter — just who are these barking dogs in the first place?
The onset of BDS is always marked by the appearance of one of two red flags — and sometimes both at the same time: Political incompetence or ideological intransigence.
When the red flags suddenly fly, with all the telltale certainty of dogs and their legendary ability to sense the danger of impending earthquakes or hurricanes — which is to say in this case political catastrophe — politicians from the endangered president’s own party and/or the president’s onetime media supporters will sniff out the incompetence or intransigence the red flags signal and, alarmed, begin barking like crazy.
BDS symptoms can manifest in any number of ways: turmoil in the presidential Cabinet, shake-ups inside the White House, loss of congressional seats in special elections or during the regular non-presidential congressional election cycle. Sniping from one-time editorial supporters in papers or media outlets across the country suddenly appears. Poll numbers begin to tank. And last but certainly not least: the quite public snapping at the presidential heels of barking politicians from within the president’s own party.
Ominously for President Obama, the red flags are out and the barking of his fellow Democrats has begun. A political earthquake looms — and Democrats like Oregon’s Peter DeFazio, their political sixth sense working overtime, are furiously barking away. As in this weekend story in the New York Times, for which the paper of liberal record delicately headlined the barking dog syndrome thusly: “Democrats Fret Aloud Over Obama’s Chances.”
Who are the 12 presidents Obama is poised to join on a list of enforced-one termers? Their political fates signaled by the barking dogs of the day?
Some of the best known names in presidential history.
John Adams and son John Quincy Adams lead this particularly inglorious parade of BDS victims. Followed over the centuries by Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. (Cleveland, it should be noted, famously had a BDS cure of sorts, losing after his first term but making his second term a non-consecutive four years later. No one knows what Cleveland took to immunize himself from the disease.)
John Adams, only the second American president but the first president to come down with a particularly severe case of BDS, inspired so little confidence among his own Cabinet that he wound up angrily dismissing his Secretaries of State and War for anti-Adams intrigue. The dismissals drew snarling responses — from members of his own party! — that the second president was, in the words of historian Stefan Lorant, “too old, senile and infirm to perform his duties… and that he had no teeth, his eyesight was poor and his hands trembled with palsy.” Adds Lorant in an unerringly accurate description of what eventually happens when a president is afflicted with Barking Dog Syndrome: The attacks “wrecked” Adams’ party — the Federalists — and along with it Adams’ presidency. By November of 1800, Adams made history as the first incumbent President of the United States to be defeated for re-election.
He would not be the last.
Every one of the other eleven members in this rather dubious subset of American presidents demonstrated an inability to either rally their own supporters in sufficient numbers (political incompetence — the problem for sixth president John Quincy Adams) or were so wedded to an obviously flawed policy (think LBJ in Vietnam) that the only thing standing between these presidents and the outside of the White House gates was time.
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