《经济学人》:奥巴马的表现,不如人意
日期:2011-08-11 10:43

(单词翻译:单击)

Lexington
来克星敦

An underperforming president
奥巴马总统的表现不如人意

How Barack Obama allowed the Republicans to rout him over the debt ceiling.
在债务上限问题上,贝拉克•奥巴马是如何让共和党人彻底打败自己的

Aug 6th 2011 | from the print edition

AT THE very last moment, and just before his 50th birthday this week, Barack Obama got the deal that raised the debt ceiling by between $2.1 trillion and $2.4 trillion and so prevented the United States from going into default on his watch. But this does not mean that the roof is not still in danger of falling in on his presidency. The superstar of 2008, who once looked like a shoo-in for re-election, now appears extremely vulnerable. Despite talk that he will raise a record $1 billion war chest, Democrats in Congress have begun to whisper that Mr Obama’s fading chances of winning a second term are coming to depend on the absence—so far—of an exciting Republican challenger.

在最后一刻,就在本周奥巴马50岁生日之前,他获得了协议,将债务上限提高2.1-2.4万亿美元,从而避免了美国在他执政期间出现违约。但是这并不意味着,在他担任总统期间已经毫无危险。2008年的超级明星曾经看起来必定会连任,但是现在看起来似乎非常不堪一击。尽管他将融资创纪录的10亿美元,但是国会的民主党人已经开始窃窃私语,奥巴马先生连任的可能性越来越小,是否能连任将取决于是否缺少出众的共和党总统候选人,到目前为止还没有出众的共和党总统候选人。

Single events seldom determine the fate of a presidency. Those who said just over a year ago that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico would doom Mr Obama were as wrong as those who thought May’s killing of Osama bin Laden would make him unbeatable. The debt fight is in similar danger of being over-interpreted. Mr Obama’s fate depends more on two big bets he placed well before the Republican capture of the House in November’s mid-terms. The health-care reform that chewed up political capital in his first two years tanked with voters, and more than $800 billion of stimulus spending has so far failed to deliver the hoped-for growth in jobs. The outcome of the next election will depend more on unemployment than on Mr Obama’s handling of the past month’s comic opera on the debt ceiling.

单一的重大事件很少会决定总统宝座鹿死谁手。墨西哥湾石油泄漏事件刚刚过去一年多,当时有人说,奥巴马先生将因此连任无望,他们错了。5月,杀死了奥萨玛•本•拉登,有人因此认为他将不可战胜,他们同样错了。同理,债务之战也有被过多解读的危险。在中期选择中,共和党掌控了众议院。奥巴马的命运更多的是取决于早在此之前他下的两大赌注。医疗改革耗尽了执政前两年众望所归的政治资本,到目前为止,8000多亿美元的刺激计划并没有带来预期增多的工作机会。下一届选举的结果将更多地取决于失业率而不是奥巴马处理过去一个月有关债务上限问题喜歌剧的方式。

Mr Obama says that with the debt fight behind him he can now pivot back to jobs. But the comic opera has meanwhile crystallised doubts about the quality of his leadership. After all, the Republicans won this round, even if they did not win everything they wanted. For example, the debt ceiling has been raised by enough to see the country through the far side of the coming election, without another nail-biting stand-off in between. But on the core principle that Mr Obama chose to put at the centre of the fight—the need, for fairness’s sake, to tackle the deficit with tax rises on the rich as well as spending cuts—it was he who gave way.

奥巴马先生表示,债务之战已经结束,现在他又将专心工作。但是同时这场喜歌剧已经证明其领导能力有问题。毕竟,共和党人赢了这个回合,尽管他们也没有全部如愿以偿。比如,提高的债务上限足以让这个国家维持到下次选举之后,此间将不会再次出现令人焦虑的僵局。奥巴马挑选了核心的原则问题——公平地说,在削减开支的同时,必须还要对富人加税才能解决赤字问题——并将它推到了债务之战的风口浪尖,但是最终让步的也是他。

The president, it is true, did not lose the fight because he lost the argument. He lost because he was not willing to be as reckless as the Republicans. Increasing the debt ceiling is a routine operation that allows the government to pay the bills Congress has already run up. By refusing to raise it unless they got their spending cuts, the Republicans in effect pointed a pistol at the economy and threatened to pull the trigger if they were denied. An alarming number of them sounded crazy enough to carry out this threat. Faced with the danger of a default, Mr Obama and his party had little choice but to surrender. And at least the terms of surrender include the creation of a new joint congressional committee that might, in theory, include tax increases as well as spending cuts when it produces the next slice of deficit reduction.

诚然,总统输掉了这场战争,但是这并不是因为他输了这场辩论。他输是因为他不愿意像共和人那样不负责任。提高债务上限是一次很寻常的操作,从而让政府支付国会已经累积的账单。除非削减开支,否则共和党人拒绝提高债务上限,实际上他们这是举着枪对准了经济,如果他们被拒绝,他们就要扣动扳机。大量共和党人似乎疯狂十足,真的这样做了,令人担忧。面对违约的危险,奥巴马先生及其所属党派别无选择,只能投降。不过投降的条件至少包括了成立新的联合国会委员会,在理论上,这可能包括在该委员会发布下一份赤字削减计划的时候,在削减开支的同时增加税收。

The troubling question is why Mr Obama fell into this trap in the first place. Could he not have made raising the debt ceiling a condition of extending the Bush-era tax cuts last December? And why did he take so long to show that he cared about putting America’s finances in order? He went to the trouble of creating a bipartisan deficit commission, which at the end of last year produced just the sort of “balanced” approach he says he favours. But he then declined either to endorse its findings or present a serious plan of his own. This gave the initiative to the Republicans, who now say, plausibly, that without their brinkmanship there would still have been no start on bringing the debt under control.

令人困扰的问题在于奥巴马先生怎么会陷入这个陷阱。去年12月,他难道不能把提高债务上限当做延长布什时代减税政策的条件吗?为何他花这么多时间表明他致力于整顿美国的金融业?他费力成立了两党赤字委员会,去年底,该委员会提出了他说正好是自己支持的“平衡”做法。但是后来,他既没有支持该委员会的发现,自己也没有给出一份认真的计划。这样就将主动权交给了共和党人,他们现在说,要是他们没有采取边缘政策,现在还没有开始控制债务,这似乎颇有道理。

Critics in his own party say that the president then added a sin of commission to his sin of omission. When the Republicans pointed that metaphorical pistol at the economy, Mr Obama could have made a bigger ruckus about this use of extortion. But he chose instead to plunge in, seduced by the chimera of a “grand bargain” with John Boehner, the Republican speaker. In the end, Mr Boehner left the president waiting at the altar—but not before Mr Obama’s eagerness for the bargain had endowed the idea of haggling over the debt ceiling with a legitimacy it did not deserve.

总统所属党派的批评人士表示总统犯了疏忽罪后接着又犯了违法罪。当共和党人指着这把比喻性的枪对准经济的时候,奥巴马先生本可以掀起更大的波澜,讨论这种敲诈行为。但是他反而选择了陷入其中,受到了与共和党众议院议长约翰•博纳做成“大交易”这一不切实际的想法的引诱。最终,博纳先生让总统难堪不已——围绕债务上限问题争论不休的想法根本不合理,但是奥巴马先生对达成协议的渴望使这种想法变得合情合理,在此之前,博纳先生并没有让总统难堪。

A generous review of the story is that Mr Obama staved off default while positioning himself in the coveted centre of politics from where elections are won. He did not get his way this time, but his calls for the rich to share more of the burden by paying higher taxes will resonate with voters when he seeks re-election.

整个事件可大致总结为奥巴马先生消除了违约问题,同时还让自己从选举获胜的地方出来进入了人人虎视眈眈的政治中心。这次他无法随心所欲,但是他呼吁富人多交税收,分担更多的负担,这一呼吁在他寻求连任时将得到选民的响应。

Maybe. But the public in America, and the wider watching world, saw only a mess. Meanwhile plenty of Democrats on the left grumble privately that the president’s handling of the crisis has been inept, spineless—and all too typical. Having failed to take evasive action, he showed no bottom line once lured into negotiation. In the health-care negotiation, likewise, he had wasted precious time hoping for Republican support that never came. It all fits into a pattern, they say, of a leader who shies away from necessary conflict, refuses to understand the intransigence of his enemies, would rather split differences than make a firm stand and lacks the courage of his own convictions. Foreigners—from Vladimir Putin (who this week called America a “parasite”) to the Taliban—are in danger of drawing the same conclusion.

或许吧。但是美国的公众以及世界各国更广泛的观察人士只看到了一片混乱。与此同时,许多左翼的民主党人私下里抱怨总统处理危机的方式既笨拙又软弱,毫无新意。逃避行动失败后,一旦受到引诱进入谈判,他就没了底线。同样,在医疗改革的谈判中,他浪费了宝贵的时间希望共和党人支持,但是共和党人就是没有支持。这与他们所说的如下模式一模一样:领导人不愿作必要的斗争,不愿去了解对手的不妥协性,情愿选择折中方案,而不是坚定立场,没有勇气做自己认为对的事。外国人——从弗拉基米尔•普京(本周,他将美国称为了“寄生虫”)到塔利班——有得出相同的结论之虞。

Any assessment of Mr Obama needs to acknowledge that when he was elected he inherited the in-box from hell: a financial collapse, a prostrated economy, two wars. Now he faces the opposition from hell: a reckless, populist Republican Party whose moderate voices have been silenced by ideologues and which has made throwing him out of office its foremost priority. For these tribulations he deserves a degree of sympathy. But Americans want their presidents to be winners, not victims. If he expects another term, Mr Obama is going to have to raise his game—especially if the Republicans find that candidate.

对奥巴马先生的任何评价都必须承认,当他当选的时候,他继承的是一个烂摊子:金融危机、萎靡不振的经济和两场战争。现在他面对的是另一种困境:不计后果、民粹主义的共和党。空想家的声音已经掩盖了该党中温和派的声音,该党还把他赶出白宫作为重中之重。经历了这么多苦难,他值得一些同情。但是美国人希望他们的总统成为胜者,而不是受害者。如果奥巴马想连任,必须要励精图治——要是共和党人找到了候选人尤其应该如此。

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重点单词
  • binn. 箱柜,[计] DOS文件名, 二进制目标文件 vt
  • spillv. 溢出,洒,使 ... 流出,泄漏 n. 溢出,流
  • oppositionn. 反对,敌对,在野党
  • legitimacyn. 合法,适法,正当
  • reformv. 改革,改造,革新 n. 改革,改良
  • intransigencen. 不妥协,不让步
  • sympathyn. 同情,同情心,同感,赞同,慰问
  • commissionn. 委员会,委托,委任,佣金,犯罪 vt. 委任,委托
  • determinev. 决定,决心,确定,测定
  • qualityn. 品质,特质,才能 adj. 高品质的