Barack Obama swept into office with the limelight at his back. For nearly two years of campaigning, Obama led a nationwide movement for change and became a phenomenon, breaking all sorts of political barriers along the way. People of all demographics used Obama as a vessel in which to invest their hopes and dreams. But today, just three weeks into his presidency, Mr. Obama is on the verge of losing the country’s confidence and the large reservoir of national goodwill afforded to all incoming presidents. There are several reasons for this, all of which should be and have already been explored. I would hate to say “I told ya so,” but …
What could anyone have possibly expected from a young, overtly leftist Chicago upstart who had accomplished precisely nothing of significance throughout his short career — and yet still promised the world, and more, to his loyal adherents?
Consider his campaign pledges: It wasn’t too long ago that Obama promised to “tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.” Ah, the corporate lobbyist, every candidate’s favorite whipping boy. “They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president,” Barack once swore to his sea of idolizing worshipers.
That was then; this is now. President Obama has allowed seventeen exceptions to the no-lobbyist rule. And remember that “sunlight before signing” pledge, giving citizens enough time to read a bill — and offer their opinions on it — before it is signed into law? Well, that’s gone to the wayside, too.
Consider his tone and lack of bipartisanship: Obama’s election was supposed to end the “politics as usual,” filled with “divisiveness” and all other sorts of bad things. It was on Inauguration Day, as I recall, when Obama proclaimed “an end to the petty grievances … that for far too long have strangled our politics.” We should “set aside childish things,” Obama suggested, and “choose our better history.”
So much for that. The first thing President Obama did was allow Nancy Pelosi to write the egregious “stimulus” bill, effectively making it her own personal wish list. When opposition to the bill began to mount, Obama brought Republicans to the bargaining table — only to snicker “I won” to their faces.
Additionally, President Obama’s recent speech to House Democrats was as snide and sarcastic of a national address as you will ever see. It was laced with flippant, partisan attacks on those who dared to question the logic of this massive bill. His administration went on the offensive, campaign-style, impugning the motives of those who have philosophical problems with the stimulus — what he calls “bickering” — while discarding any semblance of bipartisan spirit or grace under pressure.
Consider the dialogue: Gone is the pie-in-the-sky talk about post-partisan politics, transcending space and time, and all that other nonsense. We just passed a spending bill which will — using contemporary monetary standards — cost more than Bush’s Iraq war and Roosevelt’s New Deal combined. It is, by far, the largest spending bill in American history. We could buy real estate on Mars for a fifth of the cost.
One would think Obama, who promised a new era of dialogue, would at least appreciate the historical magnitude of such a gargantuan bill — and conduct himself in accordance. After all it will be Sasha and Malia’s children who will pay off this government-induced debt. Even the bill’s advocates begrudgingly admit that.
Rather, we’ve seen our new leader act more like the teacher’s pet that finally gets detention, or the all-state quarterback who is finally benched for missing practice: self-righteous, arrogant, indignant, shocked, and incredibly thin-skinned. Martha Zoller and Jennifer Rubin each hit the nail on the head: if President Obama were as good at explaining the stimulus package as he is complaining to others about the stresses of the job, he wouldn’t feel the need to resort to testy pompousness. Obama has thus far proven to be better at displaying his obsession with talk radio personality Sean Hannity — he mentions him every chance he gets — than explaining, in a rational and coherent manner, how the Democratic pork-pet projects in his spending bill will save our economy. That’s the reality, and that’s sad.
Consider the language of fear: There is another sad element to President Obama’s dialogue, and that is his odd blend of draconian terminology and juvenile platitudes. Obama has said it is “inexcusable and irresponsible” not to pass the bill as soon as possible, or else there will be a “catastrophe” which will cause an “irreversible” recession — all if he doesn’t get his way! What a far cry this is from Reagan’s wish that he “appealed to [our] best hopes, not [our] worst fears.”
Far from titillating or stoking our hopes, Obama has employed that much-maligned “language of fear” — of which he accused his predecessor — time and again, attempting to scare the populace into accepting this ludicrous bill. As Charles Krauthammer put it, “So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared ‘we have chosen hope over fear.’ Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.”
Consider the intellectual dishonesty: Seemingly stunned by his initial inability to bend Washington to his will, Barack has resorted to playground logic to defend his economic proposals. “If nothing is done, this recession could linger on for years,” he forecasts. Well, then … that pretty much wraps up the debate, now doesn’t it? If bad things will happen when nothing is done, then good things might happen if something is done, right?
This kind of threat-forecasting and platitude-dribble is for the sandbox, not a national economic discussion. When Obama talks on and on about “the same failed policies” that “got us in this mess,” this is emotional, populist gibberish — not objective economic contemplation. Where are the philosophical distinctions, the economic arguments, the logical rationalizations?
If this stimulus bill is so urgent, why aren’t most of its provisions — those few which are not absurd and actually have something to do with economic recovery — going to be implemented until years from now? How will these fantastical programs save us from irreversible economic disaster? How will this bill be different from Japan’s experiences with multiple stimulus packages, all of which pretty much failed? And what’s up with that sneaky de facto health care nationalization plan in the bill, going under the public’s radar?
President Obama hasn’t answered or addressed any of this. But he has attacked Rush Limbaugh. This kind of childish behavior is supposed to be beneath the office which Obama now holds. But for Barack, it isn’t.
Consider his executive leadership: Nearly every one of President Obama’s cabinet appointments has undue baggage and closet-skeletons. Attorney General Eric Holder is best known for his role in pardoning Marc Rich. Mark Gitenstein was a corporate lobbyist from 2000 until 2008. David Ogden’s best known for defending child pornography.
The womanizing Bill Richardson had to withdraw his name because a federal grand jury wants to see him for illegal “pay-to-play” violations. William Lynn III, a recent lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon, will be number two at the Pentagon. William Corr lobbied as an anti-tobacco activist as late as last year. All of this violates Obama’s own ethics rules regarding lobbyists.
Leon Panetta is a fine man, but is he qualified? Do Rangel, Dodd, and Frank — those brilliant overseers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — really deserve presidential exemptions regarding their tax excesses? General Zinni’s been wrong about Iraq for over a decade, but did he and his family deserve to be snubbed and treated in such a dishonorable fashion by the Obama administration? Do I even need to bring up the hypocrisy and audacity of appointing tax policy advisors — Geithner, Daschle, Solis, Killefer, etc. — who cheated on their taxes worse than a gypsy playing a blind man in Scrabble?
President Obama seems to think that just because he wasn’t vetted by the national media prior to his election, his administration doesn’t have to vet its cabinet nominees. Individually, these missteps wouldn’t be news. But the sum total of their parts leads one to believe there is a pattern — just as there was in Chicago with Wright, Ayers, Rezko, Pfleger, Mansour, etc. — and if it weren’t our country, it’d almost be comical. Hardly anyone today, and certainly nobody a year from now, will be able to listen to President Obama’s campaign pledges about transparency, ethics, and change and keep a straight face.
As a reader phrased it in an email, this administration has thus far had all the grace and ease of a teenager learning how to parallel park. Perhaps this is what on-the-job training looks like? He’s losing the message war because he’s not leading the debate. And he’s not leading the debate, may I surmise, because he does not have requisite leadership qualities for an executive. Sure, he’s brilliant at rallies. But so is Bon Jovi.
Consider the future: Iran has launched its own satellite into orbit and is mocking Obama as a weak leader for wanting to have a dialogue with them. North Korea has withdrawn from its non-aggression treaty and is preparing another missile test. Somalia is in tatters. Yemen has released 170 al-Qaeda terrorists. Pakistan has released mad nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan from house arrest. Russia is blocking supply lines into Afghanistan.
During last year’s campaign, critics of Barack Obama contended he was too inexperienced, too leftist, and in a sense, too good to be true. He was, we observed, just another politician — in fact, one uniquely entrenched with Chicago corruption and archaic tax-and-spend philosophies. In other words, a less noble Jimmy Carter.
Less than a month into his presidency, this view of President Obama has been vindicated — until he proves otherwise. Hang on to your hats (and wallets); it might be a long four years.