On the morning after a budget deal had been reached, averting a government shutdown, President Barack Obama made an “impromptu” visit to the Lincoln Memorial. Amid the high fives and photo opportunities, the president was all smiles, claiming victory in what could well go down in history as his “Mission Accomplished” Bush moment. But, those who decried Bush’s gaffe on the deck of that aircraft carrier may want to refrain from patting Mr. Obama on the back. This incident could well carry with it much of the same baggage that bogged down Mr. Bush.
President Barack Obama took office with so much potential. Not only was he the first African-American to hold the country’s highest office, his campaign was brilliant. He claimed the moderate, centrist high ground, and during his inaugural address spoke of change and hope. Even if you didn’t vote for him, the speech on the Capitol steps that January was truly stirring, one for the ages.
Then, something happened. The Obama everyone seemed to vote for pulled a Houdini. Perhaps reality set in for the new president, who previously had only been a junior senator from Illinois. Maybe he realized it was time to pay off all those campaign supporters, or maybe he was just daunted by all the rhetoric he now had to live up to. In any case, off to the left he went.
Reality also seems to have set among many liberals, independents and moderate conservatives, he won over in 2008. His swings to left ruffled most moderate and independent feathers, while the majority of left-wingers were appalled at his attempts to appear (gasp!) centrist.
It didn’t all happen at once, but the discontent started almost immediately.
The echo from his swearing in ceremony was still hanging in the air when he announced the closing of the Guantanamo detention facility. More than two years later, it’s still open. Then came the stimulus plan that not only failed to stimulate, but also made the government a major shareholder in General Motors.
Attorney General Eric Holder then decided the 9/11 conspirators would be tried in civilian courtrooms. (At least five are now headed for military tribunals.) Another major flub: the president’s botched handling of the Gulf oil spill disaster, which a la Hurricane Katrina, provided the president with his other Bush moment.
As if that weren’t enough, his 2,700 page Healthcare reform law is being challenged in the courts by at least half the states in the Union, and faces mounting criticism and calls for defunding as its more secret provisions and previously hidden funding streams become public.
And all this happened under promised transparency that never materialized, as the Democratic leadership locked themselves behind closed doors and hammered out legislation that would be rammed through with little (or in most cases) no input from the Republican minority. All the while, the president said nothing, and to this day, we’re still waiting for those meetings that were supposed to be televised on C-SPAN.
Worse than that, the president’s also come under fire by both sides of the aisle in failure to lead on budgets. Neither the House nor the Senate made so much as an attempt to pass a fiscal year budget prior to the November 2010 election.
Of course, he did get something of a wake-up call when the House made that “radical” shift to the GOP in November, but Mr. Obama still preferred to let the Congress come up with budget measures and then decide if he liked them or not, letting continuing spending resolutions stand in for an actual budget.
With Japan literally melting down, the Middle East boiling over and no budget, he scheduled a tour of South America and worked on his basketball bracket picks, which I suppose was great for ESPN …
Anyway, after submitting strategies for troop pull outs in Iraq and Afghanistan, he oddly forged ahead with a hopelessly muddled Libyan “policy.” Spending nearly $1 billion dollars with no apparent objective, the administration line was that we’re there to protect human rights. Never mind that those same human rights were ignored during the 2009 Iran uprising. The other line, however, was that Qaddafi can’t be allowed to remain in power.
Let’s see … Qaddafi is still in power, NATO members keep pushing the bill across the table, wanting us to pick up the tab for all those rockets and missiles that went into the country (and all the deployed forces that didn’t), we’re arming rebels we don’t even know, and somehow France is leading the charge. France? Leading? Yikes.
Note to the president: “intellectual” military actions … aren’t.
His next battle: raising the debt ceiling. In 2006, then Senator Obama was against the idea. With heavy pressure from Tea Party activists and other conservative corners, many new Congress members are similarly against raising the debt ceiling until they see a balanced budget and responsible spending plan.
And by responsible, they’re talking trillions in debt reduction and a balanced budget. No more haggling over $30 or $40 billion — about what the government borrows in one day — and spurious charges of starving seniors … that’s chump change. When it comes to spending, they want a U-turn, not a detour.
Just this week, with his re-election bid formally in “game on” mode, Mr. Obama’s been forced into submitting a budget for next fiscal year to counter the “Road to Prosperity” plan introduced by GOP Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Calling for $6.2 trillion (not billion) in cuts The “Road” has some interesting features, i.e. state tailored block grants for Medicaid, but it also has a few glaring problems and omissions, such as no discernible defense cuts.
Still lacking some detail, Mr. Obama’s budget claims to seek $4 trillion in cuts, including defense trims, but also requires him to sell the voters on more tax hikes, including expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts he previously extended, and additional payroll taxes to help fund Obamacare.
What seems to be lost on the status quo advocates (or maybe they’re just in serious denial?) is that the borrowing is almost over. Sooner or later the creditors will halt lending, and raising the government’s credit card limit will be a non-issue.
Here’s a concept: liberals can have all the spending on social and other give-me programs they like … as long as there’s no debt involved and they can pay for them within a balanced budget. I’d be fine with that, and suspect many rational voters, no matter their leaning, would be, too.
While disillusioned Obama supporters may be frustrated by the president’s governing style, Republicans appear woefully short of viable candidates to challenge the president.
Tim Pawlenty? He may be really nice and have great ideas, but he recently polled behind “Other” and “Mickey Mouse.” Haley Barbour? The former RNC Chairman and current Gov. of Mississippi has the credentials. Too bad he looks and sounds like Boss Hogg. Newt Gingrich? We don’t need another “smartest guy in the room.” There’s one already in the White House. And the former House Speaker blew any chance he might have had with his social conservative base. Seriously, did anyone buy his “I cheated for America” line (justifying his extramarital affair)?
Ron Paul? More of a libertarian, Paul has great fiscal ideas, but may be considered too much of a pygmy witch doctor in terms of how much he wants to shrink government’s head. Mitt Romney? The former Massachusetts governor has to defend Romney-care, never mind Mormonism. Mike Huckabee? The former minister also has separation of church and state issues.
That leaves, gulp, the Donald. Mr. Trump has money and notoriety, but is he for real or only trying to pitch a reality concept to NBC called “The Presidential Apprentice?”
If he does enter the race, expect Democrats to ask him to produce his birth certificate! (This was written, FYI, before I saw the cartoon.)
The president, conversely, may be able to beat any of the GOP challengers (so far), but his weaknesses are still exploitable. No one’s come out of the Democratic Party woodwork yet, but it’s still early, and there is easily enough blood in the water to attract a savvy shark or two.
Similar intraparty challenges ultimately doomed Jimmy Carter in 1980 (Ted Kennedy) and George H.W. Bush in 1992 (Pat Buchanan), not so much because they were at risk of losing their party’s nomination, but more so because it illustrated divisiveness and vulnerability.
Does anyone else play the ‘what if’ game regarding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?
He may not be too vulnerable from the outside this early on, but Mr. Obama should nonetheless watch his political back … lest he find his most dangerous enemy lurking, and patiently waiting, in the shadows of his own party.