The President’s Harry Potter Wand

I have, over the past months, outlined areas of President Obama’s performance that I felt warranted severe criticism. His virtual censure of the single-payer option in the health care reform battle, his deal-making with the pharmaceutical industry during the same process, his choice to steer clear of financial reform last spring, his stance on Afghanistan (which seems to be a vanilla option between liberal and conservative rather than a real strategy), and his inability to clearly define U.S. policy as it relates to the nation of Israel; all of these warrant criticism.

But Mr. Obama’s critics on the right need no real issue to complain about; they are content to find fault with the President’s very act of breathing. For liberals, there is a very different dynamic at work; falling directly into the very stereotype that U.S. conservatives label them with. Liberals, it seems, just want it all now without having to do any dirty work. The Big Spill, its aftermath, and the President’s speech on the issue are but a microcosm of the way lazy, petulant liberals treat their champion. Without choosing to see the big picture, and eschewing the work that the President told our nation would be necessary on the campaign trail, liberals are proving that they actually believed what conservatives were telling them about Barack Obama.

Let’s survey a laundry list of complaints leveled by liberals against the President:

  1. The President has failed to overturn Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as a policy; he should have used an executive order to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military.
  2. The President failed to lead the Democrats on health care reform, resulting in a law that is far from perfect.
  3. The President hasn’t kept House Democrats from having to face tough mid-term elections, because he has been a polarizing figure.
  4. The President hasn’t succeeded in rooting out the corruption and inefficiency endemic in the federal bureaucracy.
  5. The President hasn’t passed groundbreaking legislation on the environment, because he missed another opportunity to lead the charge.
  6. The President hasn’t withdrawn from Afghanistan, even though everyone knows he should.
  7. The President hasn’t fixed the economy.
  8. The President allowed the oil spill to happen, because he didn’t manage Ken Salazar well enough.
  9. The President allowed oil to reach land, because he didn’t apply every idea liberals in the blogosphere emailed him.
  10. Finally, the President didn’t cap the leak, as any competent President (like say, Sarah Palin) would have.

Well, if that list doesn’t cover the issue, it ought to at least give us something to chew on. Reading this list and knowing, as I do, that the President took office just short of 17 months ago, leads me to one very simple question. At what point after the Inauguration, does the President go to Ollivander’s and buy his wand? Seriously liberals, are you as hooked on entitlements as the Republicans have said, that you believed all of your wishes would come true by now? The GOP learned, through the Clinton years and the campaigns against both Gore and Kerry, just how easy it was to gum up the works. They used procedural tricks in the Senate to turn the mirage of 60 into a handicap, and they have succesfully labeled a centrist progressive (and Obama’s executive orders, appointments, and statements place him darn near the middle) as some kind of raving Communist menace.

Conservatives have blocked twice as many appointees as either Clinton or Bush suffered; I know of no CEO that has to change a corporate culture without benefit of all of their hires. The federal bureaucracy was a shambles, and not necessarily because of conservative politics. The regulatory regimes of our government were gutted under the Bush Administration by design; that is just the supply-side philosophy at work. But W.’s peculiar habit of appointing friends and members of  his prayer circle, rather than competent practitioners, played havoc with the Executive Branch. The state of Departments that Obama took over stood in stark contrast to the professionalism left to Clinton after President’s Reagan and H.W. Bush. Fixing all of this, and changing the direction of those departments, takes time. It is a conservative myth that “executive ability” that is somehow lacking would make the difference. Legendary CEO Jack Welch could be in charge, and the problems would still be evident.

Conservatives have done their jobs well; they believe that President Obama must not be successful, and so they rightly use every tactic at there disposal. So what do liberals do? They cry, they mope, they whine; they spend their time longing for the speeches of Philadelphia and Denver. Mr. Obama told us that he would lead from the middle; he told us he would do his best to stay out of the bickering that has become the norm in Washington. But now, when conservatives have done what they do best, liberals complain that Obama has not turned his back on moderate and mature discussion. “Conservatives have proven that don’t want engagement, so the President should just go it alone!”

Bullshit! Did you think that Republicans would see the President’s olive branches and start to sing campfire songs? The President told you it would take time; he told everyone that sacrifices would be required. Looking at polling numbers now, it is apparent that perhaps half of his supporters weren’t really listening. The Obama Administration has followed a game-plan for 17 months that has produced an enviable record of accomplishment. Although I like Bill Clinton, it is instructive to place his record of 8 years next to the first 17 months of the Obama term. Clinton’s greatest accomplishments were conservative campaign planks; NAFTA, transportation deregulation, financial deregulation, the permittance of continued conservative stewardship at the Fed, Welfare rollbacks, and a deficit reduction bill that served to hammer domestic spending.

All President Obama has done is sign a health care reform bill that most pundits didn’t think was possible; sign the Lily Ledbetter law mandating equal pay for women; begin an affirmative process that will, eventually and with the support of military leadership, allow homosexuals to serve their country openly; pass a stimulus bill that has succeeded in pushing our nation towards recovery (sorry conservatives, when Moodys and CBO concur the stimulus works, math is not your ally); and sits poised to sign a financial reform bill into law. Nothing is perfect, and all of these accomplishments could be spruced up; but accomplishments they are.

President Obama’s speech to the nation on the oil spill was roundly criticized by liberals for a number of reasons; they complained about its lack of specifics or “plan”; they are angry because (apparently) they felt it was the opportunity for a JFK-like call to action; instead of going to the moon, we would be transitioning to clean energy. In reading the text of the speech, I am startled by the disconnect between analysis and content. The President described current efforts on both repair and cleanup; he gave specifics on both. The President described institutional failures in oversight, and outlined specific steps to correct the issue. The President repeatedly assigned blame to the guilty party, British Petroleum, and was specific about how they would exercise responsibility. Finally, The President was specific about the need for moving away from fossil fuels, and he was specific about work that had already been done on the issue in Congress.

Now, in my humble opinion, the President’s speech called out specific issues and gave the highlights of the plans to deal with them. I suppose liberals wanted, as they have ridiculously demanded over the past weeks, more emotion from Mr. Obama. I wonder though, who you thought you were voting for. I voted for a President that wouldn’t make decisions prior to swinging his golf club. I voted for a President that had the maturity to stay out of the partisan catfights that have dominated U.S. politics for my entire adult life. I voted for a President who would take responsibility for problems and their solutions. Almost 17 months after his swearing-in, I see exactly the person I voted for. He has always been more than a speech-giver friends. The speech on the Big Spill was an instance of the President addressing his bosses; he informed us of the status of the problem, and gave us highlights of the way forward. It wasn’t a campaign speech, and it wasn’t a kick-off to a legislative fight on climate change. The President’s report to the nation was functional and pragmatic, and was rooted in actual facts, not frilly promises. After weeks of terrible news, I am finally able to see a way forward.

The Rational Middle is listening…

6 thoughts on “The President’s Harry Potter Wand

  1. Pingback: Republican Masochism | The Pigeon Post

  2. Wow! False panic associated with the National Debt? I’m sure the Chinese will be happy to know their fears are ungrounded!! ;-)

    And not to go too much into it, my “inspiration” for the second comment was two fold. One, you’re probably correct on. (I was there by accident as I don’t frequent it anymore. But I clicked on your link not realizing where it would take me.) I’m pretty sure you’re way more smarter than I am, but I understood immediately there was a possible language barrier or difficulty there. The “fools” remark I am with you on. But my opinion was that overall, it was a bit harsh. And I just found that unusual for your commentary. Just my opinion my friend. You’d might be surprised to find out I’m a big fan of your effort.

    But the major part of my “inspiration” is a thought I’ve held throughout all the criticisms heaped on a populace that is worried about this country, and voicing that fear as best they can. Many of these people can be rather simple, and aren’t able to couch their concerns as eloquently as others. I feel those that consider themselves to be the “Intellectual Elites” tend to be dismissive of this group of people simply because they aren’t as grammatically proficient. While I feel they are expressing the same fears and concerns to the best of their abilities. Like I said, because they don’t sound like a Harvard Graduation Address doesn’t lessen the level or validity of their concerns.

    While I understand you see no indecision on the part of this administration, I think when even lifelong liberal, Democratic Operatives (James Carville….for whom I have a love/hate relationship) are openly criticizing the effort of this Administration, there may be just a bit of fire to go along with the smoke.

    And the coup de grace for your opinion that there is no indecision??? As I type, I am watching the left’s most dependable, influential and knowledgeable Political Prognosticator Lampoon the President’s effort.

    And even as a staunch individualist leaning heavily conservative, I find Jon Stewart hilarious!! ;-) ;-)

  3. Hank, thanks for your comments. To your second set of thoughts first; I live in this country also, and am entitled to my own fears. There are some that I share with others, but other fears, like the false panic associated with the national debt, simply need to be called out. I have a suspicion what the inspiration for your second comment is, and I will leave my response as this; if an individual chooses to attack me personally in a comment as a function of making their own point, then the gloves come off. As to your first comment; I can accept your read on the situation; an evaluation of leadership is by definition, subjective. For myself, I see no indecision in this Oil Spill business; I believe it to be a manufactured media story. The federal response has been brisk and well managed in the face of an industrial disaster perpetrated by a firm inclined to covering its true scope up from the beginning. As to Mr. Obama’s experience, he has quite a bit more private industry management experience than many politicians. I am often amused when people criticize his lack of time in the government; typically these are the same folks who dislike “career politicians”. Mr. Obama’s experience has come exclusively in non-profits, and I can tell you (from my experience in both non-profits and for-profits), that managing in those firms is very bit the challenge and more of managing a place that exists to make a buck. The Harry Potter Wand column was directed, primarily, at liberals who fell in to unrealistic expectations concerning results; no President can pass all of his or her agenda items in 17 months. President Reagan came close in his first 100 days, but then spent the next7 plus years rolling them back (thus the four tax increase The Gipper signed).

  4. I just want to add…..I think a second term for President Obama might possibly be a much better term as he would have gained some Leadership Experience and Expertise. Unfortunately, I’m not sure he’ll get that opportunity as Biden was (for once) most likely spot on with the observation that the job of President of the Untied States does not lend itself well to “on the job training.”

    And allow me to make one other observation. I really, REALLY do enjoy our commentary. If anything, it can be a bit TOO thorough at times as when I get through reading your post, it’s like, “Well. He covered it all so there’s nothing to say.” But I have noticed your commentary leaning a bit more to the acerbic side at times.

    Many of us are concerned with what is going on in this country and the difficulties we face. Some, I guess it would be fair to say, are just down right “skeered”. Not all of us can articulate those fears and concerns like we just graduated from Harvard or devoured a copy of Webster’s for lunch. But does that lessen the importance of our “fears”?

    The left sometimes seems quick to ridicule those that may not be as educated or articulate when expressing their fears and concerns. I’m not sure I find that an enviable trait.

    I have a young man that rents from me, husband and father of two (one a just born beautiful little boy I had the distinct pleasure of holding the other night) who is not quite as educated or articulate as even I am. (And that’s not setting a very high standard!) But in talking to him, I was (elitist!) surprised to hear him express fears about the National Debt, Health Care Reform and some of these pressing political issues of our times.

    He couldn’t go much deeper than to express his fears and concerns. Just as I can’t get as “deep” into these issues as perhaps you can. But is it laudable to be dismissive of their concerns, their “fears” simply because they don’t articulate their thoughts as well as some may?

    A lot of people are rightly concerned about the condition of and the direction of these United States of America. Many can not express their concerns in the manner as, well…say, you do in your blogs. I just can’t find myself dismissing their fears simply because they can’t articulate them as eloquently as some may.

    Hey, I’m confident the Rational Middle is listening. I just hope it’s “Hearing” as well! :-)

  5. Michael, perhaps “President” Obama is exactly what many felt him to be. Not a “Champion”. But an inexperienced Politician, susceptible to decision and action based on outside rhetoric rather than a body of work and experience that would contribute to “knowing” what to do or how to react when the “heat is on” so to speak.

    I don’t see any exceptional “Leadership” qualities in this President. Your “generous” evaluation of the President’s address concerning the oil gusher in the Gulf notwithstanding, very few people viewed it as such.

    I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’ve either owned or managed businesses with literally thousands of employees over all my professional life. President Obama, to me, seems to be “uncertain”. It’s as if he’s not really sure at times exactly what to do and his decision making changes on the fly. This is a trait I found for the most part, in employees who really did not have the necessary expertise and had no concept of what it meant to take charge and lead.

    I have a misunderstood observation on my actions over the years. I say “I was never wrong.” When pressed to explain, as that is really not a very realistic statement, I say; It’s not necessarily that I was never wrong, it’s just that I could not AFFORD to be wrong. When I made a decision and moved forward with an action, I had to do whatever was necessary to end up being “right”. Therefore, the net result being that I was never wrong.

    Let’s not get overly analytical. Of course I made mistakes. But when I did, I had to set about, with conviction, doing whatever I had to do to make the best of the situation, and manufacture the best end results.

    President Obama, to me at least, seems to be lacking in “conviction”. Or maybe confidence would be a better term. I think he has well intentioned ideas. I just think he lacks the Leadership Expertise to marshal his ideas into realities.

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