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:
- 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.
- The President failed to lead the Democrats on health care reform, resulting in a law that is far from perfect.
- The President hasn’t kept House Democrats from having to face tough mid-term elections, because he has been a polarizing figure.
- The President hasn’t succeeded in rooting out the corruption and inefficiency endemic in the federal bureaucracy.
- The President hasn’t passed groundbreaking legislation on the environment, because he missed another opportunity to lead the charge.
- The President hasn’t withdrawn from Afghanistan, even though everyone knows he should.
- The President hasn’t fixed the economy.
- The President allowed the oil spill to happen, because he didn’t manage Ken Salazar well enough.
- The President allowed oil to reach land, because he didn’t apply every idea liberals in the blogosphere emailed him.
- 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…