Vail Valley Voices: Is Obama doing any leading?
Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan recently wrote, “Politically speaking, Hurricane Katrina did two things; first, it drew together everything people didn’t like about the Bush administration – two wars, high spending and illegal immigration. It brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bush-ism.
“The second was to illustrate that even though the federal government has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs.”
Then in 2008, along came Barack Obama promising hope, change and: “It won’t be business as usual in Washington.” Desperate to believe in both candid and competent government, America elected an untried freshman senator.
Eighteen months into the Obama presidency, many Americans are now experiencing buyers’ remorse. But why is anyone surprised?
• “I will close the detention facility at Guantanamo during the first year of my administration.” – Candidate Barack Obama, July 2008. Gitmo remains open.
• “We are going to ban all earmarks, the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review.” – Candidate Barack Obama. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has signed legislation containing more than 5,000 earmarks!
• “If the stimulus is not passed, unemployment will exceed 8 percent.” – White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, January 2009. Today unemployment stands at 9.8 percent and underemployment is at 17 percent.
• “I respect what the Clintons tried to do in 1993 in moving health reform forward, but they made one really big mistake, and that is, they took all their people and all their experts and put them into a room, and then they closed the door.” – Candidate Barack Obama, Nov. 19, 2008. However, just a year later, health care negotiations were so secret and partisan that many top Democrats and no Republicans were even allowed to see the specifics of the bill until after they were written. (“Let’s pass the bill so we can see what’s in it!” – Nancy Pelosi, six days prior to passing the bill through “reconciliation.”)
• “We will work on this process (health care negotiations) publicly, it will be on C-SPAN, and it will be streaming over the net.” – Candidate Barack Obama. No such C-SPAN coverage or streaming occurred, and according to recent polling, 60 percent of Americans remain opposed to the bill and want to see it repealed.
• “The health care bill will reduce the deficit.” – Barack Obama’s repeated refrain on at least 22 occasions. The CBO now estimates the bill will increase the deficit and its cost will exceed Obama’s self-imposed $1 trillion limit. The president also promised to end increases in deficit spending, but deficit spending has increased almost 25 percent since he took office, while the debt has tripled.
He promised to stop special-interest influence. Nevertheless, big-time political contributors such as the Service Employees International Union continue to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in considerations.
Candidate Obama promised no more vote buying, yet we watched his administration purchase health care votes with the “Louisiana Purchase,” the “Cornhusker Kickback” and other special deals.
Now Americans are asking what the White House offered Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak to drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate primary. While there’s no evidence yet of any wrong-doing per se, doesn’t this latest controversy fly in the face of “No more business as usual in Washington”?
President Obama denounced the new Arizona immigration law before he, the attorney general and the secretary of homeland security had even read it. Astoundingly, he then allowed Mexico’s President Calderon to condemn Arizona during a joint session of Congress! (Meanwhile polling is clear: The vast majority of Americans approve of Arizona’s measure.)
And now we have the BP oil spill, and while Obama didn’t cause the spill, it’s apparent that rather than embrace the disaster immediately, the White House did its best to distance itself from it. He wanted voters to associate the spill with BP, not him.
But, as Ms. Noonan also opined, “When your most creative thoughts in the middle of a disaster revolve around protecting your position, you are summoning trouble.”
During his first news conference in nearly a year, the president finally accepted responsibility – 40 days too late. Perhaps Mr. Obama doesn’t realize one of the reasons we elect presidents is for their ability to effectively deal with unforeseen events, not to do their best to keep them at arm’s length.
I’m a conservative and believe in smaller government, which puts me at ideological odds with the president’s policies. But political beliefs are a matter of opinion, and the pros and cons of conservative versus liberal policies can be reasonably debated by reasonable people. What cannot be debated are results, nor can they forever be attributed to one’s predecessor.
Today unemployment hovers near 10 percent, the debt has tripled, deficit spending continues unabated, and the Congressional Budget Office tells us health care will cost at least $150 billion more than promised. In the meantime, the president appears more concerned with Israeli Jews building new homes than Iranian Muslims building atomic bombs.
“Openness and transparency in Washington” has proven to be little more than a campaign slogan, and the oil spill keeps flowing into the Gulf.
Butch Mazzuca lives in Edwards.