The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Year of (In)action

Prior to the State of the Union, Marc Thiessen wrote:
As Obama prepares to stand before the nation, majorities say they disapprove of his handling of their top two priorities — the economy and health care — and 63 percent of Americans say they do not have confidence in his ability to make the right decisions for the country. His approval ratings are nearly identical to those of President George W. Bush at the same point in his presidency.

That is a problem, but it is not his biggest problem.

Obama’s biggest problem is that his lie of the year in 2013 — “if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan” — hangs over his speech and will continue to haunt him in 2014.

Thanks to that false promise, half the country now says Obama is not “honest and trustworthy.” When people stop trusting you, they stop listening to you as well.
Thiessen is absolutely correct. Obama has demonstrated repeatedly that his word cannot be trusted. That his promises are empty. That his motivation is always hyperpartisan. Why would anyone listen to what he has to say now?

But people do listen, and what they heard was ... well, the same old, same old. As expected, the president's state of the union address was a combination of class warfare, partisan divisiveness, mendacious claims about the economy, and empty promises. But there was also something mildly pathetic about it. Every issue he decried has, at least in large part, been of his own making ... the lack of trust in government, the growing gap between rich and poor, the plight of the middle class, the disastrous introduction of Obamacare, There's really no point in belaboring any of this.

Even after five years, the president refuses to embrace his political opponents and negotiate solutions that might be acceptable to all. He suggests that GOP obstructionism is the problem, but he has done absolutely nothing to bring the opposition to the table and refuses to negotiate on any substantive issue. The job of a competent president—LBJ, Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton—is to negotiate with people who oppose you, and in so doing, create what Barack Obama has now labeled "a year of action."

In a bistering critique of Obama, Victor Davis Hanson writes:
Obama has all but given up on the third branch of government since he lost control of it in 2010: “And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”

There are lots of creepy things about such dictatorial statements of moving morally backward in order to go politically “forward.” Concerning issues dear to the president’s heart — climate change, more gun control, de facto amnesty, more massive borrowing supposedly to jump-start the anemic, jobless recovery — Obama not long ago had a Democratic supermajority in the Senate and a strong majority in the House. With such rare political clout, he supposedly was going to pass his new American agenda.

Instead, all he got from his Democratic colleagues was more borrowing and Obamacare. In the case of the latter, the bill passed only through the sort of pork-barrel kickbacks and exemptions to woo fence-sitting Democratic legislators that we hadn’t seen in the U.S. since the 1930s. And for what? Obamacare (be careful what you wish for) is proving to be the greatest boondoggle in American political history since Prohibition. If Obama sincerely wished to work in bipartisan fashion with Congress, he probably could easily get a majority vote to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, or a backup sanction plan against Iran in case his own initiatives fail.
The sad reality is that Congress is the only thing that Obama has left. Instead of starting anew (as Bill Clinton did) to accomplish a few things that might be achieved in bipartisan fashion, it appears that he'd rather use Congress as an excuse for his own lack of action during the past five years. For Obama, the real problem is that negotiation requires compromise, it requires the courage to get less than an optimal solution, but at the same time, more than no solution, it requires leadership, experience, and good will. None of those things are present as we move into another "year of (in)action."