...usually with an attempt at historical and economic context
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Is Obama President Yet?
Candidate Barack Obama spoke like a man who was very confident about solving America’s economic, social, and foreign policy problems. That’s the impression his silver-tongued oratory was trying to leave, and he succeeded enough to get elected by a majority. His speeches were long on platitudes and short on specifics, but, to many, he looked like the man with some answers, and they bought his message of “hope and change.”
When Does It Become Obama’s Presidency? What we continue to see too much of is Obama’s willingness to blame all present problems on “the mess we inherited” from the previous administration, and to wish his critics would be silent. After all, they are, according to his statements, the ones who created the mess. To him, apparently, they have no right to criticize, or, for that matter, to even speak. George W. Bush is the great villain who caused all the trouble, the president and his people would have us think, and he is the one they continue to campaign and run against.
But Obama’s attempts to blame Bush for his (Obama’s) own situation is becoming tiresome to many of the American people, and possibly wearing thin among his supporters – certainly among many of his former supporters.
Every president inherits a situation of some great difficulty. A man who runs for president must accept this as a challenge. It is the height of bad form to blame your predecessor for everything when you’ve based your campaign on claims to understand and accept the challenges that are being faced, and claimed to have the desire and ability to deal effectively with them. Truman’s oft-quoted advice still stands: “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” (Biden explains to George Stephanopoulos how they “misread the economy” in video found here.)
Past Presidents Inherited Troublesome Situations, Too Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a dire situation in 1933. He didn’t spend his terms of office whining about what a mess Mr. Hoover left him. While (in my opinion) his economic “solutions” prolonged the Depression, he at least took it as his responsibility to deal with it. Did he claim that everyone had “misread the economy”? I don’t think so. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Ronald Reagan inherited quite a mess from Jimmy Carter. But he didn’t repeatedly remind everyone of that fact as a political strategy in his White House. He didn’t waste time and energy blaming others for his troubles. He devoted his efforts to restoring prosperity and winning the Cold War.
Bill Clinton said there couldn’t be a middle-class tax cut because the economy was so much worse than they thought when they came into office. That kind of excuse was lame then, and it’s lame now. Get some competent economic advisers. Still, we didn’t hear Clinton harping on the problems left by the previous administration after he was well into his first term.
Can We Blame Everything on Bush? Yes, Bush left an economic mess. Liberals would have us believe it was entirely Bush’s fault, when in fact there was plenty of blame to go around, most of which ought to be placed on Democrats. The housing crisis that led to the financial meltdown was anticipated long before it broke open. The warning signs were there. When the Bush Administration tried numerous times to get effective regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they were rebuffed by Congress, who wanted to attack the regulators. How dare they accuse these GSE’s of anything? They were surpassing their goals (after creatively adjusting the books) in providing affordable housing, i.e., buying mortgage loans made by banks under duress to people who were obviously unable to repay them. But the execs, mostly ex-Clinton people, got their huge bonuses. (See video about Congressional hearings here).
Then there’s the deficit. Bush left two wars, as well as “compassionate conservative” programs, such as a Medicare drug benefit, No Child Left Behind, and other costly items. OK. But: “Under President Obama, government will spend more on welfare in a single year than President George W. Bush spent on the war in Iraq during his entire presidency.”  Does Bush’s admittedly large deficit justify the astronomical deficits we’re already seeing under Obama, to be followed by even more? How much is too much? We may learn the answer.
Further Reading I found three good articles on Obama’s insistence on blaming the Bush Administration, one by National Review’s Rich Lowry, one by Peggy Noonan at The Wall Street Journal, and one by William McGurn, also at WSJ. Polls have indicated that many Americans still blame Bush for the continuing economic problems, but they also show Obama’s support, especially among independents, declining. Maybe that reflects some significant reality about a president who obsessively apologizes for America and blames George W. Bush for his own lack of success.
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.