Oct 04 2009

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“In the Land of Windmills”

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  • Reality has tripped up many a man filled with a sense of destiny and outsized ambition. Occasionally it leads to an unexpected moment of clarity that unifies disparate actions into an easily understood metaphor.
  • President Obama suffered such a moment in Copenhagen this week, in his all out effort to land the Olympics for Chicago in 2016.
  • Like Don Quixote, Obama set out to Copenhagen on a mission of gauzy restoration and nobility. Indeed, what better symbol of America’s “renewed” acceptance in the global community than to hand the new steward of breath-taking change in America a tangible international reward.
  • Given the outsized efforts that the Obama White House went to in order to land the Olympics for Chicago, does anyone doubt that had the IOC picked America as the host for the 2016 Olympics that Team Obama would have been crowing from every media outlet – except Fox?  That the choice would have been interpreted as a decisive international vote in support of Obama’s break with the past amid an increasingly divided and skeptical electorate? That the President’s personal intervention would have been viewed as pivotal, restoring some of the luster lost in a summer of brewing restiveness at home?
  • No doubt that David Axelrod – in his role as Sancho Panza – was hoping for a fresh narrative of Obama power and consequence that would energize the faltering domestic legislative battles in Congress.
  • But that narrative turned to embarrassing farce and tumbled down amid the real world considerations of the IOC, leaving average Americans to puzzle over exactly what their President was doing.
  • Consider that on the day that Obama left for Copenhagen, the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.8%; the highest since 1983 and nearly two points higher than the ceiling Obama had promised when Congress slammed nearly a trillion dollars in ill-advised public spending through the system in February, ostensibly to combat the economic downturn.
  • As Obama jetted away to Copenhagen, his Senate Democratic allies were left to squabble over POTUS’s anticipated signature achievement, an overhaul of American health care and how to get the plan through Congress this year amid growing public skepticism.
  • By a margin of 56-41% Americans oppose the comprehensive health insurance reform proposed by the Democrats, preferring more incremental changes.1 Majorities agree the plans being considered cost too much (62%), give too much power to Washington (60%) and take decision-making away from them and their doctor (54%).2
  • The path forward for Obama-centric health care reform is anything but assured.
  • As Obama jetted away to Copenhagen, American policy in Afghanistan is awash in ambiguity and uncertainty. With a fresh strategy for victory on his desk, our peripatetic President is counseling unusual patience and contemplation in making a decision; this as American soldiers continue to die on the field of battle, unable to leave and under-resourced to lead.
  • There is no escaping the fact that the decision to go to Copenhagen exposes an opportunistic, and even shallow White House where “load, shoot, aim” becomes emblematic of another distressing Obama tendency; to over promise and under deliver.
  • Start with Gitmo, the Administration’s first action. With dripping moral indignation, the President ordered that the facility be closed in a year. Now, understanding the complexities of the issue, it turns out that there is no way the Administration will meet that goal.
  • Obama backed rushed passage of his Stimulus, promising to keep unemployment under 8% and create or “save” 3.5 million new jobs.
  • Since the Stimulus, 2.6 million Americans have lost their jobs – according to the government – yet Administration officials continue to travel around the country touting the success of a bill that is so at odds with the facts as to make the exercise surreal.
  • In health care, Obama promises on cost reduction, care improvement coverage expansion and patient choice have fallen victim to the very facts of his own bill, fueling public skepticism and anger.
  • The candidate who promised to reign in earmarks and excessive spending is set to increase the federal debt to levels unseen in American history. Obama’s 2009 budget deficit is four times larger than that of his predecessor, whom he excorticated during the campaign for wasteful spending.  Earmark-filled bills have been signed into law by the President.
  • Let’s not even talk about Iran.
  • But the Copenhagen trip places all these issues in an understandable if stark relief.
  • How frivolous is it for the President of the United States to personally pitch an Olympic bid with such hugely consequential issues on his plate?
  • How unseemly is it for an American president to put the prestige of his office on the line for something so narrow and insular, and which would have awkwardly benefited some of the very Administration officials with whom he traveled to Copenhagen?
  • What are we, as citizens, to make of presidential priorities that seem to derive from ego, fueled by vanity and echoed in a cult of personality?  And not for America’s interest or even partisan advantage, but for a small clique of Chicago natives that populate the world of politics and business in Obama’s inner circle?
  • The Constitution made the President both head of government and head of State. It is a tricky balancing act for any president to decide the test of what is “presidential” and more importantly, for the public to react.
  • For instance, Jimmy Carter did away with the pomp and circumstance of presidential events including the playing of “Hail to the Chief.” Carter badly misjudged an antipathy toward an “imperial presidency” with a citizen desire that the President be an “everyman.”
  • Even as republicans (small “r”), the office of the President remains majestic and awe inspiring to most Americans.  We want to take pride in the office and occupant that is the only national role that reflects the will of the American people in all its’ collective wealth, value and power.
  • Which makes Obama’s conduct thus far, and the Copenhagen trip in particular, so disappointing.
  • The candidate of cool has become the President of vacuous glitz and unseemly shill.
  • Obama’s monumental overexposure – record-setting press conferences, multiple addresses to Congress, marathon talk show appearances – have only weakened his power and cheapened his office.  And do you feel better that the President is standing behind your auto guarantee?
  • During the campaign, much was made of the effort that Team Obama put into making their man seem presidential; the Obama seal, the Greek columns at Denver, even creating a seal for an office that does not exist after the election – the “Office of the President-Elect.”
  • At the time, the actions seemed to reflect a colossal impatience with getting on with the business of governance, a net positive amid that fall’s financial chaos and uncertainty.
  • But in office, the tools of the presidency have become simple props in an emerging cult of personality, less a matter of ideas than the idea of Obama himself. 
  • Anyone who has looked beyond CNN and MSNBC for their news have seen the unsettling images of school children taught not to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” or “America the Beautiful,” but a new song for “Barack Hussein Obama.” The outright coordination between the White House and the artistic community to use government grants to promote Obama is insidious at best.
  • This stuff happens in North Korea, not in the United States.
  • Instead of the consequence of “Change You Can Believe In” we are subject the glib and superficial “Obama We Can Believe In;” a peculiar force that seems out of touch with the public at large, but provides “top cover” for the more incendiary forces determined to pull America Left before anyone realizes what is happening.
  • As part of his apology tour, POTUS has repeatedly stated that America is no different from any other country, with no unique responsibilities or traditions to uphold based on our history, heritage or power. Accordingly, we are just another name on the UN role between Aruba and Zimbabwe. 
  • In Copenhagen he sadly proved it.
  • By cavalierly placing not just the prestige of his office, but the prestige of the United States on such a personal and substance-less priority, Obama embarrassed the nation he was elected to lead.
  • In the process, he highlighted how far his Administration has strayed not only from its campaign promises that captivated America, but from his own serious engagement on the consequential issues we face.
  • For that, we thank the IOC
  • Obama himself should be ashamed.

1. Rasmussen Reports 9-28-09

2. Opinion Dynamics Poll 10-2-09


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