Soaring through the 2008 presidential election with a message of “Hope and Change,” Barack Obama came into the presidency with the confidence of many that he could truly lead. Many became enamored by his message. Even those wary of the promises of politicians had faith in the newly elected commander-in-chief. But now, three years later, I find myself having to amend the message of the president: give up “hope,” but not hope.
President Obama is indeed a scholarly man, graduating from Columbia University and then from Harvard University, but the president has shown himself to be absolutely inept in the art of politicking. Over the past two years I have seen the president stride into first place in the race to enact policy, only to buckle halfway through. Not only has he let Republicans win the race time and time again, but he let them walk on his back to get to the finish line.
The ineptitude, weakness or whatever you want to call it that ails this president first became apparent in the debate over health care reform. It became apparent in not only how the president chose to negotiate, but also whom he chose to negotiate with on the Republican side.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who while the president was reaching out his hand – a hand already scathed by past attempts to deal with the Republicans – decided to tell his constituents the president’s health care plan was an attempt to “pull the plug on grandma.”
Coming from the political machine that is Chicago, I expected the president to be a modern day Machiavelli. On the contrary, the president has been unable to capitalize on even the most populist of issues like the Republican Party’s opposition to a bill creating a fund for the medical care for 9/11 responders.
More often than not the president has made a practice of arguing the Republican position for them, like when he said tax cuts where key to economic growth.
The most blatant disconnect between campaign rhetoric and action that has come out of the president’s negotiations (i.e. capitulations) with the Republican Party is on the Bush-era tax cuts.
Shortly after President Obama invited Republican congressmen to meet at the White House, Republican senators released a letter saying they would obstruct everything until they got what they wanted out of the tax cut deal. And instead of fighting back, the president decided to put a positive spin on things, still singing his song of bipartisanship.
I write this out of frustration. Not only out of frustration of the president’s inability to really fight on key policy issues, but of his response to those among his supporters who also act as critics.
According to the president if you don’t think he has done enough then you must not know how Washington works, or you must simply be some liberal loon who asks too much. Also much to my chagrin is that instead of trying to keep the promises the president made to those “liberal loons,” the president has spent much of his time playing to the middle and trying to garner support from a bunch of folks who think he is a socialist, if not a terrorist who was born in Kenya.
So, I say to the many former and current supporters of President Obama, it’s time to rip off the “Change you can believe in” stickers from your bumpers and prepare to support the many causes, but not necessarily the man come the next Democratic presidential primary.
Loyalists will try to tell the tale of how Jimmy Carter was weakened by the primary challenger he faced during his reelection, but the circumstances are different. If Obama’s presidency has shown anything it is that any “change” in the coming years will have to come from the bottom up, rather than from the top down.