During the campaign, anti-Obama legions cautioned that candidate Obama was an inexperienced, rhetorically muscled purveyor of political bromides with no record of performance or provable sustained beliefs. Even the notorious Rev. Wright warned that “Barack’s a politician and politicians say and do things to get elected.”
Understandably, many voters were frustrated by President Bush’s well-recognized performance and personality shortfalls, unswayed by John McCain’s erratic campaigning and unnerved with his controversial “long balls” (think Palin and “suspending the campaign”), and vulnerable to Obama’s messianic symbolism, historical breakthrough, and his “cooler than cool” promise of hope and change.
Swing voter’s bought in. Even though hard evidence was sorely lacking, they concluded that maybe, just maybe, Obama was the real deal and that he would usher in a new era of cooperation, high sprits, and progress.
The first 20 days of the Obama administration — arguably 20 “dog days” given the economic challenges and the fast-paced, high-pressure legislative turmoil — have provided the answers to questions regarding Obama’s character, positions and executive style. The real Barack Obama has revealed himself — for better and for worse.
First, President Obama has stayed true to his stated support for abortion rights, terrorist rights, unions, and community organizations. And, he has been consistent in his suspicion and disdain for businesses and the people who run them. Nobody should be surprised by any executive orders and bully pulpit proclamations on those topics. On those counts, the voting majority got what they should have expected, and apparently, what they wanted.
But, there have been serious — and much forewarned — contradictions revealed, too.
The spirit of post-partisan cooperation was initially showcased in jaunts to “the Hill” and one-on-one meetings with weak-kneed Republicans at the White House, but quickly replaced by “We won. We trump.”
The promise of “line by line scrubbing of waste in the budget” was immediately discarded for “about the right size and scope” and “no time to wait for perfection”.
The “no special interests” promise was modified to allow unions and machine politicos to get seats at the table.
The “new faces, well-vetted outsiders” became a parade of recycled Clintonites, and tax-dodgers.
Obama’s discipline, “Mr. Cool” demeanor, and rhetorical splendor quickly denigrated to an amateurish lack of legislative control, and un-presidential sarcasm and attack-dogging.
The politics of “hope and change” were shelved in favor of the politics of catastrophe-mongering and political monkey business as usual.
President Obama has dutifully heeded Rahm Emmanuel’s advice to “never let a good crisis go to waste. While the legislative process has been sloppy, the President ended up getting what he wanted in his stimulus package.
Unfortunately, the expensive grab bag of pork and paybacks is unlikely to have any perceptible stimulative effect on the economy. For the next year or two, we’ll be hearing that Bush’s failed policies left the economy in even worse shape than anyone imagined and we’ll get bombarded with TARP-like claims that things would have been even worse without the added spending. Jobs will continue to evaporate, but at a slower rate than some made up “what if” number.
The President has deftly managed to move his social agenda forward at warp speed. His refundable tax credits are now in place, and a voting majority of Americans will pay no income taxes. Healthcare is officially on the track to nationalization, Alternative energy gets a boost with government rules and spending.
In November, the majority of Americans were willing to bet on the come for hope and change. Now, President Obama keeps reminding us that he won, so he — along with Pelosi and Reid — set the rules. The rules are becoming clearer by the day.
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