The Fog of the Presidency

Obama has squandered the support he had when he took office on January 20, 2009. “Yes we can!” no longer resonates with the American electorate. No longer does eloquent oratory and self-adulation do justice for the 13.3 million unemployed Americans.

The president has failed to lead repeatedly, instead choosing to delegate Congress many of the responsibilities traditionally consigned to the executive office, while attempting to bypass Congress as he’s seen fit. He has chosen to take a back seat numerous times when the country most needed a strong leader, instead vowing to raise one billion dollars to get himself reelected.

Jobs

Stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that his first stimulus package was not as successful as he had predicted, the president put forth another stimulus—a $447 billion proposal to create jobs. The administration has failed to deal effectively with the country’s debt and deficit problem, the single greatest threat to the “American Century.”

President Obama has blamed everyone but himself for failing to put America on the right path economically.  When the most recent polls fall on his desk, it serves him best to blame the ghost of President Bush, which apparently remains alive and well, manipulating the economy from behind the scenes. And when he receives the monthly jobs report, of course, President Obama does not fail to rail against House Republicans, despite the fact that they have put forth 28 different jobs bills. With the unemployment rate at 8.6%, now is hardly the time for the president to cast blame on everyone and everything but himself.

Healthcare

This story’s narrative isn’t much different. What was supposed to ensure that all Americans had access to quality healthcare and reduce overall government healthcare expenditures has done enough to ensure just the opposite.

The administration has criticized Paul Ryan’s proposed Medicare reform plan, arguing that it would not actually decrease costs. But what it has failed to recognize is that it’s own healthcare plan will almost certainly increase costs.

Obamacare’s individual mandate has been the most controversial provision of the bill since the Medicare debate began. Opponents of the plan have long recognized that the provision forces all Americans to purchase a particular product whether they desire to or not, thereby channeling an unprecedented flaunting of federal power. Proponents, on the other hand, need to come to terms with the fact that the provision establishes a marketplace for the very thing the president has invested so much money and time vilifying—private health insurers, the evil, greedy, and heartless malefactors.

In short, Obamacare does not appear to help the country in any meaningful way. What it has done — shocking its supporters — is create an incentive for the Supreme Court to step in.

Foreign Policy

The most puzzling of all the administration’s actions is it’s foreign policy.

It has mishandled the Arab Spring, squandering away much of the influence America had in the region.  It has turned the Middle East peace process into an utter disaster, throwing itself into a position where it had to veto Palestine’s UN bid for statehood.

President Obama also seems to have given inadequate time and effort to halting the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, both of which appear to have progressed much further than previously thought.

Shockingly, the administration also took the country to war in Libya, digging up memories of Bill Clinton’s intervention in the civil war in Kosovo. Such an action would have provoked bitter opposition from liberal legislators during the Bush years.

But alas, President Obama epitomizes audacity and hope, so his formerly fervent supporters cannot criticize him for fear of criticizing themselves. Little do they realize that audacity and hope have failed to engender a coherent foreign policy.

The president has even muddled his once somewhat acceptable Afghanistan policy, choosing to keep one foot in the war and stick the other one in politics. Why he has decided to pull out 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by September 2012 is a question that elicits a thoroughly unclear answer from the president’s advisors. That this withdrawal falls immediately before the first presidential debate raises serious questions about how dedicated the president was in fighting the “necessary war” in the first place.

And next door, Iraq is in danger of losing the gains it has made and sacrificing the losses it has endured over the past decade. The president’s withdrawal of all troops from Iraq could throw the country into a large-scale civil war. That the president recognizes this and chooses to take an alternative course of action is frightening.

Even liberals have recognized that the administration, for all its promises of painting a rosy masterpiece of America abroad and fighting for citizens’ liberties at home, has simply continued—even expanded—the Bush administration’s national security strategies.

Guantanamo stands as strongly as ever, as the administration has conveniently glossed over breaking Obama’s campaign promise to shut down the detention center which liberals railed against.

The “nuanced foreign policy” president has implemented a strategy of drone strikes in six Muslim-majority countries—Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. If the president’s perception of a sensitive and more-respectful-than-Bush foreign policy consists of marshalling unmanned aerial vehicles to target specific individuals,  then the president and his supporters need to adjust either their principles or their vision for the world. After all, wasn’t the Left certain that these attacks accidentally kill an average of ten civilians per strike and force civilians to listen to the sound of death hovering over their homes and consequently develop a further hatred for America?

In short, yes, the administration’s foreign policy (i.e. continuation and expansion of many elements of Bush foreign policy) has rooted out many al-Qaeda leaders — the most important being bin Laden himself — and taken the fight to the organization. However, for all the vows of implementing the fight against terrorists more intelligently and sensitively, the administration has implemented a strategically inadequate policy. It has marginalized the threat posed by al-Qaeda associates such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Lakshar-e-Taiba, and the Haqqani Network, choosing instead to pursue a narrow-minded al-Qaeda-centric policy that could, at best, lead to a half-victory.

Even the president’s own legions have begun to question him, something they would have thought outlandish just two years ago.  A June 2009 testy exchange between Robert Gibbs, then White House Press Secretary, and Helen Thomas, the longtime doyenne of the White House press corps, was a signal of what was to come. Thomas openly criticized the administration’s policy of restricting journalists’ freedom, asking, “What the hell do they think we are, puppets? They’re supposed to stay out of our business. They are our public servants. We pay them.”

Not to mention, Democratic politicians have crossed the do-not-criticize-our-own threshold, now mincing no words in chastising Obama for compromising with Republicans far too much. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), merely one of many frustrated Democrats, stated publicly to the shock of many of his colleagues that a primary challenge to Obama would “push the president and his advisers a bit.”

President Obama’s political strategies and policies have failed to satisfy his supporters, and they have continued to anger Republicans. The 2012 election will test the Republican resolve to get the country back on track to an American Century, and it will certainly test the Democratic ability to come to terms with outright policy failures.

More importantly, it will require Americans to think for themselves through the fog of the administration’s idealism and naiveté and consider whether they wish to risk a continuation of the aforementioned fiascos or whether they desire a return to American preeminence.

Raj Kannappan // Cornell University // @RajKannappan

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Comments

  1. Very nicely written piece, Raj. There are so many glaring shortfalls with this administration, and you only briefly touched on the economy. I trust that many of my conservative friends will not be duped again like they were in 2008. I think the conservatives in a way needed to lose ground in order to stand tall again and firmly plant their feet on solid conservative ground. As a Cornell alum, I applaud you.

  2. Raj Kannappan says:

    Thanks, Tim! It’s a good feeling every time I find a conservative Cornellian. You’re absolutely right that there are numerous problems with the administration’s handling of the economy. I was aiming to cover more ground with less depth to give an overall picture of where the country stands today. I have no doubt that conservatives will stand strong this time around. What I think is arguably more important is persuading independents and moderates that the country needs to change direction.

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