|Barack Obama: Closing Arguments|
By Troy Senik
Thursday, November 01 2012
Almost exactly four years ago, as a speechwriter serving George W. Bush in the final days of his presidency, I stood on a terrace outside of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (the gargantuan facility directly adjacent to the West Wing) puffing on a cigarette – the only fleeting respite one could find from the manic schedule of a White House employee.
Only a generation prior, a staffer taking up residency in the EEOB would have found his new office supplied with a gleaming ashtray. By the time I was there, we were sequestered to this outdoor holding pen, rain or shine. Somewhere in the interim, I used to joke with colleagues, we lost the Republic.
This was the only chance one had in the course of a normal day to make small talk with fellow staffers outside of an immediate circle of colleagues. And by the time Election Day 2008 was imminent, gallows humor was the order of the day. It was acknowledged by all but the most fervent partisans that Barack Obama and his staff would be taking up residency on the grounds over the coming months.
The country was beset by a financial crisis, fatigued by war and had clearly exhausted its patience with my boss.
John McCain had run a hapless campaign where he looked, at every turn, like yesterday’s man. Obama, by contrast, was young, eloquent, handsome and (ostensibly) post-partisan. Most importantly, he had the trait that defines almost all victors in modern presidential elections: an image that seemed a perfect tonic to the shortcomings of his predecessor.
Obama’s ascendancy seeming inevitable, the chit-chat usually consisted of feeling out each other’s post-White House plans. When one of my colleagues queried me on the subject, I told him that I was planning to leave Washington and go back to writing about politics rather than for politicians. “There are worse ways to earn a living,” I said, “than spending four years holding the Obama Administration accountable.” At the time, that was a sort of melancholy boosterism.
Having resigned ourselves to defeat, we had already begun considering counteroffensives. But even that seemed questionable. Obama, after all, was being touted as a transformational figure. What if that proved true? What if he was able to transcend the liberal pathologies that had prevented permanent and sweeping Democratic majorities in the past?
Nearly half a decade later, the concern seems almost quaint. On the eve of the American electorate’s referendum on the Obama presidency, the man who was going to begin the world anew now stinks of the mildew that usually doesn’t attach itself to presidents until year seven or eight of their tenure. Whether he will gain another term remains in question. Whether he deserves one does not.
Let’s review – for the final time perhaps – what four years of a Barack Obama presidency have wrought. There was an $831 billion economic stimulus package rooted in the fanciful belief that redistributing money from taxpayers (in the form of debt) to Washington’s favored client groups would spur economic growth. Under the plan’s original projections, unemployment was to be down to 6 percent by 2012. As of September, the actual number was 7.8 percent. Factor in the discouraged people who had dropped out of the labor force and the total is over 11.6 percent. According to analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, what few jobs were created by the stimulus cost up to $4.1 million each.
The economic carnage didn’t stop there. Over 46 million Americans (more than 1 in 6) are now on food stamps. The cost of new regulations forced onto the economy by the Obama Administration are estimated to be $488 billion. The nation’s debt has climbed over $16 trillion for the first time in the country’s history, with nearly 1/3 of it being accrued on Obama’s watch.
Of the $80 billion that the White House funneled to green energy companies as part of the stimulus plan, at least 10 percent went to companies that have subsequently filed bankruptcy or are currently headed toward it. None of the remaining recipients have created anything like the transformational breakthroughs Obama promised.
Then, of course, there was ObamaCare, the original sin of this administration. For the first time in American history, it compelled American citizens to enter into commercial transactions simply on the basis of being alive. It added $200 billion a year to the debt in the form of Medicare expansions and a new credit entitlement.
It forced private employers to violate their religious consciences by underwriting practices that they found morally objectionable. And it created an unelected – and virtually indestructible – board whose mission of cost containment will inevitably lead to the rationing of health care … and the state making life and death decisions for its citizens.
There was also the president’s routine disregard for the rule of law. He ignored the traditional “advise and consent” role of the United States Senate by installing “recess appointees” when the body hadn’t actually declared itself in recess. He trampled upon the powers of the legislative branch by granting amnesty for a broad swath of illegal immigrants by executive fiat. He ignored the legal rights of General Motors bondholders to make sure that labor unions would get the lion’s share of the company. And he promiscuously granted waivers to political allies who didn’t want to absorb the high costs of his healthcare reform.
Finally, there was his foreign policy. While Obama insists on focusing only on his one tangible achievement in international affairs – the killing of Osama Bin Laden – that laudable accomplishment shouldn’t be allowed to paper over his other failings.
Remember that this is the man who ignored reformist protestors in Iran because it interfered with his plans for a grand diplomatic rapprochement with a regime led by genocidal religious fanatics.
Remember that this is the man who stripped missile defense from our European allies in order to placate a hostile and revanchist Russia.
Remember that this is the man who can barely contain his palpable contempt for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the nation he leads.
And remember, at this late hour, that this is the man who can provide no persuasive explanation for why four brave Americans – including a United States ambassador -- met their deaths at the hands of Libyan terrorists despite repeated pleas for help.
Upon reflection, I was right back in 2008. There are worse ways to make a living than spending four years holding the Obama Administration accountable. But there’d be none worse than doing it for another four years. There’s still a chance to regain the republic. For his sake, I hope there’s a gleaming ashtray awaiting Obama in his new digs.
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