Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Obama Administration R.I.P.

The stimulus package. Health care reform. The climate agreement. Heck, the Olympics. At this point, I'm ready to call the Obama adminstration officially over. Not in a technical, legal sense -- we've got three more years -- but in the sense of relevance. After sweeping in on a tide of hope and good feeling, President Obama's performance has been underwhelming. I didn't think it possible to combine the sweeping oratory of Kennedy with the achievements of Ford (at least we haven't reach Carter levels. Yet). By that I mean, he's a man with so much promise, who just can't seem to get anything done.

My first, and most troubling, proof is the most recent climate meeting in Copenhagen. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao snubbed Obama in the morning. He simply decided he'd rather go shopping, or sleep in, than meet with the leader of the free world. Then, while the Chinese were meeting with Brazil and India, Obama had to push his way into the room, petulantly yelling "are you ready to see me?". There wasn't even a chair for Mr. Obama to sit in.

Internalize this for a moment. I'll wait. Ready? The Chinese see us as irrelevant. They are ignoring us, as if we were Uruguay. We are allegedly the most powerful, productive nation in the world. And at least one world leader see our leader as... superfluous. What happens when every other leader in the world sees it China's way? The world has learned they can roll us. (Also, let's not forget China holds a trillion dollar's worth of our debt. It's not a good thing when your creditors have no respect for you).

I don't care that Obama came away empty handed with an agreement on climate change. Much as he did when he went to Copenhagen for the Olympics. But when you put the power and prestige of the office on the line, by attending what is supposed to be high level meetings to finalize a world-wide agreement, you'd better make sure 1) you have an agreement and 2) it's going to be signed.

Second, let's look at the health care debacle. Yes, I know. You want to blame Big Pharma and the insurance companies and Joe Lieberman. And you'd be partially right. Ultimately, however, this is a failure of leadership. When the White House puts its full weight behind legislation, it normally has had a hand in drafting the legislation itself. If you want a crime bill, if that's your issue, you draft the bill yourself and send it to Congress. All Obama has done is create a laundry list of desires, and told the Congress to draft the legislation. He did the same thing with the stimulus package.

What's the old joke? What is an elephant? A mouse designed by committee. When Bill Clinton wanted health care reform, he had it drafted in the White House and sent to the Hill. (I'm also tired of the meme that we haven't had a serious attempt at health care reform in 50 years. What the hell was 1994? Not serious? Tell that to Hillary.) What did Obama expect? What he got was thousands of pages of competing bills that no one's read. He got the death of a thousand cuts. He's got a bill that no one on the Right or the Left wants or likes, for their own partisan reasons.

You can't just make high-minded speeches. You have to craft legislation. It's almost as if Obama is scared to write a bill, which is something the President can do. Didn't he watch Scholastic Rock when he was a kid? Even I can send a bill to the Congress. Maybe he just doesn't have the experience with crafting legislation? Or maybe he wasn't in the Senate long enough to understand how it works. He should have had someone in the White House write up a bill that included exactly what Obama wanted, then make the House and Senate vote for it up or down. Or at least use it as a starting point for horse trading. But you don't let Congress actually craft your legislation for a mouse, because you're gonna get an elephant.

The stimulus package was supposed to be targeted and timely. It was supposed to go to "shovel ready" infrastructure upgrades. It went instead to turtle tunnels and theater companies. It has stimulated nothing. Again, because Congress basically wrote a giant list of earmarks, called it "stimulus" and went home. Obama is completely ineffective at getting legislation passed.

Therefore, because of his combination of ineffectiveness on the Hill and irrelevance on the world stage, I'm ready to say the Obama administration is effectively done.

No comments:

Post a Comment