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My Frustration with President Obama   March 18th, 2009
Yes, I'm frustrated, and that's probably evident in the tone of my writing       

 
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Ever since I started writing commentary on this site several years ago, I've tried to present my thoughts in a cool, collected, and largely unemotional manner. I haven't always succeeded and I don't claim to be unbiased, but I think my articles have generally avoided fiery over-the-top partisan rhetoric that is common in a lot of political commentary. That doesn't mean I've avoided stating what I believe is the truth, but it does mean I've tried to make those statements in such a way as to avoid them being more provocative than necessary.

I have also resisted--and will continue to resist--becoming in regards to President Obama what many on the left became in regards to President Bush. I will not hate. I refuse to hate Obama on emotional grounds in the way that many on the left hated Bush. Of course that never meant I would support bad policies nor that I wouldn't criticize him, but I want to do that in a cool, logical fashion based on sound reasoning.

Lately, however, some of you have noticed that my writing has departed somewhat from that "unemotional" style. Especially in my comments which I write on an almost daily basis, it's been more and more difficult to keep my frustration in check when writing about things that, to me, defy common sense and traditional American values.

So let me be clear: I'm becoming increasingly frustrated with the Obama administration. As much as I didn't want to criticize him at every turn, and despite my intention to congratulate him when I thought he was doing something right, I've been extremely disappointed that he simply hasn't given me an opportunity to do so. With all the talk of bipartisanship and post-partisanship, I really expected that even though I knew I wouldn't agree with everything he did, I thought I'd occasionally have the opportunity to praise him.

That hasn't happened.
And my increasingly frustrated tone is a direct result of that.

A Review of the First Two Months

During the campaign--and even since the inauguration--Obama has been trying to cultivate the belief that he's interested in bipartisanship. However, it was clear to me even in his inaugural speech that there was a distinct lack of bipartisan tone. That was confirmed three days later when he "trumped" a discussion with Republicans that he had invited to the White House with the simple retort, "I won." Obama's $787 billion spending bill was written exclusively by Democrats with no consultation with Republicans, and the president then had to hit the partisan campaign trail to sell it to America. Within three weeks of his inauguration there was general agreement that he had abandoned the bipartisanship he had campaigned on , and soon after it was acknowledged that Republicans were right to suggest that Obama's "bipartisan" efforts were a charade.

The country was also told that Obama was "post-partisan"--always a nebulous term. But whatever the term meant, it was clear that Obama wasn't that when he overtly politicized the Census by attempting to bring oversight under the White House. This, among other issues, eventually led to the Republican nominee for Commerce Secretary withdrawing his name for consideration. The administration lost this nominee precisely because the administration was anything but "post-partisan."

We were promised transparency and honest accountability. His FY2010 budget was supposed to deliver that, and he promised more honesty by including the expected costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in his defense budget. But it turns out that when the administration claimed $2.2 trillion in budget savings, $1.6 trillion came from drawing down in Iraq instead of maintaining surge levels for 10 years... a troop level that no-one assumed would happen, so the alleged savings were a farce.

Obama pushed for a $787 billion spending bill followed by a FY2010 budget with a $1.7 trillion deficit, and the next week held a "fiscal responsibility" summit . Then the week after that Democrats rammed through a $410 billion omnnibus spending bill filled with more than 9000 pork projects; and Obama said he'd start fulfilling his "no earmarks" campaign promise next year.

That spending bill, plus his proposed FY2010 budget with a $1.7 trillion deficit, basically forced the Federal Reserve to start printing money because the entire world didn't have enough money to loan this administration.

We were promised change from the same old politics of corruption. Yet his first Commerce Secretary nominee, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, was forced to withdraw from consideration due to a grand jury investigation into possible "pay-to-play" involving contributions from a prominent businessman who also gave generously to President Obama . His Treasury Secretary, who heads the IRS, failed to pay over $25,000 in taxes that he clearly knew he had to pay . Obama's original nominee to be the secretary of Health and Human Services had failed to pay over $100,000 in taxes and eventually had to withdraw his name from consideration. His nominee for "Performance Officer" had to withdraw due to problems related to unemployment tax . His nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, former Dallas mayor Ronald Kirk, apparently owes over $10,000 in taxes . The husband of Obama's pick for Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, had failed to pay $6400 in tax liens .

And, of course, lest we forget the whole fiasco of Illinois Governor Blagojevich who was arrested, and later impeached, for trying to sell the U.S. senate seat vacated by Obama. First David Axelrod, Obama's campaign strategist, said that Obama had talked to the governor about the senate seat. After Obama said he had hadn't had any contact with the governor, Axelrod altered his original statement to affirm that, actually, Obama hadn't had any contact with the governor about the senate seat. But it later became clear that his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, had contacted the governor about it.

The Illinois governor was ultimately impeached, but not before appointing Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate . Democratic leaders in the Senate initially promised to reject Burris but ultimately gave in and accepted him despite the tainted governor because, among other things, Burris was supposed to have an impeccable reputation. But it later became clear that Burris had apparently lied under oath regarding his interactions with the impeached governor . Refusing to step down, Democrats once again applied pressure for Burris to resign, but he didn't. And ultimately Democrats did nothing. Granted, the Burris scandal is not directly related to Obama, but it's amazing the corruption that was revealed by Obama's simple act of resigning his senate seat.

Obama stated repeatedly that it was absolutely critical to pass the stimulus bill, and fast. Jobs depended on it. When a final bill was ready, both chambers of Congress rushed to vote on it the next day before any legislator could have conceivably read the whole thing. The bill could have been signed on Friday, February 13th. Instead, President Obama jetted off to Chicago with his wife for a romantic Valentine's Day dinner; Sunday came and went, and Monday was president's day: A federal holiday. So with countless jobs supposedly on the line, Obama didn't sign the bill until he could make it out to Denver in an appearance that seemed more like a campaign event than a presidential one.

While I initially ignored as overly-eager Obama-bashing the hoopla about Obama's rather insulting gift to the prime minister of the UK (25 DVDs) , the fact of the matter is that engaging in proper head-of-state protocol with our staunchest ally is of utmost importance. This flap was not helped by reports from "close to the White House" that the poor choice of gifts was due to presidential exhaustion and an unfamiliarity with diplomatic protocol.

Obama had promised a strategy to reduce our dependence on foreign energy. But his administration proceeded to take actions that would delay off-shore drilling , would effectively increase taxation on exploitation of oil shale in Colorado and Utah , and canceled funding for a national nuclear waste facility that effectively precludes any major move towards nuclear energy .

The Obama campaign and transition promised that the newly elected administration would hit the ground running, but six weeks into the administration they're still missing key cabinet posts and Treasury Secretary Geithner is working without any undersecretaries during the most significant economic crisis in decades. And after the president hyped and built expectation for Secretary Geithner's unveiling of the financial sector rescue package in a Monday-evening speech, Geithner's speech the next day didn't really say anything... and the market immediately tanked 381 points (4.6%) in response.

Ever since Obama's election, the market has been diving in response to Obama's economic announcements and events. The market has treated Obama's plans (and lack thereof) as bigger economic catastrophes than the financial crisis itself.

Obama-the-candidate was all about hope and change. But Obama-the-president became all about fear and despair. He talked down the economy, promised "catastrophe" if his spending bill wasn't passed, and suggested the situation could become "irreversible." Meanwhile, he ignored opportunities to highlight good economic news. Consumer confidence had been improving since hitting a low point in November. But then in February, after weeks of Obama talking down the economy and inspiring fear in order to pass his spending bill, consumer confidence sharply dropped to almost as low as it was in November. It got to the point that even former president Bill Clinton publicly suggested that Obama be more positive.

And after mocking Senator John McCain during the campaign for saying that the fundamentals of the economy were strong, and after talking down the economy and promising "catastrophe" without his spending bill, one of his economic advisers said on March 15th that, regarding the fundamentals of the economy, "Of course they are sound."

Investors have been increasingly pessimistic in the first six weeks of the Obama administration, pointing to a lack of a clear plan regarding the banking industry and policies that will hurt the bottom lines of businesses that will be responsible for the eventual recovery . In response to being the first Democratic president to preside over his own "Bear Market" (i.e. the market dropping 20%) in the first year of an administration in decades , Obama stated that he isn't particularly concerned with the market going "up and down" (even though it's almost entirely going down). More and more people are now saying he should be concerned with the ongoing stock market decline because it's telling him something. And more and more people are affirming that a lot of the market's drop has been because of Obama's handling of the economy and not just because of the recession.

During the campaign, the Obama campaign shrugged off suggestions of socialism and "spreading the wealth around" . Today, Obama's directions seem so clear to the world (if not to his supporters) that Russian Prime Minister Putin has gone so far as to remind us that socialism doesn't work. Venezuela's socialist president has noted such an opportunity that he's out there inviting Obama to lead America to socialism . A writer in the Wall Street Journal has declared Obama's policies to be a "declaration of hostility to capitalists across the economy," and Obama has pretty much implemented--or is planning on implementing--virtually every plank of the U.S. Communist Party. I kid you not.

Even Federal Reserve Chairman Bernake has acknowledged that a lot of the governments bailout efforts have gone against American values of self-reliance and responsibility .

So it's not surprising, then, that even "moderates" are now bemoaning the fact that Obama was not who they thought he was when they endorsed him before the election. A majority of economists are now giving the administration a failing grade. The establishment is starting to question Obama's ability to get the job done. And Warren Buffet, an Obama supporter, has recently leveled some criticism at the administration's handling of the economic situation.

What is Obama Doing?

It seems to me that Obama is ramming through the liberal policies he wanted to enact as a candidate with no consideration that our economic situation has changed since he was campaigning. When you get right down to it, Obama's "accomplishments" thusfar have been:
  1. Signing an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay.
  2. Pass a $787 billion spending bill for liberal policies under the guise of economic stimulus, but woefully short of actual stimulus. So short that they're already considering another round of stimulus, and trying to convince other industrialized nations to do the same (though other nations understandably aren't as eager to engage in more stimulus spending ).
  3. Laying the groundwork for government intervention in the health care industry with a $600 billion "downpayment" in the FY2010 budget.
  4. Removed restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research.
All of these certainly make liberals happy, but the administration continues to ignore the most pressing concern: The crisis in the financial sector.

To me, this comes across as Obama "using" the financial crisis to advance his liberal policies... but he's doing it while, at the same time, pretty much ignoring the financial crisis. Even though they've had time to legislate $1.1 trillion in spending and proposed another $3.6 trillion in FY2010, we're still weeks away from any real clue as to how they plan to address the financial crisis... first we thought we'd find out what the plan was back in early February. Geithner fumbled that and now the new ETA for their plan is early April.

They're either making this up as they go along and still don't have a plan, or they have a plan but are afraid to tell the world what it is. Either way the government is taking on unheard of amounts of debt while the Federal Reserve prints the money the government can't borrow... and all of this spending without a financial sector solution is like racing the economy's fiscal motor at 8000 RPM while firmly holding down the clutch, making absolutely certain we're just burning fuel (or money) without getting anywhere.

Justified Frustration

I apologize for the long rant above... it's not something that those paying attention to the news don't already know.

What I'd like to point out, though, is that this isn't just a bunch of right-wing criticism and hatred. I didn't criticize Obama for not lowering taxes, for his position on abortion, or the merits of his spending package. I didn't criticize him because I don't like him or because he's some evil liberal. And it's not just conservatives that are making these observations, leftist bloggers are starting to criticize the administration's response to the financial crisis. Even House Democrats are starting to get impatient.

This isn't partisan criticism. In fact, Obama is quickly accomplishing his goal of bipartisanship... if only in the nature of the bipartisan criticism directed at his administration.

But, yes, I'm frustrated. And the tone of my writing is reflecting that. I'll try to do better. I hope President Obama does the same.

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