Opinion

‘No such thing as shovel-ready projects’: the political suicide of President Obama

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Ken Blackwell
Former Ohio Secretary of State
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      Ken Blackwell

      Ken Blackwell, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, is a member of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty's board, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, and Ohio's former secretary of state.

Liberals sit down with the New York Times the way Catholics enter the confessional: To make a clean breast of their sins and to ask for absolution. Except that the Gray Lady offers no promise of confidentiality.

President Obama has given an interview to the Times Magazine that will appear in full next Sunday. Already, however, his quoted remarks are causing a political earthquake. He confesses that he did not realize there was “no such thing as a shovel-ready project” when he asked the country to borrow $787 billion — mostly from the Chinese — in a vain attempt to kick-start a sluggish economy.

Opponents on the hustings have been blasting the claim the President made back in early ’09 that, without the stimulus spending, unemployment could go as high as 8%. So, his liberal allies in Congress voted him the money because he promised to pour it into “shovel-ready” projects across the land. Visions of infrastructure improvements, roads, tunnels, bridges, schools, and hospitals danced in the heads of credulous liberal lawmakers. They enlisted virtually no Republican support for their massive spending plans.

Now, he says there is no such thing as shovel-ready. How damaging is that? It’s devastating.

How damaging was it for George H.W. Bush to agree in October of 1990 to a tax increase? Bush had campaigned against tax increases. But he had gone further. He said: “Read my lips: No new taxes.” No candidate for the presidency had ever mentioned his lips in an election campaign before. Read my lips became a watchword for Bush supporters in 1988 as he lunged ahead of the hapless Michael Dukakis.

Soon, all too soon, Bush-in-power betrayed his word. He cited, as an excuse, the very real fact that he had an army of 500,000 troops in Saudi Arabia, preparing to liberate Kuwait, and that Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress were threatening to cut off supplies to the troops if he did not cave in to their demands for increased taxes.

Conservatives at the time blamed Bush’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the late Dick Darman, for persuading the President to break his pledged word. Darman was widely quoted in Washington as having said that those were just words that some speechwriter gave the President to say. Perhaps. Still, George Bush nonetheless pronounced those words with his own lips.

With the lightning victory of U.S.-led coalition forces in the battle to force Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, President Bush’s political fortunes seemed to revive.  Americans rejoiced at victory parades by our homecoming troops. Mr. Bush’s approval rating was an unprecedented 91%. He seemed unstoppable for re-nomination and re-election the next year.

The broken promise on taxes, however, had opened up a seam beneath the waterline of the Good Ship George Bush. When the economy took a dip — and in comparison to the last two years, it was only a dip — Bush’s ship began seriously to take on water.

Clinton campaign aide James Carville famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” The broken Bush pledge opened the door to the Perot challenge and Bush quickly sank in public esteem. Bill Clinton clobbered him in the Electoral College in 1992.

Good sport that he has always been, the senior Bush has even joked about the retirement excitement of his birthday sky-diving . He says “Bar,” his irreverent wife, likes to say she hasn’t seen him take a dive like that since the ’92 campaign!

  • Mean Granny

    It’s hard to say whether the man is just inept or whether he’s actually trying to destroy the country. Either way, obama’s actions must be stopped before he actually succeeds.

  • sanjay

    Why dont you talk about suicide of america with open borders big taxes, islamic invasion and IRS/federal reserve thuggery.

    Enough of Obama. Get on real issues.

  • papa1

    I disagree with the President. There are plenty of shovel ready projects, it’s just that the EPA was more interested in spending Millions of Dollars on single projects that take 2 years before breaking ground and provides only temporary jobs for 18 months. They took the rifle approach to the problem instead of taking the shotgun approach and spreading out the money over a larger area.

    They could have spread that money out all over America if somebody had focused on rebuilding and replacing water district infrastructure. These projects are shovel ready. Jobs could have started immediately, would have have a nation wide impact through buying materials and equipment, and would have started new small businesses and provided good paying jobs for years to come. Some of our cities have water distribution systems over 100 years old. Rural water districts have systems 40 to 60 years old. By the time you get a system upgraded, it’s time to start again. It’s like painting a large bridge. The need for labor and materials never ends. But there isn’t enough local money to fund the start up of such a large and badly needed project. Something like the stimulus could have worked if they had focused on something everybody needs…water.

    • ladylove

      the EPA have also been busy spending money on making signs that say the stimulus is working, and no one keeping track of what they are spending,

  • clw

    Mr. Blackwell you just reminded me of why I began to look SO closely at politicians and scrutinize everything they say or do, and also their voting records. You’ve made a very valid point as to the GRAVITY of a politicans words and deeds. The “read my lips” thing is what made me become an Independent. I decided that from then on I carried water for NO ONE, even THOUGH Ronald Reagan had caused me to be a Republican. I’d like to add that when we’re in better economic times we tend to let some comments fall by the wayside, but in THIS economy, you can bet that we are all reading every word, listening to every comment, even listening for intonations in comments! I’m shocked that the President actually said that, AND that he ‘regrets giving the appearance that he’s a tax and spend liberal’ … all in one week, and two weeks from a mid-term election! Either he is not very smart, OR he thinks WE are not very smart!

  • ladylove

    it also proves he has absolutely no idea how business’s work.

    people voted for an empty suit, and they got an empty suit.

    and after 1 year 8 months and 25 days, of on the job training this too has been a failure as well, but then considering he is still in training, what can we expect.

  • ladylove

    his remark only re-enforces the fact that this man was not ready to be president,

    that he lacked the proper education, had absolutely no experience, and was plain not ready on any level to handle the job of being persident. period.