Obama wants you to know that he is not, and never has been, a part of “Washington.” He feels it’s vitally important that you understand this.
During his first State of the Union address, he told us that people are fed up with “Washington,” and that his new policies won’t be simple “Washington gimmicks.” He wants to change the tone of “Washington,” because “Washington’s” business-as-usual mentality isn’t going to cut it anymore.
Listening to that rambling, 70-minute lie-a-thon, you might be forgiven for mistaking President Obama for Candidate Obama—a man who hadn’t been the central, most powerful figure in “Washington” for over a year. Indeed, after the obligatory “Blaming of the Bush,” Obama chose largely to ignore his 2009 stewardship so he could return to his populist, outsider ways. Unfortunately, every time he gave an example of something “Washington” was getting wrong, it turned out to be something he himself had been doing for the entirety of his first presidential year.
“Washington,” the president said, needs to put aside partisanship and work together. This ignores the obvious fact that the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats refused, time and again, to listen to Republican suggestions on nearly every single topic that faced the nation in 2009. Conservatives were frozen out of health care reform, environmental policy, energy policy, and economic policy. For one whole year, the president enjoyed an unstoppable supermajority that could have passed, literally, anything they wanted. Flawed policy was rejected by the American people, and Obama’s leadership failings led to the demise of his agenda within his own party. Try as he might, he’s not going to be able to paint it any other way.
“Washington,” it seems, has riled people up with its deficit spending. Sadly, Obama quadrupled said spending in one year. Now he’s proposed a ridiculous spending freeze that won’t reduce the current shortfall, and only saves 3 percent of the projected 9-trillion-dollar deficit he’s creating for the next 10 years. Imagine you’re making $50,000 each year but spending $100,000. If Obama is to be believed, you can keep doing that indefinitely, as long as you “freeze” the amount you pay out. In the president’s economic view, the solution to deficit spending lies not with restraint, cuts, or balanced budgets, but with more deficit spending.
“Washington” needs to place more focus on jobs. After squandering a full year on unpopular health care reforms, beer summits, cap and trade, and a failed stimulus, he thinks it’s finally time for jobs? Super. Unfortunately, his speech was largely devoted to the notion that he “will not quit” fighting for heath care and cap and trade. If you couple that with his constant, anti-business “fat-cat” rhetoric, his repeated attacks on Wall Street, his attempts to raise taxes as part of the medical debate, and his desire to tax and control banks, you’re faced with a President whose populist war chest is positively bursting with job-killers.
“Washington” needs to be more open and transparent. “Washington” shouldn’t be engaging in shady, backroom deals. After spending 2009 buying Congressional votes, abandoning his promise to place bills online for five days before signing them, hosting secret health care negotiations, stonewalling the press, and holding ridiculous closed-door meetings on federal transparency, the idea that this administration is still calling for openness is utterly laughable. Have they no shame? Never mind—stupid question. Of course they don’t.
“Washington,” he said, is facing “a deficit of trust.” Sadly, the president and his cronies spent 2009 ensuring this. By breaking multiple high-profile campaign promises, from the C-SPAN edict to the 3 million new jobs guarantee, Obama and his team have betrayed their promise of change and squandered their post-election goodwill. Today the president faces a nation that wildly disapproves of his policies. There’s not a single issue where he polls above 50 percent, as voters no longer trust him to enact functional legislation. A prime example of this is the stimulus package, without which, we were told, the unemployment rate “might” go as high as eight percent. We’re still over 10 percent, and just this month 470,000 new claims were filed—20,000 more than the White House projected. Despite the unpopularity of their agenda, Democrats have arrogantly refused to listen to their constituents’ pleas that they change course. If they can’t be trusted to follow the will of those who put them in office, what can they be trusted with?
“Washington,” Obama believes, must maintain a steadfast focus on security. The elephant in the room, other than the burgeoning Republican Party, is that the Obama administration has been perceived as weak on terrorism since day one. The president began the year by signing an ill-conceived presidential order closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, while having no idea how to accomplish the task. He followed that up by excising the phrases “terrorism” and “war on terror” from the administration’s lexicon, only to restore them when reality reared its head. He consistently tries to paint every terrorist as a lone whacko with a bloodlust, and has made the decision to read battlefield detainees their Miranda rights, try foreign terrorists as U.S. civilians, and give full Constitutional protections to overseas enemies. All of this, capped off by the Christmas Day bombing attempt aboard Northwest 253, has led the American people to the conclusion that Obama has never really had his head in the terrorism fight.
Throughout his speech, Obama supported his claims with half-truths, omissions, and outright falsehoods too numerous to mention. The problem he faces is that, after a year, the charm has worn off. Americans are now paying attention to deeds, not words, and are done giving this administration the benefit of the doubt. Obama has been in office too long not to own this economy, own his stance on security, and own the collapse of his agenda. His tactic of blaming the previous administration has grown tired and stale. Were there major problems under Bush? Absolutely. Unfortunately, the new administration has spent a year exacerbating them. However much he might like to play the political outsider—the, dare I say it, “maverick”—the amount of time he’s spent as the world’s most powerful man forces the president to face one simple truth:
Barack Obama is “Washington.”
Robert Laurie writes a daily political commentary blog, The Robalution. Robert holds a degree in English from Wayne State University, and has worked in advertising as a graphic designer and copy writer.