Enter stage right – LeBron James. The stage was set for the coronation of the self-proclaimed “King” in Cleveland and his ascendancy to the thrown of superstardom. Born and raised in Akron, he was a hometown hero, and as the leader of the Cleveland Cavaliers he was to resurrect Cleveland from the ashes. The “mistake by the lake”—as Cleveland is sometimes called—was failing. The glory years as an industrial giant long past, the city despondent in the face of its environment needed something magical.
Sports had the possibility of being Cleveland’s magic. Sports, the hallowed grounds of man’s inherent competitive spirit, have long entertained and distracted masses of impoverished citizens. It is little wonder that sports are considered analogous to the American Dream in light of both the significant role that baseball played in inspiring Americans during the Great Depression and because of the tenacious nature of the spirit of competition that resides inside the American citizen. The King was supposed to be Cleveland’s dream, their new hope…but he did not live up to his cavalier namesake.
Enter stage left – Barack Obama. A freshman senator from the state of Illinois, he aimed to transform America. A superstar himself, his speeches captivated the populace, convincing America that he was something different than a Washington insider.
His timing was perfect. In the wake of two unpopular wars, and an economy that was crashing, Obama took on the role of savior, and his “audacity of hope” message was accepted as the answer. He even named his policies to reflect his PR posturing: the 2009 budget was called “A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America’s Promise.” He was to transform and rescue America, restoring it to its former grandeur.
In hindsight, is it any wonder that “The King” campaigned for Obama? The individuals play the same character; they merely occupy different sets. Both presented themselves as a messiah-like figure for their collective followers, but both ended up playing more of a Judas-like role.
The parallels in their ascents are striking, but even more stunning in their demises. LeBron stood up for Cleveland gallantly in the beginning, only to become frustrated in the end, eventually leaving the team and abandoning the city that shepherded him into the league.
Obama too has shown dissidence with promises he made on the campaign trail: the health care negotiations were held behind closed doors, Guantanamo Bay is fully operational, and instead of resetting relations with Russia, we are deporting spies like it was 1955.
At this point it is clear that, far from salvation, all the devotees of President Obama and King James have received are two false prophets.
LeBron exited the stage with personal accolades, but failed to earn his team any meaningful hardware. President Obama came promising a transformation. Not only has he utterly failed to deliver, establishing the most partisan Congress in history, but when the President has been most needed—such as in the wake of the BP disaster, or Iranian nuclear enrichment—the President too has exited the stage.
If either of their positions were about narcissism and self-congratulations they have both done very well. While LeBron earns his MVP awards, Obama receives his Nobel Peace Prizes.
Unfortunately though, both Obama and LeBron aren’t playing solo. Politics and basketball are team sports, and the fruits of their labor are meant to benefit more than their own image. Both are about results.
LeBron continues to show himself as a choke artist, looking almost as if he quit during the final games of this year’s series with the Celtics, and constantly failing to challenge Kobe’s predominance.
Obama can’t stop Iranian proliferation, the situation on the Korea peninsula is at the breaking point, the unemployment rate remains unchanged, and his most publicly “successful” policy is “Cash for Clunkers.” The only thing that does seem to be happening is more of the usual: bigger government, bigger budgets.
At the end of the day, no one truly doubts that LeBron is a great basketball player, despite his recent antics, or that Obama is not an excellent politician. “The King” and the president are spell binding at their trades. However, the actual measures of their positions are not judged by points, the number of bills pushed, or flash shown during an exhibition game or a speech, but by the tangible results that they produce: championships that inspire a dying city and legislative victories that change the course of an ailing nation.
What we as a public are left with is that these are two young individuals who need time to mature, but they thrust themselves into situations way over their heads. The only difference between the two is that LeBron has time. Sports are a constant maturing process, but things are different for Obama. Being President isn’t a game.
Mark Offenbach is an economics major at George Mason University and is currently an intern at the Club for Growth.