We’re sorry, Mr. President

Matt Philbin Managing Editor, Culture and Media Institute
Font Size:

We’re sorry, Mr. President. We really are sorry. We’ve let you down again. In attracting foreign investment — as in so many other things — we just haven’t lived up to your standards.

Again and again, you’ve laid out exactly where we aren’t measuring up, and again and again, we disappoint. You give and you give, and what do you get in return?

Your honesty with us can be … blunt, but we know you love us and want us to be all we can be. Sure, some polities might be offended, or get defensive when confronted with their shortcomings, but not us. We Americans need the unvarnished truth about ourselves, painful as it might be, and we understand: you call ’em like you see ’em. Getting to know you, Mr. President, has really been good for us. After all, you can’t fix problems until you know you have them.

So, yes, now that you mention it, we have been lazy about attracting foreign capital. Oh, we’ll protest that it’s tough to lure investors when we have the highest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world and layers of expensive environmental regulations they don’t have in places like, say, China. We’ll grumble that our failing public education system, union-distorted labor markets and anti-employer policies mean it’s more efficient and cost-effective to make widgets in Brazil.

But you, Mr. President, will see right through these arguments and recognize them for the excuses they are.

You rightfully pointed out that we’ve gotten “soft” and lost our “competitive edge.” We don’t have the gumption to do big things like build the Golden Gate Bridge or Hoover Dam. And that must be why you canceled our manned spaceflight programs. You can’t trust zillions of dollars and dangerous, potentially world-changing initiatives to a bunch of cream puffs and couch potatoes. Heck, you couldn’t even trust us with building the Keystone XL Pipeline.

And when it comes to foreign policy, well, it can’t be easy representing us. No wonder you spent your first year in office apologizing and making sure everybody knew you weren’t responsible for the bumpkins that came before. And you’re right not to try to keep Iraq friendly or actually win in Afghanistan. How could mediocrities like us think we could undertake nation-building? Most of us can’t even pronounce Pock-ee-ston the cool way you do it.

It’s been what, four years since we started this relationship? We, like you, assumed — hoped — we’d grow into it, come to deserve you. You were frank about our shortcomings — the bitter way we would cling to God and guns, our inability to rise above the “politics of division and distraction.” Many of us took a good long look in the mirror when you talked about “typical white people.” Brrr! The memory still gives us chills.

When Michelle called this country “downright mean,” we knew she was talking about us. And when we realized the woman had been waiting her entire life for us to make her proud, it was an epiphany. We’d been heedless and self-absorbed. We vowed we’d change. And she told us how. Right up front she let us know what was expected:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

But here we are. With a 9 percent unemployment rate, we’re not meeting your work requirement. And, the housing market being what it is, nobody’s moving out of their comfort zones. And what happened to the 10 lbs we were all going to lose for Michelle?

You’ve both been so patient. When we foolishly didn’t want your health care plan, you tried the “open up the tunnel for the health care choo-choo” tactic, but we just stamped our feet. You told us it would fix the economy (little white lies are indispensable in any adult-child relationship); we still said no. When, exasperated, you forced it on us, we acted out and elected a GOP House just to spite you. But you didn’t give up on us.

For all this, we sincerely apologize, Mr. President. Knowing we’ve failed to meet your standards is a cross we must bear the rest of our lives. But it can’t compare to the sadness you must feel, wanting so much for us, being so disillusioned time and again.

It’s clear we can’t go on like this. We lazy, soft fatties just can’t seem to change, and we don’t deserve you. Please, Mr. President, do yourself a favor and move on to someone who does. Go, scale the peaks of the U.N., add to your Nobel. Enjoy Davos and Oslo and Brussels and Cannes, without us as an anchor. Leave us here in our sloth, with our French fries and Bibles. And with the leadership we deserve.

Matt Philbin is the managing editor at The Culture and Media Institute.