A President of Half-Measures

By now you may have noticed that I have yet to write a column on President Obama. You might think I’m about to write that he’s a socialist who is destroying the country with his subversive anti-colonialist policies that enable class-warfare. Well, I’m not. I do not think the President is a socialist, a communist or a fascist. I do not think he is going to completely destroy the country should the American people re-elect him in November (though I will do my best to advocate for Governor Mitt Romney). I believe that President Obama is a good man, a great father and a decent President who has accomplished some important things during his tenure. But, there is one flaw that President Obama has that makes me apprehensive to vote for him: by the standards of our previous Presidents, he is not a bold leader.

Let’s start in the present and work our way backwards. Gasoline is almost $5 a gallon, unemployment is still above 8% (despite his own projections) and we still have yet to even begin to develop a solution to acquiring our own energy sources. We were handed a gift from the heavens some time ago. Actually, the gift was from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They Keystone Pipeline is a multi-thousand mile oil pipeline that could give us more oil, more jobs and more revenue for our economy. Instead of leaping forward at the chance to work with our Canadian brethren and fast-track this process, he instead caved to his environmental base and (at first) decided to wait until after the election to make a decision. He could have chosen to enact legislation with the utmost haste that would carry bi-partisan support and get this pipeline moving as fast as possible, but instead this President chose not to act boldly. When he took heat for his timidity, he then decided instead to fast-track only the Sothern portion of the pipeline to avoid the sensitive sand hills in Nebraska. If I were a Nebraskan, I would be offended that this President is more concerned with sand hills than creating jobs and moving in the right direction of energy independence. Now, while it is true that the pipeline would not lower the price of gas immediately, it is true that it would create jobs in the heartland where work is desperately needed. Moreover, it would signal that this President is committed to his very own “all of the above strategy” that we all agree is desperately needed.

On the topic of foreign policy, I give the President a lot (and I mean, a lot) of credit when he made the decision in 2009 to pursue a surge strategy in Afghanistan.  His progressive base forlornly expressed their disappointment that the President not only continued two wars that began under his predecessor, but he also continued controversial measures like indefinite detainment and rendition.  Not to mention that he escalated and increased drone attacks against AL-Qaeda figures in the dangerous Waziristan region of Pakistan, Yemen and even Somalia. President Obama also authorized a daring mission to kill Osama Bin Laden in May of 2011, a mission that was thought to have a less than 50 percent chance of working successfully. But then, the President conveniently announced his withdrawal plans of the surge troops just before the 2012 election. This not only goes against the wishes of the generals that are operating on the ground there, it also puts in jeopardy all the gains we have made there if we transition the mission to the Afghan Security Forces to quickly. We know they still need more time to grow their membership and train the ones who have joined. The U.S. forces also need to make more gains in the Western parts of Afghanistan, where Taliban strongholds are still prevalent. A decision like the one the President made makes it all too evident that he based his plan for withdrawal on a political calculation. He knows America is weary of War, especially this one. He knows he has perturbed his Progressive base too much and needs to signal to them that he’s different from President George W. Bush.   Therefore, the only conclusion I can draw is that he would rather ease the minds of his base rather than take the right steps to avoid the devastating consequences of a precipitous withdrawal of American troops.

Moving to the subject of the deficit again, in 2010 the President created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to bring a bipartisan group together to solve the problem of our outrageously large deficit. Headed by former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson and former Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, the two (and several other members of the House of Representatives) set out to create a plan that would reduce Government spending, control health care costs, reform Social Security and bring more revenue into the Government. It was lauded with praise from both sides of the political spectrum, and the CBO said these were the necessary steps that needed to be taken to begin providing solutions for multiple issues at once.  Once again, the President did not step up to the plate, and dismissed the plan entirely. Instead of screaming from the rooftops that he had a coherent and logical plan to show the American people, he evaded the issue and still has not brought forth any solutions to bring down our debt, reform Medicare and Social Security and begin restructuring the tax code.

 In case the President and Congress are confused as to why their approval ratings aren’t higher, it’s because of the inaction and the bickering that goes on in Washington. If I may quote the Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, “what the hell are we paying you for?” Can anyone point to a time in history where Washington was so polarized that Senate couldn’t agree on a budget for almost two years? Not to mention when the President produced his own budget, it didn’t get any votes in the Senate. Not even one. Just like on the issues of health care reform and financial reform, the President spoke about them briefly for the press and then sat back and let former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid go to work. For the entire duration of the health care debate, he spoke of bringing Republicans and Democrats together, and then dismissed almost everyone’s input. When Senator Bob Corker was working with then Senator Chris Dodd on financial reform, he again sat and did nothing when their negotiations collapsed and we ended up with an overreaching and partisan bill.

The point I want to make is that it is the President’s job to lead. It is the President’s job to work vigorously to make our country better and stronger. It is the President’s job to work with all members of Congress regardless of their party affiliation. I understand this President was handed a struggling country on the brink of a recession the likes of which we hadn’t experienced in decades. But this President needs to understand that we need a leader who is capable of bold decisions. Just like the one he made in May of 2011 to raid the compound of Osama Bin Laden. Mr. President, another four years of half-measured approaches to solving the country’s problems is not going to be sufficient enough for me to vote for you. The American people need a leader who will make the right decisions, regardless of the political cost. I only hope that former Governor Romney will learn from this President’s mistakes and provide a clear alternative to the status-quo.

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