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9/22/2010
The Real Tragedy of the Obama Presidency
CATEGORY: Politics

The precipitous decline of America’s fortunes under the leadership of President Obama has generated a host of emotions by a majority of Americans; anger, confusion, bewilderment, fear, and and a deadening kind of depression that has robbed the citizenry of hope for the future.

And that’s just his supporters.

At an extraordinary town hall forum sponsored by CNBC and attended by an audience mostly made up of those who voted for Barack Obama for president, the dominant emotion exhibited by these erstwhile Obama boosters was extreme disappointment, bordering on helplessness.

In what the New York Times described as “a live televised conversation on the state of the economy between President Obama and American workers, students, business people and retirees,” the president ended up playing therapist as he lamely tried to buck up the spirits of the dispirited. One African American woman’s lament was particularly searing:

“I’m one of your middle class Americans. And quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for,” a woman told President Obama at a town hall.

“My husband and I have joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives, but, quite frankly, it’s starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we’re headed again, and, quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly. Is this my new reality?,” she added.

Another supporter, a 30 year old law school graduate, asked the $64,000 question:

“I was really inspired by you and your campaign and the message you brought, and that inspiration is dying away,” he said, adding, “And I really want to know, is the American dream dead for me?”

That inspiration is “dying away” for tens of millions of Americans. Perhaps the greatest political disillusionment in modern American history is setting in as it has slowly begun to dawn on even Mr. Obama’s most faithful supporters that the gap between his promises and his performance will never be bridged. Feelings of betrayal — already prominent on the far left - have yet to manifest itself with the average Americans who voted for him. No doubt that too, will eventually be added to the emotional pain being experienced by those who are slowly waking up to the fact they were sold a bill of goods by a media blinded by adoration and the slickest political marketing campaign ever seen.

And therein lies the real tragedy of Barack Obama’s presidency; so many put so much faith in him and personally invested so much of themselves in the success of his presidency - many having voted for the first time in their lives - that the psychological let down is actually having a real world effect on the economy. Consumer confidence, hiring decisions by business, hopelessness in the job market, and the sickening feeling by the public that the president has no plan to get us out of the economic doldrums is playing a role in holding the economy back.

When Obama cannot even inspire his own supporters to believe in him, you know this country is in deep trouble. Almost as important as having a clue about how to get the economy moving again, it is a president’s ability to lift us out of ourselves and point us toward a bright future that can unleash the power of American optimism and help get the economy moving again.

The contrast between President Obama and Ronald Reagan in the sphere of inspirational rhetoric is stark and telling. Reagan spent little time blaming the American people for our economic troubles. He didn’t trash businesses, nor did he try and play the class warfare card. Even in the depths of the worst recession up to that point, President Reagan’s optimism never flagged, nor did his belief in his own policies.

The most successful political commercial of all time — the “Morning in America” campaign — was released when inflation, interest rates, and unemployment were all still near post-war highs, although about half of what they were in 1980. Can you imagine President Obama exhibiting that kind of optimism or faith in his fellow citizens?

What Obama’s supporters don’t understand is that there is a direct conflict between the president’s agenda and the economic health of the country. The reason things are as bad as they are is because of the schizophrenic nature of Obama’s presidency. On the one hand, he wants “transformational” change. His agenda has certainly reflected that goal with health care reform, cap and trade, takeovers of entire industries, and the biggest power grab by Washington in history. Unfortunately for Obama — and especially for us — his agenda is at odds with the very idea of a growing economy. In the bitterest of ironies, the success of the president in changing the country has led to a failure of economic growth. His desire for change is fundamentally at odds with the reality of a capitalist economy and its tremendous ability to create wealth out of nothing.

Nothing proves this better than the president’s single minded desire to pass a health insurance reform bill while the economy literally went into the toilet. For almost a year and a half, while Congress and the president dithered over health care, the country lost 2 million jobs. His scattershot approach to boosting job creation during this time was unfocused, pathetically inadequate, and failed miserably in the end. Much more important to him was creating a legacy by passing an “historic” health care reform bill. Democrats are about to pay for this schizophrenia in November.

It is natural to look at Obama’s disillusioned supporters and dismiss their angst as self-inflicted. There were plenty of voices who predicted the course of the Obama presidency prior to the election and it would be easy to say “I told ya so” instead of recognizing the tragedy for America in their feelings of hopelessness.

But most of these Americans do not pay much attention to politics and it is easy for those of us who are political junkies to forget that singular fact. To the politically naive - especially those who never voted before - Obama seemed too good to be true. His personae, so cool and welcoming. His rhetoric, so soothing and warming. What he lacked in specifics regarding “change” for America, most people simply filled in the blanks with their own hopes, their own dreams.

Now hope is being replaced with a rank cynicism that will make it that much harder to actually effect the changes in Washington that will make a difference. There are some extraordinarily difficult times ahead as we will have to make a series of bad choices in cutting entitlements, defense spending, discretionary spending, and probably raising taxes to stave off disaster. Citizens who are predisposed not to trust their political leaders that the pain they will feel will be worth it probably means that what needs to be done, won’t get done, and we could spiral into a debt crisis that would make the financial meltdown of 2008 seem like a blip on the radar.

A leader that can’t inspire optimism or confidence breeds a citizenry bereft of faith and hope. This will be President Obama’s true legacy. The rest will be historical chaff.

By: Rick Moran at 8:55 am

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