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I haven’t figured out whether President Barack Obama is going to turn out to be Slick Willy II, or Jimmy Carter Jr. Right now he seems to be vying with Carter for the honor of Worst President Ever. At least President Obama has the excuse of being probably the most inexperienced man ever elected president. He had little legislative experience and no executive experience at all. Carter’s only excuse is that he's a doofus.
One thing is for sure: Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan.
Reagan spent most of his eight years in the White House with a “Democratic” majority in both houses of Congress. Only during his first two years did the Republicans have a bare majority in the Senate. Nevertheless, Reagan got things done, most of them positive, and was instrumental in bringing the Cold War to the end. Reagan did this by exercising leadership. He was a great communicator and he knew how to use Oval Office effectively. He wasn’t afraid to stake out his own bargaining position when beginning negotiations with Congressional “Democrats” over legislation.
President Obama seems good at talking, although his dependence on teleprompters often makes me wonder if he’s able to use the bathroom without one. His rhetoric, however, seems to have lost most of its effectiveness over the last two years. It’s been so often empty that people seem to be taking it with more than the usual grain of salt we use with politicians’ statements.
He also shows no leadership. During his first two years, he seemed to govern more like a European prime minister than an American president. I did have some hopes during the lame duck session that he was finally going to stand up to his party’s left, but now he seems to have lapsed back into Prime Minister Obama mode. He gives me the impression that he’s afraid of his party’s left wing, and afraid of the Republicans.
His budget deepens this impression. The left calls it timid. Republicans call it worse than timid. I’ve also seen it referred to as “useless.” It does nothing to rein in spending and, in fact, will actually add to the current astronomical deficits that we are now running. Cuts and new taxes in the budget are more than offset by additional spending
Furthermore, it doesn’t tackle the looming fiscal disaster that Social Security and Medicaid will create, if nothing is done, and this is where a president’s leadership is sorely needed. He needs to show some backbone and start putting things on the table.
This year, Social Security for the first time since 1983, has been unable to cover all benefit payments from the payroll taxes that it takes in. Of course, there is a trust fund, but there is a little problem with this. Social Security can only invest excess revenue in a special class of U. S. Government debt. Congress has already spent this money. This means that, when the Social Security system cashes these, the federal government must come up with that money from somewhere to make good on these debts. This only makes the current out-of-control deficit situation even worse.
It’s past time for President Obama to show some leadership. In the first place, he needs to stop worrying about his party’s left. They’ll huff and puff, and maybe a few of them will get so upset they’ll wet themselves. But they’ll still nominate him in 2012 and I’ve explained in an earlier column why they are certain to do this.
He also needs to stop being afraid of the Republicans. He needs to take the initiative and put out some ideas, engage the Republicans in a dialogue over them and use the “bully pulpit” of the presidency to rally public support. This is what Reagan did with “Democrats” 25 years ago, and President Obama should be able to do the same if he tries.