In September 2008 during the presidential election campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama chided Senator John McCain for suspending his campaign to deal with the economic crisis. He said, "A president should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time."
In March of 2009, the media began to question whether or not President Obama was taking on too many issues at once, including: the closing of Gitmo, the economic crisis, creating jobs, administering the stimulus plan, health care reform, a growing budget deficit, green energy, global warming, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, education reform, and immigration reform.
Being the arrogant narcissist that he is, Obama naturally defended his actions. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs compared the situation to a house on fire where each of the problems Obama was taking on represented a different room in the house. "Which room are you going to put out first? Or are you going to call the fire department and ask them to put all of it out? Or are you going to say, you know what, we love the living room; start over there. And if you can, get quickly to the kitchen, and next to the den," Gibbs said. Obama was saying in effect, "I can walk and chew gum at the same time."
So then, let's review Obama's progress to date, shall we?
Is Gitmo on track to be closed within one year as per his executive order, and one of his first acts as president? Not likely. President Obama is now saying: "We are on a path and a process where I would anticipate that Guantanamo will be closed next year. I'm not going to set an exact date..."
According to some experts, the economy is showing some signs of life. Apparently there was 3.5% economic growth in the third quarter, which suggests that the recession is ending. But if the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) - the group of economists that officially determines when a recession begins and ends - has anything to say about it, the end of the recession could be a long way off.
According to the NBER, our current recession began in December of 2007. But they did not use the generally accepted measure for the start of a recession, that is, two consecutive quarters of economic decline. The NBER used job losses to determine when this recession began, even though the economy continued to grow slowly well after December of 2007. So then, if job losses determined the beginning of the recession, it is only logical to assume that job growth will determine when the recession ends. But that isn't happening yet.
President Obama said his stimulus plan would create approximately 4 million new jobs within 24 months and unemployment would not exceed 8%. Well, that doesn't seem to be working either. Job losses continue to mount as 2,829,000 jobs have been lost since his stimulus bill was signed. Unemployment is now at 10.2%, and the highest in 26 years.
Administering the Stimulus Plan:
President Obama and members of his administration have tossed around figures of one million jobs "saved or created" as a result of the stimulus plan. In some cases they said: "over
one million jobs." According to the official website Recovery.gov
, it was reported that exactly 640,329 jobs have been saved or created. When the numbers were examined more closely by ABC News, they found that even those reduced job figures were exaggerated or in error. Jobs were being reported as "saved or created" in congressional districts that do not exist. In one case, the purchase of a $1000 lawn mower reportedly saved 50 jobs.
The number of errors being reported caused David Obey (D-WI) to say: "The inaccuracies on recovery.gov that have come to light are outrageous
and the Administration owes itself, the Congress, and every American a commitment to work night and day to correct the ludicrous mistakes. Whether the numbers are good news or bad news, I want the honest numbers and I want them now." So does the rest of America, but don't hold your breath.
Health Care Reform:
This was the centerpiece of Obama's election campaign, and his highest priority. He started working on health care reform in March, when he faced critics who said he was taking on too much. He toured the country stumping for health care reform. He told Congress to put a bill on his desk before the August recess, but the deadline came and went.
August was noted by the media as one of the most news-filled recesses ever, with almost non-stop reporting on townhall meetings dominated by vocal protesters who were angry about the Obama administration in general, and his health care reform plan in particular. The Democrats tried to smear the protesters, and they blamed the Republicans for holding up progress on a reform package, but "Blue Dog" Democrats were the real stumbling block.
Obama then changed his deadline, saying that health care reform would be completed "by the end of this year". With precious little legislative time remaining on the congressional calendar for 2009, it is now being suggested that health care reform will be complete before Obama's State-of-the-Union message in January. Apparently health care reform is harder to accomplish than he thought it would be.
To make matters worse, the polls suggest that Obama is losing support for his health care reform plan. A Quinnipiac poll
released yesterday, found that voters disapprove 51%-35% of the health care overhaul passed by the House of Representatives which he has endorsed. And voters disapprove 53%-41% on President Obama's handling of health care. "Independent voters disapprove 59-35 percent of the President's handling of health care, and disapprove 57-29 percent of the plan itself," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
President Obama acknowledges that we have a problem with the budget deficit, and says that we need to address it. In an interview
with Major Garrett of FoxNews on November 17th, he said: "I think it is important though to recognize that if we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery, that at some point, people could lose confidence in the US economy in a way that could actually lead to a double-dip recession."
President Obama then went on to say that we need to set up "a pathway longterm for deficit reduction." Yet, Obama appears to have no "short term" plan for addressing the budget deficit. In fact, every measure he has passed since taking office has only ADDED
to the deficit. He repeatedly says that he inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit, but the deficit was $569 billion when George W. Bush left office, and it was $1.4 trillion at the end of Fiscal Year 2009. His claim that health care reform will be "deficit neutral" is ludicrous. President Obama's progress on this issue has all been negative - it's getting worse not better.
In October, Shenyang Power Group (SPG), a Chinese company, and the U.S. Renewable Energy Group (US-REG), announced plans to develop a $1.5 billion, 600MW wind farm
across approximately 36,000 acres in Texas. A-Power Energy Generation Systems, a subsidiary of SPG, was designated as the supplier of the wind turbines. The deal was criticized
by some labor groups and by Senator Charles Schumer of New York because it uses economic recovery funds to buy wind turbines manufactured by Chinese workers at a time when Americans need the jobs.
In an effort to appease Schumer and the unions, SPG and US-REG recently announced another deal
, which calls for the development and construction of a new wind turbine production and assembly plant in the United States. The facility is expected to be 320,000 square feet and produce 1,100 megawatts (MW) of wind energy turbines annually. Upon completion, the facility is expected to employ approximately 1,000 workers and will create additional jobs during the construction process.
Beyond that, there has been little progress of note in the area of Green Energy.
President Barack Obama wanted Congress to tackle climate change prior to a December 7th-18th U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. After much hype, the House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey "Cap-and-Trade" bill by a narrow margin of 219-212 votes on June 26th. The 1,427-page bill would restrict greenhouse gas emissions from industry, mainly carbon dioxide from the combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas. Because 85% of American energy comes from CO2-emitting fossil fuels, the Waxman-Markey bill represents "an extraordinary level of economic interference by the federal government", and its impact on the American economy would not be small according to the Heritage Foundation
Passing Waxman-Markey in the House raised an outcry from critics of the bill. They wanted to try and prevent passage of a similar bill in the Senate. According to Climate Progress
, a pro-environment blog, "many U.S. Senators are now getting 100 to 200 calls a day opposing a climate and clean energy bill - and bupkes in favor." The "Cap-and-Trade" bill has been routinely referred to by its critics as the "Cap-and-Tax" bill. It was another item which became the subject of protesters at the August townhall meetings.
Apparently this emotional reaction to Waxman-Markey had some effect on the Senators, who appear to be in no rush to address the issue. Majority Leader Harry Reid said on November 17th that the Senate will not vote
on a proposed climate change bill until spring 2010. Health care reform is currently his top priority, and it has pushed climate change off the table. "I don't think anyone's excited about doing another really, really, big thing that's really, really hard that makes everybody mad," said Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Senator. "Climate fits that category."
As a result, international climate negotiations have stalled as delegates wait for the U.S. Congress to pass legislation. With the Senate still undecided, U.S. negotiators will not likely approve legally binding emission reductions when they join world leaders in Copenhagen, Denmark, next month.
On August 30th, General Stanley A. McChrystal - top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan - sent an urgent, confidential assessment of the war to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. In the 66-page document, McChrystal requested more troops in order to implement the counterinsurgency strategy that President Obama laid out in March of this year. McChrystal states: "Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) - while Afghan security capacity matures - risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."
Since August 30th, McChrystal has said that he thinks 40,000 troops is a realistic number. He said he would prefer 60,000 troops, but that 40,000 would be adequate. While Obama has hinted that he might send only 20,000 troops, no final decision has been made. The president's failure to make this important decision has drawn fire from various quarters. His "dithering", as some have described it, is creating morale problems among the soldiers in Afghanistan and encouraging the Taliban to fight harder.
According to the FoxNews interview mentioned above, Obama seems to be trying to find a middle ground between the hawks and the doves. "There are voices who say 'this is a quagmire and we're wasting our resources and endangering our young men and women's lives' and... There are those who say 'we’ve gotta go all in and commit and rebuild Afghanistan so it’s a stable just society.' If I was just hearing one side, then I would probably not be getting the full reality of what's going on in Afghanistan... if I was just listening to hawks or doves on either side of the debate, then I probably wouldn't be making a very good decision."
What President Obama doesn't seem to realize is, that not making a decision is in fact a decision. His indecisiveness is producing results and consequences.
President Obama has made no apparent changes to current strategy.
President Obama has made no apparent changes to current strategy.
President Obama has made no progress on this issue.
President Obama has made no progress on this issue.
Despite having said that he can accomplish all these things at one time, President Obama has: failed on Gitmo, failed to create jobs, failed to administer the stimulus plan, failed to end the economic crisis, failed to achieve health care reform, failed to obtain public support for health care reform, failed to reduce the budget deficit, failed to make significant progress on green energy, failed to obtain public support for climate change legislation, failed to get a climate bill passed, failed to win the "war of necessity" in Afghanistan, failed to implement an Afghan strategy he laid out in March, failed to respond to General McChrystal's troop request, failed to be decisive, failed to make changes in Iraq, failed to make changes regarding Pakistan, failed to make progress on education reform, and failed to make progress on immigration reform.
Now let me be perfectly clear: I am not disappointed that President Obama has failed in any of these areas except Afghanistan. Since I disagree almost entirely with Obama's philosophy and policies, I believe his failures are generally good for America. In the case of Afghanistan, I agreed with the strategy he laid out in March, and believe he should have fulfilled General McChrystal's request. His current "dithering" puts our troops in danger. But if we simply judge President Obama on the basis of his own standards, then it appears that he cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.