THE BLOG
08/26/2010 12:47 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Obama Haters Have It Wrong

I recently received a message in my email: "The stunning decline of Barack Obama: 10 key reasons why the Obama presidency is in meltdown." My immediate reaction was: how can reasonably intelligent people have it so wrong? And I quickly worked out the answers to why each of the 10 enumerated reasons had the world backwards.

1.) The Obama presidency is out of touch with the American people. The charge made is a "let them eat cake" assertion which is based on irrelevant incidents like Michelle Obama's trip to Spain. The accurate facts are very different. Presidents do not/ cannot create jobs, but they can seek to establish the conditions which, over some reasonable period of time, can drive the large economy to renewed job growth. The conditions that existed when Obama took office inevitably and immediately put him, and his administration, in a deep hole. He had to stimulate. To do that he had to dig the debt hole even deeper. And he and the whole country had to hunker down to live through whatever time period, almost unknowable and unpredictable, necessary to reduce unemployment. When 10% of the working population is unemployed two things happen: [1] the employed begin to worry that they are also at risk and [2] everyone forgets that the 90% is still employed. The Obama doomsayers simply are jumping the gun on assessing the economy because they were never happy about having such a different guy in the job. While the economy is recovering slowly, it is recovering, and when it does, it will be clear he was always truly in touch.

2.) Most Americans don't have confidence in the President's leadership. It is well known that campaigns are writ in poetry and governing is writ in prose. Obama's promises and "change you can believe in" were truly poetic. Governing, which boils down to making hard choices between competing interests, each of which group heard something different when it was poetry. Inevitably then, the short run leaves some people sucking air and wondering about those promises they had heard. Any fall off of popular support for his leadership was predestined to occur as the population lacked the patience to reckon with the, as yet, unproven outcome of his programs. The aggregate list of accomplishments to date is in fact amazing considering what he inherited.--stimulus, health care, financial reform, arms control, education reform, etc. When sufficient time passes, his popular leadership skills will be well recognized and will rank him in the top tier of all Presidents. His leadership easily matches Franklin Roosevelt's in 1934.

3.) Obama fails to inspire "Even Jimmy Carter was more moving" is the best that writer could come up with. On its face anyone who worked with Carter, or is old enough to remember him, knows perfectly well that is pure nonsense. No reasonable person could possibly expect any president to "hit it out of the park" every day. Overexposure can be an even bigger risk than insufficient or quiet communication, which is an essential part of governing. This charge is so ridiculous that it barely deserves mention.

4.) The United States is drowning in debt. Indeed we have a very high level of debt on a relative and absolute historical basis. Moreover, it is well and long established that an economic downturn is NOT the moment to stint on deficit spending. Obama inherited the dramatically high level of debt due to his predecessor's profligate spending and tax cutting. He/we had no realistic choice but to defer debt reduction to a period of renewed growth. Yes, people can debate the priorities of the spending programs proposed and enacted. But "spend we must" was exactly the right thing to do. And, the very people who decry the current spending are the same ones who supported his predecessor's reckless spending and tax cutting. Go figure?

5.) Obama's big government is falling flat. Last time I was confronted with a flat tire it took quite a while for the pressure pump to show renewed life in my tire. It takes quite a critical mass of air injected into the void to pump up a flat. The bailouts and stimulus spending were simply the air pump and it has not been pumping that long yet. And again the need for that propping up process came from the last president's allowing the housing and banking sectors to get so wildly off the reservation that we nearly did have a complete collapse. And, again those same people are complaining that Obama was solving the very problems they created. Is anyone reasonable supposed to believe anything they are saying now?

6.) Obama's support for socialized health care is a huge political mistake. To begin with, to call it a political mistake may be simply a complaint that they lost a vote and are now sore losers. Yes, it was a political risk. It has been a political challenge for a very long time. Every President since Lyndon Johnson, including Richard Nixon, made a serious run on this major need in modern society. They have all failed. Obama took up the challenge. He could not quite get all he wanted due to objections from the left and right. But he got the bulk of the program, which now both covers a big hunk of the uncovered population and launches several important innovations which promise to bend the cost curve over several years. Call it a political risk, but do not confuse with a political mistake. The political mistake would have been to flinch from such an important societal need.

7.) Obama's handling of the Gulf oil spill has been weak-kneed and indecisive. Gosh, was it weak kneed and indecisive to take the unprecedented step of forcing the hand of BP to cough up $20 billion to compensate for the damage in the Gulf area? Was he supposed to put on overalls and go down with a wrench and turn the damn thing off by himself? Perhaps that judgment is off base because the complainer's expectations were so far off the mark. Sure, everyone was/is frustrated. But, Obama showed intelligence, patience and compassion throughout the whole tragedy. Where do people come up with these unreasonable charges?

8.) US foreign policy is an embarrassing mess under the Obama administration. What is embarrassing about a President who has largely disengaged from Iraq, who has finally got a new Middle East peace discussion started, who ramped up, on an intelligently thought out basis, a last push to try to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan, who got a new arms control arrangement with the Russians, who orchestrated a coordinated international financial services overhaul, who has gradually calmed the world about how to deal with an emerging China? Not to mention one who got the Nobel Peace Prize? If that is an embarrassing story, what is history going to say about the period 2000-2008?

9.) President Obama is muddled and confused on national security. What is the difference between being muddled and confused and being subtle and nuanced? The answer lies in the mind of the beholder and speaker. Obama is not a simplistic man prone to dramatic proclamations of war and peace. Rather, he is a man who sees connections others miss and is patient and strategic enough to pursue national objectives persistently and quietly despite outcries for simplistic table thumping. This allegation is like a loose running torpedo that with a little luck will turn back and destroy its launching vehicle.

10.) Obama does not believe in American greatness. Again the charge more belies the failure of the speaker to understand Obama's wisest comments about the need for the US "to walk softly but carry a big stick." For too long under his predecessor we paraded in military gear and ended up being wimps. In the process the US lost the respect and affection of the world. Obama has won a lot of that back, and at the same time by walking into the oval office every morning he is proving, in ways words alone cannot, that he believes America is the greatest country in history by overwhelmingly voting to make him the occupant of that great office.

Beauty and ugliness are indeed in the eye of the beholder. While the author of the foregoing 10 points had every right to see and advertise his 10 assertions of ugliness, greater wisdom and balance of thought might have given his readers a better chance to think for themselves and not just play to their prejudices.The sole purpose of this rebuttal is simply to seek to blunt the constant self-fulfilling repetition of untruths, which left alone take on a life of their own.

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