Bundled up in an overcoat and scarf on a bitterly cold February morning in 2007, Senator Barack Obama announced before thousands of shivering supporters his intention to seek the presidency the following year. He promised to have an open dialogue, to listen to both sides on the issues that matter most and deliver results that would make our country better.
But hidden within his litany of promises that day, Obama revealed a truly uncanny ability to foretell the narrative of his own future administration. Developments over the past three years make the words he uttered from the steps of the Illinois State Capitol nearly five years ago even more poignant than they were upon delivery – which hardly seemed plausible at the time. Unbeknownst to us then, we had ourselves a prescient president-to-be.
At the start of his remarks, Obama explained his governing philosophy by saying, “It was here [Springfield, Illinois] we learned to disagree without being disagreeable…that so long as we’re willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.”
Today’s reality is a 180 degree turn from the picture he painted that chilly morning. For all the promise and perceived willingness to “listen to each other” there have been few – if any – instances of that happening. In just one example from Obama’s first year in office, as Congress debated healthcare reform only Democrats sat at the table hashing out a compromise – amongst themselves! – on sweeping legislation that would touch the lives of every American whether we liked it or not.
Obama then complained that, “What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.”
Wow, pretty powerful stuff, right? In just fifty-two words he described how his team would attempt to rally their base by engaging in attacks on those seeking to offer constructive criticism of his policies and how “tough decisions” he has long accused others of imposing on him would sit in the to-do pile.
Need proof? Obama has consistently allowed Congress to carry his water on major legislative initiatives. He’s also employed the use of straw men as a rhetorical crutch when faced with a lack of evidence to back up his claims. That’s not to mention delayed action on how to proceed in Afghanistan, combating our mounting deficits and debt and the now oft-mocked frequent “pivot” to jobs. There’s also the trite attacks on political rivals, including insisting Mitt Romney has “no core.” Sounds a bit like “the failure of leadership,” a “chronic avoidance of tough decisions” and a “preference for scoring cheap political points” – the same things he once objected to – doesn’t it?
He continued to sketch his presidential playbook by saying, “And when all else fails…we’ve been told that our crises are somebody else’s fault.” Curious. How often has he cast blame for his failings on President George W. Bush? I guess we should have seen this coming. Obama the Oracle told us it was.
The Senator even gave a wink to his future game plan for raising needed campaign cash by saying, “They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back. The time for that politics is over. It’s time to turn the page.”
Turning the page has been an awfully slow process. In late 2009, the Washington Times reported donors who coughed up over $30,000 to the Democratic National Committee or bundled over $300,000 in donations were given exclusive access to senior White House officials and opportunities to bowl on the White House’s famous lanes.
We’ve also recently learned the bundlers for his re-election efforts include a slew of lobbyists in addition to the fact that at least 50 former lobbyists have been placed in senior administration positions over the years, including Cabinet members.
Obama keeps reiterating he never said “change you can believe in tomorrow.” Perhaps those pages are just too heavy to turn. Maybe more money would help?
Finally, before the inspired crowd retreated to warmer places, Obama gave the soon-to-be faithful a quick assessment on how they would feel after he won. Yes, after outlining his approach to policy he even offered a synopsis of the let down he would award his supporters with in no time by failing to close Guantanamo within a year as promised and keeping in place many Bush-era anti-terrorism policies, among other disappointments for his base.
“But too many times, after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own.”
And now he wants another term.