The “Where’s Waldo” presidency

March 7, 2011

Jack Kelly had a scathing piece at Real Clear Politics yesterday that lays bare just what an empty suit President Obama turned out to be:

“Obama’s appeal comes not from the things he says, but from who is saying them,” wrote columnist Froma Harrop during the campaign. Though mostly a fan, Ms. Harrop noted that in “The Audacity of Hope,” Mr. Obama wrote “my treatment of the issues is often partial and incomplete.” Ms. Harrop said, “It takes some doing for a politician to write a 364-page book, his second volume, and skate past all controversy.”

Being a “blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views” is a good way to be elected president … especially when the incumbent is saddled with an unpopular war and the stock market melts down two months before the election. But after two years in office, that blank screen can look more like an empty suit.

“For a man who won office talking about change we can believe in, Barack Obama can be a strangely passive president,” wrote Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus last week. She generally supports him but says “there are a startling number of occasions in which the president has been missing in action — unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment. He is, too often, more reactive than inspirational, more cautious than forceful. The dots connect to form an unsettling portrait of a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ presidency.”

Kelly cites Shelby Steele’s observation that Obama’s popularity during the 2008 campaign was due to his embodiment of the nation’s racial idealism, the search for absolution for the sins of our past, and not from his policies (which were mostly identical to Hillary Clinton’s). Even Obama, as Kelly relates, has written of himself:

“I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”

Kelly then goes on to recount Obama’s passivity (“voting present”) in foreign and domestic affairs, and points out how otherwise sensible people weren’t just taken in by Obama’s act, but reveled in it in a moment reminiscent of the poster in Fox Mulder’s office that read, “I want to believe.”

Not all of us fell for the pretense, of course. Some saw through him from the start, and many of us sounded the alarm. But it was of no avail; with a complicit mainstream press that acted more as a media arm of the Obama campaign than as responsible journalists in a free society, it wasn’t until almost two years after the election that we finally learned anything solid about his political beliefs and education. And by then… ?

Now we’re stuck with the man who heads arguably the worst administration in my lifetime, which is saying a lot, since I remember Carter.  And there is still over a year-and-a-half to go before we can be rid of him.

Keep your fingers crossed nothing truly bad happens and we have to ask “Where’s Waldo?” again.


Workers matter to Obama. Union workers, that is…

March 7, 2011

And if you’re not in a union? Then you can expect a kick in the backside, instead of a pat on the back. It seems that while reorganizing General Motors, Treasury Secretary (and tax cheat) Timothy Geithner protected the benefits and pensions of union workers while gutting those of non-union employees:

Republican Reps. Mike Turner of Ohio and Dan Burton of Indiana are asking House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, California Republican, to dig into the Obama administration’s decision to cut more than 20,000 private-sector workers’ pensions and eliminate their health and life insurance plans during the General Motors (GM) bailout in 2009.

A spokesman for Issa’s committee told The Daily Caller the committee “remains interested” and is “looking forward” to findings from an ongoing Government Accountability Office investigation, which is expected to come out within the next couple of months. What Turner and Burton are saying happened during the GM bailout is that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner decided to cut pensions for salaried non-union employees at Delphi, a GM spinoff, to expedite GM’s emergence from bankruptcy. The problem with that, according to the congressmen, is that Geithner decided to fully fund the pensions of union workers involved in the process – including workers associated with United Auto Workers, Steelworkers and the IUE-CWA.

“This is a terrible injustice. This is a political decision, not a legal or financial decision,” Turner said in a phone interview with TheDC. “There were people who were penalized and people were chosen as winners and losers. The White House, the administration and the Auto Task Force (ATF) decided who were going to receive their pensions and who were not.”

Bear in mind that this wasn’t some sharing of the burden, no spreading the pain around (rather than the wealth). The Delphi employees saw their pensions savaged while union workers had theirs made whole — at taxpayer expense.

Further on in the article, it becomes clear that the complaint of the Delphi employees (at least those interviewed) is that they didn’t share in the largesse. While I can sympathize, to have bailed them out, too, would have been wrong. What should have happened is a GM bankruptcy that would have cleared existing contracts and brought in new management to try to restore the company to health. Yes, it would have been more painful short-term for everyone, but much better for the regional and the American economies in the long run than the current zombie corporation, which exists only as an appendage of the government.

(Oh, and bondholders wouldn’t have been strong-armed out of their rights, either.)

That said, this picking of winners and losers is another illustration of who the administration thinks its real constituents are.

Just look for the union label.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)