Obama: Copping Out and Checking Out
Years ago, a trustworthy friend told me a story about then-state senator Barack Obama and himself. Both were members of the East Bank Athletic Club -- a ritzy health club miles and a lot of money away from Barack Obama’s district and church -- a private club for the 1%. Pickup basketball games were quite common. Obama often liked to play basketball, a sport where his height would seemingly give him an edge. My friend is taller than Obama, however, and often blocked Obama’ shots-embarrassing him (Obama is not a good basketball player anyway, going 2 for 22 shooting free throws while playing hoops with kids; 2 for 22 sounds about right for his record as president).
Eventually, every time he tried to play in a game against Obama, Barack would find a reason to leave -- offering a range of excuses: his wife, social plans, a meeting to attend, a pre-existing commitment. When Obama announced his presidency my friend confided in me he thought that Barack Obama would make a bad president.
Why? When facing a challenge, Obama always found an excuse to quit: to cop out and check out.
His prophecy has been fulfilled.
Recall how it all began-in 2008 when all history began anew.
“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
His ego was such that his campaign aides called him “the black Jesus.” Nor did he ever deny his divinity giving a sense of his own self-importance, not just with the faux Greek columns at Denver’s Invesco Field stadium (Obama’s temple) fake presidential seal and the like but also with his God-like proclamation upon his nomination victory:
I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.
As Barack Obama would say about Republicans, we were bamboozled.
He was riding high -- and not in the Choom Gang way -- when Democrats held both Houses of Congress and he would not deign to deal with Republicans (despite the fact that they to represented millions of Americans). ObamaCare, the stimulus, green schemes galore -- all jammed down the throat of Americans. What followed? The Nobel Peace Prize, the Grammy, the worldwide acclaim, the adoration.
All celebrated as triumphs. And they were triumphs -- of the imagination. It was all on the come and it never came.
What did come?
Trillions of debt, the evisceration of our military, the destruction of alliances, the bolstering of enemies; the weakest recovery on record; new records set --highest number of people on food stamps, disability rolls and the lowest worker participation rate in modern history; the stacking of federal courts so his agenda will outlive his presidency. He has succeeded in his goal of “fundamentally transforming America.” Actually, he has exceeded beyond even his own wildest dream; he has fundamentally transformed the world, with Russia running rampant, Al Qaeda and its offshoot ISIS controlling more resources and territory than ever before; Iran inches from becoming an apocalypse-seeking nuclear power.
But now his record of failure is gaining on him. His Gallup Poll numbers are the lowest of his presidency; people do not trust him to tell the truth and think he is incompetent and a bad leader. Even the media is deserting him. Or at least their collective delirium has passed. How has he responded?
Has he worked with others to fix problems? Has he toughed it out, put in extra hours, endured the pain and the setbacks and made the compromises that meeting and overcoming a challenge often bring? Has he followed John F. Kennedy’s ringing declaration about America’s choice to seek to land a man on the moon (and the mission to do other things) not because they are easy but “because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
Has he even worked any harder at all?
The answer is self-evident. He has not put in extra hours or burned the midnight oil; if anything, his second term has been one endless vacation, in the words of Mathew Continetti. His ego has seemingly, finally, been beaten; superseded and eclipsed by the id, Freud’s pleasure part of the brain.
He has blamed his failures on others (see Obama the Blamethrower); has excuses and not solutions; tells Americans things seem bad because social media gives a false sense of reality (he would know, having made use of the same during his campaigns) and his liberal chorus has joined his campaign to avoid blame and responsibility. Naturally who do they blame? Those misogynistic, bomb-throwing, hostage-taking, terrorizing (no, not referring to Muslim extremists -- banish the Islamophobic thought) Republicans.
In other words, he cops out.
From declaring he would heal the planet and halt the rise of the oceans he has descended to earth, telling Americans we should settle for singles and doubles. But instead we have been getting strike out after strike out.
When the going gets tough, Obama gets going. When faced with challenges he just goes AWOL. This was a behavior liberal Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus presciently noted years ago:
He didn't want to get mired in legislative details during the health-care debate for fear of repeating the Clinton administration's prescriptive, take-ours-or-leave-it approach. He doesn't want to go first on proposing entitlement reform because history teaches that this is not the best route to a deal. He didn't want to say anything too tough about Libya for fear of endangering Americans trapped there. He didn't want to weigh in on the labor battle in Wisconsin because, well, it's a swing state. (snip)
That was not an isolated case. Where, for example, is the president on the verge of a potential government shutdown - if not this week, then a few weeks from now?
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. (snip)
Where's Obama? No matter how hard you look, sometimes he's impossible to find.
Obama has left the building and is most likely headed for a basketball game with NBA superstars, a fairway, a fundraiser, private East Room concerts or to parties that fete him (such as this one created by Hollywood director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp).
Marcus’s list of his failures to follow-through when faced with hard work or opposition can be expanded and updated.
America is racing toward fiscal disaster and Obama refuses to work with Republicans and Democrats to prevent problems down the road (will a future president adopt Obama’s disgraceful habit of blaming his predecessor?).
President Obama stated repeatedly that Syria’s genocidal dictator “must go” and when he did not do so, Obama dropped the issue. Obama warned Vladimir Putin of serious consequences when he first took a chunk of Crimea, but failed to follow through with serious consequences so Putin punked him and took more and more of the Ukraine, while ridiculing Obama’s weakness via this tweeted photo. Obama sets a red line regarding Syria’s chemical weapons and not just ignores when the lines are crossed but remarkably outright denies ever having laid down such a line. Russia violates arms treaty with America and Obama blithely heads off to the links. Iran violates agreements regarding its nuclear program and Obama remains willfully blind, as he so often does when it comes to threats to America.
Why protect and defend America when to do so would require work from the President? Why risk embarrassment for failing if one can bask in praise for just being Barack Obama. After all, a record of voting “present” was no hindrance to winning the presidency.
No wonder he and his political hacks -- none of whom have served in the military -- consider deserter Bowe Bergdahl a hero. In their world, deserters are heroes.
So as crises erupt around the world (“exploding” in the words of his Secretary of Defense), Obama, in the words of MSNBC talking head Joe Scarborough (and echoed by many others) has “checked out” of being president and “doesn’t give a damn” what others may think of him He wants to be an ex-president. Who are we to deny him?
Let’s go back to the lessons of the East Bank Health Club basketball court. There is a cliché in Washington that everything you need to know about politics you can learn on the playground. Everything we need to know about Obama and politics could have been learned long ago on a basketball court in Chicago.
When confronted with a challenge , when faced with the prospect of having to work, when there are risks of being embarrassed by failure, Obama walks off the court -- as he has out of the presidency.