A Leaderless Nation

It's a well-known political axiom that presidents will often be credited with accomplishments they did not earn and be criticized for failures that were out of their control.  But just as often, particularly in our modern era where we have -- against the wise counsel of our Founders -- consolidated more and more power in the hands of our federal executive, presidents own the failures that happen on their watch.  The disastrous and nationally humiliating downgrade of our country's credit rating was not an inevitable consequence of uncontrollable misfortune.  It wasn't the result of gridlock or political wrangling between two parties that have bickered over our national debt and credit since the days of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.  It was a remarkable failure of leadership by the man chosen to be the country's economic caretaker.

For a full three days following the unprecedented embarrassment, the leader of the free world remained silent.  Perhaps he was recovering from an exhausting, multi-day birthday bash and political fundraiser that he threw for himself in two separate cities.  Or maybe his delay was to give his senior staff time to come up with more meaningless platitudes that he could dispassionately read from the TelePrompter, ostensibly to reassure a panicked nation.  But as the president nonchalantly waltzed out to his podium 53 minutes (and 3 days) late, the disquieting sensation had already begun to settle in on even his most ardent supporters: Obama is simply not up to this job.

The substance of his press conference did little to change that increasingly obvious conclusion.  Once again, the man who once campaigned as a visionary of the future retreated behind his now comedic refrain: it's all Bush's fault.  Don't misunderstand: no one would disagree with Obama that the need to reduce our deficit "was true the day [he] took office."  But why this argument falls flat is because far from reducing the Bush deficits, when it comes to spending more money than we're taking in, President Obama has outpaced Bush by a jaw-dropping trillion dollars a year.  Or consider this staggering reality: "In just four days last week, President Barack Obama's administration increased the national debt by more in inflation-adjusted dollars than the administrations of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower increased the national debt over the entire decade of the 1950s."  This kind of runaway spending makes George Bush look like a penny-pincher.

Perhaps realizing that pointing his finger at his predecessor wasn't going to cut it, President Obama also dispatched his underlings to start spreading the deranged talking point that this is a "Tea Party downgrade."  Let's see if I understand...the only group of people in the country who have, for the last two years, been warning of the need to make drastic spending cuts to avoid a catastrophe like this are responsible for the fact that our political leaders didn't make drastic spending cuts to avoid a catastrophe like this?  That the left is attempting such a delusional accusation is a clear indication of the level of desperation they feel.

And why wouldn't they?  The man who once promised to turn back the rise of the oceans and heal the planet was there on national television actually saying, "No matter what some agency might say, we've always been and always will be a AAA country."  The irresponsibility of that statement is difficult to fully grasp.  Obama is two and a half years into the job and is yet to realize that the full faith and credit of the United States is not something that can be maintained with juvenile taunts towards "some agency," or that our AAA rating can be regained just by a presidential pronouncement.

His mindless press conference, in which he offered no ideas or plans on how to regain our superior credit rating and in which he exhibited a bizarre lack of urgency reflective on someone fundamentally unserious about the gravity of the moment, left even sycophantic supporters like Chris Matthews questioning whether he was up to the task.

Matthews isn't alone.  Obama supporter Drew Westen wrote in the New York Times:

Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago...and that...he had voted 'present' (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.

It's sadly apparent that he's still dodging difficult issues -- which is why after bond rating agencies warned us in July that we must come up with a plan to get our borrowing and spending under control or risk a credit downgrade, Obama offered no such plan, instead asking Congress to allow him to borrow and spend another 2.5 trillion dollars.

The conclusion is incontrovertible: Obama owns this downgrade, and the country is undeniably worse off due to his failed stewardship of our nation's finances.  At a time begging for leadership, America has found itself a leaderless nation.

Peter is a public high school government teacher and radio talk show host in central Indiana.  Email peter@peterheck.com, visit www.peterheck.com, or like him on Facebook.