Credit Where None Is Due

Recently, a relative of mine whose political orientation was marinated in the stew of 1960s liberalism urged me to concede that the GOP ought to give President Obama a little respect.  My family member, who can’t resist sharing his progressive predilections with me (knowing that I can’t help but respond hotly to the insanity of the left), started this conversation by saying with a hint of snark, “I hope I live long enough to see the Republicans give Obama credit for something.”

My immediate response was, “The Republicans never will, because Obama will never do anything to deserve any credit.”

Perhaps my reply was a bit cantankerous, but then again, in the entire Obama presidency, it is exceedingly difficult for anyone with a shred of concern for the nation’s well-being and the fidelity of the chief executive to our Constitution to identify anything that our 44th president has done to merit such kudos.  Sure, we can give Mr. Obama lots of credit for such nonessential exercises as successfully avoiding accountability for the too-many-to-count scandals that have festered under his watch, for stimulating the economy of the hospitality industry through his seemingly endless vacations, and for elevating the profile of the sport of golf (which, I suppose, serves as a job stimulus program for caddies and pro-shop employees).  But crediting him for presidential job performance…methinks not.

So my relative retorted, “You don’t think that Obama has done anything to deserve credit?”

Forsaking the political correctness of pointing to how nice his family appears (at least on magazine covers) and how he made the right decision to order the extermination of Osama bin Laden (a choice made kicking and screaming against the advice of Valerie Jarrett) – as I have often been wont to do in such discussions with liberals for the sake of being, in the words of Fox News, as “fair and balanced” as I can – I told him, “No, I don’t see anything worthy of credit.”

Before my relative could rebuke me for heresy, I continued, “Obama has increased the debt to over $18 trillion – doubling the figure under George Bush.  One third of the nation is on some sort of subsidized government program.  The southern border is a disaster.  And he believes that ISIS/ISIL is not Islamic.”

There was silence in our conversation at that point.

As a social worker, I have to meet with my clients and complete the accompanying documentation on their cases in accordance with my job description.  When I do those tasks, I get credit…in the form of a paycheck.  Nobody is patting me on the back and saying, “Hey, John, attaboy for doing the basic bare minimum – it’s just swell that you know your job duties, and you actually do them!”  I am paid for doing the day-in-day-out functions of my job, and I get “credit” in the form of a good annual performance review and increased compensation when I go out of my way to do something unique, above and beyond my standard call of duty.  In the same way, the president of the United States has very clear and limited job responsibilities as described in the Constitution, which essentially boil down to protecting the nation from foreign and domestic threats and faithfully enforcing federal law.

My relative tried to argue that Mr. Obama’s response a few months back to the Islamic State constituted an action meriting praise from the GOP, but this raises the question: exactly what kind of “credit” would the Republicans (or the nation for that matter) owe to Mr. Obama in this scenario?  If any president were to respond to Islamic terrorists after they have committed grotesque war crimes against American journalists, Coptic Christians, Yazidis, and fellow Muslims, and who have declared that they will bring their evil to our shores (which apparently they attempted to do in Garland, Texas at Pamela Geller’s recent event), he would merely be conducting an activity within the scope of his job description.

After being hired by the electorate, the American president is very handsomely compensated with a big salary, perks galore, free rent in a mansion, round-the-clock security, and the incalculable power of the presidential bully pulpit.  So when as commander-in-chief the current POTUS ordered bomb-drops on savage jihadists, what type of special kudos was he supposed to get? 

By extension, what kind of credit do the American people owe to Barack Obama?  Are we supposed to fete him for simply having been born with a darker pigmentation than all our previous presidents?  Should we sing his praises for keeping the peace with Russia while that nation’s big boss man is re-integrating Ukraine into a revived Soviet Union while commensurately threatening nations friendly to the U.S., such as Poland and Estonia?  Must we thank him for avoiding conflict with Iran while negotiating with the mullahs who crushed the burgeoning secular rebellion in 2009, who promote mass anti-American protests in the streets of Tehran, and who will not stop investing in their nuclear program?  Shall we laud his decision to pull the troops out of Iraq, which has led to the awful cancer of the Islamic State to metastasize?  Do we liken him to Martin Luther King, Jr. while he fans the flames of racial tension between minority communities and police officers through his low-key rhetorical provocations and his use of the attorney general’s office to go searching for straw men in places like Sanford and Ferguson?  Is he worthy of admiration for his handling of the economy, which has been stagnating for more than a half-decade, producing an anemic labor participation rate and a dramatic swelling of the welfare rolls?

The GOP owes Mr. Obama no congratulations, because virtually everything he has done in office has been the opposite of GOP’s stated principles.  (Of course, many powerbrokers in the GOP fail to live up to those principles and therefore aid and abet Mr. Obama’s destructive agenda, but that diatribe is for another article.)  Instead, as with any other person in any other position of employment, the party from which appropriate credit can be given to the president of the United States is not the Republican or Democratic Party.  Rather, it is the party that hired him for the job – that is, the party known as the American people.

It is my hope that my relative (and the electorate at large) will wake up before November 2016 and recognize that any “credit” a president may deserve is based on his/her faithful adherence to the constitutional job description set forth for the office.  Of course, this will take a realization that voting for president is much more akin to hiring an employee than to rendering oneself as subject to a monarch.

John Steinreich is the author of The Words of God?,  an analytical comparison of Christianity and Islam, available on Lulu Press and on Kindle.