Real Leadership

The last few days have seen the Republican nominees and all-stars enter full attack mode. And the Great American Pastime of arguing, fact-checking, and commentary has moved into its final stretch–with the conventions, we start our engines for the playoff season, and I’m excited to see the contenders enter the ring.

In addition to giving bloggers like me an opportunity to badly mix metaphors, this is also a good moment to comment on the left-wing responses to some of the RNC speeches.

What I’ve heard and read from the left in the last few days can be divided into two categories: arguments centered on Romney and Ryan, and arguments centered on President Obama. The arguments I’ve heard about Romney and Ryan have been predictable; their speeches were nothing but lies and distortions (and also racist!), they only want to help the rich, yadda yadda yadda. More on that in a further post. But it’s the arguments about Obama’s record that I want to talk about here.

Romney and Ryan have reasonably spent a fair amount of time highlighting the President’s failed record. Almost four years now–a full term–and unemployment has yet to come back below 8%, we still have 23 million people unemployed or underemployed, and his first term will have added nearly $6 trillion in debt.

I think it’s fair to point those things out. So what has been the response?

Republicans are mean.

Seriously! I still hear, after almost four years of failure, that it’s all the mean Republicans’ fault. Obama wanted to fix the economy, but Bush left him such a mess, and he’s NEVER been able to get any of his plans through those mean Republicans in Congress that block him at every turn! They even admit they want him to fail, and that’s just mean!

So I’d just like to remind us all of something.

Despite the way the left talks today, Obama had large majorities in both houses of Congress for the first two years of his Presidency. During that time he got everything he wanted passed. Stimulus, Dodd-Frank, Obamacare–multiple major, far-reaching works of legislative overhaul.

People talk as if the President has never been able to pass a bill. “Of course the economy hasn’t turned around,” they say, “Congress won’t let a single one of the President’s ideas through!” The facts contradict this. Americans have extraordinarily short memories. Every one of the President’s ideas got through.

Finally, after having two years of carte blanche to pass anything he wanted, the American people recoiled at what they saw the Democrats doing, and responded with their votes. Obama himself referred to it as an electoral “shellacking.” Since then, the fact that he’s had any opposition in Congress at all has been the central excuse of the left for our economic situation.

And still, the stimulus WAS passed, and we still sailed beyond 10% unemployment. Dodd-Frank was passed, and the housing market has yet to rebound. The President’s policies aren’t some vague “what-if” that may have fixed our problems. President Obama’s policies are in place and we are seeing their effects in our economy’s failure to grow.

The position of President of the United States used to be referred to as the “leader of the free world.” I haven’t heard that term used in years. I don’t think people see this President as a leader at all.

So instead of a President that blames every problem on someone else, I think we need a leader that can work with whatever difficult situation he’s dealt. Someone that has been able to work with a hostile legislature and still get things done. A leader that has been able to step into existing failures and turn them into successes. If we can find one, I want a leader that’s been so amazingly good at turning failures around, maybe he’s even sheepish about how much money he made doing it.

That’s not about being mean. That’s getting things done. Let’s get things done, America.


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  1. #1 by Henry Jenkins on September 1, 2012 - 6:05 pm

    This could be why people think republicans were less than helpful. It’s an article from 2010, but if you look at the senate records to date, the republicans could easily be characterized as the least cooperative congress in history.

    • #2 by basicconservative on September 1, 2012 - 11:14 pm

      I did look at the Senate records to date (rather than using some random dude’s “projections” of what those Republican jerks will probably do in the next two years), and it’s not been significantly different than the number of filibusters in the split Senate during Bush’s last two years in office.

      Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter. It didn’t stop anything. Do you dispute that Obama was able to get massive policy changes through? Did we get the stimulus? Did we get financial reform written and run by Democrats? Did we get Obamacare? Yep. We got the CARD act and small business and home ownership legislation and all kinds of government intervention to fix the economy.

      Has the economy recovered?

  2. #3 by henry jenkins on September 2, 2012 - 8:21 am

    I was merely hoping you would tend towards the factual when you said “During that time he got everything he wanted passed” & “It didn’t stop anything.” Perhaps Republicans call this hyperbole, but I call it lying.

    Has the economy recovered? Nope. It apparently takes more than 4 years of Obama to undo 8 years of Bush. However, it does appear that we have successfully survived what could have been the complete collapse of our financial system, and mercifully avoided a second depression – which for a long time seemed probable.

    I really don’t understand what it is that you think a Republican President is going to fix. Our problems are now systemic, and the partisan bickering does nothing but cement them.

    I could go on, but I know how much you like making your points so I’ll pause here.

  3. #4 by basicconservative on September 2, 2012 - 10:16 am

    Call it what you want, but I stand behind it. If you really want to argue that, tell me what the Republicans stopped him from passing? Okay, he’s thrown out a couple of budgets… that haven’t even received a single Democrat vote. I know he originally wanted a more radical health care law, but it was the Democrats that wouldn’t pass that too–which gets back to my point about leadership. If he can’t even get his own party on board for his more aggressive policies, how can he expect to convince anyone else?

    But he did pass health care reform, three or four new regulatory bills addressing housing, banking, small business taxes and SBA loans, not to mention a nearly-$1 trillion stimulus. What did the Republicans stop? And why didn’t any of this turn things around? Is your argument really “it could have been worse”? “It’s still Bush’s fault”? That’s getting tired.

    There are systemic problems, but trillion-dollar-plus deficits aren’t one of them. That’s new. Tens of thousands of pages of regulations, like cement shoes on our economy, is not systemic, it’s easily excised. Blocking new work like Keystone XL and Boeing manufacturing plants, that’s not systemic, that’s this administration directly responsible for preventing those jobs. I don’t expect miracles or think Republicans are perfect, but I do think there is a very clear difference between Obama’s vision for the future and Romney’s.

  4. #5 by henry jenkins on September 2, 2012 - 2:55 pm

    Drill baby brill.

  5. #6 by Howieeeeeee on September 10, 2012 - 4:44 pm

    I know you’ll disregard this article because of its author, but I’d like to see you argue that this isn’t what’s happening:

  6. #7 by basicconservative on September 10, 2012 - 7:19 pm

    Here’s essentially his point, right?

    “Put it this way: When Republicans took control of the House, they declared that their economic philosophy was “cut and grow” — cut government, and the economy will prosper. And thanks to their scorched-earth tactics, we’ve actually had the cuts they wanted. But the promised growth has failed to materialize — and they want to make that failure Mr. Obama’s fault. ”

    Let me present a little more context than Mr. Krugman did. Democrats have had control of two out of the three governing bodies since 2007, and controlled all three with large majorities in both houses of Congress in 2009-2010. Still today, Democrats control two out of three.

    And he’s saying that somehow, despite those majorities, for the last four years, Republicans have made every policy decision? President Obama and the Democrats wanted to try a few things but those darn Republicans just kept on running the country?

    Without even touching on the question of what that says about competent leadership, does nobody remember the trillion dollar stimulus? Obamacare? All the new bureaucracy and regulation and spending I mentioned in the article and comments above? None of that happened?

    So “obstruction” alone is patently false, but he’s even going farther–somehow in Krugman’s world the last four years have been a Republican celebration of tax cuts and shrinking government? That would be a powerful argument, if it weren’t totally made up. We haven’t “had the cuts they wanted.” Point to a single one.

    Last year’s debt ceiling deal included cuts, but nothing until after this coming election (of course) beyond a token $21 billion cut in FY2012, or around half a percent. So the only budget cut so far is the equivalent of someone making $50K a year, spending $76K a year, and cutting back $422 of his spending. It’s a joke.

    Notice too, what policies he thinks would have fixed things: “Does anyone remember the American Jobs Act? A year ago President Obama proposed boosting the economy with a combination of tax cuts and spending increases, aimed in particular at sustaining state and local government employment.”

    What was the stimulus? A trillion dollars of tax cuts and spending increases, aimed in particular at sustaining state and local government employment. They said it would keep unemployment below 8%. It went past 10. We tried it. It didn’t do what we were told it would do. It did, in fact, what many opponents predicted. Little wonder, when presented with “Stimulus 2.0,” people balked this time.

    Rather than a Republican conspiracy to make the President look bad, I’d say that more and more and more and more spending is, arguably, a bad idea when we’re already spending a TRILLION dollars more than we have every single year AND the stimulus didn’t even have the hoped-for effect last time we tried it.

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