Every election is about two sets of issues - who the incumbent is and who the challenger is. In the last election I decided against voting. I thought that Senator McCain was a bit past his "sell date." At the same time I was concerned that Senator Obama was lacking in any relevant experience. Four years later, I will not make that same mistake. Obama continues to show a lack of experience, a certain unwillingness to learn from mistakes and I believe that Governor Romney has both the experience and temperament to be a fine chief executive.
Before I discuss the President's performance, I think it is essential to point out one area where I think the President is superb. He seems from a distance to be a dedicated father and husband. The last democratic president had seemed to have zero moral compass. Beginning in the Clinton administration the democrats began to adopt the theory of "it takes a village" - for the first time in my memory they seemed to argue that government created everything in society. It was the organizing principle. Just as Vincent Ostrom argued more than three decades ago- that view fails to take into account the genius of America.
This president has consistently started with the meme that he was dealt a tough hand. But as anyone who has studied politics will argue - that is not a unique situation. During the first Reagan term - unemployment was higher. A few days ago the President argued that he should get an incomplete for his first term - that may be an accurate assessment but it does not argue that he has done a good enough job to continue in it.
The last four years of Senator Obama have been a colossal disappointment. The health care bill which was passed, on the legislative skills of Speaker Pelosi and Protem Reid is an unmitigated disaster in a time when most of the country is waking to the dangers of entitlements. Dodd-Frank is a classic example of things left undone that ought to have been done and things done poorly. The regulatory over reach of his appointees has been troubling. His use of executive orders has shown a complete disdain for the Constitutional system he was sworn to uphold. I am appalled by his attacks on fundamental Constitutional principles like the First Amendment guarantees; if his position is merely a political ploy (as some have argued), his stance is even more disgraceful. His economic policies have been a hodgepodge of rent seeking payoffs like Solyndra; short sighted policy choices like Cash for Clunkers and just downright nonsense. His tax proposals have done nothing if not inhibit economic growth. His promises of getting both the deficit and unemployment down have been fairy dust. Even the signal achievement of his first term, getting Osama Bin Laden, shows a lack of graciousness. Much of the intelligence that allowed him to act, came from techniques that were developed during the Bush Administration. His complete inability to work with Members of Congress, has been a key reason why the tone of DC is so negative. While he claims the GOP was out to get him - that standard is not a reasonable bar. Do you think Tip O'Neill was not out to get President Reagan - yet Reagan worked very hard to find areas of compromise. Do you think the GOP after 1994 was not as hostile to Clinton - yet he figured out a way to work with them to craft to superb legislation. Finally, his constant refrains about how hard the job has been because of the failings of his predecessor have been juvenile.
In the last month I have encountered two pieces of writing about the President which are interesting. One, the movie 2016, argues that the President is an unreconstructed anti-colonialist who wants to bring the country down to size. I am not much on these kinds of psychological profiles - but with intellectual heroes like Frantz Fanon, it is hard to not consider at least part of d'Souza's speculation. I read Fanon about the same time the President did - but I recognized the inherent flaws in his rants. The second, Leading from Behind, an investigative journalist's superb book on the President's leadership style, is troubling but accurate. Richard Miniter asserts that Obama is the most reclusive president we have ever had and is fundamentally unable to get into the give and take that makes successful presidents successful. Unlike some of his public antagonists, I do not believe the President is malevolent - but I do believe he, like Jimmy Carter before him, is singularly unsuited to lead the country. Some presidents learn from events, this one has shown a tendency to double down when he loses something. I am genuinely worried about the future of the country if he is re-elected.
From these facts and others I believe the President has not earned a second chance. Incomplete or C- does not matter - we hire presidents to be exceptional and this one has not made the grade.
But as I said at the beginning, elections are about both candidates and in my next post I will discuss both the strengths and weaknesses of Obama's opponent.