Ah, the campaign speeches sounded so tempting, didn’t they? The North Koreans would fall, Iran would grasp our outreached hand warmly, Russian relations would be “reset”, medical care for everyone, unemployment would not exceed 8%, time to get tough on Chinese human rights, to stamp out greed in business and on Wall Street. We would power our cars and houses from the sun, and peace and tranquility would rule the world. “Multi-lateralism” would resolve most world crises, and just a more sincere effort would bring Arab-Israeli peace.
And then, the inauguration.
North Korea became twice as dangerous. The Iranians spit on our hand. The Russians became less democratic and more despotic as they assassinated journalists and jailed opponents. Unemployment rocketed to 10%, healthcare reform passed but would not be implemented until AFTER Obama could get re-elected and was full of trillions in hidden costs and favors to the politically connected, and we learned that the wind and the sun hold promise, but not for another decade or two. Our debt soared to levels never before seen or even contemplated, especially because of an $850 billion “stimulus” which was actually $550 million of favors to politicians and Democrat party supporters. We also learned that it is actually not government that powers our economy after all, it is the private sector, and that it just might help to have a business person or two on the White House staff.
And so, after putting our country through 2 years of disastrous policies, this administration shows signs of growing up. Here are a few indicators:
1. William Daley, former CEO of a division of JP Morgan, as the new Chief of Staff.
Now, imagine this. An administration that hammers Wall Street constantly, that depicts them publicly as the evil empire, bringing in a Wall Street CEO as Chief of Staff. Hey, I’m all for it, but if you are someone who buys Obama’s anti-Wall Street rhetoric, how do you square this one? To me, finally we have someone who understands the real world in the White House, instead of a bunch of academics and intellectuals. Two years too late. But, nice move Mr. President!
2. Refusal to support the tax increase in December.
Imagine the President’s choices. On the one hand, the left screaming at him to increase taxes. On the right, in a minority, screaming at him not to. And then, not screaming at all but sitting on his desk in black-and-white, the obvious facts that with unemployment at 9.6%, implementing the largest tax increase in history would be an economic disaster that would have pushed us into the abyss. Should I give him credit for making what in the end was such an obvious right choice? Yes, I suppose so, given that the obvious right path has so often not been taken. The other positive aspect of this is it represents the very first time the President stood up to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Prior to this, Reid and Pelosi ran roughshod on the President, dictating all of the key provisions in the healthcare bill and the stimulus.
3. Secretary Clinton’s recent actions in regard to China and Arab dictatorships.
For an administration that so strongly condemned human rights abuses (“inspired” by President Bush) during the campaign, once in office the administration was virtually silent on the subject. We went from the Bush-Rice “Freedom Agenda” to the Obama-Clinton “Pragmatic Agenda”. Compromise was everywhere, resulting in the strengthening of the enemies of freedom in virtually every dictatorship in the world, shown most boldly in North Korea where abysmal conditions became beyond inhumane, and the North Koreans felt free to sink a South Korean naval ship (killing 42) and bombing a civilian island (killing 6). Russia became a country where we simply needed to be nicer to them– as if they weren’t doing anything wrong and it was all our fault. 10’s of millions of people suffered as a result of our ignorance and approach. But in the last few days we have witnessed an obvious change of approach.
Hillary Clinton said 2 years ago on China: She said she would continue to press China on issues such as human rights and Tibet, but added: “Our pressing on those issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis.” (NY Times, Feb 9, 2009). And then yesterday, she harshly criticized China’s human rights abuses. Human rights and China were never mentioned in the same sentence for 2 years, but finally she did so.
She also has sharply criticized Arab nations for their human rights abuses and lack of freedom, finally standing up and calling a spade a spade.
One can only hope that this maturing process continues. We have wasted 2 years, and many have suffered at home and overseas, and it is time to reverse the terrible trends. (A side note, one positive one, the Europeans like us more than they did under President Bush!).
In almost every category one can count the world is significantly worse off 2 years after the Obama administration and the democratic majorities in Congress took hold. This has been the price of allowing a democrat-dominated congress and electing a completely inexperienced President to run our country. The good news is, Obama is learning. This learning must continue and accelerate if we are to move the world and our country in the right direction.