Last week was a bad week for America because it was a bad week for President Obama.
West Wing politicos may not share that opinion. They seem to think any week during which the president makes a speech or holds a news conference is a good week: Americans get to see the amazing, inspiring Mr. Obama. But three images of Mr. Obama from last week are hardly uplifting.
First, there was the president on Libya -- dithering, indecisive, unreliable, and weak. As Qaddafi’s mercenaries and bombers brutally grabbed back momentum from the democratic opposition, all Mr. Obama could say was, “My national security team has been working…to monitor the situation…to prepare the full range of options…”
If America’s failure to lead allows Qaddafi to snuff out the popular uprising against his dictatorship and regain power, the consequences for the U.S. will be severe. Dictators will know the U.S. president is a pushover. Our allies around the world will be dispirited and our adversaries emboldened.
Then there was the on-going budget battle. The failure of Mr. Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to pass a budget before the start of the fiscal year last October 1 is an astonishing act of incompetence. They controlled the entire process with wide margins in both houses. Now we are reduced to funding the government of the world’s most powerful nation with continuing resolutions that cover two or three-week periods. And Congressional Democrats are whining it is impossible to cut $60 billion out of a budget that consists of $3.8 trillion dollars.
At a Friday morning press conference Mr. Obama called the failure to pass a budget “irresponsible” and said “the notion that we can’t get resolved last year’s budget in a sensible way…defies common sense.” But he was not passive observer. He’s the president who failed to get his own budget approved by his own party last year.
Then Mr. Obama went on to say of the budget that “it shouldn’t be that complicated…to get this completed.” This came after weeks during which Democratic Congressional leaders criticized the president for providing no leadership, then the appointment by Mr. Obama of Vice President Joe Biden as his personal negotiator on the budget, and Mr. Biden’s almost immediate departure for a weeklong foreign trip. Mr. Obama still refused to get his hands dirty by offering a possible solution.
Then there were the president’s remarks to members of the National Governors Association on Wisconsin, last month, where he cautioned, “I don’t think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified.”
This was a classic Obama straw man. Who exactly is “vilifying” or “denigrating” whom? The president’s intimation was that it was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, but Mr. Walker’s tone has been mild, even-tempered, restrained and entirely appropriate.
If there are people who needed a presidential admonishment about civility and respect, they are the protestors who broke into the Wisconsin capital building in a vain attempt to keep the legislature from voting, the protestors who compared Mr. Walker to Adolf Hitler, and the Democratic legislators who fled the state rather than do their duty. But those would be the president’s allies and admonition is only required of his opponents.
When Mr. Obama was in the Illinois State Senate, he had the annoying habit of voting “present” on controversial issues he felt might damage his future political ambitions. But at least Mr. Obama showed up then. The president’s refusal now to provide leadership on Libya or the budget and his readiness to score cheap political points with straw man attacks makes his days in the State Senate look like an era of true statesmanship.
Karl Rove is a Fox News political analyst and a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. He is the author of "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight" (Threshold Editions, 2010) and helped organize the political action committee American Crossroads.