David Laska: Yet Again, Obama’s Out to Lunch

His second term hasn’t even begun yet, but if the fiscal cliff negotiations are any indication, the next four years of President Barack Obama will look a lot like the last four.

Once again, the President resorted to the same playbook he used for much of his first term: abdicate from his leading role in Capitol Hill negotiations leaving the legislative process entirely up to Congress, an institution known to produce chaos, act surprised when chaos ensues, and blame Republicans.

On issue after issue –the stimulus package, Obamacare, his last-minute push for immigration reform– he’s been missing in action when presidential leadership was sorely needed.

- David Laska

If only they weren’t such intransigent obstructionists, Obama laments, enlightened Congressional Democrats would be moving forward with the work of the American people.

Obama has conjured an image of Congressional Republicans infused with an almost mythical ability to stand in the way of the most powerful political office in the world.  

But any longtime political observer would recognize that Congressional Republicans’ opposition to this President is no stronger than Congressional Republicans' opposition to Bill Clinton under Speaker Newt Gingrich, or for that matter Congressional Democrats’ opposition to Ronald Reagan under Speaker Tip O’Neill.

Yet President Clinton worked with Speaker Gingrich to pass welfare reform, cut taxes and balance the federal budget, and President Reagan worked with Speaker O’Neill to produce federal budgets and promote peace in Northern Ireland.

So what’s the missing ingredient in the Obama administration? It’s Obama. On issue after issue – the stimulus package, Obamacare, his last-minute push for immigration reform– he’s been missing in action when presidential leadership was sorely needed.

His absenteeism is directly responsible for the presence of the fiscal cliff in the first place. In four years, the President has only produced one federal budget that has passed the Senate, in 2009. In 2010, his budget did not face a vote. In 2011, it was defeated 97-0; in 2012, 99-0.

Instead, the federal government has been operating on “continuing resolutions,” temporary measures that fund the government for a few months at a time.

This is a recipe for disaster. Last summer’s debt ceiling negotiations and last week’s fiscal cliff negotiations demonstrate just how real the possibility of disaster is. The debt ceiling negotiations cost the United States our AAA bond rating, and the fiscal cliff negotiations nearly cost Americans the largest tax increase in history, at a time when we can ill afford it.

Perhaps Americans shouldn’t be surprised at Obama’s failure to govern effectively. After all, this is a President who, prior to assuming office, had never actually governed.  

He relied instead on his formidable political skills to guide him through his first term and reelection bid.

If anyone still doubted that Obama’s 2012 “tax the rich!” mantra was a political rather than an economic tactic, they got their answer on Monday, when a room full of Obama supporters interrupted the President with applause and cheers at his announcement that tax rates on the wealthiest Americans would increase permanently.  

Obama billed the people in the room as “middle class Americans.” Is this really the face of the American middle class, so jealous and petty that they would cheer a tax hike on wealthy Americans that would only fund the government for nine days?

No. It was a room full of Obama partisans recruited off of Twitter for a piece of political theatre.

But the election is over: Barack Obama will be a two-term President.  It’s time to put politics and demagoguery aside and govern.

President Truman had a sign on his desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here.” Thus far, Obama’s has read “Out to Lunch.”

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David Laska is Communications Director of the New York State Republican Party.

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