With Mitt Romney’s campaign building a portrayal of the former Massachusetts governor as a competent manager and a capable leader ready to assume the presidency, Obama’s team has attempted to defuse this strategy with a provision of the statement, “Obama is not perfect, but there is no better alternative.” However, what is becoming clearer is that the Obama campaign’s multiple and varied stumbles are presenting quite the stark contrast to Romney’s tightly-run ship. So much so that the last thing on Obama’s mind should be deflecting criticism about his being—or not being—the almighty.
Exhibit 1: Amidst the litany of campaign fundraisers Obama profusely refused to admit to attending before the official start of his campaign, one stood out for its utter contempt of civility, judgment, and everything in between. This, of course, was Obama’s fundraiser at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, where singer—although in fairness to bona fide singers, even such a vague title as performer would be a stretch—Cee Lo Green flicked off the audience before asking, “Can I curse in here?” It seems he did not care much for presidential custom, as he then proceeded to sing “Forget You,” his over-played song whose lyrics contain multiple iterations of “f*** you.” The humor in all of this is that Obama’s campaign staff scheduled Mr. Green specifically for this event. What else did they expect from a singer named Cee Lo Green? Most revealing about this mishap is the recognition of what would have happened had a Romney fundraiser been such a spectacle.
But this was just the beginning. A hodgepodge of blunders soon followed.
Exhibit 2: When it came time to admit that it was tenuous whether the Supreme Court would uphold the health care bill, Obama did not hand over the decision to nine of the nation’s top adjudicators. Instead, he challenged them while wearing the hat of a candidate mired in what is turning out to be quite the election. “I would like to remind conservative commentators,” he proclaimed, “that for years what we have heard is that the biggest problem is judicial activism and that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.” Unelected group of people? That is what Obama—University of Chicago constitutional professor extraordinaire—has relegated the land’s highest court to. For Obama, it seems, the Supreme Court would be out of line if it overturned his health care law; if it did its job properly and questioned the constitutionality of the law. Well, isn’t that dandy? A president telling the Supreme Court with a well-agreed upon 4-4-1 make-up that it shall not challenge him is quite the picture of confident executive leadership.
Exhibit 3: Regarding increasing interest rates on student loans, Obama slow-jammed on the Jimmy Fallon show, filmed at the University of North Carolina. The students chomped at the bit, failing to see through the president’s charade. He was joking—mind you, very intentionally this time—about students’ financial present and future, leaving little space for an informational Q&A or even more, an inspiring speech about the need for education reform. Cleverly too, the president forgot to mention that he had, by that point, visited no fewer than 130 colleges and universities throughout the country.
But why not toot his horn and encourage the youth frenzy that, while not nearly as rambunctious as the one in 2008, has infected students in this election year? Likely because he will then have to explain why he has, in fact, visited countless institutions—but only in the last seven months and not throughout his first term, despite his unimpeachable and apparently deep concern for these same youth in his 2008 campaign. A cursory look at Obama’s agenda throughout his first term will reveal what should already be common knowledge: he bundled up the votes of millions of students in 2008, only to retreat to an extraordinarily cautionary youth agenda.
Exhibit 4: And of course, who could have missed the Obama campaign’s “big stick” moment? Upon Joe Biden’s gaffing in his foreign policy speech at New York University, “I assure you, the President has a big stick!” any sane viewer must have concluded that the man uttering these words was merely prone to such unattractive uses of the English language. And surely, he is. But it seems that the Vice President was correct in his tone and word selection.
Obama has not only claimed the entirety of the spoils resulting from the takedown of Osama bin Laden—which, by all counts, he would be foolish to avoid entirely during an election year—but he has also spoken with a bluster and machismo unseemly of the President of the United States. Obama continues to tout his kill without giving adequate credit to the very men who went into the depths of Islamabad, risking their lives. So much so that even the permanently silent Navy SEALs have become disgruntled.
Obama’s campaign managers had the gall to throw together an ad claiming that a President Romney would not have brought justice to bin Laden. Rubbish. It is one thing for the president to criticize his opponent generally for being a weak leader—someone without the chutzpah and vision to become the leader of the free world. But it is another thing entirely for Obama to assert the hypothetical that Romney would not have taken out America’s Enemy No. 1.
Exhibit 5: And more recently, the Obama campaign has taken to singling out the failures of Bain Capital, the private equity firm that Romney helped build from scratch. Biden, while avoiding such a detailed critique of his own administration’s mismanagement of economic policy, has not rested in railing against the isolated failures of Bain wherever he goes to deliver a campaign speech. Yet, what about Solyndra? Cash for Clunkers? The now successful Boeing plant that Obama previously tried to shut down? The Keystone Pipeline? The list is endless—quite literally. To single out a failure is rarely prudent in crafting effective policy, but if the Obama campaign believes that such data points are fair game, then led the floodgates open.
For all of Obama’s pronouncements of his second presidential campaign as a necessary step toward the reinvigoration of America, it is a predictable journey of mere possibilities—of coulds, woulds, and wills. However, these are the realities of today: an American body politic which does not think highly of Obama’s leadership and policy chops; college graduates left jobless—over 50%, in fact; bin Laden’s nest not empty, and in fact, bolstered with increasing activity by affiliated ideologues not limited to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabaab, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Boko Haram; and unemployment still above 8% as the end of Obama’s first term nears.
These are not all on Obama’s conscience of course, but certainly enough of them are to enough of a degree that they raise an important question for those staking the future of America on the president’s heroics: Which Obama would address a disillusioned—and if not, then very tepid—America on January 20, 2013? A confident leader or a hopeless one?