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Obama's legacy: Mourning in America

The ad is not subtle in blaming current circumstances on Obama. Quite the contrary, the narrator says that under the president's leadership, the country is "fading, and weaker, and worse off." In a gesture of charity, perhaps, the ad allows: "His policies were a grand experiment, policies that failed."

Can't blame the man for trying? Good guy, bad policies? To the point: Vote Republican in November and "choose a smaller, more caring government, one that remembers us."

Ads come and go. Many tap into the ambient anger. But "mourning" aims straight for the emotional solar plexus and hits its mark. As someone behind the scenes in the ad's production told me: "It says what we know in our hearts, that something is terribly wrong.

"In 1984, Americans were more optimistic about their future. Now, Americans feel uncertain and are deeply concerned about the direction of the country. . . . This president truly looks at America differently than Reagan did. Reagan saw America as a shining beacon to the old world. Obama explicitly rejects American exceptionalism. . . . America in 2010 is suffering from a failed leader and failed economic policies."

Whether this ad succeeds remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the more relevant question is: Is it true? Is Obama responsible for our near-dire circumstances?

I have never been a fan of presidents who place blame on their predecessors or who accept credit for events that couldn't have been engineered so soon in their tenure. Politicians will always massage the data to tell the story their way. Bill Clinton's happy economy surely owed some credit to Reagan. George W. Bush's ill fortunes surely had at least some of their roots in Clinton's lack of attentiveness. Obama clearly inherited a load of fertilizer, but his policies also have exacerbated those effects. Obama's successor most certainly will benefit or suffer to some degree from seeds the current president planted.

Nevertheless, it is probably fair to say that Obama's ideas were too big for America's appetite. It would have been nice had he made a few incremental repairs to the economy and left the transformative events for a less stressful time.

But this is not the way presidents operate. They want to make their mark, create a legacy, go down in history as having a made a difference.

Sad.

kathleenparker@washpost.com


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