President Obama has had the worst year of his presidency. Or, to be more precise, his performance this year has been the worst of his presidency. Pundits and pollsters will say that his “numbers are up,” but let’s look at what he’s done or not done.
If you can recall, back in February his State of the Union address was a bore-a-thon stocked with spending ideas (on everything from light rail to salmon), with only glancing reference to the debt. His grand proposal: Freeze discretionary spending at the astronomically high level he had presided over in his first two years.
The next few months were spent bashing the only man to author a serious budget plan and put real Medicare reform on the table. He not only rebuffed Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposals but invited him to a speech, put him in the first row and then delivered a hyper-partisan attack, accusing the Republicans of taking Pell grants from college kids so fat cats could get a break on corporate jets.
Throughout the spring and summer the president failed to present his own entitlement reform plans. He caved on the continuing resolution and on the debt ceiling deal, upsetting the left because he hadn’t hiked taxes on the rich. In the fall it was time for his taxpayer-paid bus tour on which he bashed Republicans using some of the most egregious language of his presidency. (According to the president, the GOP wants you to breathe dirty air and won’t put country above party.) His own “jobs” bill was a feeble retread of his stimulus plan. It was largely ignored, save the payroll tax cut. The president insisted on a two-month deal to embarrass the GOP. We passed the $15 trillion mark on the debt. Unemployment remains at historically high levels.
It was a year of shocking irresponsibility and demagoguery. He denounced the Ryan-Wyden Medicare plan as he had Ryan’s original Medicare reform plan. He let the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction plan wither on the vine. He lifted not a finger to make use of the supercommittee he had agreed to create. He put forth no tax reform plan. If there has been a more slothful performance in and hyper-partisan use of the Oval Office in recent years I am hard-pressed to recall it. Frankly, Congress should run against the do-nothing president.
Foreign policy was even worse. He devised an Afghanistan withdrawal timetable to suit his election needs and pulled all troops out of Iraq, leading to the immediate unraveling of what had until then been a reasonably successful part of his foreign policy. He dawdled on Syria. He dawdled on Libya. Thousands died as “leading behind” became the watchword of his presidency. He arm-twisted Georgia to let Russia into the WTO, while Vladimir Putin, in his best imitation of the czars, imprisoned political opponents and ran a phony election. Obama stumbled through the Arab Spring without articulating any U.S. policy. If honest, he would have admitted that we had none.
With regard to Israel, his entire policy collapsed. Direct talks ended. Mahmoud Abbas publicly attacked him on the pages of the New York Times and humiliated him by going to the United Nations for a declaration of statehood after Obama pleaded that he not do it. He ambushed the Israeli prime minister with a surprise declaration of U.S. policy on “1967 borders.”
Meanwhile, Iran marches ever closer to acquisition of nuclear weapons, China has engaged in a brutal crackdown. The Post editorial board asks why the West has done nothing about it. (“The human rights crackdown has drawn relatively little attention or condemnation from the West.”) But Obama specializes in doing nothing when it comes to the oppressed. In Cuba, Alan Gross rots in prison while Obama refuses to reverse the relaxation of sanctions.
The year was not a complete waste, however. Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden, Libyans killed Moammar Gaddafi, Kim Jong Il died, and some Iranian nuclear scientists had auto accidents.