Unsurprising, the vast majority of the 2012 presidential campaign coverage has centered on the Republican primary race. The candidates are less well known to the public than the president, and it’s much more compelling to tell the story of a combative contest than simply describe President Obama roaming about the country slamming Republicans, something he’s done for three years. But that doesn’t excuse the lack of tough questioning of Obama and analysis of his record.
His record, in comparison to his 2008 promises, is shoddy by any fair measure. The country is more divided, not less as he promised. Our standing in the Middle East is worse (whether measured by our ability to impact events or public polling in the region), not better as he promised. We have a massive debt, no coherent domestic energy policy and a convoluted tax code.
So in the interest of inspiring more balanced and curious journalism, here are a dozen topics that would be good for further inquiry. It’s quite a comment on the media that most of the items below have not been the subject of in-depth articles or even questions posed directly to the president.
1. The president has already accumulated more debt than in the entire eight years of the Bush administration. What did we get for it? With all that Keynesian spending, why isn’t the economy humming along?
2. Obama said President Bush had sacrificed our “values” with the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo and enhanced interrogation. Guantanamo is still open and, rather than interrogation, Obama makes widespread use of drones that kill suspected terrorists and inevitably hit innocents as well. How can Obama claim moral superiority over his predecessor? Have we lost valuable intelligence by failing to capture and interrogate terrorists?
3. Obama promised not to tax people making less than $250,000 dollars, but Obamacare includes a bevy of new taxes including those on medical devices. Has Obama kept his promise on taxes? How progressive or regressive are the Obamacare taxes?
4. Did the former constitutional law professor ever consider whether Obamacare might be unconstitutional? Did he disregard or fail to take seriously the arguments that now may invalidate the entire law?
5. Tzipi Livni is out as head of Israel’s Kadima party. Benjamin Netanyahu is about to call for early elections and is more popular than ever. Did the Obama administration entirely misread Israeli public opinion, and was its effort to in effect topple Netanyahu from power reflective of a widespread lack of sophistication and competence in their relations with the Jewish state?
6. The president has accused Republicans of favoring party over country for failing to pass his agenda. He says they want us to breath dirty air and drink polluted water. Has Obama’s hyper-partisanship gone beyond other presidents? Has he made it impossible to work cooperatively with Republicans?
7. The Post and other outlets have documented that the president did reject the “grand bargain” and back away from the basis for a significant debt reduction deal with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). Was this an error of historic proportions? Did he forfeit the ability to pass the buck to Republicans on debt reduction?
8. The president ordered up the Simpson-Bowles commission and then did nothing with its findings. Was he ever serious about debt reduction? Is he capable of standing up to his own party, for example, on entitlement reform?
9. The president demonized Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for Medicare reform that posits well off seniors should have to pay something for their own medical care. However the president has talked about means testing for Medicare. What’s the difference? Did the president blow the Mediscare argument for his campaign?
10. With Supreme Court justices in attendance, the president both mischaracterized the Citizens United ruling and treated the court as a political entity, ignoring Justice Kennedy’s First Amendment analysis. Did he do damage to popular respect for the rule of law? Did he set in motion a mind set for liberals that now seeks to vilify justices in advance of the Obamacare ruling? What would constitutional law lecturer Obama say about presidential behavior of this type?
11. If Obamacare is struck down, what can he point to as an accomplishment in his first term? Is he a failed president if defeated in 2012? Will he have accomplished less than any post-WW II president?
12. His administration has lost 9-0 Supreme Court cases on religious freedom (attempting to regulate termination of ministers) and EPA overreach (attempting to deny access to the courts). It has resorted to signing statements that it decried under the Bush administration. It has invoked executive privilege in creative new ways to prevent Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from conducting oversight. He has appointed a slew of czars not subject to the Senate’s advice and consent. Does Obama misunderstand limits on executive power or does he knowingly abuse those powers? Is he running an imperial presidency?