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It was far from Obama’s only erroneous prediction, or more accurately, broken promise. During the 2008 campaign, he pledged to create five million energy jobs, to “bring down (health) premiums by $2,500 for the typical family,” help “stop foreclosures,” and “cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office.” The president is oh-for-four in that regard.
Which brings us to the two recurring themes Obama consistently uses to “explain” all of his administration’s current shortcomings: the fiscal crisis was “far greater” than anyone imagined, and that the ongoing malaise can still be attributed to George W. Bush, more than three-and-a-half years after Obama became president–and more than five-and-a-half years since Democrats gained majority control of government, including two years of absolute control.
Yet while those excuses are writ large, a litany of others have been trotted out as well. The Japanese tsunamis, the BP oil spill, the Arab Spring, the economic “headwinds” created by the ongoing crisis in the European Union, the debt ceiling debate, the rich not paying their fair share in taxes, Wall Street, corporate jet owners and recalcitrant Republicans have all been employed by a president who promised he was “not going to make excuses” for a bad economy continuing under his watch. The same president who told America in 2010 that he should be “held accountable for the policies that I put in place.”
That was then. Last week in an interview with WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, Ohio, Obama offered the quintessential fall back for progressive policies that fail. “I suspect that most people in Cincinnati would acknowledge that I’ve tried real hard,” said the president, before once again blaming Republicans for a failure “to engage on a whole range of issues that I wish had happened.” One suspects trying “real hard” is of little comfort to the millions of Americans “trying” to make ends meet in an economy on the precipice of a double-dip recession.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney offered a simple rebuttal to Obama’s combination of fatuous excuses and self-pity. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” he said, speaking to reporters at a hardware store in Wolfeboro, N.H.
That remains to be seen. Above all else the 2012 election is a referendum on the nature of the American experience itself. It is the election that will determine whether Americans wish to turn back the tide of Euro-style, welfare state dependency and begin to restore the notions of entrepreneurialism and exceptionalism that have made us the envy of the world, or plunge headlong into a world of chronic malaise, continued class warfare and certain bankruptcy.
The president did keep one promise he made in 2008. Obama promised to “fundamentally transform” the nation. All of the above records suggest he has succeeded, likely beyond his wildest expectations. America now has more people “riding on the wagon” than this nation has ever had. The 2012 election will determine whether or not they outnumber those pulling that wagon. Europe’s “wagon” has already stopped moving. We can learn from their experience–or be part of it.
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