When one examines the multiple crises occurring throughout the world, from the brutal excesses of a Qaddafi regime to the subversion of the democratic process in Wisconsin, along with the budget battle in Washington, D.C., a constant emerges: America is a rudderless ship whose “captain” has abandoned all pretense of genuine leadership. Barack Obama, the man who voted “present” over one hundred times as a state Senator in Illinois, the man elected in a frenzy of “hope and change,” is seemingly overwhelmed by the responsibilities of his job.
It is no secret that Muammar al-Qaddafi is responsible for one of the most brutal crackdowns on the Libyan version of the same kind of democratic protests which have engulfed many Middle Eastern nations. As many as 1000 people have been reported killed, hundreds more have been injured. Two pilots fled to Malta where they asked for asylum, and two others ejected from their planes, all after refusing orders to bomb Libyan civilians. Libyan Ambassador Ali Ojli resigned his post, and in an interview with Al Jazeera English, he asked the Obama Administration to “take a strong position that what’s happening in Libya must be stopped now…”
President Obama’s response? On February 18th, Mr. Obama expressed “concern” about the “violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen,” and condemned “the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur.” While Libyan citizens were being slaughtered in the streets, the president was negotiating–with the United Nations to get Libya removed from the Human Rights Council. Even as the slaughter ramped up in intensity? Mr. Obama waited until February 23rd to say anything concrete, something newly minted Press Secretary Jay Carney characterized as a “scheduling problem.” Then we got this from the president: ”We strongly condemn the use of violence in Libya. The American people extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all who have been killed and injured. The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya.” Note what the president didn’t say: he didn’t condemned Qaddafi directly, didn’t voice an ounce support for the protesters, and didn’t offer anything else in the way of concrete action to help those being willfully slaughtered.
On Friday, February 25th, Mr. Obama, coming to the belated conclusion that ”[B]y any measure, Muammar Qaddafi’s government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable,“ imposed economic sanctions on the regime, freezing its assets. Finally on Saturday in a publicized phone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the president called for Qaddafi to step down. ”When a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now,” said Mr. Obama. Yet at this writing, genuine steps to prevent further bloodshed, such as setting a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Libya, putting an American aircraft carrier in the area, or setting up an economic blockade to deter the military from decimating the protesters? Such options and others are being “studied.”
One last thing that should be noted with respect to leadership. To rescue Americans trapped in Libya, the United States chartered a ferry boat. The British sent C-130 Hercules military aircraft into Libyan airspace to rescue their citizens.
With respect to Wisconsin, the ostensible leader of all Americans initially took the side of Wisconsin’s public service unions–and by extension runaway Democrat Senators attempting to thwart the democratic process–over the state’s taxpaying public. The president said he believes the unions are being “assaulted,” and his political action committee, Organizing for America, has been directly involved in helping demonstrators maintain the nearly two-week protest, one which has included doctors in that state writing phony notes for workers who have abandoned their jobs to join the demonstrations. Perhaps some of those workers were counting on the president to make good on something he said to a crowd in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 2007: ”[I]f American workers are being denied their right to organize when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes and I will walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States,” he said.
Yet when it appeared the protests might be hurting Democrat chances in the 2012 election–as in only 11.9 percent of American workers belonged to a union in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics–administration officials claimed the White House “had done nothing to encourage the demonstrations in Wisconsin.“ Yet a Feb 17th tweet by Brad Woodhouse, Democratic Party Communications Director, reported that the White House was “proudly” involved, and Politico’s Ben Smith reported that Organizing for America “has published 54 tweets promoting the rallies, which the group has also plugged on its blog.”
In a related vein, perhaps someone in the media might want to ask the president about a damning report written by Jeffrey Lord for The American Spectator. Mr. Lord revealed that “[F]ormer Vermont Governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, a one-time presidential candidate, is the founder of a group that by mid-day of President’s Day had raised over $100,000 in a slush fund to ‘back’ the on-the-lam Wisconsin Democratic State Senators.” A genuine leader would condemn such underhanded tactics, which are possibly illegal as well. Mr. Obama? Not a word.
Finally, there is the ultimate abdication of leadership known as the president’s $3.7 trillion 2011 budget proposal, which despite all rhetoric to the contrary, does absolutely nothing to address either the nation’s gargantuan $14 trillion debt, or this year’s record deficit, projected to be more than $1.6 trillion dollars. Even more telling is the president’s complete refusal to address the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security entitlement programs, which are the primary drivers of deficit spending. Mr. Obama has also threatened to veto the paltry-by-comparison $61 billion of cuts in the continuing budget resolution enacted by the House, claiming such cuts “will undermine our ability to out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world.” It is worth noting that since 2001, when president Bill Clinton’s last budget of $1.9 trillion was approved, government spending has literally doubled.
Americans may be getting the no-leadership message. A Gallup Poll reveals that the number of “solid Democratic” states has “plummeted from 30 to 14,” and “every state showed a drop in Democratic support.” Likely much of that dissatisfaction accrues to Democrats in general, but coupled with the 2010 election, it is becoming apparent that “hope and change” is looking more like bait-and-switch to a substantial portion of the electorate.
Further dissatisfaction is likely to be fueled (if you’ll pardon the pun) by rising gas prices due to Middle East unrest, and the president’s antipathy towards fossil fuels, which was highlighted by the rescission of a seven-year moratorium on offshore drilling only after a contempt of court citation was issued by Martin Feldman of the Eastern District Court of Louisiana against Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar. The extent of the president’s leadership and/or planning with regard to the spike in oil prices, highlighted by Brent oil reaching $120-per-barrel before settling at $111? ”We actually think that we’ll be able to ride out the Libya situation and it will stabilize,” said the president to a group of corporate executives last Friday.
Mr. Obama did demonstrate some leadership qualities–of a sort–last week. He unilaterally declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed overwhelmingly by majorities in both parties and signed by president Bill Clinton, “un-Constitutional,” and instructed the Justice Department not to defend the statute. Thus, the same president who has abdicated his mantle of leadership in the aforementioned arenas, once again seeks to placate another Democrat constituency, not only at the expense of the majority of Americans, but in direct contradiction of his oath of office to uphold the nation’s laws, whether he likes them or not.
These are perilous times. From the Middle East to Wisconsin to Washington, D.C., paradigm shifts of an almost unimaginable scale are occurring almost every day. All of them share a common theme: massive uncertainty. In times such as these, it used to be a given that the leader of the free world would step into the breach, from Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” moment in international affairs, to Bill Clinton’s historic embrace of welfare reform and budget discipline in the domestic arena. I suspect an overwhelming majority of Americans–on both sides of the aisle–would take either of those two men in a heartbeat over the current occupant of the White House .
Barack Obama, who appeared so presidential during the 2008 election campaign, has revealed himself to be, as Texans might say, “all hat and no cattle.” Here’s hoping he finds his way. Not for his own sake, but for the sake of the country. Two years is far too long for the nation to endure a condition that might be referred to as “America Adrift.”
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist for the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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