I decided long ago that it doesn’t make the most sense to vote for candidates based on their stated positions. After all, George Bush substantially increased the national debt and Barack Obama didn’t close Guantanamo Bay. Some of Richard Nixon’s and Bill Clinton’s best-known accomplishments were when they promoted positions more associated with the other party.
So, I’ve been voting lately based more on a candidate’s character, and, in particular, their judgment. I was excited when Barack Obama was elected, but at the same time I was concerned that we had elected the least prepared individual ever to hold the highest office. We’ve elected a few younger men (such as Theodore Roosevelt and John Kennedy), but they already had substantially more experience than Obama.
Based on the judgment Obama has exercised in the first term, I don’t think he deserves a second term. Here, in approximate order, are what I consider to be the most grievous errors in judgment. This is probably quite a different list than you will see in the mainstream media.
- The addition of over $4 trillion in national debt gets so little publicity, but is incredibly damaging. My heart breaks every time I think about how money that could be used to help the poor in this country has to be spent on debt service instead of assistance. Read what Senator Obama said about raising the debt ceiling in 2006 – “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.” He doesn’t even mention what I consider to be biggest issue, the redirection of money from benefiting our country to servicing debt. Senator Obama was right. President Obama’s judgment will have tragic consequences for the poor for generations to come. (See my earlier blog post on the national debt for more details).
- After being elected in November 2008, Obama promised his administration would create 2.5 million jobs by January 2011. Those jobs never materialized. He proclaimed that if the stimulus bill was passed, unemployment would never exceed 8 percent. He projected that it would be below 6 percent in 2012. In 2009, Obama promised an immediate economic impact because “we’ve got shovel-ready projects all across the country.” Having lived in the DC area for 20 years, I can tell you that most informed high-school students in that area realize the complications involved with starting any federally-funded project. In June 2011 Obama stated “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” Early in his first term, Obama said “I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office.” It is instructive to listen to Obama’s own words with Matt Lauer about how he should turn the economy around in three years or he won’t deserve another term. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCN5-ovvFL0 It would be absurd for me to offer these up if they had been campaign promises. Every president makes campaign promises that are never fulfilled. All of these statements were by “President” Obama, his judgment about what he could lead to accomplishment. By every measure his judgment has been abysmal.
- Obama didn’t put his children in public school. You might find this a curious entry for the third most grievous error in judgment, but I think it is indicative of so many of his other decisions to have Americans “do as I say, not as I do.” Living in the third-poorest county in America, I know firsthand the dilemma of placing my children in the public school system. However, I am not opposed to vouchers for others and I am not President of the United States. Yet, I thought it was better for our community, and my children, for them to be in public school. I am not condemning anyone else’s choice of private schools (except Obama’s here), but here had had an opportunity to exhibit leadership, put-his-money-where-his-mouth-is, and exhibit character, be he did not.
- Obama’s work ethic demonstrates very poor judgment. The number of rounds of golf he plays is unconscionable. I am envious that he has time to fill out an informed NCAA basketball bracket, but I do not. Even if I wanted to play golf, I could possibly do so about once every 6 weeks. He seems not to realize that he has a 2-million-employee workforce to lead. No leader of an organization even a tenth the size of that takes the leisure time that he does. This is not the same as Reagan spending time clearing brush, because Obama gets his exercise time in too, which I fully support. I realize that the presidency is the most stressful job possible. Yet, it would be far better judgment to exhibit a strong work ethic throughout his entire time in office. That would help those of us working two or more jobs to respect him more.
- Whatever you think of the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s judgment in marshaling it through Congress was very poor judgment. In Massachusetts, for example, Romney rolled up his sleeves, met personally with many legislators, and hammered out a deal that had broad bi-partisan support. Obama chose to essentially stay out of the process, leaving it to Pelosi and Reid to do the hard work. He bullied congressmen to get specific votes and bribed others. You will see throughout this blogpost that I am concerned about Obama’s work ethic. He hasn’t shown that he has ever been willing to do his homework, or to engage in difficult negotiations. Moreover, all of the early results have been WAY off target. The number of organizations that have requested to be exempted from the initial impact of the law is nearly 2,000, and many of these are union organizations that strongly supported the law! The required health insurance of students in the UNC system went up by over 50% for this academic year. There is no precedent in the history of humankind for “bending the cost curve” when a product or service is provided without limit. In a little over one year, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office nearly doubled the estimated cost for the ACA over 10 years from $938 million to $1.76 trillion. All of the results we have experienced WERE within the judgment of other people in 2009, but not Obama.
- I was, perhaps, most hopeful that Obama would improve our relationships with other countries. Bush had seemed to rub many international leaders the wrong way. Of course, many countries opposed the effort in Iraq. Here, again, Obama’s judgment has been very poor. Even the left has criticized him for being unprepared and ineffective at world summits about climate change. The French President publicly called him unprepared for the G-20 Summit in 2009. Obama’s most recent outspoken proponents have been the Castro family in Cuba, Chavez, and Putin. Certainly, many other national leaders would prefer a second Obama term. It is hard, though, to identify any country where Obama has actively improved our international relationship beyond something at the margins.
This is not to say, of course, that Obama has not made some good judgments throughout his presidency. That would be the subject of another blogpost. But this short list, plus many more (the selection and continued support of Joe Biden as Vice President has been an embarrassment) lead me to conclude that it is time to give someone else an opportunity to hold the highest office in the land.