I once had high hopes for Barack Obama’s presidency. His eloquently enunciated vision for America — positive and forward-looking, yet grounded in the nation’s history — was compelling.
His 2009 inaugural speech was awe-inspiring, a rhetorical masterpiece, just what Americans needed to hear at a time when the economy was deep in the doldrums. Here was a man, I thought, who had the potential to be a great American president.
Sadly, my expectations have proven to be unfounded. Over time, a picture has emerged of a president whose talent for powerful rhetoric, far from being just one of many attributes, is in fact the sum total of the man.
It’s mindboggling, that a man elected to the most powerful office in the world can make so many mistakes, can make so many bad decisions, can break so many promises, can contradict himself so many times — and still not see that he has done anything wrong.
Something had to give. And it has. His words no longer stir the American people.
When Obama publicly said that his policies — “every one of them” — were on the ballot, he was in effect telling Americans that a vote for a Democratic candidate was actually a vote for him.
It was a mistake. As we all know, the Democratic Party suffered one of its worst ever Midterm elections losses, giving the Republican Party control over both the House and the Senate for the first time in eight years, and the biggest lead they’ve had since 1930.
And so how does Obama react? He points to the two-thirds of voters who did not turn out to vote. Had they done so, he implies, the election results would have been different. And he spurns Republican overtures to work together with them. Instead, he circumvents Congress by unilaterally ordering sweeping changes to the immigration system. It sparks a furor and opens up a gaping divide, with partisan acrimony running at fever pitch.
Although President Obama has the legal authority to grant a temporary reprieve from deportation, needlessly alienating Congress is the last thing the American people want, and the last thing the country needs.
President Obama has two years left in office. He can use that time to work constructively with Congress — or he can continue to go it alone and evoke even more partisan division. Given his willful nature, it seems likely he will stick with the latter option.
And that would be just too bad.