After two weeks on the job our new president's inexperience is painfully obvious. The words of his political rivals from the primaries and the general election seem almost prophetic in retrospect.
Hillary Clinton, warned on the campaign trail in Knoxville, TN in November of 2007:
"There is one job we can't afford: on-the-job training for our next president. That could be the costliest job training in history. Every day spent learning the ropes is another day of rising costs, mounting deficits and growing anxiety for our families... It’s easy to make up a program to address every economic problem. But it’s hard to figure out how to pay for it."
Joe Biden, when he was still a U.S. Senator and challenging Obama for the Democrat presidential nomination in the August, 2007 debate:
Stephanopoulos: "You were asked is he ready. You said 'I think he can be ready, but right now I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.'"
Sen. Biden: "I think that I stand by the statement."
Both of these former rivals have been bought off with high-level jobs in Obama's administration. There will never be heard a discouraging word about the president from these two again. Well, with Biden's brain-to-mouth wiring, one can never be sure:
"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."
In May of last year, Obama's general election opponent, Sen. John McCain said:
"It is a serious error on the part of Senator Obama that shows naiveté and inexperience and lack of judgment to say that he wants to sit down across the table from an individual who leads a country that says and says that Israel is a stinking corpse, that is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel."
McCain's former running mate, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, summed it up in her acceptance speech delivered to the Republican National Convention:
But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot - what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. America needs more energy ... our opponent is against producing it."
Obama's inexperience and and mixed-up priorities are sticking out like a sore thumb, and not without notice:
Now, the words of his former rivals are returning to haunt President Obama. After a distinctly rocky start to his presidency, he has admitted he "screwed up" and is returning to one thing in his political career that he has perfected – campaigning. In Elkhart, Indiana, today and Fort Myers, Florida, tomorrow, Mr Obama will try to seize back control of the political agenda with question-and-answer sessions with voters in two of the swing states that gave him victory.
Already, however, he is struggling, and the product he is now selling is not himself but a near-trillion-dollar economic "stimulus" package loaded with pet Democratic spending projects that has awakened slumbering Republicans in Congress and is now supported by barely a third of Americans.
A series of poorly-vetted cabinet nominees, a press secretary who has fumbled at his press conferences and the double standard of preaching about the evils of influence-peddling and then making exceptions to give lobbyists jobs in his administration are just some of the missteps that made a very bad first impression for the rookie president on everyone from a once-adoring media to ordinary Americans to those abroad who are watching us very closely.
But his biggest foul-up so far is how he chose to go about the business of stimulating the ailing economy:
In the early days of his presidency, Mr Obama has seemed passive and uncertain. Instead of drawing up his own economic stimulus bill, he sub-contracted the job to Democrats on Capitol Hill. They opted to spend money on projects for contraception and beautifying the National Mall – their doorstep – and gave Republicans an plenty of ammunition against the package.
Slipped into the small print was a "Buy America" provision that sent shock waves through capitals from Brussels to Beijing and triggered fears of trade wars and a new American protectionism. It was hard for the President to defend a bill he perhaps didn't fully support himself. He neither championed the package as imperfect but essential, nor sought to make meaningful changes to it. Instead, he attempted to charm Republican centrists with his own personality and the trappings of the White House by inviting them over for cocktails and a Super Bowl party. It didn't work. Of 219 Republicans on Capitol Hill, only three voted for the bill. Introducing a $500,000 pay cap for some Wall Street executives was empty – and possibly counter-productive – populism.
And, to add insult to... insult, the rookie president mocked Republicans right off the bat with his "I won" remark, dissolving all his campaign promises of bi-partisanship with two words. Worse, he let the country's leading conservative radio talk show host maneuver him into in a battle of wits Obama is ill-equipped to fight, his brilliant intellect not withstanding.
There's a good reason most U.S. presidents since World War II have been governors or vice-presidents, and few have ascended to the position directly from the Senate. Prior to moving into the Oval Office, they had already learned from experience how to staff an administration, work with legislators from both sides of the aisle and craft their own initiatives instead of trusting that task to the looser cannons in their own political parties.
So far, except for the grumbling from abroad over the protectionist signals sent around the world by the Democrat's stimulus package, Obama has yet to stumble on the international stage. But the North Koreans and Iranians have both announced that they are pursuing space programs to justify even longer-range missiles to carry the nuclear warheads they are also developing under the guise of nuclear power for electricity. China is building nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and the Russians want to reclaim the glory of the old Soviet empire. The potential for crisis situations exists in Pakistan, Latin America, Korea and the Middle East, not to mention the growing likelihood that Israel will strike Iran before that country can develop some thermonuclear throw weight to make good on its repeated threats to bury what it calls the "rotting corpse" of the Jewish state under a few meters of rubble.
Those tests Joe Biden warned us that President Obama must ace will be coming soon, and they aren't the sort of exams that an American president can cram for at the last minute. Let us pray that The One deals with them using a wisdom we have yet to see him display in his inept handling of domestic matters.