In February of 2007, (having only served his constituents in Illinois for less than two years) Senator Obama announced he would seek the 2008 Democratic nomination for President of the United States. To what has become the all to familiar chants of his name, "Obama! Obama!," he addressed the thousands who were packed into the town square in Springfield, Illinois:
"It was here, in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come together that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people -- where I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America."
While trivializing the importance of his lack of federal experience he focused instead on his (equally trivial, if not totally ambiguous) record on the state and local level, and he talked about the need to change Washington, to set priorities, and how there was a need to send someone to the White House who had the courage to "make hard choices."
"What's stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics - the ease with which we're distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions."
Unfortunately, when it came to actually making "tough choices" Barack Obama was then (as he is now) the leader of the "chronic avoidance" parade.
In 1997, Senator Obama voted "present" on both HB 382 and SB 230, two bills that would have prohibited "partial birth abortion". In his book, "Audacity of Hope", Barack explained that his "problem" with "born alive" bills, was they threatened to overturn Roe v. Wade...
In 1999, Illinois Senator, Barack Obama, voted "present" on SB 759, a bill that required mandatory adult prosecution for firing a gun on or near school grounds. The bill passed the state Senate 52-1. That same year, Obama voted "present" again on HB 854, a bill that protected the privacy of sex-abuse victims by allowing petitions to have the trial records sealed. He was the only senator who did not support the bill.
In 2001, Obama voted "present" on another pair of bills (HB 1900 and SB 562), which would have required parental notification for a minor to receive and abortion bills and he again voted "present" on a series of bills (SB 1093, 1094, 1095) that sought to protect a newborn if it (by some miracle) survived a failed abortion.
If fact, Obama took to the senate floor to argue adamantly against The Induced Infant Liability Act claiming it was "unconstitutional" to force doctors to save the lives of children who survived the attempt to kill them in the womb... Yet when it came time to vote, for a man who felt so strongly about defending a woman's right to kill her unborn child and protecting his own daughters from being "punished with a baby", it is rather striking that each time he had the opportunity to pass legislation to accomplish these goals, he repeatedly voted "present" instead of "no.
"... the smallness of our politics"?................. "through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America" ?
Well, here we are in 2010. Barack Obama has been president for just shy of two years... and during this time (between Tee-Times, Parties, Vacations and his return to the campaign trail) he has demonstrated the same work ethic (or rather, the lack thereof) he put forth as an Illinois senator.
In February, Barack Obama said:
"The politics of dealing with chronic deficits is fraught with hard choices, and therefore, it's treacherous to officeholders here in Washington. As a consequence, nobody has been too eager to deal with it."
Then, (just as he voted "present" as a senator) he (now as President) proved he didn't want to "deal with it" either by handing off the "hard choices" to a commission.
When he introduced his 2011 budget proposal on Feb. 1, Obama said:
"We can no longer afford to leave the hard choices for the next budget, the next administration or the next generation."
But six months later, the jittery and deeply unpopular democrat controlled Congress bolted for the campaign trail without finishing this most basic responsibilities of their job.
Now, like voting "present" as a senator, Obama has become fond of another stealthy little method of avoiding his responsibility (as president) to "make hard choices" (or facing criticism for actually making a decision). It's called, "the pocket veto". The only problem is... the man who claims to have been a Constitutional Law Professor and has been called not only "The Smartest President" but "The Greatest President" in History.... doesn't seem to know what the hell he is doing.
Back in December of 2009, while Congress was in recess, Mr. Obama announced he was exercising a "pocket veto" to kill a stopgap spending bill, which Congress had approved on December 19th. A "pocket veto" is a process outlined in the Constitution by which the president simply refuses to sign a bill sent to his desk while congress is adjourned and said bill is effectively killed.
But, in order to "leave no doubt that the bill is being vetoed," Mr. Obama also issued a regular veto and returned the bill to Congress. According to Mr. Robert Spitzer, Distinguished Service Professor and Chairman of the Political Science Department at State University of New York at Cortland and author the book "The Presidential Veto", The Constitution "simply doesn't give the president a multiple-choice option" on how to veto a bill.. Mr. Spitzer went further with his verbal spanking of the president by saying that "mixing the pocket veto with the regular veto " amounted to nothing more than a "presidential power grab" designed to give himself "absolute veto power that could be used anytime Congress is not in session".
Well, either Obama didn't learn his lesson the first time or he hoped the American people weren't paying attention the second time because... he did it again... and the controversy surrounding Obama's 2nd "pocket veto" (of a bill most commonly known as "Foreclosuregate") is again proving to be more contentious than the legislation itself.
As explained in the New York Times:
The distinction between a pocket veto and a regular veto goes to the fundamental Constitutional balance of powers zealously guarded by both branches. A pocket veto kills legislation outright, giving the president the final say; a regular veto allows Congress the last word if two-thirds of the House and Senate vote to override the veto and make the bill law.
Knowing that Congress would soon return for a lame-duck session, Mr. Obama nevertheless claimed to have killed the bill merely by withholding his signature — the pocket veto. But at the same time he sent it back to Congress, like a regular veto subject to reversal.
In The Huffington Post... today... Sunday - October 17, 2010.... Mr. Spitzer has again dragged Barack Obama back behind the Constitutional Ethics wood shed for another sound and extremely detailed verbal beating. In an editorial written and directed squarely at the president himself, Mr. Spitzer wrote:
"... if your intention to utilize a so-called "protective return" pocket veto (where the president returns the bill to Congress, but calls it a pocket veto not subject to override), as you did for the only other bill you have vetoed as president, that procedure is plainly extra-constitutional, utterly suspect, and completely unnecessary. The Constitution does not give presidents the option of choosing, or worse inventing, a veto method. Repeating that mistake would be worse than no veto at all."
There is a reason why Senator Obama trivialized the importance of his federal experience during his campaign to become president. It's because his experience was (and still is) trivial. During the presidential campaign, his opponent for the democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, tried to warn voters that the office of President was not a place for "on the job training". They didn't listen.
After he won the democratic nomination, then Gov. Sarah Palin again questioned Obama's experience, reminding voters that he had only served for " 300 days " as a senator before he became a presidential candidate." And, although the secretary of the U.S. Senate validated that the numbers were correct, CNN reviewed the facts of Palin's accusation and came to their own conclusion.
The Verdict: Misleading. Palin failed to give credit for Obama's work on days when the Senate was not meeting.
Yeah... I'll give Obama "credit" for all of the (mythical) work he did during his time off as a Senator... the same way I'll give him credit for the work he does while golfing, playing basketball, attending parties, going on multiple vacations and returning to the endorsement for fellow liberals/fund raising/my own 2012 re-election campaign trail as President.
Still, Obama's time away from the White House seems to be less dangerous to our Country than when he is "present".