Thursday, April 30, 2009

President "I Didn't Do It"

Ronald Reagan was known as the Teflon President. Scandals didn't stick to him. Bill Clinton was known as Slick Willie for the same reason.

Obama has a different approach. He insists that he didn't do it, that it has nothing to do with him. There is a running gag on The Simpsons where Bart Simpson says "I didn't do it," even when he is caught red-handed. Obama is becoming the "I didn't do it" president.

Last year, during the campaign, Barack Obama deflected accusations that he had a close relationship with people who had committed terrorist actions in the 1960s by pointing out how young he was at the time. How could we hold him responsible for something that one of his neighbors did while he was a child? He also insisted that the Reverend Wright had never given an incendiary sermon while Obama was at church.

He repeated that line recently at the Summit of the Americas. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega listed a set of grievances against the US including the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Obama replied by saying that Ortega couldn't be holding him responsible for something that happened when he was 3 months old.

During a speech last night, he insisted that he was not responsible for the deficit. "It was like that when I got here."

In speeches given in Europe and to Arab audiences, Obama has apologized, on behalf of his country, for everything that his predecessor, making it clear that these were Bush's policies, not Obama's.

All of this is disingenuous. He certainly knew about the domestic terrorists' backgrounds and Wright's sermons but he associated with them anyway.

He is President of the United States. That makes him responsible for everything that his government has ever done, regardless of who was in control at the time. Trying to separate himself from his office and his predecessors is a poor strategy. Most of the world has a long memory and holds grudges against countries or peoples, not against office-holders.

His disavowal of the deficit was almost immediately rebutted by an AP fact checking column. This pointed out that:

  1. As a Senator and a member of the majority party, he shares responsibility for the budget, especially the big-ticket parts that he voted for.
  2. His first actions were to increase spending. His budget shows a temporary dip in spending (to twice the highest Bush deficit then climbs rapidly).
Yes, he did take responsibility when one of his nominees was eliminated but that is a long way from taking responsibility for his presidency or his country. It may be funny for a 10-year-old cartoon character to avoid responsibility but presidents are held to a higher standard.

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