- - Thursday, June 4, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Barack Obama’s mistake-filled, trouble-plagued presidency is slipping into history as Americans begin their search for a successor who can clean up the mess he created.

You’ve probably noticed that President Obama isn’t making much if any real news lately. Days go by when he isn’t on the nightly network news or on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers.

It isn’t because he’s being ignored by the news media. It’s because he has nothing new to propose to deal with America’s problems, or, if he does, he has little chance of being taken seriously by the Republican Congress.

Second presidential terms are historically empty of the kind of major reforms and legislative initiatives that usually take place in the first four years of an administration.

That is, unless the president runs on a meaty, second-term agenda — as President Reagan did in 1984 when he campaigned on cleansing our dysfunctional tax code and his success on getting the U.S. economy running again at full throttle.

No one writes about this because the economic growth comparisons to Mr. Obama’s first-term record are shamefully embarrassing.

For the record, here are the robust quarterly growth figures Reagan produced in the fourth year of his first term: 8.5 percent, 7.9 percent, 6.9 percent and 5.8 percent.

He carried 49 states that year and went on to enact a sweeping overhaul of the tax code, with strong Democratic support, that cut the top tax rate to 28 percent.

Now, here’s Mr. Obama’s mediocre economic performance in 2012, the fourth year of his first term: 2.3 percent, 1.6 percent, 2.5 percent and 0.1 percent. (In his seventh year, the economy is getting worse. It has not only stopped growing in the first three months of this year, it actually contracted by 0.7 percent.)

Flash-forward to the present day as the listless Obama administration stumbles through the last year-and-a-half of his presidency. It isn’t a pretty picture.

In foreign policy, newly resurgent terrorist armies, from the Islamic State to al Qaeda, have seized large swaths of territories across the Middle East and North Africa.

In a strongly financed, far more lethal, multi-pronged offensive, these extremist groups have swiftly seized large strategic targets in Syria and Iraq. And their brothers in bloodshed and beheadings are making sporadic attacks in other adjoining states — a sign of their ambitious plans to wage war across the Middle East and beyond.

Remember how the administration responded to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of deadly, toxic chemical weapons on his own people, and Mr. Obama’s declaration that he had crossed a “red line” that would not stand?

Something was fishy when Russian thug Vladimir Putin, Mr. Assad’s friend, offered a diplomatic plan to negotiate the elimination of the chemical stockpiles, and Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry fully embraced the idea and signed on the dotted line.

That took the spotlight off Mr. Assad’s continued attacks on Syrian population centers with barrel-bombs that killed as many or more civilians as the chemical weapons did.

But Mr. Obama’s naive belief that he could trust Mr. Assad to keep his word wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

It was reported this week that Syria is using chlorine gas in oil barrels and gas cylinders, dropped by airplanes and helicopters on civilian residents in rebel-held areas.

Last month, international inspections by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which was part of the pact agreed to by Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry, discovered traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military site in Syria.

And what about Mr. Putin’s seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and his defacto takeover of territory in its eastern region?

Mr. Obama and the European Union imposed economic sanctions on Russia, but the slaps on the wrist have not deterred Mr. Putin’s ambitions to swallow Ukraine whole in his demonic dream of restoring a Greater Russia.

Sensing Mr. Obama’s fast-declining influence on the world stage, Mr. Putin has given pro-Russian rebels a green light to resume military actions as renewed fighting broke out this week — blowing a huge hole in the tenuous cease-fire signed in February.

Ukraine’s pleas for increased military arms assistance has fallen on deaf ears in the White House, where officials still insist a lasting diplomatic solution is possible. Mr. Kerry made back-to-back trips to Moscow last month in the fairy-tale belief he could persuade Mr. Putin to end his aggression against the Kiev government.

Meantime, back here at home, Mr. Obama’s apologists in the national news media have been working overtime to persuade voters that the economy’s ominous decline is not the president’s fault. It’s tight-fisted consumers who have driven the economy into a three-month recession, they say.

The day after the Commerce Department reported the economy’s collapse, the liberal Washington Post ran an excuse-filled story on its front page under this headline: “Recession yields a culture of savers,” followed by this subhead: “Economy shrinks again as consumers continue to hang on to their cash.”

This is the time “for American consumers to feel good,” because job growth “is brisk,” wages are up, and gasoline prices have dropped, the Post’s well-paid reporters said.

What planet are they on? Job growth has been tepid at best, compared to previous recoveries. Wages are virtually flat. Gas prices have been rising again. College graduates can’t find well-paying, full-time jobs.

“The U.S. economy continues to stumble,” writes Post economic columnist Robert J. Samuelson.

Mr. Obama’s impotent, job-killing, anti-growth economic policies are responsible for the mess we’re in — not the spending habits of hardworking, hard-pressed, frugal Americans.

Mr. Obama was given a second term in 2012 when he should have been voted out of office. Next year we get a chance to correct that regrettable mistake.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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