- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2009


Political candidates are notorious for promising voters the moon to get elected. But once in office, we expect our elected officials to stop campaigning and start doing the business of the people, governing. This is especially true for the leader of the Free World, who is responsible for a $3.6 trillion budget, commanding the world’s most powerful military and promoting the welfare of the American people.

The presidential election is over. President Obama, however, never ended his campaign.

His administration’s domestic and foreign initiatives have not been the detailed and carefully crafted policy proposals needed to govern. We continue to see and hear campaign speeches offering only vague promises, slogans and attacks on his predecessor, but no plans on how to execute his proposals.

We have seen the appointment of more than 30 policy “czars,” a clear admission that government isn’t working. Although this “Ready! Fire! Aim!” approach to running our country initially produced nice sounding ideas and positive press, the president’s lack of planning and focus have begun to catch up with him — and us. This administration is reaching a critical point: it is in danger of losing the confidence of the American people in its ability to govern.

Mr. Obama’s decision to close the detention facility for terrorism suspects at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by January 2010 is a good example of this. Mr. Obama signed an order to close this facility on his third day in office without the benefit of a review by our intelligence agencies, the Justice Department or the Pentagon. Even Congress was not asked to weigh in.

Although the president had a vision to close Guantanamo, he had no plan on where to move its dangerous prisoners and is now struggling with implementation. Many in Congress are opposed. I strongly oppose a recent ill-defined idea floated by Obama administration officials to send the Gitmo detainees to Michigan, my home state. Just because Michigan is hurting doesn’t mean we are that desperate. America’s allies are not supportive.

A panel named to advise the president on Gitmo detainees recently announced it will miss its deadlines. John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism advisor, finally admitted the Obama administration may miss the president’s January deadline to close Guantanamo. Why? It was a bad policy developed through “Ready! Fire! Aim!” management. Simply speaking, the president missed the obvious: the American people, and the people of Michigan, don’t want deadly terrorists in their state or on American soil.

The Obama administration’s policy toward Iran is another example of policy without proper planning. After Iran’s disputed presidential elections, the U.S. missed a golden opportunity to support the cause of democracy in Iran because the administration did not want to criticize the Iranian government for fear of undermining its ill-conceived offer to hold talks on its nuclear program, never mind that the Iranian government has categorically rejected such talks.

As a result, the United States was on the wrong side of the postelection protests, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy — not Mr. Obama — voiced the Free World’s outrage over the postelection violence. The American people identified with the freedom protesters, while this administration was painfully silent.

The “Ready! Fire! Aim!” approach also hasn’t worked for the Obama administration’s domestic policies. In February, Congress hastily passed a $787 billion, 1,588-page economic stimulus package. No member of Congress was given time to read this massive bill before it was put to a vote. The bill’s unusually rapid passage was in response to Mr. Obama’s claim that without this legislation, unemployment would rise above 8.5 percent. The national unemployment rate is now at 9.4 percent, government revenues are down 18 percent and deficits are approaching $2 trillion - not exactly what the American people were promised. The massive stimulus package is now floundering because it was a poorly formulated package that only those who trust in Washington and not the American people could have dreamed up.

Mr. Obama is learning that governing is much harder than campaigning. Governing means following through and executing policies, not simply proposing them and worrying about execution later. A policy is not a success just because the president says it is and Congress votes it into law. The president needs to stop the campaign speeches launching new initiatives and get down to implementing what he has already begun. Are we really willing to use a “Ready! Fire! Aim!” approach on health care reform? No way!

The Obama administration and Democrat congressional leaders are increasingly out of touch with the American people and their growing opposition to the president’s policies. It is truly outrageous that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer have called protests against the president’s health care proposal un-American. Democrats should listen to their constituents, not condemn them for using our democratic system to express their concerns to their elected representatives.

Mr. Obama, the American people need you to govern. The campaign is over. It is time to start governing, or you will lose the support of the American people.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra represents the 2nd Congressional District of Michigan and is the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

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