What on earth is President Obama talking about? The short answer is everything — and nothing.
The most cerebral president in America’s history — yes, much smarter than Madison, Jefferson, Adams, any of the Founding Fathers, to hear the mainstream media gush — is suddenly sounding like a community college dropout.
Forget that he says he gave the Medal of Honor to a soldier who died earning it. (No, Mr. President, Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti was not “the first person who I was able to award the Medal of Honor to who actually came back and wasn’t receiving it posthumously.”) It’s everything else.
Day after day, President Obama is AWOL, busy with disconnected events that have almost no relation to what’s going on in the nation, much less the world. He has so little impact on what’s going on anywhere that he’s hardly missed when he heads to the golf course (which he has done 75 times since taking office — and if you’re keeping track, that’s like playing golf 24 hours a day for nearly two weeks).
Consider his schedule last week: Meetings in the White House on Monday and Tuesday (which culminated in a bizarre and rambling speech on Afghanistan in which he declared he was cutting and running while leaving 68,000 troops in country to “lead from behind”), a greeting with Asian-American and Pacific Islander community leaders on Wednesday, fundraising events in New York City on Thursday, and a trip Friday to Pittsburgh “to highlight the importance of manufacturing to the U.S. economy.” Seriously.
In Pittsburgh, he said: “You might not know this, but one of my responsibilities as commander in chief is to keep an eye on robots. And I’m pleased to report that the robots you manufacture here seem peaceful, at least for now.”
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, rancor rises. A slew of lawmakers, Democrats included, fume over Mr. Obama’s contention that he can take America to war without their consent. By week’s end, talks about how to handle the nation’s $14 trillion debt had broken down completely, despite the White House sending its key man to negotiate — no, not the president. Joe Biden, the vice president.
So on Saturday, Mr. Obama took to the airwaves to address the nation about — “Strengthening America by investing at home”? Seriously?
“We need to do what’s necessary to grow our economy, create good, middle-class jobs, and make it possible for all Americans to pursue their dreams,” he said with a straight face, offering no steps on exactly how to do so.
“That means giving our kids the best education in the world so they have the knowledge and skills to succeed in this economy. It means rebuilding our crumbling roads, railways, and runways. And it means investing in the cutting-edge research and technologies that will spur growth in the years ahead — from clean energy to advanced manufacturing.”
What does that mean? Who knows. They’re just words, apropos of nothing. As is what he said next: “We launched what we’re calling an Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. … Their mission is to come up with a way to get ideas from the drawing board to the manufacturing floor to the marketplace as swiftly as possible, which will help create quality jobs, and make our businesses more competitive.” What does that even mean? (By the way, look to a report Friday to show the U.S. manufacturing sector plummeting, but that was, of course, before Mr. Obama created that new awesome partnership.)
Now, the White House is blaring from the rooftop that Mr. Obama will come to the rescue on the stalled debt talks. How? He’ll meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday morning, and then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the evening — separately (which, in terms of negotiation, seems pointless). In between, he’ll welcome Major League Soccer’s champions, the Colorado Rapids, to the White House “to honor their 2010 season and their MLS Cup victory.” Seriously.
And then, Mr. Obama will disappear again: Off on Tuesday to Alcoa Davenport Works Factory in Bettendorf, Iowa, “to tour the facility and discuss the critical role that the manufacturing sector plays in the American economy.” (Oh, are Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann also in Iowa? Huh, just a coincidence.) On Wednesday, the president will welcome the WNBA champion Seattle Storm to the White House, then, with the first lady “hold a reception to observe Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Pride Month.” More fundraising in Philadelphia on Thursday, and so little to do Friday he has nothing on the schedule. No doubt there’ll be more golf Saturday.
But nothing illustrated the incredible shrinking presidency better than Mr. Obama’s odd national address on Afghanistan, when he took a moment to say this: “We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy.”
Just what “clean sources of energy” is doing in a speech on Afghanistan is anyone’s guess. As the 2012 campaign begins to take shape, Mr. Obama is again trying to be all things to all people. The only difference is, this time, he’s in the driver’s seat.
As much as he tries to push attention away from the nation’s dire economy, it’s clear just who drove it into the ditch this time.
And it’s even more clear that the president has no idea what to say.
c Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.