- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2011


One day soon, someone will write a book titled “The Stumbling, Bumbling, One-Term Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama.” It will be a best-seller - off the nonfiction shelf, of course.

Every presidency is, to be sure, fraught with missteps, mistakes and even fundamental misunderstandings of the task at hand. But President Obama has taken those pitfalls to new heights, and in so doing has exposed what can be called only “Amateur Hour in the White House.”

Just in the past month or so, the president and his jejune minions have delivered every bit of evidence needed to support the theory that no one in the big house knows what they’re doing.

First, Mr. Obama announced that he desperately needed to address a joint session of Congress, and it had to be - had to be - the same night as a Republican presidential-primary debate (remember, this was after Mr. Obama announced in mid-August that he’d be making an announcement in mid-September - after a 10-day vacation to Martha’s Vineyard).

Or rather, Mr. Obama didn’t announce it, he sent out his amateurish press secretary, who, with a straight face, called the timing purely “coincidental.”

“There’s one president; there’s 20-some odd debates,” Jay Carney said. “Obviously, one debate of many that’s on one channel of many was not enough reason not to have the speech at the time that we decided to have it.”

Of course, the president wanted House Speaker John A. Boehner to reject the date, as he did, picking the following day. Mr. Obama then used the dust-up in his campaign speeches, saying Congress was so gridlocked it couldn’t even decide when to allow the president to drop by for an important address.

And that speech was another example of the ham-handed clumsiness of this amateur White House. “There should be,” Mr. Obama said Sept. 8, “nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans - including many who sit here tonight.”

But that was a flat-out lie. While Republicans might have supported some job-creating ideas within the $447 billion spending plan, they certainly had never supported funding that with new taxes.

The president then trotted around the country with more campaign speeches, laying out his simplistic syllogism: America’s economy needed his jobs plan. Republicans opposed his jobs plan. Thus, Republicans were obstructionists who did not want to create jobs, and probably hated America too.

Pity the fool who looked past the amateur rhetoric for a deeper strategy: There wasn’t one. Mr. Obama didn’t even care about Democrats in the Senate, who also had a hard time supporting a new tax bill right before the 2012 elections. He simply needed Congress to reject his plan so he could spread the blame for the terrible economy.

In an even clumsier move, he actually said so. “I would love nothing more than to see a Congress act so aggressively that I can’t campaign against them as a do-nothing Congress,” he said in an Oct. 6 news conference.

The notion wasn’t even original: The big brains at the White House cribbed it from the campaign of Harry S. Truman - who really did run against a do-nothing Congress in his 1948 re-election bid, and won a famous upset victory. But Truman was a highly skilled - and usually underestimated - politician. Mr. Obama is the opposite: without skills and usually overestimated.

The most amusing amateurish move came just last week. With Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. about to be subpoenaed by a House committee, the administration announced in a flourish that it had thwarted a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Iran, Mr. Holder said, planned to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador at a Washington restaurant, using an Iranian-American used-car salesman as its primary agent. Even the New York Times said the supposed plot was met with “a wave of puzzlement and skepticism from some foreign leaders and outside experts.”

This from the president who, during the campaign, said he would meet with rogue leaders, including Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But that was before he made things even worse in the U.S. economy with his trillion-dollar bailout. Now, left with no domestic accomplishments, Mr. Obama is looking to run against a do-nothing Congress while touting his foreign policy and anti-terrorism successes (watch for commercials of Mr. Obama and Osama bin Laden, coming soon to a TV set near you).

Mr. Obama is no Truman. And next November, as he’s spackling nail holes at the White House hoping to get back his security deposit after he moves out, the amateur president will learn from another Truman aphorism: that the buck really does stop at the White House desk.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected].

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