Who is the real Mitt Romney? That is the question that President Barack Obama and his campaign have been forcing down the collective throats of independent voters. These are the voters who will decide the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. While Mitt Romney has certainly “modified” his position on several critical issues, the same can be said about Obama’s campaign and presidency. In 2008, Obama eloquently voiced a new image for America’s future; the president’s first term however veered sharply into a difficult reality.
The picture created by President Obama’s campaign paints Mitt Romney as a candidate who lacks the personal conviction necessary to be successful. Yet, the president’s ability to ignore the realities of his own campaign and presidency on three of his largest campaign issues calls his credibility as a leader into question. Dead is the candidate who hoped to restore the Office of the President to a position that American’s could once again respect and admire. Instead, Barack Obama has succumbed to pigeonholing his opponent into a one-year microcosm that was the 2012 Republican primary. Obama’s 2008 primary campaign, and the mistakes plaguing his administration in the four years that followed however, seem to be conveniently forgotten in the awe of his own campaigning hubris.
For Republicans, 2008 is a catch-22. While they want to challenge the president on how he won the Oval Office, simply referencing that election is a slippery slope. Bringing up John McCain reminds Americans of a defeated campaign, a dubious vice president, and can even reopen the wounds of the George W. Bush years. While Republicans may not be able to journey back in time, it must be the responsibility of the media to condemn aspects of the Democrats laughable narrative.
Lets start with the president’s stance on Guantanamo Bay, from the Democratic primary in 2008. In August of 2007 Obama stated, "as president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists." Obama went on to claim that if Congress opposed him, he would close the camp by using Executive Orders (another tool of the Bush administration he claimed he would limit during his term in office). Four years later the Gitmo remains in operation, and questions remain.
While Obama’s theoretical and idealistic approach in the 2008 Democratic primary created a translucent clarity that galvanized the base and independent voters alike, it also created it’s own hypocrisy. Why has it taken four years and counting to close Guantanamo Bay? The answer resides in this administrations failure to provide the honesty it campaigned on.
Is it possible that the necessity of Guantanamo Bay is vital to the success of this presidential administration in combating the harsh realities of the war on terror? The answer is certainly yes. The Obama administration can’t be blamed for necessary evil that is Guantanamo Bay. What the president can be blamed for is campaigning for Guantanamo’s closure in the clouds of a delusional moral high ground. At the same time, the president has simultaneously refused to produce a reasonable explanation on Gitmo’s continued existence that satisfies a desired moral continuity within the context of his own presidential narrative.
Even before Obama entered the Oval Office, the presidential candidate was already laying the groundwork for tackling one of America’s most important issues, universal health care. In a debate with Hillary Clinton on January 31, 2008, Senator Obama (in opposition to an individual mandate) said "I think we can anticipate that there would also be people potentially who are not covered and are actually hurt if they have a mandate imposed on them." Obama asserted that he would rather lower current costs, as opposed to stressing the cost of a government created program.
Just six months into his presidency, with a Democratic House and a filibuster-proof senate, Obama suddenly came out in favor of an individual mandate. In a piece for The Atlantic, Andrew Kline raises a poignant question. Did Obama believe that the strength of government was actually necessary all along? If the answer to that question is yes, Obama’s anti-mandate stance in the primary appears to merely serve as political posturing. The likely reality is that his primary stance was used as a ploy to distance himself from his two strongest Democratic opponents, both of whom adamantly supported the mandate. Eventually, Obama was forced to give up the mandate (his alleged position in 2008) if Obamacare hoped to survive Congress and a conservative Supreme Court bench in 2011 and 2012.
In the end, Obama’s forced compromise allowed the bill to pass in Congress and upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court. Of course, the Obama campaign will spin it as a stroke of compromise akin to the golden political savvy of the Clinton era. The reality, however, is almost the opposite. Obama’s willingness to oppose the mandate was a deliberate maneuver to create a divide that was necessary to win his party’s nomination. His political greed led to his willingness to overexert his administration. Only by sheer luck in the Supreme Court did his health care bill survive. While health care is an immensely complicated issue that must be addressed by the government, Obama’s desire to overreach politically as both a candidate and a president coupled with the lack of a definitive and principled plan was nothing short of irresponsible.
The dysfunctionality of the health care bill was not an accident, but merely a negative byproduct of the Obama administration. At the 2008 Democratic Debate at University of Texas, in Austin, candidate Obama told viewers, “the central premise of this campaign is that we can bring this country together, that we can push against the special interests that have come to dominate the agenda in Washington.” The desire of the president to shout his political purity from atop a shinning hill has come with a cost.
That coast is estimated at around $200 million of insurance and pharmaceutical companies in 2009 alone. It is no coincidence that that is the same period of time that Democrats were in a position to force the bill down the collective throat of Republican legislators and the American people.
It is important to point out that both parties’ and candidates’ would not exist nor function in government without the funding and support of the special interests of institutions (i.e. health care companies, banking, unions). What is comical is the president’s willingness to continue to take the public high ground, while at the same time continually exploiting financial and political holes in a system that unfortunately does exist to serve those who can best manipulate it.
The president’s 2012 campaign should be focused in its goals for the next four years and beyond.
For Obama, the days of blinding the ignorant with lofty rhetoric are long over. All presidents, even Barack Obama, do deserve the benefit of eight years and beyond to determine the success of their legacy. Yet, Obama’s reliance on image politics and his administration’s stubborn unwillingness to admit failure could cost him not only his political legacy, but deepen the rightful mistrust American has of it’s leaders.
When you wake up tomorrow, really stare into the mirror Mr. President, because the undeniable truth is this. You’re not looking so good. In 2008 you ran on a platform of hope and change. If you do win re-election, I hope you can change, because this country deserves better for it’s present and it’s future.