The Real ‘Short List’ Is Obama’s Resume

Barack Obama stands to become the least-accomplished man elected as President of the United States in almost a century, and maybe ever. He has held only one major office: two-thirds of one Senate term, in which he has made no distinguishing mark. His record in the private-sector is even less noteworthy. His lack of distinction in these regards parallels his lack of distinctiveness in voting. He has been a reliable, party-line voter for the Democrats in the Senate, leaning left with steadfast consistency. If Americans want their next President to combine a dearth of accomplishment with an abundance of liberalism, they have found their man.

The last time Americans faced economic trials reminiscent of today’s, they voted for another unaccomplished liberal (though more accomplished and less liberal): Jimmy Carter. The only good thing that came from the Carter presidency was the Reagan presidency.

But Carter was more accomplished than Obama. He had been governor of Georgia. George W. Bush had been a two-term governor of the nation’s second-largest state. Bill Clinton had been a multi-term governor, Gerald Ford a long-time leader in the House of Representatives, Harry Truman a respected two-term senator. Even youthful John F. Kennedy had been elected to the House or Senate five times.

The last president whose pre-election accomplishments didn’t clearly outpace Obama’s is Warren G. Harding. Harding was another one-term senator who is said to have found the Senate “a very pleasing place.” He was reportedly promoted by party bosses for the 1920 Republican nomination because they thought he “looked like a President." Sound familiar? Alas, Harding’s presidency was nothing to write an autobiography (or two) about.

Obama too looks and sounds like a president, but he doesn’t have the resume of one. It is true that solid principles, statesmanlike judgment, and an ability to communicate just ideals, can sometime come from the least expected places. But nothing about Obama or his autobiographies is likely to draw genuine comparison to the likes of Abraham Lincoln or his speeches. In fact, Obama gives the strong impression of being dismissive of most pre-1960s American political thought. Like F.D.R., Obama instead is eager to try to co-opt Lincoln for his own ends, to teach Lincoln something or to use him, but not to learn from him or genuinely emulate him.

Lincoln was brilliant on the notions of fundamental rights. Here, in contrast, is Obama on the rights of the unborn, in a glib comment that was greeted by his liberal audience with clapping and laughter: "Thanks to all of you at Planned Parenthood for all the work you are doing for women…and for men who have enough sense to realize you are helping them."

In 2003, Congress passed the Federal Abortion Ban to stop partial-birth abortions. Only one-third of the 519 members who cast votes opposed that legislation, which the Supreme Court subsequently upheld. Obama told Planned Parenthood that he strongly opposed that “disturbing” Supreme Court decision, he praised Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent for rejecting the “ancient notions of women’s place in the family,” and he bragged that “we fought together in the Illinois State Senate against restrictive-choice legislation — laws just like the federal abortion bans.” Then, in his third debate with John McCain, Obama severely downplayed his very same role, claiming he would support a ban on partial-birth abortions if the legislation were merely constructed differently. This is not a man with a record of clearly holding, articulating, and defending rightful principles.

Even Obama’s supporters are at a loss when asked to point to something impressive on his resume. A liberal friend of mine — whose own resume is quite distinguished — responded to that question by pointing to Obama’s having been president of the Harvard Law Review.

This is really quite amazing: a presidential candidate’s supporters pointing to his resume as a student, not so much to support the rest of his resume but in lieu of it.

My best man was the top graduate at the U.S. Air Force Academy. I’d say that’s more impressive than being president of the Harvard Law Review, as the selection was from a larger group and wasn’t driven by political considerations.

Should Obama prevail in this election, we will not only have elected someone quite well-suited to lead us headlong into socialism (the timing is good, and the stage is set, just as it was for F.D.R.), further into lawlessness (Obama has made it clear he will appoint law-making, not law-abiding, judges), and further toward moral decay, but also someone who is quite possibly the least-accomplished man to enter the White House ever, and certainly in many a decade.

On the long list of things that make me queasy about a possible Obama presidency, perhaps the thing that makes me most uncomfortable is his comfort in misleading the voters. This is perhaps best exemplified by his gross misrepresentation of McCain’s health-care plan, very nearly to the point of outright deceit.

McCain’s plan would simply take the health-care tax-break that is currently given to employers and would instead give it to individuals — a long-overdue reform that is a crucial step in promoting a genuine free-market for health care. Amazingly, Obama portrays McCain’s plan as one that would “tax health-care benefits for the first time in history.” One wonders how a campaign staffer would even have thought to portray McCain’s plan in such a wildly misleading manner. But far more troubling is Obama’s acceptance of that portrayal and his willingness to advance it himself in debates, speeches, and TV ads nationwide.

What we have in Obama is someone who is entirely a product of the modern campaign, which lasts forever and rewards the sort of personal aggrandizement and sloganized communication that the Founders abhorred and warned against; who largely rejects the Founders’ philosophy of limited government and private rights; who embraces and will actively advance the growth of the centralized administrative state that both the Founders and Tocqueville warned against; who has never been in executive office at any level and never provided much leadership in any legislative office he has held; and whose defenders are left pointing to his high-ranking post in a student organization and musing openly about how "it would be nice to have a black President."

I prefer to choose my presidents in a color-blind fashion, and in every other way I’ve listed, I find Obama wanting. He’s smart, yes. But Thomas Jefferson described the natural aristocracy as the virtuous and talented, not the smart and slippery.

But let me return to my central claim: Obama lacks accomplishments to a possibly unprecedented degree for a President of the United States. In that sense, his election would certainly mark a change.


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