What Happened to the Audacity of Hope?

“Why won’t you discuss any of the good things he’s done?”  That’s my paraphrase of an e-mail I received this week.  The correspondent, who insisted he agrees with me 99 percent of the time, was complaining about the treatment President Obama receives in my daily e-mail reports, which he claimed have been overly negative and unduly hostile. 

My initial reaction was to remind him that if he wants to hear about all the supposed good that our new president has done all he has to do is leave his house, read the papers or turn on the TV.  The American culture and media is dominated by liberals who believe it’s their job, as Chris Matthews put it so forthrightly, to make sure Barack Obama’s presidency is a success.  To be alive is to know that Barack Obama is the antidote to all that ails America and the world.   All I and other conservative commentators are doing is to let people know that there is another side to the story.

But, after much thought, I have to concede that my e-mailer was right.  I neglected to give Obama due credit for his decision to keep on Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense.  Continuity in our national defense is vital as we face an enemy determined to kill as many Americans as possible. But with that exception, I find nothing else to explain the media’s excessive exuberance for our new president.  

President Obama did not get off to a good start when in his first week in office he began planning to release men who have murdered Americans while signing an executive order effectively sentencing to death innocent children in foreign countries with American taxpayers’ money.   

Obama followed up with an apology to the Muslim world during his first TV interview.  But Obama’s conciliatory and disturbing words to Al-Arabiya news channel were followed by the even more conciliatory and disturbing action of dropping charges against the terrorist accused of masterminding the 2000 suicide bomb attack against the U.S.S. Cole that killed 17 American sailors.  While the former commander of the Cole and some family members of the victims met with Obama at the White House recently, other family members boycotted the White House event in disgust.

Perhaps Obama’s most high-profile mistake has been that he has serially nominated tax-evaders to high administration posts.  In Washington D.C., some residents complain about “taxation without representation” (D.C. has no vote in Congress).  In the Obama administration, the motto seems to be “representation without taxation.”

Of course, all other issues have taken a backseat to the pork-stuffed “stimulus” bill now close to passage.  Obama’s press conference this week was long on fear and short on facts about the legislation.  Once again, he warned the country that our “crisis” will become a “catastrophe” if we don’t immediately pass his spending bill.  But we should always be suspicious when a politician wants everyone to shut up and quickly pass a trillion-dollar, 700-page bill.  There are many reasons why Obama and the Democrats want to get this bill through quickly, and they have nothing to do with getting the economy moving again. 

One of the less-talked about provisions sets aside over $1 billion for creating guidelines to direct doctors’ treatment of difficult, high-cost medical problems. The bill establishes the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology and other agencies that analyze treatment cost-effectiveness and may guide doctors to end treatment for patients who become too much of a burden on the government’s finances. 

The provision is part of the health care reform proposal that Obama and his Democratic allies are developing.  It is reportedly based on Great Britain’s National Health Service, where top officials have advocated a “duty to die” for the elderly and those with severe disability who put a financial strain on the system. 

Then there’s $140 billion in the House bill ($80 billion in the Senate bill) earmarked for education spending, virtually none of which addresses any of the reform measures Obama so often touted on the campaign trail.

The mainstream media have convinced some Americans, including, apparently, my correspondent, that there’s been plenty for conservatives to be pleased with in Obama’s first few weeks.  Two oft-cited examples are Obama’s decision to have Pastor Rick Warren offer a prayer at the inauguration and Obama’s decision to wait one day before overturning the policy that prevents taxpayer funding of international abortion.  But these two actions are hardly evidence of a genuine intention to find common ground on policy with conservatives.  Rather, they are cynical, and purely symbolic, gestures which the media can trumpet to give the impression of bi-partisanship.

These first few weeks have not been easy for the nascent Obama administration.  And in tough times, it’s human nature to revert to what one knows and does best.  For Obama, that’s campaigning in front of swooning crowds.  It’s his expertise.  

So, the president shuttled off to events in Indiana and Florida this week to help sell the stimulus package to a skeptical America.  But Obama’s tone in these events was a stark contrast to the spirit he presented while campaigning for president.  Back then, all we heard from the self-proclaimed “hope-monger” was that America needed to regain its confidence and reclaim the “Yes, we can!” spirit that supposedly had been lost in the misgovernance of the Bush years. 

But since then, it’s been all doom and gloom and impending catastrophe from Obama.  It seems that after less than a month in office, President Obama has abandoned the Reagan-esque optimism that helped persuade so many voters to take a chance on him.  And, minus the audacity of hope, there’s very little about Obama in which to be confident.


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