Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Presidency About Nothing?

Friday morning, I was stunned as were most Americans including the President himself to hear that the Norwegian Nobel Committee had awarded the Noble Peace Prize to President Obama. One reporter neatly summarized my feelings: "He won! For what?"

The President's response so far has been appropriately low-key and humble. His best move would be to thank the committee for the honor, but decline to accept the award because he has not yet begun to lead. At the very least, he should decline to accept the award until he leaves office, following the precedent set by President Theodore Roosevelt.

The Saturday Night Live skit last week may have been a bit harsh in its critique of the President's record of accomplishments so far: "Nothing. Nada. Almost one year and nothing to show for it." But SNL's timing couldn't have been better, coming after the President's failed Copenhagen campaign to bring the 2012 Olympics to Chicago and setting the stage for him to receive an increasingly meaningless award. Tonight, I may actually have to watch SNL live for the first time in decades. They may be onto something.

While the SNL skit may have been harsh, it wasn't far from the truth. Excluding talk, at which Obama excels even for a politician, Obama has accomplished very little. He outsourced the "stimulus" bill to Pelosi et al., who larded it with pet projects and very little economic stimulus. Obama has yet to propose an actual health care reform bill or commit to a specific plan, instead allowing multiple versions to proliferate in Congress in the resulting leadership vacuum. In fact, from one perspective his foreign policy initiatives—"resetting" relations with Russia, reneging missile defense agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic, promising better relations with Muslims, and generally apologizing for Yankee imperialism to anyone who will listen—seem as vacuous as his domestic policy.

In fact, his policies as President seem to following the same pattern as his presidential campaign, which was based on the substance-free "Hope and Change" and "Change We Can Believe In." This allowed voters to fill his slogans with their own preferred content, believe that this was what Obama was seeking. During the campaign he carefully avoided dispelling these personalized notions, allowing him to be all things to all voters, at least until he took office.

The whole situation reminds me of the brilliant sitcom Seinfeld, which was pitched as a "show about nothing," More precisely is was a sitcom about minutia in everyday life. In the last two weeks, the Obama presidency has increasingly become a presidency of the minutia of a failed Olympics campaign and a laughable Nobel Peace Prize.

I'm not quite ready to declare it a presidency about nothing, but I'm beginning to wonder . . . and hope. I would much prefer a do-nothing President who allows America to decline slowly than a President who efficiently dismantles the U.S. economy and Pax Americana—which isn't happening yet.

Here's a toast to incompetence (or indecision) in the Oval Office. It seems the least of the possible evils.

1 comment:

  1. I watch the intro skit to SNL on Saturday. It may have been funny, but it was not memorable . . . at least, I don't remember it.



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