Recent survey results describe trust in the Federal government at a historic all time low; only 17% of Americans are “positive” about their government in the latest Gallup poll, and 63% were negative. An August Pew Research poll reported that only 22% were even “basically content” with how our leaders are running the country. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah admonished God’s people for their misplaced trust, “They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that hold no water.” Broken cisterns are useless for hydration and a trap for those who are pushed into one.
Trust begins and ends at the top. The Obama administration to date has been a crushing failure at almost every turn, most especially in managing the economy. Beginning with the ill advised Keynesian borrowed trillion dollar stimulus that by almost any measure was a catastrophe – a boondoggle of pork, waste and no lasting jobs; he rounded the corner with the trillion dollar Obamacare 2,500 page mystery bill and is still going strong with literally ten thousand pages of new, business choking regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Relations Board and an inflated health care bureaucracy. President Obama is doing his utmost to keep his promise to “fundamentally change America.” His “hope”, however, is not keeping well and has turned sour.
If you recall, he recognized at the beginning of his administration that the massive deficit caused by Federal overspending was not viable; he pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term (see video link). President Obama needs some remedial work on the placement of his decimal points. He doubled the deficit and is still working hard to grow it some more. When the opportunity arose during the debt ceiling debate to step back from the brink to make significant cuts, he instead dragged out overwrought class warfare rhetoric and, as Washington loves to do, deferred the hard decisions to yet another feckless committee. He already had a report from a bipartisan deficit reduction commission (Simpson/ Bowles) and didn’t like what he heard, so ignored its conclusions and recommendations. He’s still waiting to hear what he wants to hear, but his ideology keeps tripping on those ruinous and pesky facts.
After almost three years, this is now the Obama economy without a doubt. Following the much heralded (by the administration) “Recovery Summer” of 2010, we’ve suffered through five straight quarters of declining GDP growth. Manufacturing is moribund, and housing remains a smoking, overturned hulk on the side of the tracks. Our cisterns are leaking. Could it be that it was simply a terrible idea to put our trust in a first term U.S. Senator with radical ideology, a record of voting “present” as a state legislator and some community organizing experience for the toughest executive position in the world?
There was another Illinois politician who did know what virtuous leadership requires. In 1855 Abraham Lincoln was an ambitious leader in the Illinois State House of Representatives. The opportunity arose to run for the U.S. Senate, a position he understood then as possibly his last and best opportunity for higher office. The Illinois House would decide the outcome. After several ballots his tally stood at 47 votes, four shy of the 51 he needed for victory. The Douglas Democrat, James Shields, had 41; another Democrat, Congressman Lyman Trumbell, had 5. Trumbell, like Lincoln, was part of a fragile coalition of Whigs, No Nothing Party members and anti-slavery Democrats who opposed the Nebraska Act and slavery. The Trumbell supporters would not budge because as anti- slavery Democrats, they believed they could not be reelected if they voted for a Whig for the Senate. After it became clear to Lincoln that even as the clear front runner he could not win, he asked his supporters to switch their allegiance to Lyman Trumbell in order to secure an anti slavery Senate seat for Illinois, which they did, some literally in tears. This coalition of Whigs, disaffected anti slavery Democrats and the remnants of the No Nothing party ultimately formed the basis of the new Republican Party. Lincoln sacrificed his political aspirations for a moral truth – the essence of virtuous leadership.
Lincoln never addressed a joint session of Congress. Although Washington and John Adams had done so, Thomas Jefferson submitted written remarks to be read by a clerk to the legislature. Jefferson regarded the President speaking to a joint session as too monarchial, modeled after the Speech from the Throne to Parliament in Great Britain. The tradition of refraining from the regal persisted for over a hundred years until Woodrow Wilson revived the State of the Union address in 1913. Perhaps another joint session is only to be expected from a President who would be king.
This week we await yet another “jobs plan” from President Obama, another speech, his default response. From an effective leader we might expect a specific financial plan to curtail the growth of government and entitlements with relief for small businesses and tax payers. I sincerely hope so. From President Obama, more than likely, it means just one more political speech with the extra pomp of a joint session just as he harangued Congress for Obamacare. I anticipate a superfluous non event into which even the most avid Democrat will struggle to stay tuned. Who are the Sox playing that night?
Thomas Paine, “The Crisis”, 1776. “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”