It is generally believed, at least among pundits and political critics, that a president gets a one-year pass on many issues. He does inherit the impact of previous decisions and he must be given time to put his own people and approaches in place. I accept this “rule of thumb” and have thus withheld criticism of President Obama on many issues. I have done the same with previous presidents, both Republican and Democrat.
I have criticized President Obama on two primary fronts in his first year in office. One is his radically pro-choice stance. He talks about slowing the number of abortions but his actions are consistently pro-abortion in the most radical ways. Even his best Christian friends cannot defend his actions in this area of policy with any degree of conviction. Second, I have criticized President Obama's general approach to the economy, especially the health care plans that both houses of Congress are seeking to combine into one bill for the president to sign into law. I believe we need health care reform badly but I am quite unprepared to uncritically accept what is being offered to us at the moment. I think we will deeply regret this governmental involvement in our lives before the ink is even dry on the president’s signature. For some Christians my response seems to be the epitome of self-centeredness since they have connected health-care reform with compassion and justice for the poor. So long as the merits of a particular piece of legislation are linked to these “big ideas” those who oppose such federal plans are seen as the uncaring conservatives who do not stand up for the poor and weak among us. What if I told you that the biggest losers in this plan could very likely be the real poor? I am not alone in suggesting that this will be one of the major “unintended consequences” of this unwieldy, budget-breaking, plan.
I thought about this one-year “rule” over this last weekend when the media was abuzz about the security breach that almost brought about another terrorist incident on the Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam. George W. Bush is no longer the go to fault-guy for these problems. The expiration date on such issues being placed on Bush is now over. This issue lies squarely on President Obama thus the talking heads spent the entire weekend on the subject. Why did the administration not do more to stop this man when his own father warned of his potential danger as a terrorist? And what is up with this “watch list” business? I spent two years on the TSA list and was routinely pulled out and forced through procedures for special check-in and screening. Why? No one would ever tell me. I had to work for over six months to remove my name from this list. Did my family turn me in? Did my state of origin (Tennessee) get me this special treatment? Did my being a Crimson Tide fan raise a red flag?
Seriously, if George W. Bush can be blamed for the dot-com breakdowns that potentially led to the 9/11 attacks eight months into his administration then President Obama can be fairly faulted for his administration allowing a disaffected jihadist from Yemen to get explosive powder onto an American bound plane.
Is it too harsh to say that the dots, in this particular case, were fairly easy to connect with regard to this man? Isn’t it thus fair to say that Obama has had a lot of time to fix this system if he truly found it broken nearly a year ago when he entered office? Kathleen Parker, one of the most decent and fair-minded of conservative syndicated columnists (Washington Post), wrote in October 2008: “I worry that Obama isn’t serious enough about terrorism and free markets. . . . I worry about Obama’s over-intellectualizing—that he will get lost in a maze of deep thoughts and fail to be decisive when necessary.” Parker added, in her column on Monday, January 4, “Or lost on a golf course, as the case may be.” Unfair? I think not. Obama’s response to what could have been a national nightmare was “delivered on Katrina” (Parker's term) time, two days too late. He muttered something about systems and humans failing and that was about it. Since then he has said a little more but his initial response was what we’ve come to expect from this laid-back, cool and seemingly detached leader. I give him high marks for being unflappable but as Kathleen Parker notes, in this case his response “borders on inappropriate.” (Kathleen Parker was the columnist who called for Sarah Palin to resign from the Republican ticket because she was a "lightweight" during the last presidential campaign, which got her 11,000 responses from conservatives, most of which were negative.)
Now the president and his administration tell us something is really being done and we are on high alert in Yemen. Will we engage these jihadists? How? What next? Obama has had a lot of time to apply his brilliant mind to this problem. My question is not partisan. What has he been doing? What will he do now that he escaped a catastrophe because of, humanly speaking, pure luck? Former Vice-President Cheney’s response seems way over-the-top and aggressively political. But I do wonder how long we will give this president a free pass on one of the most important things he is required to do, defend our nation?
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By background, I am a Republican. However, I like to think that I will try and vote for the best man for the job, regardless of party affiliation.
First of all, kudos to Obama for having the courage to take up the mantle of this office at all! The office of the presidency has become very complicated to begin with. On top of that, whoever walked into this office in this time period was going to have a very rough time of it!
We blame presidents for failure the majority of the time when we should be blaming congress. One president has to get his agenda past hundreds of people, when you think of a combined congress! You want to see how hard that one is…just go to one of your local city council meetings…and that is just a few polical folks!
With the rise of the “professional politician”, it has become even tougher for a president that aspires to “make a difference.
Why are we talking about blame instead of responsibility? And why are we (almost always) blaming someone else rather than taking responsibility? The American way has changed into “my way or the highway” and we are happy to criticize others before we remove the log blocking our own sight and insight.
Perhaps the important word change should be “responsibility” here. When does a leader become responsible for the consequences of his or her actions, pro and con? We generally respect a transition period if we are fair-minded and reasonable. This has often been the first year in office. Now we ask questions about accountability. The president has been doing exactly that over the past few days. I am not sure he is asking how he failed but he sure is asking those around him from what we have learned so far. It seems to me a leader asks both questions.