Dilemma: Point with pride or view with alarm?
The late, great Oklahoma attorney, Oris L. Barney, used to say: “Politicians seeking reelection either point with pride or view with alarm.” But, as he continues his reelection campaign, Mr. Obama may find it difficult to “point with pride.” According to CNBC, the economy’s current Misery Index (the unemployment rate plus the inflation rate), is the worst in 28 years. Paul Dales of Capital Economics says, “The bad news is that households won’t be in the mood to boost their spending significantly for several more years.”
Further bad news for Mr. Obama is that his own political party controlled the federal budget process for Fiscal Years 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, meaning that, either as a U.S. Senator or as President, Mr. Obama supported record-high levels of federal deficit spending.
If the facts preclude a reelection campaign that “points with pride,” then Mr. Obama might try to “view with alarm” the return of the White House to Republican control. Unfortunately, for Mr. Obama, his predecessor left office with the federal deficit the lowest it had been in five years. Moreover, the sub-prime mortgage crisis that tumbled the economy was the handiwork of Congressman Barney Frank (D) and former Senator Chris Dodd (D) who demanded that lending institutions issue mortgages to people who could not even pay their telephone bills.
Okay. Forget domestic affairs. The Constitution gives presidents a lot of latitude when it comes to foreign affairs. Can Mr. Obama “point with pride” to foreign affairs? Recall, Candidate Obama said we should immediately withdraw our troops from Iraq and shift our main military effort to Afghanistan. Never mind Iraq’s geographic importance with regard to the oil of the Persian Gulf and as a check on Iran’s efforts to be the dominant force of the Middle East. Never mind that land-locked Afghanistan is only of strategic importance to its regional neighbors and, of course, to the opium-growing Afghan warlords.
But give Mr. Obama credit where it is due: He allowed the Navy’s SEAL Team Six and the CIA to cross into Pakistan and eliminate Osama bin Laden. Moreover, he heeded his field commander’s request for a surge of 30,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan, although saying, at the same time, that the U.S. and its NATO allies would be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Speaking of NATO, Mr. Obama has gotten his foreign policy crossways with the U.S. House of Representatives. In fact, ten House members, led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), filed a complaint in federal court against Mr. Obama for taking military action in Libya without first seeking congressional approval as required by the War Powers Act of 1974.
Democrat Congressman Kucinich said, “With regard to the war in Libya, we believe that the law was violated. We have asked the courts to move to protect the American people from the results of these illegal policies.” Earlier, the House, by formal resolution, disapproved the president’s actions in Libya.
The Act gives any president a 90-day window of time during which he or she can use military force abroad without congressional approval. Now, the 90 days have expired and the mission to remove Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi from power has been, thus far, a miserable failure. Last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote to Mr. Obama, saying that failure to comply with the House’s resolution on Libya would be a violation of the War Powers Act.
Mr. Obama contends that U.S. forces have not been engaged in “hostilities” in Libya and, therefore, the Act does not apply. The next-of-kin of Libyans who have been killed or wounded by American bombs might question Mr. Obama’s definition of “hostilities.”
Point with pride? View with Alarm? Between now and November, 2012, this will be interesting to watch.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2011. William Hamilton.