Reagan and Obama, &c.


The Obama-Biden line this year might be rendered as follows: “We inherited a mess. We thought we could fix it in one term. But we need more time. Give us another term, please.” (I’m not sure they say “please.”)

Contrast this with the Reagan example. He too inherited a mess. The first years were brutal. In January 1983, the New York Times published an editorial called “The Failing Presidency.” It began, “The stench of failure hangs over Ronald Reagan’s White House. The people know it, judging by the opinion polls.”

Certainly by the time 1984 rolled around, however, we were rolling. Reagan curbed government and unleashed the power of people in a free economy. He was opposed by the likes of Joe Biden — not to mention the New York Times — every step of the way.

And, in his reelection campaign, he was able to say, “We got the job done. We merit reelection. We must not go back to the errors of the Carter era.”

Note what he did not say: “Gee, one term is not enough. The problems I inherited were just too hard. Give us a try for one more term.”

Obama took office in tough times, and then he did the opposite of what Reagan did. He was supported by the New York Times — not to mention Biden — every step of the way. He increased the size and scope of government. He spent wildly, punishingly. He spoke of “shovel-ready jobs” that he later admitted were non-existent. In fact, he joked about it. He decided it would be a good time for national health care. He made sure that American energy development was off the table. Etc.

Do you recall what the president said in 2009? “If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.” Romney and Ryan should remind the country of this. And ask that the country hold Obama to it, so to speak.

They might also say, “Obama’s policies didn’t work in one term. They wouldn’t work any better in a second term. The problem is not time — the problem is their thinking.”

I think this would be good campaigning, in addition to true.

I have a friend who’s a businessman in Switzerland. (French nationality, however.) He sent an e-mail to me about a week ago.

“I was in the U.S. last week and saw the Denver debate [between Obama and Romney]. If I were an American voter, I would have started as sympathetic to the incumbent but would have switched sides as the debate unfolded. I guess I’m not alone. This is the first time I see a politician who understands what competitiveness really means.”

Alas, we are not a nation that really appreciates competitiveness, though we have thrived on it. But maybe enough do?

In an Impromptus last week, I reflected on the question, “Who is Obama?” And, in a column previous to that, I talked about Hugo Chávez — who said that, if Obama were a Venezuelan, he would vote for him. That is, Obama would vote for Chávez. (By the same token, said Chávez, he would vote for Obama. In other words, if Chávez were an American — think of that! — he’d pull the lever for our incumbent.)

Can you say for sure that a Venezuelan Obama would not support Chávez?

What if he were Cuban? What if an accident of birth had placed Obama in Cuba? Would he be with the regime? With the dissidents? Or would he be in between, with the great group of people who just want to keep their heads down and survive?

These are painful questions. Reagan talked about freedom and democracy a lot — incessantly. And promoted those things. George W. Bush did the same. And, when he did, a big segment of our Right cried “Wilsonian!” “Neocon!” “Israel Firster!” (I don’t know if that last term was around during the W. presidency. The sentiment certainly was.)

It occurred to me the other day: Obama doesn’t really talk about freedom and democracy. (Forget the promotion.) I don’t hear him giving encouragement to democrats around the world — particularly those struggling in the worst of circumstances.

For instance, Obama’s fellow Nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo, sits in a Chinese prison. Couldn’t Obama make a little cause out of him? Even a relatively quiet cause? Would the price be too high?


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