Politics & Policy

No Rest for the Wicked

(Pete Souza/The White House)
As crises at home and abroad worsen, Obama reverts to his favorite trite form of reassurance.

Tuesday, President Obama visited the Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C., and wrote in a condolence book for the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, “We will not rest until we are certain that justice is done.”

He then departed for a three-day fundraising trip to the West Coast.

Obama’s pledge that “we will not rest until . . . ” may sound familiar to you. In fact, the pledge is so chronically overused, and issued so casually, that it no longer carries much meaning. Here’s a brief history:

April 9, 2009: “We will not rest until we reach a day when not one single veteran falls into homelessness.”

July 31, 2009: “I will not rest until every American who wants a job can find one.”

President Obama plays basketball with White House staffers while on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, August 26, 2009.

September 15, 2009: “I want you all to know, I will not rest until anybody who’s looking for a job can find one — and I’m not talking about just any job, but good jobs that give every American decent wages and decent benefits and a fair shot at the American Dream.”

President Obama plays with a toy lightsaber at a White House event promoting Chicago’s Olympics bid, September 16, 2009. Getty Images photo.

October 23, 2009: “Until the American Dream is within reach for anybody who believes in it, anybody who’s willing to fight for it — we will not rest until that’s happened.”

November 23, 2009: “I will not rest until businesses are investing again and businesses are hiring again and people have work again.”

November 26, 2009: “We cannot rest — and my administration will not rest — until we have revived this economy and rebuilt it stronger than before; until we are creating jobs and opportunities for middle-class families; until we have moved beyond the cycles of boom and bust — of reckless risk and speculation — that led us to so much crisis and pain these past few years.”

December 28, 2009: “A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism and we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.”

January 28, 2010: “We will not rest until we build an economy that’s ready for America’s future.”

February 19, 2010: “I’m here to tell you, I will not rest — I know Harry [Reid] will not rest — until we’re not just recovering, but we’re prospering.”

May 12, 2010: “My administration and I will not rest — or be satisfied — until the leak is stopped at the source, the oil on the Gulf is contained and cleaned up, and the people of this region are able to go back to their lives and livelihoods.”

July 8, 2010: “I’ve said since I took office that my administration will not rest until every American who is able and ready and willing to work can find a job, and a job that pays a decent wage and has decent benefits to support a family.”

August 16, 2010: “My administration will not rest till every American who is willing to work can find a job, and a job that pays decent wages and decent benefits to support a family.”

September 16, 2010: “We will not rest until we have accounted for the missing members of our armed forces.”

September 23, 2010: “We cannot — and will not — rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity, not only for all Americans, but for peoples around the globe.”

October 8, 2010: “We will not rest in our efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda.”

January 7, 2011: “We will not rest until we have fully recovered from this recession and we have reached that brighter day.”

March 8, 2011: “In the United States and around the world, we will not rest until our mothers, sisters, and daughters assume their rightful place as full and equal members of a secure, prosperous, and just world.”

June 8, 2011: “So long as tens of millions of people live with this devastating disease, and so long as nearly 2 million people die from AIDS-related diseases every year, we cannot and will not rest.”

President Obama, swimming at Pyramid Rock Beach in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, January 2012.

President Obama, speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in July 2012: “The VA and DOD will work harder towards a seamless transition so new veterans aren’t just piled on to the backlog. And we will not rest — I will not be satisfied until we get this right.”

President Obama plays a game of pool at Camp David, Md., May 19, 2012.

September 15, 2012, discussing the Benghazi attack: “We have moved forward with an effort to see that justice is done for those we lost, and we will not rest until that work is done.”

President Obama reacts to a photograph during an interview with David Letterman during a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, September 18, 2012.

January 25, 2013, announcing new appointments: “From growing the economy and shrinking our deficits, to keeping our country safe and addressing the dangers of climate change, these are people who will not rest until we get the job done.”

January 28, 2013: “Brick by brick, block by block, our communities are being made whole again. And we will not rest until the job is done.”

President Obama rides a bike during a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, August 16, 2013. Getty Images photo.

September 22, 2013: “We have to make this a country where anybody who works hard can earn their way into the middle class. And until we do, we will not let up and we will not rest, no matter how much resistance we get.”

October 26, 2013: “The security of health care is not a privilege for a fortunate few, but a right for every one of us to enjoy. We have already delivered on part of that promise, and we will not rest until the work is done.”

Edward Luce of the Financial Times recently diagnosed “one problem that could cripple what remains of [Obama’s] presidency — most people no longer trust him. The sentiment spans foreign allies as well as domestic critics. When trust goes, respect is seldom far behind.” Luce focused upon how Germans now deeply distrust Obama, citing the NSA surveillance program, a tap on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, and the CIA’s work in the country.

Anyone, anywhere on the political spectrum, can find a broken promise, false statement, or lie to irk him: the Syrian “red line,” “if you like your plan, you can keep it,” “the most transparent administration in history,” “not even a smidgen of corruption.”

If Obama wants to pull his presidency out of its worsening tailspin, he ought to say what he means and mean what he says — and drop the rote promises that everyone knows he won’t keep.

— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO and is the author of The Weed Agency, a comic satire of the federal bureaucracy, published by Crown Forum Random House.


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