Welcome to the modern presidency, where perception trumps reality and policy is consistently subjugated by politics.
Consider two glaring examples in the Obama presidency.
One of the President’s creations is the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, a bi-partisan mix of business and labor leaders who are charged with finding ways to get the country’s economy moving again.
“Our job is to do everything we can to ensure that businesses can take root and folks can find good jobs and America is leading the global competition that will determine our success in the 21st century,” the President said.
Sometimes, after the photo ops, these commissions just fade away, but this one apparently took its job seriously. It met, did studies and issued reports.
Its most recent report says, among other things, the United States must continue to have access to “inexpensive and reliable fuel.” Therefore, the country is going to have to “optimize all of its natural resources and construction pathways (pipelines, transmission and distribution) to deliver electricity and fuel.”
Meanwhile, TransCanada Corporation has been pushing to build a 1,700 mile pipeline that would transport oil from Canadian shale deposits to U.S. refineries.
No, the council did not explicitly endorse the Keystone pipeline, but it’s implied. Yet the President Tuesday rejected the project, blaming Congressional Republicans for forcing him to make a decision before he was ready.
Obama parsed his comments carefully, saying what he was really rejecting was the Republican attempt to impose an arbitrary deadline. That’s enough to produce sixties flashbacks: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
Pulling the plug on the pipeline thrilled the green movement, a pillar of Obama’s political base, because it wants to rush the country away from carbon-based fuels regardless of the economic consequences. At best, Keystone is a pyrrhic victory, since the oil will now go to Asia, enlarging its carbon footprint as it travels.
Even the Washington Post editorial page criticized the President, saying he should be called out by his own Jobs Council.
In 2010, the President created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The President charged the commission with developing “policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run.”
The panel, headed by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, did just that. It produced a series of tough, but fair recommendations for getting the nation’s exploding debt under control.
The President received the report and promptly placed it somewhere it will gather dust and hopefully—for him, at least—be forgotten. The debt is now over $15 trillion dollars, up nearly 50 percent since President Bush left office.
The President has made no attempt to implement any of the recommendations of his own commission on the debt. Yes, these would have been tough decisions, but we elect people on the presumption that they will lead.
Well, it looks good at the moment, and it may fool some voters into thinking you’re actually doing something that will help the country with two pressing issues—the economy and the debt.
The follow-up, however, reveals disturbing indicators about the direction of the country under President Obama.