President Obama likes to speak in metaphors.
Just as any good public speaker does, the President knows how to use word-pictures and relatable stories to make a point. And he’d like for us to believe that Republicans, alone, are to blame for our nation’s weak economy.
Speaking at a fundraising event for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in May, the President stated: “After they (Republicans) drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back. No! You can’t drive. We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch. We just got the car out.”
That’s very clever, and it’s an illustration that likely resonates with many Americans.
But if Republicans were responsible for driving our economic “car” into a “ditch” last decade (I’ll examine the veracity of that claim in a moment), then here’s a metaphor for this new decade: Barack And Michelle Obama have been entrusted to handle a family credit card at a time when we all need to be restrained and sober-minded with our finances. And instead of emulating the discipline and self-restraint and “care for others” that they lecture us about, they have chosen instead to max-out the credit cards on their own self-gratifying expenditures, and leave the rest of us – mom and dad, adult siblings, and the grandchildren – to find a way to somehow make the minimum monthly payments.
What else can you say about a First Couple who takes 8 vacations during their first 18 months in the White House? This, of course, is the President who spent his first year in office repeatedly reminding us that the economic conditions he “inherited” were the “worst since the Great Depression,” all the while logging over 200 hours playing golf. And last month the Obama’s spent our scarce tax dollars providing a “separate flight” on a Gulfstream jet to transport their dog “Bo” to the family vacation destination in Maine-apparently Air Force One could not comfortably transport both Bo, AND the Obama family, all at the same time.
And now, America and the world have been treated to Michelle’s “vacation” in Spain (this is not a “state visit,” but indeed a personal trip) with forty of her best friends along for the ride, and her husband left at home. Even the New York Times has had to acknowledge the “hefty bill” that American taxpayers will end up paying, which may approach half a million dollars or more by the time “Michelle and friends” return home.
Such blatant disregard for the perceptions and sensibilities of the American people are often very politically costly for a President. But what we are seeing from Barack and Michelle is not merely a matter of being “tone deaf” or “out-of-touch,” as many in the media are claiming these days.
On the contrary, the Obamas seem to think of themselves as being much more than merely a U.S. President and First Lady. While, in our country, our elected President is merely “one of us,” and is entrusted with a lot of power to lead us for a finite period of time, in much of the rest of the world a head-of-state is more akin to royalty, and is substantively “above” the people he leads. And Barack and Michelle’s “do as I say, not as I do” approach to life looks a lot more “royal,” than it does “presidential.”
As for the President’s accusations about Republicans, his “car in the ditch” metaphor is, as I said, clever. Without specifically using the name “Bush,” this is a clever way to suggest that the downturn of 2008 and 2009 – and this year’s hardships as well – have all been brought about by the fiscal policies of Bush, and Bush’s party. And there is a shred of truth in this suggestion.
To his credit, President Bush and his administration actually tried to curtail the bank-busting sub-prime mortgage markets, and did so on multiple occasions. But the Congress – under the leadership of Republicans earlier in the decade, and then again under the control of Democrats at the end of the decade- refused to heed the Bush Administration’s warnings and instead enabled sub-prime lending to spiral out of control (this is a point that I document carefully in my new book).
But the congressional leaders who ignored the warning signs of the sub-prime mortgage bubble garnered, at the very least, a short-term political benefit: the more people enjoyed the pleasure of “getting a house,” the more these same people “liked” their congressional representatives and were inclined to re-elect them. This is to say that congress “bought votes” by keeping the cheap credit flowing into the market.
The Obama’s, on the other hand, are rapidly losing the favor of the American people. This is not “politics as usual.” Indeed, the era of Obama is something very different.