That was then, this is now.
Last month, having given speech after speech decrying the need for fiscal responsibility and the need to rein in the deficits and get the debt under control, President Obama unveiled a $3.7 trillion dollar federal budget that increased federal spending and projected (based on unrealistically optimistic growth rates for the next few years) $1.6 trillion in deficits for the year, with annual deficits averaging around $1 trillion over the next decade. It increased spending. It did nothing to control the largest contributors to the deficit and long term debt (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the $14.2 trillion national debt). In short, the serious discussion he claimed to want regarding fiscal responsibility was nowhere to be found in his budget.
In response, earlier this month Republican Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled a proposed budget that is the most comprehensive, serious and balanced effort to deal with America's budget failures in a generation. It called for targeted cuts to duplicative, unnecessary federal programs and agencies. It gave specific steps to reform Medicare, using free market principles to increase competition and accountability. It guaranteed benefits as currently promised to all 55 years old and up, with phased in changes for those younger. It actually increased the level of spending on Medicare to make sure these promises were kept. Indicative of just how bad the fiscal situation is, it cuts over $6 trillion from the Obama 10-year budget proposal and STILL leaves us with several trillion in additional debt over that time, and this plan would take more than a quarter century to balance the budget.
President Obama, having done what he does best in giving great speeches while offering no leadership, suddenly found himself looking up at Paul Ryan as the leader on national fiscal matters. Mr. Ryan, a credible figure with a no-nonsense, non-inflammatory, "Just the facts ma'am" approach, had carefully laid out the severity of the crisis we find ourselves in, the danger of failing to address it immediately under terms of our choosing, and viable options for dealing with the problem.
In response, on April 13, Mr. Obama gave a speech that revealed him not as the president of "hope and change," not as the president of post-partisanship, not as the president willing to tackle the tough problems and be honest with the American people ... but as what he truly is ... a peacock-proud, chest-puffing, smooth talking, flame-throwing, dishonest, hyper-partisan, bombastic, egotistical two-bit Chicago thug willing to see the country teeter on the precipice of insolvency for his own personal political gain. His speech was so dishonest, so filled with class warfare and cheap emotional appeals with no basis in reality, and so overtly mean-spirited that it may have set a new low in presidential discourse.
In retrospect we should have expected it. This is, after all, the man who told Republicans that they had to sit at the "back of the bus," who called them "the enemy," who called them hostage takers, who consistently paints those that have achieved wealth not as what they are ... extremely hard-working businessmen and women who sacrifice their time and energy, risked their money to implement an idea that led to the creation of not only wealth for themselves, but jobs for tens of millions of Americans ... but instead he depicts them as being evil, greedy fat cats bilking the poor and working class out of their hard earned money. This is a man that despises our free market system.
His speech offered no real solutions, opting instead to criticize Mr. Ryan's budget in the harshest language and declaring that we need to uphold America's values, which apparently include denial of reality and fiscal irresponsibility. This after Democrats failed to pass, or even vote on, a budget for FY2011; after convening a deficit reduction commission (Simpson-Bowles) and completely ignoring their findings, and after adding as much to the national debt in two years as George Bush did in eight years. More than two years into his presidency, he is still finding a way to blame his problems on George W. Bush, saying that we made the problems worse with "trillions in unpaid for tax cuts." Of course, in order for that statement to be correct, we have to start with the premise that those tax dollars did not originally belong to those that earned the money, but to government, which then "paid out" those dollars to the taxpayers. That is why your tax refund checks show up as"tax expenditure" in the federal budget.
After showing himself to be a feckless leader and incompetent chief executive, he then basically called Paul Ryan the devil incarnate and Republicans the army of demonic minions doing his bidding. He claimed the Ryan budget reflects "a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can't afford to fix them," a bald-faced lie. He claimed that Medicare and Medicaid would leave seniors "on [their] own" if they could not afford insurance; another lie. He said that Ryan's plan would leave "bright, young Americans" with no money for college, and lamented that our kids are being outpaced by South Korean children in academics (as if lack of money had anything to do with the miserable failure of our public education system).
The lies continued, claiming 50 million Americans will lose their health insurance under the Ryan plan. He claimed that "millionaires and billionaires" (his favorite whipping boys ... never mind the fact that "millionaires" now include small business owners earning as little as $200,000) would get to line their pockets while "children with autism and Down's Syndrome" would go without care, and grandparents unable to afford a nursing home would be thrown into the streets.
In short, with his approval ratings near 40 percent, his signature achievement (ObamaCare) more unpopular now than when he signed it, with criticism from the right and the left for his entrance in and incompetent handling of the conflict in Libya, with gas prices soaring because of a disastrous energy policy, with his very first act as president being embarrassingly reversed (the call to close Guantanamo and try terrorists in civilian courts), with himself being a laughingstock by world leaders (French president Nicholas Sarkozy has had particularly unflattering things to say), with high unemployment and a sluggish economy, and in summary with the realization that the campaigner in chief has massively failed to make the transition to Commander in Chief, Barack Obama has decided to (as Paul Ryan so deliciously put it) be a "pyromaniac in a field of straw men."
Much to our dismay, instead of a reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln, who he loves to compare himself to, our current president has revealed himself to be nothing more than a modern-day Frankenstein's monster, cobbled together from the fiscal brain of Jimmy Carter, the heart of Richard Nixon, and with enough courage and integrity to put into a 5-pound bag and still have room for, well, five pounds of whatever you wanted to put into the bag.
This president has shown no desire to serve every American, but only those that worship in his cult of personality. I was once told that everyone brings joy; some by coming and some by going. Barring a sudden reversal of the disastrous policies that President Teleprompter has ushered in, I have a feeling he'll be bringing me a lot of joy come November 2012.
Louis DeBroux is a Taylorsville resident, married, with eight children. He is chairman of the Bartow County Republican Party. He owns Gatekeeper data backup and recovery. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.