“America is not ruled by a person, it is ruled by institutions.” -Ayatollah Muhammed Hussein Fadhlullah Barack Obama was elected as an agent of change who promised to transform the way Washington does business. Most Americans believed that America was on the wrong track and that if John McCain was elected, it would mean four more years of the policies of George W. Bush. Mr. Obama’s splendid rhetoric and brilliant campaigning, helped by a lackluster Republican campaign, persuaded a majority of voters that he could deliver the hoped-for change. But Americans have a grossly inflated notion of the power of their president to actually achieve transformational change under our system of governance. While it is, admittedly, early for judgments on his presidency, the results so far have not been encouraging for change advocates. Change is occurring all right, but not for the better. Jobs are disappearing at a record rate, home foreclosures and bankruptcies are rising and in the first two months of his eagerly awaited presidency, the stock market has suffered record losses, reflecting an investor vote of no confidence. Plummeting home values and declining investment portfolios have wiped out hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth leaving Americans feeling poorer and unwilling to take risks, a manifestation of the so-called wealth effect. In fairness, these trends started before Mr. Obama took office and he did warn us that things would get worse before they got better. But things have gotten markedly worse, accelerated by his administration’s relentless pursuit of its liberal agenda instead of focusing all resources and energies on the economic crisis that threatens to overwhelm us and render his agenda moot. Some things clearly show no sign of changing. Mr. Obama promised that his administration would not include lobbyists. It is full of them. Mr. Obama promised an end to earmarks and to pork-stuffed legislation. No more bridges to nowhere, he said. His first test came quickly in the form of the stimulus package, a massive measure so crammed with pork that it would decompose if left un-refrigerated. Not only did it contain bridges and roads to nowhere, which at least may provide a few jobs for locals, it contained funding for projects that will stimulate nothing but the egos of their sponsors. Candidate Obama also promised an end to partisan deadlock but when President Obama reached out to Republicans to urge support for this monstrosity masquerading as a stimulus package, they rightly recoiled. Blame that on the heavy-handed tactics and arrogance of Sen. Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who reminded Republicans that Democrats won the election and therefore get to write the legislation. Mr. Obama’s next major test of his word was the $410 billion omnibus spending bill to cover government operations for the remainder of this fiscal year. Surprise! It was stuffed with thousands of earmarks, pet projects inserted at the last minute by members of congress to avoid the scrutiny and debate of stand-alone legislation. Numerous polls show that Americans are fed up with earmarks such as funding to study the effects of the odor emanating from pig manure or the mating habits of fairy shrimp. This was a golden opportunity for President Obama to deliver on a firm, oft-stated campaign promise. He crumbled. He signed the bill, with the lame excuse that it was largely the business of the last administration and that a veto would only have caused delay in getting a spending bill passed. Incredibly, he added that this bill would serve as an example of the sort of bill he would oppose in the future. It’s an example, all right. An example, that is, of a broken promise. He, of course, knew that Congress had the necessary votes to override his veto, since the bill contained plenty of earmarks inserted by Republicans as well as Democrats. Nevertheless, a veto would have represented a strong stand on principle. Imagine; a politician who actually keeps his word! George W. Bush, for all his shortcomings, usually defended the authority and bully pulpit of the executive branch, some would say with too much alacrity. Mr. Obama does not seem inclined to do so or to even attempt to reign in this spendthrift Democratic Congress. So another change that this agent of hope and change definitely can take credit for is a new level of national debt from which we may never recover. This brings us to the quotation at the beginning of this column. Few Americans would agree with much of what Grand Ayatollah Fadhlullah, Hezbollah’s spiritual leader has to say about anything. But he’s certainly right about one thing. America is not ruled by a person. It is ruled by institutions, especially the Congress. And, I would add, not very well lately. CRO copyright 2009 J.F. Kelly, Jr. J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado