Is the ‘Change We Can Believe In’ a Disappointment?

Whether you voted for Barack Obama or not, there was a palpable sense of pride and hopeful expectation in his election.  We wanted to believe.  We who voted for McCain secretly rooted for him anyway. We lived into one of the most powerful strengths of America—our ability to change course.  And let’s face it, the Republicans ran out of gas—and good ideas long before the end of Bush’s second term.

So for the 2008 election we had a choice.  A wise old war hero who spent so much time in Congress he didn’t inspire us with where he might take us.  Or a brash, audacious young man whose soaring speeches reminded us of Camelot but offered little detail on where the “change you can believe in” would also take us.

We went for change we hoped we could believe in from a fresh face we hoped could deliver it.  And, in any case, we were ready to throw out the incumbents.  But after this first year of the Obama presidency we are losing much of our idealistic enthusiasm for what it is bringing us.  Yes, he faces tough problems not of his making.  But in some cases, he is making them worse—potentially much worse.

So far we are still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  The good news is we still hope these first year stumbles are the result of inexperience and that he will learn FAST from these missteps. The bad news is our sense of doubt is growing that maybe this is not going to turn out to be Camelot again after all. The awarding of the Nobel Prize largely for his aspirational leadership may turn out to be the turning point.  That it comes so soon is also both good news and bad.

At a time when we need for the recovery to take off, it is being diminished by growing fear of trillion dollar deficits built on a promise of stimulus that turns out to be the mother of all pork fests but producing very few jobs. Our president is outsourcing his leadership role to a Congress quite capable of screwing up a two-car funeral.  While he continues to deliver his campaign stump speech and blame his predecessor.

At a time when we are at a crossroads in the fight against terrorism and our “allies” in NATO largely refuse to fight, our President keeps apologizing for America’s perceived sins and shortcomings.  His equivocation undermines our best allies, emboldens our worst adversaries and cheers the Europeans—at least the Nobel committee.  Did they forget they spent the first half of the 20th century killing each other until America came to their rescue to fight off the state sponsored terrorism of European warlords, Nazis and Fascists and then stay to defend them against Communism?

And then there was health care.  Oh, how we wanted to believe in change on this front.  We know the current system needs fixing.  We know it costs too much.  We could all sign up for options—public or not—if they brought more choice, better service and lower costs.  But the stark reality is this debate has little to do with health care and everything to do with politics.  The politics of trial lawyers that means there is no mention of tort reform anywhere.  The politics of insurance companies who first try to ‘cut a deal with the devil’ promising large costs savings if the Democrats will not take their monopoly profits away—only to have Speaker Pelosi renege on the deal and demand more.  Then there is the politics of labor unions making it difficult for Congressional Democrats to tax “Cadillac” health plans in a desperate search for revenue when the Cadillac being taxed is union health plans.

Like the drip, drip, drip of a leaky roof the ceiling overhead is getting saturated, and there is only one outcome.  It is not too late for the Obama presidency, but if they hear the footsteps of impending failure we have yet to see a “surge” of new leadership direction from that end of Pennsylvania Avenue to take back control from Congressional Democrats who are running the Obama bus in the ditch.

So I’m not sure whether that is the good news or bad news.  I am still waiting for some change I can believe in, but am coming to realize that it is, perhaps, not BAD if none of these grand plans make it out of Congress.