President Obama was behind schedule in delivering his remarks on the US credit downgrade this afternoon. S&P downgraded US credit for the first time in history on Friday evening, but rather than address the downgrade at that time, the president took a few close advisers to huddle at Camp David over the weekend. The president’s closest adviser, David Axelrod, led a blame chorus over the weekend, telling the nation that the historic downgrade was the fault of the Tea Party.
While the nation awaited the president’s remarks, we were treated to this image on the cable nets. It’s an image that in many ways sums up the president’s leadership style.
The president opened his remarks, nearly an hour behind schedule, highlighting Warren Buffet’s confidence in the economy. That’s a fallacious appeal to authority and tells us nothing about what the president would do to right our ship. The president went on to once again blame the Japanese tsunami and the Arab Spring for our bad economy. That marks at least the fourth time the president himself has blamed these specific outside events for a moribund economy that predates them both.
The president then blamed gridlock, and called for more tax hikes on the rich and “modest” reforms to Medicare. He then appealed to the proposals put forth by the deficit commission that he set up, and whose recommendations he ignored.
The president then slammed “drawing lines in the sand” and refusing to compromise — but it was his own line in the sand, to push the next debt ceiling discussion past the 2012 elections, that made last week’s debt deal more difficult to reach. He actually decried others’ lines in the sand, but not his own. He also decried a lack of plans, when he has yet to offer a single concrete plan to reduce the deficit.
Stumbling through his remarks at times, the president once again called on Congress to do things he has called for in the past: Extending the payroll tax breaks, and yet more stimulus spending on roads and bridges and the like. The former is a good idea but will not on its own stimulate the economy; the latter will lead to yet more government spending and debt.
President Obama mouthed words about “how we respond to tests” is the measure of our strength. It’s worth taking a look, then, at his own responses since becoming president. He proffered one budget that was so unserious it was voted down in the Senate, 97-0. Since then he has consistently cast blame on others and outside events while offering no plans of his own, and in response to the clearly awful performance of his economic team, has not fired any single individual.
The president ended his remarks on a somber note, acknowledging the major losses of life in Afghanistan over the weekend. The president said “we will press on and we will succeed.” But the military is a few weeks into the retreat from Afghanistan that this president has ordered to be accomplished prior to the 2012 elections — a purely political timeline. It’s reasonable to question the president’s own will to press on and succeed, in the war, on the economy, and on anything other than continuing to expand the regulatory state.
These were President Obama’s first remarks since the credit downgrade last Friday. While he did not specifically blame the Tea Party as his allies have, he did suggest that they are to blame by invoking “gridlock” as one of the downgrade’s causes. While the president spoke, the markets continued to slide downward.