LOS ANGELES, November 10, 2014 — In 2004 Barack Obama rocketed onto the national scene with a political speech for the ages. That one speech took an unknown Illinois Senator and propelled him to the White House. His 2008 presidential run saw him travel to Germany to speak in front of 200,000 adoring fans. He accepted the Democratic nomination for president in front of Greek columns.
When he took his next trip to Germany, 196,000 fewer people showed up. Although he won reelection, by early 2014 the crowds had all but disappeared. His biggest supporters were walking out of his speeches while he was still talking.
Now his presidency has been reduced to ashes. The 2010 election was a “shellacking” for Democrats. 2014 was a bloodbath. Republicans now control the House, the Senate, and over 30 governorships. In 23 states Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the state legislature.
Obama’s biggest supporters still try to offer scenarios where Obama can rebound and go out in a blaze of glory. A more useful exercise would be to understand how a man who inspired so many with “Change we can believe in” failed on such a spectacular level. His errors were numerous, unforced, and most tragically of all, avoidable.
His 2009 inauguration speech — Presidential speeches are supposed to be unifying and uplifting. Obama built his profile on soaring rhetoric. This made is initial inaugural speech as head-scratching as it was petty, partisan and nasty. He took repeated shots at his predecessor. For Obama, the campaign never ended. This was the beginning of his undoing, as he turned away people who wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Refusing to be honest with the American people — He made statements that he knew to be untrue. He told Americans that if they liked their doctors and their health plans, they could keep them. He promised the most transparent administration in history and instead offered the most secretive. He took his bond of trust with the American people and left it irreparably broken.
Failing to forge relationships — Obama at his core is an introvert who does not like bonding with people. He is a devoted family man who prefers being home every night to help his children with their homework. The presidency does not allow for this. Every president faces the reality that congress consists of 535 people who require more strokes than the average ego. Obama loves golf, but he hardly ever invites the key political players to join him on the links. Obama joked recently that he would share some Kentucky Bourbon with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The comment was well-meaning, but Obama after six years has no idea what McConnell drinks. Democrat President Lyndon Baines Johnson frequently shared adult beverages with Republican Senate Majority Leader Everett Dirksen.
Refusing to listen to the American people — Americans wanted improvements in the healthcare system, but for the most part people were happy with their own healthcare. Obama was convinced that the Affordable Care Act would become as beloved as Social Security and Medicare, but those programs had popular support. The ACA never reached 50% approval. Parts of it are liked, but the overall law was passed against the will of the people. Opponents benefitted by campaigning against it while supporters, even in 2012, refused to acknowledge its existence.
Repeatedly insulting political opponents — Obama tends to resort to school playground style “rankouts” to belittle people who disagree with him. He is too quick to abandon the substance of an argument and resort to tactics that deserve to be considered childish bullying and beneath the dignity of the Oval Office. Obama on several occasions has berated political opponents as they sat in the front row listening to him.
Injecting himself unnecessarily into racial controversies — Whenever a conflict arises involving people of different races, Obama reflexively sides with the black individual without bothering to look at the facts. He claimed that a white police officer “acted stupidly” when the evidence suggested otherwise. He sided with Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown despite the facts showing that neither one of these men were blameless in their respective situations. Obama on occasion has even ascribed racist motives to critics of his policies.
Letting ideology and politics trump policy — Obama had a carefully crafted narrative of a successful terror warrior who caught Osama bin Laden. On September 11th, 2012, al Qaeda Islamists stormed the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Chris Stevens and a pair of Navy SEALs were among four murdered Americans who might have been saved if the help they requested had arrived. An order for rescuers to stand down condemned four Americans to certain death. The administration refuses to say who gave the stand down order. Making matters worse, the administration blamed well-coordinated Islamist attacks on a film-maker who made an anti-Muslim video that virtually nobody ever saw. The film-maker still sits in jail as the administration keeps witnesses hidden from the media and the general public.
Perceived weakness abroad — From enemies of America including Iran to strategic opponents such as Russia, America has allowed aggression to go unchecked. Cuba, North Korea, Afghanistan and Mexico all held American prisoners hostage as the administration seemed helpless to bring them home. This tactic of kidnapping Americans and holding them hostage did not happen when Obama’s predecessor was in charge. The American public does not like being publicly emasculated. They take particular umbrage at determining, fairly or not, that their president is either too feeble or too uninterested to bring Americans safely home.
Personal targeting of political opponents — The Obama administration used the IRS to target Tea Party groups, pro-Israel groups and other groups participating legally in the political process. The Department of Justice raided Gibson Guitar, whose only sin seems to be donating money to candidates who disagree with Obama. Journalists have been spied upon, with Fox News reporter James Rosen being targeted for conspiracy. The National Security Agency has even been caught spying on United States Senators and ordinary Americans.
President Obama was not a victim of circumstance. He was not a victim of bigots. He was not a victim at all. He made conscious choices. He chose to target political opponents, demonize legitimate critics personally, put politics over human lives, and use coercion and falsehoods to pass unpopular legislation. On top of everything else, his policies from the stimulus to green energy bankruptcies to foreign policy debacles have just failed.
It took six years, but Obama’s obsessive desire to win at all costs ended up wrecking his own presidency.
Barack Obama delivered a speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. Those remarks on the next page: