Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The Problem With Obama’s Documentary

Via HotAir.com, here is President Obama’s 17-minute campaign documentary, “The Road We’ve Traveled.”

It’s slickly produced, as one might expect, but I found it to be on balance ineffective. For one thing, it’s probably worth pointing out that Obama’s predecessor had a large role in what the Obama campaign claims are its greatest successes, from TARP to the auto bailout to killing Osama bin Laden.

For another, some of the claims in the documentary are (unintentionally) amusing, including that Obama, upon taking office, “would not dwell in blame.”

If there is one consistent theme to the Obama presidency, it’s that he’s sought to blame his failures on others: George W. Bush, earthquakes, tsunamis, Europe, the Arab Spring, ATMs, Wall Street, Republicans, the Tea Party, Fox News, millioinaires, billionaires, conservative talk radio, and so forth and so on.

There are also references to Obama’s willingness to make “tough decisions” and “face crises that others would avoid” (presumably the producers have in mind Obama’s refusal to confront our entitlement crisis, which is fueling our debt crisis, and to fiercely attack those who do). The documentary claims Obama has brought the Iraq war to a “responsible end” (the American withdrawal from Iraq was mishandled and threatens to undo the progress that had been made).

Yet I came away from watching this documentary thinking if this is the best they can do, the president’s opponent in the fall should be encouraged.

The main emotion the producers of “The Road We’ve Traveled” are hoping to tap into is pity. We’re told Obama inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression (Ronald Reagan actually inherited a sicker economy than Obama did) and took steps that prevented the ship from hitting the rocks. In fact, though I realize this isn’t supposed to be said in polite company, it was George W. Bush who did the heaviest lifting when it came to taking emergency measures that kept the economy from collapsing and credit from freezing.

What’s most striking, though, is how little Obama has to show for his efforts. The documentary focuses almost exclusively on inputs, not outputs; on legislation passed, not successes attained; on narrative, not empirical progress.

In the film we don’t hear anything about the deficit or the debt, the unemployment rate, economic growth, our standard of living, the housing crisis, bending the health care cost curve down, poverty, America’s credit rating, et cetera. That is because on these crucial measures, Obama has no story to tell, no successes to cite, nothing to look back to with pride or forward to with hope.

Obama’s tenure has been, by any reasonable standard, a failure. Not even a Tom Hanks-narrated documentary can change that.