Commentary Magazine


Obama’s Credibility Has Run Out

Karl Rove’s got this one right:

Mr. Obama’s credibility is crumbling, and for good reason: He and his people are saying things people don’t believe. At the start of his summer of recovery road show, the president flatly asserted that last year’s massive stimulus package had “worked.” Vice President Joe Biden, not to be outdone, promised monthly job gains of up to 500,000 and insisted that the recovery’s pace “continues to increase, not decrease” as stimulus spending was “moving into its highest gear.” …

By overselling the stimulus before its passage in 2009 and exaggerating its benefits with layer upon layer of slippery half-truths in 2010, Mr. Obama has made voters angrier. This is not America’s summer of recovery; it is a summer of economic discontent that will ensure that Democrats take a pounding in the midterm elections.

At some point it had to happen: the collision of reality with Obamian rhetoric — that special brew of buck-passing, economic illiteracy (no, profit isn’t overhead), ad hominem attack, and out and out misrepresentation. As Rove reminds us: “On health care, for example, Mr. Obama continues saying that (a) health-care reform will reduce costs and the deficit, (b) no one who wants to keep existing coverage will lose it, and (c) the law’s cuts in Medicare won’t threaten any senior’s health care. These assertions are laughable.”

Making a clear distinction between campaigning and governing has absolutely baffled and eluded Obama. In a campaign, exaggeration and bumper sticker phrases are often sufficient. A snappy dig at an opponent’s wealth or allies in a debate is regarded as quick-wittedness, rather than as intellectual sloth and a poor substitute for substance. Blather (the oceans haven’t receded in 18 months, I think) is rewarded rather than derided. But as president, what you say actually matters — in wars (the enemy listens to deadlines) and in domestic matters (the markets listen to business-bashing). And what results you obtain in the real world (not the number of enormous bills you jam through on party-line votes) really matter.

You can see why Obama and his party are in a heap of trouble. The question remains whether they will be able after the election to pick themselves up and rescue what remains of his term.

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