During his speech yesterday, President Obama was ostensibly serious about solving the deficit crisis. According to the president, Washington needs to “act boldly now” and stop “kicking our problems further down the road.”
“Our debt has grown so large,” he said, “that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.”
Unfortunately, it’s getting hard to take the president’s urgency seriously anymore. Now he’s allegedly committed to solving the deficit problem. But he also said pretty much the same thing back in 2009, when he outlined his “belt-tightening” plan to slash the deficit in half by 2012:
But I want to be very clear, if the message was not effectively delivered by the three previous speakers: We cannot, and will not, sustain deficits like these without end. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Washington these past few years, we cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation. . . . And that’s why today I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office. Now, this will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we’ve long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay, and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.
Since then, the deficit has only increased, and this inability to follow-through on promises has become something of a theme with the administration. The trajectory is predictable: Obama will hone in on issues when they become relevant, profess his unwavering commitment to solving them immediately, and inevitably let them fall to the wayside once the public’s interest wanes.
Remember his vow to solve the immigration problems? “This administration will not just kick the can down the road,” Obama said—and then went on to do just that. Or his speech on the pressing crisis in Libya? His focus on that predicament lasted about a week. Guantanamo Bay is still (fortunately) open, despite Obama’s 2009 contention that “if we refuse to deal with these issues today, then I guarantee you that they will be an albatross around our efforts to combat terrorism in the future.” Meanwhile, our troops remain in Iraq, despite the president’s claim that the operation needed to come to an immediate end.
“I think this is a pattern with this White House. They’re very reactive to what’s being said in general,” a senior Republican aide told me. “Based on their previous track-record, there’s been little to no follow-through whenever they do these big speeches. His energy speech from two weeks ago—what happened to that? Nothing.”
The aide was referring to Obama’s March 30th speech on energy, in which the president insisted that “we cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again.”
This is not to be confused with the January, 2009, speech when he declared that “Rhetoric has not led to the hard work needed to achieve results and our leaders raise their voices each time there’s a spike on gas prices, only to grow quiet when the price falls at the pump.” Or his address after the BP oil crisis, when he intoned that “The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.”
Obama’s lack of dedication has become as depressing as it is reliable. “We’ll probably be talking in another in six months before another ‘great speech’ from the president who is in love with the sound of his own voice,” Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus said yesterday afternoon on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports. “He’s in love with giving speeches . . . but he’s not really in love with following through with his promises and his rhetoric.”