Barack Obama, the Empty Stool

Barack Obama, the Empty Stool August 31, 2012

The liberal elites who are denigrating Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention last night are only hurting themselves.  Swing-state independents and undecideds like Clint Eastwood a lot more than they like liberal elites.  They will only harden in their support for Clint’s folksy commonsense the more it’s contrasted with the cheap and scornful hyper-partisanship of the Daily Kos and HuffPo crowd.

I thought the premise was brilliant.  Clint seemed a little nervous, a little out of his element, but that only made him more relatable, more like the kind of guy you’d have a beer with.  (Seriously, who wouldn’t want to have a beer with Clint Eastwood?)  But the premise was perfect.

President MIA

To everyone who has not consumed the Kool Aid, Barack Obama seems strikingly insubstantial.  “Senator Present” from Illinois became a U. S. Senator who was more interested in campaigning than legislating.  Then he became an empty promise in the 2008 campaign, a micron-thin veneer of glitz and glamor over a hollow core, an empty screen onto which everyone projected their wishes.  Six weeks after the inauguration, when he was thoroughly in the honeymoon phase and largely still campaigning against President Bush and on behalf of a stimulus, he uttered one of the most vapid and immature things I have ever heard from a President, when he told a bunch of television anchors at the White House: “I like being President, and it turns out I’m very good at it.”

That’s humility and wisdom for you: six weeks into a four-year term, and he’s already prepared to declare himself “very good at it.”  I guess that’s what happens when you’re the kind of guy who gets a Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing.  Thank goodness he likes being President, though — because, you know, it’s all about him.

President Obama has consistently been absent, more concerned about branding than leadership, with image and atmospherics than truly rallying the troops and harnessing our resources and solving our most pressing problems.  He turned over the task of crafting solutions on the stimulus bill and the health care bill to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, who predictably butchered it.  He botched the budget compromise with John Boehner and withdrew from the process.  When he thought that partisan gridlock in Congress might make him look bad, rather than forging into the gridlock and navigating a way forward he withdrew to the White House and played over 100 rounds of golf.

The problem for President Obama is that the soaring oratory will not work this time.  The contrast between the rhetoric and his actual achievements is too great.  So instead he can vilify the opposition and pretend that raising taxes on the rich will solve our financial mess.  It won’t.

Here is one of the key distinctions between the Obama campaign and the Romney campaign: one is centered on a theory of what will revive the economy, while the other is centered on a cynical ploy to rally the middle class against “the rich.”  Or in Romney’s words from last night’s speech, one is focused on creating tomorrow’s prosperity while the other is focused on redistributing today’s.  Even in theory, the centerpiece of Obama’s argument, if implemented, would accomplish virtually nothing to resolve our nation’s most serious problems.

According to most accounts, even friendly ones, President Obama is haughty and surly.  To those with eyes to see, he is an act.  A vacuous promise.  An illusion.  An empty stool.

My suspicion is that Clint intended to say more, but decided it was a good time to pack it in when the crowd was applauding the “make my day” performance.  He’s suffering the slings and arrows now.  One of the immediate “fact-checkers” pointed out, over against Eastwood’s barb that it was time for “a businessman” and not “an attorney” to occupy the White House, that Mitt too has a law degree.  Which is true, but there’s a difference between a person with a law degree and an attorney, and Mitt took his dual JD/MBA and became precisely what Eastwood said, a businessman.

But the snarky complaints from the left and the spurious fact-checking only make Clint look better.  They’re making his day.

Because Clint is fundamentally correct: the Barack Obama that was promised in 2008 never made an appearance.  And now it’s time to give the seat to someone else.

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